Boundaries, Emotional Intelligence, Self-Awareness, Self-Confidence, Striving Styles, Victim mentality, Who are you meant to be?

We're better with boundaries

“Daring to set boundaries is having the courage to love ourselves even when we risk disappointing others.” ~ Brene’ Brown

I struggle with boundaries in certain areas of my life. And I’m quite certain that I’m not alone. I believe that a lack of boundaries is at the center of so many of the issues and relationship struggles I discuss with clients, co-workers, friends and family. Both personally and professionally, having healthy boundaries are essential to our happiness and well-being, and can help transform our lives.

Establishing healthy boundaries can be very difficult. It can feel extremely uncomfortable upsetting or disappointing others. Putting their needs before our own and ensuring their happiness seems like, on the surface anyway, the best way to keep the peace. But taking responsibility for everyone’s happiness while ignoring our own needs doesn’t actually make others happy. Nor does it make us happy. In fact, you’ll actually become very unhappy. In her book “The Gifts of Imperfection” Brene’ Brown describes that before she established healthy boundaries she was “sweeter on the outside” but “judgmental, resentful, and angry on the inside”. I can relate. Can you? Because really, can you truly be happy if you’re always trying to please others? I mean, I’m sure you don’t believe that people are responsible for your happiness, so why would you believe that you are responsible for their happiness? At the end of the day, no matter what we do or don’t do, I know we can’t really control the happiness of others.

“When we fail to set boundaries and hold people accountable, we feel used and mistreated. This is why we sometimes attack who they are, which is far more hurtful than addressing a behaviour or a choice.” ~ Brene’ Brown

The way we treat ourselves sets the standard for others around us. If we don’t put the effort into clearly establishing what we want and don’t want, then how can we expect others to know what we want. They can’t read our minds so if we don’t define them, then someone else will. Having healthy boundaries in place will help you realize your self worth, and demonstrate that your needs and feelings are valid and important. You’re worthy of being seen and heard and of putting your needs first. You deserve to have a voice and an opinion. Of course, for some, it may be a bit more difficult to find your inner power and firmly define your boundaries, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t do it. There’s no doubt that it’s hard but anyone can do it with time and practice. At first you’ll feel uncertain and a bit scared, and your boundaries will feel a bit shaky, but the more consistent you are, the easier it will feel. In the beginning you’ll likely feel bad or guilty if others aren’t happy, but you can’t please everyone.

Just like other people can’t read our minds, we can’t read theirs. It’s not our business to try and keep them happy or avoid disappointing them. In fact, in doing this, we also kind of take away their power from them by trying to avoid upsetting or disappointing them. We don’t need to filter ourselves for the sake of others. We’re allowed to feel what we feel and it’s not our place to manage other peoples emotions, even if it comes from a caring place. We may think we know what’s best for everyone but sometimes we need to take a step back and allow other people to decide how to feel for themselves. All we can really do is have our own boundaries in place, honor them, and express what we need and how we feel.

Having healthy boundaries can help change our lives. They can help you express your needs and desires without feeling pushy, rude or guilty, and they help you strengthen your relationship with yourself. When you get clearer about what you want, what you are here for, you’ll no longer feel the need to hide or filter yourself. The more self-aware you are (see previous post), and the better you understand your Striving Styles predominant need, fears and triggers, you be able to identify who you’re meant to be and know that you’re worthy of feeling good and honoring yourself. Your well-being doesn’t have to come last.

Signs you lack healthy boundaries

A lack of strong and clear boundaries can result in feeling worthless, weak, or not good enough. Here are some signs that you are lacking healthy boundaries in your life:

  1. you find it diffcult speaking up when you feel mistreated.
  2. you find it difficult making your own goals a priority.
  3. you do things when you don’t want to. You have a hard time saying no.
  4. you go out of your way to please others and seek their approval.
  5. you overcommit and give away too much of your time, making too many sacrifies at your own expense.
  6. you get guilted into doing things for others.
  7. you agree when you actually disagree.
  8. you feel guilty taking care of yourself, and taking time for yourself.
  9. you feel guilty when someone else feels bad, like you are responsible for other peoples thoughts, feelings, and actions. You feel guilty when others aren’t happy.
  10. you feel taken for granted by others.
  11. you give your time away for free.
  12. you do or give away things that you can’t afford.
  13. you feel like you have failed someone or guilty if you say no to them.
  14. you feel resentful and complain even though you agreed to the request or the expectation.
  15. you are what others want or need you to be, and not what YOU need to be.
  16. you are almost always comply with those in superior positions (boss, parent, etc.)
  17. you have toxic relationships or stay in unsatisfying relationships or situation.
  18. you let others describe your reality.
  19. you minimise your own feelings and needs.
  20. you do things out of obligation.
  21. you are consumed with what others think of you.
  22. you over-share details about your life.
  23. you often feel like a victim (refer to previous post)
  24. you attract people who try to control or dominate you.

If you identify with any of these then stay tuned for next week’s blog post where I’ll be discussing strategies and tools you can use to define, develop and honor healthy boundaries in every area of your life. While initially it won’t be easy, having healthy boundaries can really help you navigate life situations without feeling guilty or bad every single time. By leaning on the understanding that ultimately everything you do is for the sake of yours and others well-being and that you are always doing your best, you will soon realize that you’re worthy of taking care of yourself and that there is nothing wrong or bad about it, and eventually you’ll feel less and less guilty.

Healthy boundaries* include:

  1. saying no to things you don’t want to do or don’t have the resources to do.
  2. leaving situations that are harmful to you.
  3. telling others how you want to be treated.
  4. being aware of your own feelings and allowing yourself to feel differently than others.
  5. not trying to change, fix, or rescue others from difficult situations or feelings.
  6. allowing others to make their own decisions.
  7. prioritizing self-care.
  8. sharing personal information gradually based on how well you know and trust someone.
  9. recognizing which problems are yours to solve and which problems belong to others.
  10. communicating your thoughts, feelings, and needs.
  11. having personal space and privacy.
  12. pursuing your own goals and interests.

in the following video clip, Brene’ Brown explains, in her typical humorous style, how to let go of the person we think we’re supposed to be and embrace who we are. And when we have the courage to set boundaries, we engage with our worthiness.

THE GIFTS OF IMPERFECTION: LIVING WITH COURAGE, COMPASSION AND CONNECTION | Excerpt | PBS
•14 Feb 2011 PBS

Book recommendation:

Now, it’s your turn.

What you would really want to do if you knew that it wouldn’t disappoint others? Which area(s) of your life are boundaries the most difficult to maintain? Which of the unhealthy sign(s) did you identify with? I recommend journaling or mediating on them. Of course, feel free to share your thoughts in the comments below.

Photo source: Susan Wheeler (view of Stanley Park from Ambleside Beach, West Vancouver, BC)

*Sharon Martin, LCSW

Brain dominance, Dreams, Goals, Striving Styles, Who are you meant to be?

What would you do with an extra 13 years?

“Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?” ~ Mary Oliver

I recently read that the average North American watches between two to four hours of TV per day or 14-29 hours per week. If so, that would means that over the course of an average lifespan it would be equivalent to spending between 7 and 13 years in front of the TV! I also read that the average person spends nearly 2 hours per day on social media or 14 hours per week, which is equivalent to five years and 4 months over their lifetime, and this continues to increase. That’s crazy! I know I need to become way more intentional on how I’m spending my time, especially how much time I’m watching TV and spending on social media. How about you?

Just imagine what you could accomplish within 13 years! You can become a doctor in 11 years, and 13 if you specialize. You could get a PhD in whatever you’re interested in. You could go to university part-time, and complete a four year undergrad. There are endless courses available and you could become an expert in any subject you’re interested in. Or you could learn to play an instrument, become fluent in another language, learn to paint or draw. You could start a new business. Maybe get a black belt in karate, train and run marathons. Get fit, lose weight. Get a second job and pay off debts or save for that amazing vacation you’ve always dreamed of taking. You could take 13 amazing trips if you planned just one per year, in maybe 13 different countries. You could write that book you’ve been thinking about. Volunteer in your community. You could mend a relationship or nurture existing ones. The list is endless and it’s sure got me thinking about what I could do in 13 years!

“Never give up on a dream just because of the time it will take to accomplish it. The time will pass anyway.” ~ Earle Nightingale

From the time I was young, I dreamed of going to university, but four years of university seemed too much of a commitment, too much time, and out of reach mainly because I suffered from debilitating self-doubt (that’s a whole other topic). In spite of this, I was ambitious and keen to work, so I got a job and completed a two year diploma program at night school instead. It took me five years, working a full time job, a part-time job, and going to school, while taking one or two courses per semester. Definitely not an easy or fast path but I was proud of myself for finishing. Of course, the dream of going to university was still there, so as soon as I finished that program, I enrolled in university. Ironically, one of the excuses I had about going to university was too much of a time commitment! So, without boring you with all the details of my life story, I did plod away for 20 years on it, with many stops and starts along the way due to competing priorities from my career, family, moving, home renos, etc., and I’m proud to say I did eventually get my degree. While I don’t recommend that particular long and winding path, the point is, time passed anyway so I’m glad I did it. I absolutely know I would’ve regretted not doing it.

Sometimes our dreams feel so big, overwhelming, or simply out of reach. Getting clear on what you want in your life is essential. Once you have a clear vision, you need to understand why you want it. Your why is your ultimate motivator when it get’s tough, because it will. The key is to break down your vision and goal into a tangible action plan with daily or weekly tasks. A little progress every day will add up over time and you’ll be amazed at what you can accomplish.

It will feel slow and tedious, especially if you’re impatient like me, but by continuously and consistently working, practicing, and staying the course, you’ll be amazed at what you can get done. The rap singer Macklemore wrote a song where he says that “the greats weren’t great because at birth they could paint, the greats were great because they paint a lot”. This is a great reminder that there are very few overnight successes. Most success stories we hear about are the result of getting clear about what you want and a commitment to working hard.

For some people, envisioning their future self and figuring out what they really want can be challenging, while for others, it’s the easy part. Those that find it easy to visualize and dream may struggle with putting a plan together or taking action. All of this depends on what part of your brain dominates your personality. To learn how your unique brain is organized, and about your predominant style, complete the Striving Styles Personality Assessment. Helping people discover their dreams, and define a plan of action to achieve it, is what I love to do. Contact me if you want to learn more.

So what dream or dreams aren’t you pursuing because you’re sitting in front of the TV or glued to your phone. Just image what you could do in 13 years!

I think you might enjoy this inspiring and insightful Tedx Talk on the philosophy of time management.

The Philosophy of Time Management | Brad Aeon | TEDxConcord

My book recommendation

Now, it’s your turn.

What ambitions do you have right now that you are not pursuing? What dreams did you have when you were younger but have since given up on? What do you most wish for in your life? What do you want the most for your life? Share in the comments.

Photo source: Susan Wheeler (artist in Honfleur, France)

Limiting Beliefs, Negative Habits of Mind, React vs Respond, Self Actualized System, Self Protective System, Self-Awareness, Striving Styles

What’s on your mind?

“The state of your life is nothing more than a reflection of your state of mind.” ~ Wayne Dyer

From the moment you wake up to the moment you go to sleep at night, your mindset is up to you. You are the creator of your emotions, your thoughts, your perceptions, and your reactions. I don’t know about you, but I think this is exiting! This means that if you are stuck in a loop of negativity, or if you aren’t happy with certain aspects of your life, you have the power to change it. Neuroscience has proven that we can actually rewire our brain. Having the right mindset can quite literally change your life.

So, are you tired of your thoughts holding you back making you feel like a smaller, more stressed, distracted or disconnected version of who you really are deep inside? Do you want to quiet that inner critic that whispers that you aren’t good enough, that you should have done better, or that you need to be more? Do you want less time feeling distracted, caught in your head worrying or ruminating or planning, and have more time engaged with people or things that light you up? I don’t know about you, but I am and yes I do!

If you’re like me and recognize yourself in any of these, we can take some comfort in knowing that we’re not alone. We all have thoughts that limit us, that make us feel unsure of ourselves, close us off to others, shy away from opportunities and experiences. This is a natural part of being human.

But in order to understand our limiting thoughts more fully, we first need to understand how our brains work. Our brains are complex and amazing, made up with different parts and with different functions. The part we are interested in here is our reptilian brain, the oldest part of our brain that processes threats to our safety and survival, our fight or flight response, and responsible for our negativity bias (see previous post). This negativity bias means we are wired to notice threats more than opportunities for pleasure. While thousands of years ago this negativity bias served a purpose, today it wreaks havoc on our thoughts, which holds us back from our achieving our full potential.

When our brains are naturally geared to notice threats more than pleasures, fear more than love, criticism over compassion, judgement over acceptance, our thoughts are affected. Then add modern day busyness, social media, stress and overwhelm, and these thoughts get louder and more frequent, playing on repeat until they are so familiar that we actually think these thoughts are who we are at our core. Ugh! So, if these types of thoughts have been wired into our brain, how can we break free?

To fundamentally change the way we act, think, and feel, we must act greater than our environment and our present reality. We must understand how are unique brains are wired (complete the SSPS assessment to learn about yours). We must believe, dream, and envision a future reality greater than our present. And we must unhook and break free from our negative thoughts.

Three Steps to Break Free from Negative Thoughts

1) Cultivate a keen sense of awareness and curiosity towards your thoughts. In doing so, our thoughts lose their power and become less real. From here a sense of perspective grows, and we have a choice as how we’d like to respond (see previous post) to these thoughts. With choice comes freedom, freedom to become the person we want to be deep down below the chatter of our mind. Knowing we have a choice is both empowering and liberating.

2) Accept that these thoughts are a natural part of being human. When we allow these thoughts and accept them for what they are, we can offer them and ourselves some compassion. These thoughts are after all just trying to protect us from that perceived danger.

3) Intentionally orientate your mind away from the natural negativity bias (see post) and towards what is productive and positive. Orientate your mind away from fear based thinking and towards compassion, acceptance, connection, gratitude.

The two main reasons negative thoughts continue are because 1) we believe or buy into them, and 2) we try pushing them away or eliminating them. Both of these approaches give thoughts more energy. Getting rid or pushing these negative or unhelpful thoughts away doesn’t work. It just causes them to be more prevalent.

Essentially, we aren’t trying to eliminate our negative thoughts. We’re simply changing our relationship with them. We’re recognizing that they are normal, acknowledging and allowing them. We’re removing their power and impact, and making space for them so they can come and go without the intensity. And finally, we’re choosing to move towards our goals or potential anyway, even if with these unhelpful or negative thoughts are whispering in the background.

The late Dr. Wayne Dyer explains the power of taking responsibility for changing your thoughts in this inspirational video “5 lessons to live by”.

Dr. Wayne Dyer – 5 Lesson’s to Live By

Now, it’s your turn.

What negative thought(s) do you struggle with? How are they getting in your way of achieving your goals or dreams? Share in the comments below.

My book recommendation:

Photo source: Susan Wheeler (cocktail hour on the dock in the Cariboo, BC)

Fears & Underlying Beliefs, Limiting Beliefs, Self Protective System, Self-Awareness, Striving Styles

What are you afraid of?

“Expose yourself to your deepest fear; after that, fear has no power. You are free.” ~ Jim Morrison

In the spirit of Halloween this week, it seemed fitting to explore our deepest fears.  And by fears, I’m not talking about your fear of spiders, snakes and ghosts.  I’m talking about those fears and underlying beliefs that are getting in your way of moving towards your full potential – those unconscious fears and beliefs you have about yourself that are holding you back.   When we become more aware of our deepest, darkest fears and expose them to the light, we can see that they actually aren’t real at all but simply false emotions appearing real (F.E.A.R.).   

Too many of us are not living our dreams or our potential because we are living our fears, even though those fears are simply a habit of mind and often the product of our subconscious thoughts.  Our fears reside in our lower emotional brain, the basal ganglia, which is the strongest part of the brain.  This part of our brain recognizes and repeats patterns until it’s told otherwise.  It’s also where we uncover the fears that stop us and the underlying beliefs that limit our thinking and get in the way of achieving our potential.  The good news is that our prefrontal cortex or upper logical brain, known as the “manager”, understands long-term benefits and consequences.  So, because of our brains plasticity, with awareness and practice, the prefrontal cortex can override the basal ganglia, and thus overcoming those fears. 

“Bravery is not the absence of fear.  Bravery is feeling the fear, the doubt, the insecurity, and deciding that something else is more important”. ~ Mark Manson

We can’t eliminate our fear and nor do we want to as it can also be a healthy thing.  Our brain is literally wired to feel fear and threats to our safety.  For example, maybe you should actually listen to your brain if you are tempted to feed that bear!  However, generally most of our fears really don’t serve us.  For example, let’s say you’re walking across the street and see a long slithering object – you automatically think it’s a snake so your sympathetic nervous system kicks in (fight or flight).  However, as you courageously move closer to it, you see that it’s just a hose.  Then your brain’s limbic system and parasympathetic system (rest and digest) kicks in and reduces your feelings of fear.  These fears do not serve us when they cause unnecessary paralysis or inaction, such as if you avoided walking across the street. 

Courage and Fear

Feeling fear is completely normal and we’re all going to be or feel scared at times.  For example, we can be scared of taking that job, making that speech, asking that person out, making a tough phone call, or applying to that school.  Being courageous means doing it anyway in spite of feeling fear, knowing that by taking that step, or by taking action, it will be all worth it. 

Learning how to overcome fear will help to diminish any anxiety and panic and will leave you feeling more empowered than ever.  Most of your healing journey will be about unlearning the patterns of self-protection that you once believed kept you safe.  We need to learn how to overcome false fears that are interfering with our major life areas such as work, relationships, health and fitness, finances, etc.  We also need to know what will help us when we do experience these feelings, so we can tackle them when they threaten our development process.  If our energy goes into avoiding people or situations that scare, intimidate, or make us uncomfortable, we will always live out of our self-protective system, missing out on who we can be and our potential.  While we all have many fears, you will discover that they usually relate back to your predominant need and therefore are easily triggered.

Predominant Fears for Each Striving Style

Leader – to feel weak, powerless or helpless

Intellectual – to feel interior, incompetent, irrelevant, or dominant

Performer – to feel shame, humiliated, worthless, or disappointed

Visionary – to feel attacked, ridiculed, or diminished.

Socializer – to feel abandoned, alone, or devalued

Artist – to feel rejected, invaded, or inferior

Adventure – to feel confined, restricted and imprisoned

Stabilizer – to feel insecure, useless, or uncertain.

Knowing the fears of your predominant style and facing them head on is critical step in discovering your best self. Each of us has a predominant need with a corresponding fear.  Can you identify your predominant fear from the list above?  In order to overcome our fears, we need to know what it is that we are ultimately afraid of.  We overcome our fear when we understand and talk about it. In doing so, we can minimize it into the nothingness that it always was – mostly brooding thoughts and false emotions appearing real. 

How you overcome your F.E.A.R.’s

  1. Discover the predominant fears associated with your Striving Style.  Most of our fears relate back to our predominant style.
  2. Realize that we are not our thoughts but simply the awareness of our thoughts.  Observe them for what they are.  For example, say to yourself “Oh, this is just fear I’m feeling” or “Yes shame, I see you” or “Oh hi there rejection”.
  3. Think about it, how is your fear healthy for you or how is your fear holding you back. 
  4. Write out what you are afraid of.  Ask yourself if it is real.  When we understand our fears, they aren’t so scary.
  5. Ask yourself what the worst thing that could actually happen if you do the thing, take action, etc. Write it beside the fear.
  6. Then consider what the best outcome will be if you do the thing, take action, etc. Then write it beside the fear.
  7. Write out one small action step that will push you through your fear and move you forward. When you can develop competence, you develop confidence. 
  8. Taking action is easier said than done. Watch Mel Robbins talk about the 5 Second Rule, or read her book for her advice on how you can take action. It is one of the most impactful books and concepts that I’ve read in the past few years.

Be willing to step into your fear and make small moves forward.  Fear is very powerful emotion and it will paralyze you if you let it.  Everything always seems scarier in the dark, so turn the light on your fears so you can see them for what they are. Remember, nothing changes until your relationship with fear changes. So get out there, be courageous and face your fears!

Mel Robbins – 5 Second Rule

Now, it’s your turn.

What are you afraid of?  What is the one thing that you really want but are afraid to do? What is the worst thing that will happen if you do it?  What is the best thing that could happen if you are courageous enough to actually do it?

Share your thoughts in the comments.

Photo by Artie Siegel from Pexels

Personality, Self Actualized System, Self Protective System, Self-Awareness, Self-Confidence, Striving Styles, Who are you meant to be?

How do you shine?

“Maybe the journey isn’t so much about becoming anything. Maybe it’s about un-becoming everything that isn’t really you, so you can be who you were meant to be in the first place.” ~ Paulo Coelho

Do you know who you are? What your unique gifts are? Each of us are born perfectly unique. We can see this unique beauty in babies and children who are happy and free within their own skin. Then, over time and as we grow up, social and cultural conditioning, the need to fit in, to get along, and to be liked by others, slowly erodes our uniqueness, and in many ways, encourages us to be who we think we should be rather than who we actually are. This experience of being removed from our true self can leave us unsure of ourselves and lacking in confidence, energy and motivation. It can also rob us of the peace that comes from being ourselves and being comfortable in our own skin.

Knowing who you are meant to be starts with knowing what you are born as. Too often people try to figure out what they are meant to do without having any idea about who they really are. This disconnect causes them to look outside of themselves for answers to questions that can only be answered from within. It also causes us to strive to be what others expect of us and to give up on ourselves and instead try to live up to an ideal, to be the person that we think we should be, rather than based on who we authentically are.

We’re are all driven by powerful, instinctual needs that we’ve had since birth – our predominant style or Striving Style. These needs are the source of our motivation for our behaviour, social interaction, and influence how we behave and how we feel about ourselves. When our predominant need is met, we are poised for growth and development.

However, when our predominant needs are not being met, we will feel threatened, frightened or anxious, leading to self-protective or survival behaviours. Fear and anxiety override rational thought which will profoundly influence our behaviour, often without our awareness, thus undermining our success and effectiveness.

Have you ever got to the end of the day and felt like somehow your day was hijacked? Or maybe you’ve spent to much time reacting, caught up in some drama or just consumed with a sense of busyness. Do you ever feel uneasy, or have a quiet of rumbling deep inside that something isn’t right. This means you are living out of your self-protective systems. When I have a day like this I’ll reflect on the predominant needs of my striving style and make a plan on how I need to shift out of my self-protective system. If you’re unaware of your predominant needs you will be at the mercy of your unconscious impulses, emotions and negative habits of mind, leading to reactive, non-productive behaviour, increased emotionality, and an inability to focus on your goals.

The Striving Styles (SSPS) gets to the heart of the human experience and helps you identify what you need to feel secure and psychologically stable so you can grow and develop. As well, it provides you with insight into the consequences when you don’t get your predominant needs met. The SSPS doesn’t provide a laundry list of strengths and weaknesses but rather, it takes into account the complexity of your brain’s functioning and its impact on your personality.

Coming to understand yourself, recognizing and expressing your uniqueness and who you really are will make you feel more creative, confident, energized and inspired. Your personality, your unique history and story is like no one else’s. Living a life with authenticity, meaning and purpose is ultimately what a happy and fulfilled life looks like.

I love this beautiful (and fitting) song that I have currently playing on repeat. Enjoy!

Astral Plane by Valerie June

Now, it’s your turn.

Think about a time recently that you felt really happy and content, like in that moment you had everything you needed. Who was there? What were you doing? How did you feel when you were in this moment of happiness?

How about a time that you felt inspired motivated or purposeful. When you felt you were focused, in the zone. How did it feel to be inspired in this way?

What about a time when you felt moved by something more- a beautiful sunset, a night sky, the ocean an overwhelming experience of love or compassion.

Share your thoughts in the comments.

Photo by James Wheeler from Pexels

Emotional Intelligence, Negative Habits of Mind, Self Protective System, Self-Awareness, Striving Styles

Ever take things too personally?

“Nothing others do is because of you. What others say and do is a projection of their own reality, their own dreams. When you are immune to the opinions and actions of others, you won’t be the victim of needless suffering.”~ Don Miquel Ruiz

Why are we so quick to take things personally? Do we actually believe that everything is always about us? In fact, research suggests that we significantly overestimate how much we are singled out and judged by others. When someone says something negative or nasty about you, it actually says more about them. Right now, you can make a decision to no longer emotionally react to other people’s issues (see previous post respond rather than react). It takes practice and patience to stop taking things personally but once you accomplish it, your life will become completely transformed.

“You don’t have to control your thoughts, you just have to stop letting them control you.” Dan Millman.

Taking things personally is an automatic negative habit of mind where you make everything about you. It’s like you’re the center of everything that happens and where you believe that all situations have something to do with you, which in reality isn’t true. When you believe you are the cause or the object of negative events, then you are personalizing. Here are a few examples of personalizing:

  • If a friend seems distant, if a boss is angry about something, if your sister doesn’t call, you see yourself as the cause of their emotions and behaviour.   
  • If your co-worker doesn’t greet you like they normally do, you start thinking about what you might have done wrong to upset them, when really it has nothing to do with you. Maybe they had a fight with their spouse before coming to work. 

How to stop taking things personally

  1. Avoid jumping to conclusions. Give the benefit of the doubt to the other person and remember to listen to their entire story, then ask questions to clarify their viewpoint. Don’t jump to conclusions too quickly when you are being confronted. Don’t make assumptions about judgment or criticism seemingly directed at you. Maybe it’s not about you at all, but about them and their own projected perceptions. In fact, it’s almost always about them, their issues, their needs.
  2. Make decisions on your self-worth and not on what others say or think about you. Eleanor Roosevelt said “no one can make you feel inferior without your permission” so don’t give them your permission. Realize that your self worth depends on you and not what others say about you. Of course, relationships will always play a prominent role in our life. But the more you know about yourself, the less you will need others to tell you about yourself.
  3. Take a different perspective. Ask yourself how an unbiased outsider might view this situation. Ask yourself what might be impacting that persons behaviour such as, they’re having a bad day, their personality type, etc. If they were rude to you, it’s almost never about you but a reflection of their own issues.
  4. Understand your predominant personality type or Striving Style. Each of the eight striving styles have a dominant and/or preferred communication style. Learning about your predominant needs and fears, as well as that of others, will offer a deeper insight into how you respond and what might trigger you. Learn more.
  5. Consider the big picture. Instead of taking someone else’s comments personally, take a moment or two and think about the bigger picture. What do the people who know you best think about you? Doesn’t their opinion matter more than this person?
  6. Give up your judgement. Most of us have preconceived notions about people and situations. It’s just the way we are. That being said, no one likes to be judged. When we let that judgement go, it frees us up to see the person and situation in a whole new way. By giving up the judgement, we might actually find out what the real issue is.
  7. Practice being strong. Strong in who you are and what you believe. When we have confidence in ourselves, it’s much easier to stay neutral and avoid buying into somebody else’s baggage or their issues.
  8. Be aware of your triggers. If you are a sensitive person you likely have radar that constantly catches negative comments that hurt you. Know what makes you feel vulnerable. When you are aware of your sensitive spots, the things that trigger your emotions and reactions, you can prepare yourself if an interaction arises that attempts to draw you in. When we take something personally it’s often related to rejection in some way. Something has happened in the past that triggers our limbic brain, the emotional center of our brain. Do you know what triggers your emotional responses? If you do, that’s great. Recognizing the triggers is the first step in disengaging. When we take something personally we do not stand in our own power but buy into others weaknesses.
  9. Think about comments or criticism as a growth opportunity. When faced with critical comments, take them in a constructive way. Ask yourself if there is any truth to it and what you can learn. Ask yourself how you can grow and let the rest of it go.
  10. Create a space between yourself and your reactions. Your initial response might be to react emotionally. If possible, don’t follow that knee-jerk reaction. Take the time to rein in your emotions and assess what’s really happening before you respond (refer to my post on respond rather than react). In general, it’s a good idea to create a healthy personal space around yourself. When you create some space or buffer between yourself and another person, personal boundaries have less chance of being crossed or blurred.
  11. Let go of the need to please. Realize that you can’t please everyone. Work to reduce the impossible demand that you need to be perfect.
  12. Listen carefully to gain clarification. Hopefully, your emotions will take a back seat while you ask this individual to fully explain what’s on their mind and what they want from you. Listen carefully before you respond so you can discern what makes sense and what doesn’t (Refer to my post Are you listening?).
  13. Enlist some support. Seek counseling or enlist the help of a trusted friend to help shift your perspective on yourself and others.

If you practice these techniques over and over you will re-wire your brain and find yourself becoming more neutral and less affected by someone else’s negativity. As you develop these techniques you will stand in your own power and confidence.

When you find yourself thinking that someone else’s behaviour was caused by you or their feelings about you, think about other options or reasons why they might be behaving the way they are.  Or, consider why they might be behaving the way they are if you weren’t in the picture.  Notice how your emotional reactions change when you recognize that their behaviour is not about you.

Don Miguel Ruiz talks to Oprah about Agreement #2: How to Not Take Things Personally

Now, your turn:

Reflect on recent situations in which you have taken things personally. How did you make it about you, (What did you tell yourself? How did you interpret their actions?), and how did it affect your behaviour? Now think about other possible interpretations of the situation that don’t attribute the cause to you. Share in the comments.

My book recommendation:

Photo by Madison Inouye from Pexels

Negative Habits of Mind, Self Protective System, Self-Awareness, Striving Styles

Do you Catastrophize?

 “I’ve suffered a great many catastrophes in my life.  Most of them never happened.” ~ Mark Twain

When we’re stressed our brain can get stuck in a loop of negative thoughts, feelings and behaviours such as excessive worrying, difficulty focusing, or dwelling on negative experiences. Our brains can get stuck catastrophizing.

So what does it mean to catastrophize?  It’s a common habit of thinking about something and making if far worse than it actually is, creating a worst-case scenario, causing fear and anxiety.  Some call it magnifying which is a good way to think of it, because it emphasizes how we can magnify things way out of proportion, dreaming up scary scenarios, going far beyond simple exaggeration, linking one imagined event to another until we’re paralyzed with fear, going from one scary thought to the next. It magnifies or exaggerates something small or minor into a much bigger, graver situation. It’s when you make small errors but treat them like big ones – “I made a mistake, I’m such an idiot, I’ll probably get fired”. Catastrophic thinking is a whole other level of negativity (refer to my previous post negativity bias). When you imagine the worst case scenario, the what if’s, you will get scared or become angry.   

Catastrophic thinking is a habitual response to challenges or shortcomings such as how you think about failing or how you respond to challenges.  It starts with the belief that something terrible will happen, or that you can’t recover.   People with anxiety imagine losing control of themselves, for example, they think they’ll have a panic attack if they go to the mall and imagine it’ll be a catastrophic, rather than just simply uncomfortable.  Expecting the worse case is an excellent way to make yourself anxious, depressed, unmotivated and completely ruin your life. 

So how does catastrophizing mess us up?  We’ve all experienced some type of tragedies in our life, including painful rejection or failure.  We believe that if we trick ourselves into believing that if we expect the worst, we can prevent it from happening. But in reality, the exact opposite happens.  Seeing the worst often leads to the worst, because we not only cut ourselves off from opportunities, we actually end up inviting the exact problems we are hoping to avoid.  If we go into a conversation expecting the other person will be defensive, we come in ready to attack and lead off more harsh, thus inviting the other person to be defensive.  Catastrophizing invites depression as the future is seen as dreary, hopeless, leading to a cycle of withdrawing from life, a lack of motivation, and a pattern of depression.  It invites anxiety by forcing our brain to see threats and failures everywhere and our brain responds to perceived threats as very real fear response – flight, fight, freeze response. This contributes to social anxiety and leads to paralysis.

“Supposing a tree fell down, Pooh, when we were underneath it?” “Supposing it didn’t, said Pooh. After careful thought Piglet was comforted by this.

Winnie the Pooh (A.A. Milne)

Examples of catastrophic thoughts, and how you can think differently

If or when you catch yourself catastrophizing, think of what might help you.   What could you consciously and mindfully say to yourself when you think these thoughts?  Ask yourself if it’s real or imagined. Here are a few examples:

Catastrophic thought: Oh no, I’m such an idiot, I made a mistake on the report,  I’m never going to finish it,  or even if I do finish it, it will be so bad, it won’t be any good anyway.  I’m going to get fired no matter what.

Replace with: Ok wait, that’s not true.  Everyone makes mistakes, I’m only human, I’ll fix this problem, or mistake, and if I need to ask for help I can but I’ll keep working hard and try to be more careful in the future.  Nobody is going to fire me for making a mistake in a report.

Catastrophic thought: I can’t believe I said that to my boyfriend.  He’s going to leave me for sure this time. 

Replace with: I shouldn’t have said that to my boyfriend. I need to learn to talk more kindly even when I’m upset.  I’m going to try and apologized, and try and make it right.  Hopefully he’ll understand  and accept my apology and we’ll both learn from this.

Catastrophic thought: My husband is late coming home from work. I’m sure he’s been in a car accident or something terrible has happened. I’ll probably get a call from the police or the hospital.

Replace with: I know he’s been really busy at work and I’m sure he’s just got caught up in a meeting and forgot to call. I’ll let him know that I worry when I don’t hear from him, and ask him to message me next time he thinks he’ll be late.

Catastrophic thought: I haven’t heard from my friend for over a week. She must not like me or want to be my friend anymore.

Replace with: I haven’t heard from my friend for over a week. She must be incredibly busy. I’ll give her a call to see how she’s doing and let her know I’m thinking about her.

Catastrophic thought: I heard rumors that my company is having financial troubles, and I just know I’m going to lose my job, my home, and end up penniless on the street.

Replace with: I’m curious if these rumors are true and maybe I’ll go talk to my manager. And even if it’s true, the worse case scenario is I lose my job. I’ll know I’ll be fine and get another job, maybe even a better one.

Why do we catastrophize?

Catastrophizing essentially serves two dysfunctional functions:   

1) Preparing for the worse is a coping strategy preventing us to feel risk or uncertainty.  If I expect myself to fail I won’t be disappointed if I do.  If I reject myself first, I don’t have to worry that someone will do it to me.  Catastrophizing is a way to avoid feeling and to protect ourselves from feeling sadness or worry. Yet paradoxically, when we try not to feel we often end up becoming depressed and anxious.  Expecting the worst also justifies not even trying and attempts to excuse our failure before we put in an effort. No wonder it feels more safe and comfortable than putting your heart out there.  While it’s comfortable in the short term it’ll crush the joy out of your life in the long run.  You’re not risking failure but you can’t have success either.  You’re not getting rejected, but you’re still alone on the weekend. 

2) The belief that fear is the best motivation. Motivating ourselves to study, go to work, etc. by using fear and predicting doom and gloom, like, we’ll end up working in a dead-end job, living on the streets, or be all alone, works briefly as a motivator but over the long term causes us to become anxious, depressed, overwhelmed and less functional.   It’s not a sustainable source of motivation.   

How you can feel better?

  • Get more sleep. Getting a good night sleep will give you a greater ability to face challenges bravely; when we are sleep deprived we are hyper sensitive to threats and lack resilience when facing challenges. 
  • Stick with the facts. Focus on the specifics to keep your mindset clear and focused on the only thing you can control – your reaction. You are not your thoughts or feelings.  The difference between a thought that sticks in your brain and one that floats on by is what we choose to make of it.
  • Set positive goals. Motivate yourself by what you do want in life, what you value,and hope for instead of using fear. For example, instead of saying I need to go to school so I don’t end up on the streets, you say, I want to go school because I want to be a teacher, doctor, (you fill in the blank).  Choose what you do want in life, break it down in to small goals, and bravely work towards those little by little.
  • Stay present and engaged even if a risk of not going perfecting involves vulnerability. Risking failure or hurt to have success and joy involves staying engaged even if things don’t go perfectly.  The only alternative is to guarantee failure by cutting yourself off before you even try.
  • Accept uncertainty as a natural and acceptable part of living a wholehearted life. This is fundamental life skill that can be developed and practiced.  It involves changing how you think about anxiety.  Instead of labeling a situation as bad or harmful or you can’t handle it, you can say, this is uncomfortable, but it won’t injure me and I can do hard things. Embrace acceptable risk and the anxiety that comes with it as natural normal and helpful.  Build up your emotional muscles so you can experience uncomfortable emotions by practicing mindfulness, meditation, or doing something that scares you every day.

Practice mindfulness

  1. Start by noticing when you are catastrophizing. What are the words or exaggerations you use to make things worse than they are, such as never, always, terrible, failure, horrible, rejected, awkward.  Notice the situations that you tend to catastrophize about. Write down what it looks like when you do it.  Ask a friend or family member to point it out when you do. 
  2. Challenge those thoughts – just because you think it doesn’t mean it’s true.  Learn to notice and gently question your thoughts.  You don’t have to believe everything you think but don’t beat yourself up for your thoughts – it’s not very helpful.  Notice your thoughts, then let them pass. 
  3. Replace thoughts with something more honest and helpful.  Once you start to notice this type of thinking, begin to combat with more honest, more rational thoughts.  Consider other possible outcomes. Even if something bad did happen, you could learn from it it wouldn’t be the end of the world. 
  4. When you find yourself starting to imagine the worst-case scenario, grab a sheet of paper and write down what you’re telling yourself.  Then for each statement, ask yourself, “Is it real?” and then cross off everything on your list that is not real

Now, it’s your turn:

When was the last time you catastrophized? What was the situation? How did it affect your behaviour? What might you say to yourself when you find your imagination creating a worst-case scenario? Share your examples in the comments.

Photo source: Susan Wheeler (morning hike in North Vancouver, BC)

Meditation, Mindfulness, Negative Habits of Mind, Self-Awareness, Striving Styles

Cultivating Happiness: Understanding your Negativity Bias

“If you can extract happiness out of common, everyday moments you will have captured the art of happiness.” ~ Elle Sommer

Do you find yourself dwelling on bad memories and experiences?  Do you tend to fixate on one little negative comment, criticism or feedback? When you’re hurt, upset, or angry with someone, do you fixate on everything you don’t like about them or focus on their flaws? It’s so much easier to focus on the laundry list of bad things about them and why they pissed you off. Thinking about that persons good points takes a lot of energy, and it’s easier to think of all the things you don’t like about them. Maybe you find that you often ignore all the positive events that are happening (or have happened) and focus primarily on the negative or what didn’t happen? We can become consumed with our negative qualities or on negative experiences while ignoring our positive characteristics and experiences.

If you can relate to this, you might get some comfort in knowing that you are not alone.  It comes down to human evolution. Our brains have been programmed over thousands of years to focus on the negative, which was once helpful in protecting us from being eaten by wild animals or eating poisonous plants. Our survival was dependent upon remembering those negative experiences so we didn’t die. This default in our brain is referred to as a negativity bias and causes us to remember or focus more on negative memories than good ones. These automatic negative thoughts can trigger our self protective system (SPS) which can have a powerful effect on our behaviour, our decisions, and our relationships.  Today, this negativity bias is less useful and is ultimately damaging to our overall sense of happiness and well being. It often results in us focusing on unnecessary worries and fears and having a less optimistic outlook on life. 

These negative memories are stored and recalled in our emotional brain, known as the basal ganglia, the strongest part of our brain that recognizes and repeats patterns until told otherwise.  While the basal ganglia is the strongest part of the brain, our prefrontal cortex, or the logical “manager”, understands long term benefits and consequences. The good news is, because of the brains plasticity, our prefrontal cortex can override the basal ganglia.

Cultivating your inner strengths

Understanding how you think and how your brain works is key to cultivating your inner strengths and changing your automatic negative habits of mind. Reprogramming your brain starts when you become aware of how often you think the same negative thoughts about your self or make situations worse by making up stories about what is going on. Recognizing your automatic negative thought patterns and focusing on the positive takes a conscious effort and lot of work. Mindfully refocusing your thinking and responding to events with greater awareness and consciousness will help to build your inner strengths, thus allowing you to feel stronger, more secure and resilient.

To cultivate your inner strengths you must begin to orient yourself and your awareness towards those everyday moments of happiness and satisfaction. To linger in them, savor them, allowing them to touch you and soak into the fabric of who you are. When you allow yourself to linger in these everyday moments of happiness and satisfaction, you not only experience happiness in that moment, but you’re also strengthening the neuropathways in your mind, which leads to greater happiness and well-being.

This is not as easy as it sounds thought. Especially when we add busyness, stress, anxiety or  a sense of overwhelm of everyday modern life. We may find ourselves going through our day seeing life as a whole lot of little challenges to be overcome, mishaps to be avoided, fires to be put out, rather than as a series of opportunities for happiness, fulfillment, connection, meaning, and satisfaction. Modern day life coupled with our negativity bias means we move through our days allowing our negative experiences to really stick while those positive experiences slide off without having the opportunity to become absorbed into our awareness. 

Let’s take a moment to think about this.  Can you think back to a time when you let a small inconvenience taint your day or really get to you? Such as bad traffic, a slow driver, a chaotic morning, or an uncomfortable conversation with a colleague or friend. Or maybe you can think back to a time at work when you received some overall positive feedback about your performance with just one suggestion for improvement. Instead of seeing this for what it really was you only focused on the suggestion for improvement, taking it as a personal criticism or even as insult. Or perhaps you enjoyed a lovely weekend with family and friends but let one slightly critical comment made by a friend or relative really sink in and take over the overall feeling of happiness and connection that was actually present during this time together.  Or what about all the small acts of kindness that you receive each day that go by largely unnoticed such as  when you partner brings you a coffee or when the person serving you at the restaurant serves you with extra attention.  Or what about when a colleague holds the door for you, when a stranger smiles at you in the street, or when another driver lets you in.  What about all the good decisions you make, the movements in your day that go by without a hitch, the times when life just runs smoothly.  These are the moments that we let slide right off without being absorbed into our awareness, or into our minds and hearts.  Yet these are the everyday opportunities that hold the seeds of our happiness and fulfillment. 

How can you turn ordinary everyday moments into an opportunity for happiness?

According to Neuroscientist Dr. Rick Hanson “every time you take in the good you build a little bit of neurostructure… doing this a few times a day will gradually change your brain and how you feel and act in far reaching ways.” Firstly, we need to wake up from the modern day trance of busyness and move from our minds into our bodies, hearts, and the present moment and turn our attention to the moments of good that are right in front of us.  From here we become more open and receptive to the everyday opportunities for happiness that exist for each of us throughout our days. 

“Every time you take in the good you build a little bit of neurostructure… doing this a few times a day will gradually change your brain and how you feel and act in far reaching ways.”

Dr. Rick Hanson

These moments will look and feel different to each of us.  Then we must linger in these moments of happiness using our breath and attention to help transform these experiences from passing states into enduring traits. Recent studies in neuroscience suggest that in order create these new neuropathways we need to stay with these experiences for at least 15-20 seconds or about  4 to 5 breaths.  Amazingly, we can also build this neuropathway by focusing our attention on past or present experiences of happiness and fulfillment. By taking the time to recall a happy experience, allowing it to land in your body, mind and heart, you are helping to strengthen these pathways. 

Meditation is a powerful way to strengthen our neuropathways as the very act of meditation allows for a focused awareness, for a natural presence, a slowing down.  During meditations, spend time recalling past experiences as well as enjoying present moments experiences of happiness.  Meditation allows us to experience things in our minds, bodies, and hearts. 

Now, it’s your turn

What happened this week that was good? Describe something that you are excited about. Tell us what makes you happy. What’s going well? What are you grateful for? Share in the comments.

Photo Source: Pinterest

Emotional Intelligence, Mindfulness, React vs Respond, Self-Awareness, Striving Styles

Be Mindful: Respond rather than React

“Between stimulus and response there is a space.  In that space is power to choose our response” ~ Viktor Frankl

No doubt all of us, including me, have reacted at times in our lives when we should have responded.  Upon reflection, we can often identify those events based on how we felt afterwards. We may have wished we hadn’t said something, or chosen a different tone, or had simply removed ourselves from the situation until we knew how to respond well.  As adults, we all know the right thing to do.  Yet, often our emotions get the best of us and we react – at work, at home, in the car, on social media, etc.  Until we are shown, taught, or learn something different, we often don’t know how to control our reactions, or even recognize our behaviour.  

So what is the difference between reacting vs responding?

A reaction is instinctive, based in the moment and doesn’t take the long term effects of what we do or say into consideration. While reacting in an emergency involving life and death where your survival is at stake is important, it’s when we react in everyday situations that we damage our relationships, and potential for a positive outcome.  A reaction is typically quick, tense and aggressive, while a response is thoughtful, calm and non-threatening.  A reaction typically provokes and perpetuates negative reactions.

When we react, we aren’t choosing.  Rather we are allowing our reptilian (or instinctual brain), the oldest part of our brain, to take control. The reptilian brain is all about survival: movement, breathing, circulation, hunger and reproduction, territory, and social dominance. A reaction uses our reptilian brain, which is survival-oriented.  Based on what your emotions trigger you to do, you act without really thinking through the consequences.  This might turn out okay but often a reaction is something you regret later. When we choose to simply react to what occurs in our lives, we often behave defensively, such as bating or taking revenge, blame, scapegoating, etc.  Stephen Covey defines the difference between reactive and responsive individuals as follows: “Reactive people are often affected by their physical environment. If the weather is good, they feel good. If it isn’t, it affects their attitude and performance. Proactive people carry their own weather with them.” 

“Respond don’t react.  When you react to a person’s negative comments or actions in an angry, overly emotional or aggressive way, then you are giving that person power over you.  If a person can easily get a rise from you, then you are no longer in control.  If you take a moment and respond in a calm, healthy, honest and real way, then you are in control.  You are not allowing anyone to take your power away, or invoke a reaction from you.” Maria Consiglio

A reaction is usually quick and typically:

  • involves the reptilian/instinctual and the limbic/emotional brain.
  • is emotional.
  • involves speaking without thinking.
  • is often tense and aggressive.
  • creates conflict.
  • perpetuates discontentment and disagreement.
  • others are in control.

However, as highly evolved mammals, we have three brains: the reptilian brain or survival-oriented brain; the emotional or limbic brain; and the neocortex brain.  While our limbic/emotional brain is highly reactive and subconsciously involves our emotions and feelings, the neocortex is the thinking part of the brain, and where we have the capability to respond rather than react derives itself.  

It is the neocortex where we develop thoughtful responses.   This is where we gather and digest the necessary information, where we decipher what we are seeing and feeling, and where we put it into context. It’s future-focused, and where we understand the world so we are capable of making sound decisions.  It is why when thinking about how you might respond in a more mindful fashion, you can plan your future responses and strengthen your ability to take action that is in your best interest.

A response is a conscious decision that usually comes more slowly, and:

  • involves your neocortex or rational brain.
  • isn’t based on your emotional trigger.
  • involves acting by really thinking through consequences.
  • it includes a plan for future responses.
  • it’s non-threatening.
  • it takes time.
  • allows for assertiveness without aggression.
  • resolves conflict.
  • you are in control of your life.

While it’s not always easy to know how to respond best in every situation, being self-aware and emotionally intelligent help tremendously (topics I’ve discussed in my earlier posts). Like self-awareness and emotional intelligence, knowing how respond is a skill that can be developed.  When we know first-hand the negative experience that can result from reacting, we are far more motivated to make sure we respond in a similar situation.  It takes practice and requires us to be able to pause in nearly any situation before speaking or acting. 

To achieve our full potential, and become more successful both personally, and professionally, we need to be more aware of, and have more influence over our responses.  From recent brain research, we know that our brains are plastic and has the ability to develop connections with the other parts.   According to Dr. Bill Crawford, a psychologist who studies the brain, and concepts of responding and reacting, our brains are constantly rewiring with every thought, emotion, and/or behavior. He says that “when we respond to life in a way that is more effective… the brain creates and reinforces neural pathways from our limbic system up to our neocortex”.

How Mindfulness helps reprogram your brain

“Mindfulness give you time. Time give you choices. Choices, skillfully made, lead to freedom. You don’t have to be swept away by your feeling. You can respond with wisdom and kindness rather than habit and reactivity.” – Bhante H. Gunaratana

Your thoughts (beliefs) create your feelings; your feelings create your actions; your actions create your results.  Mindfulness is awareness of what is happening in the present moment, including awareness of thoughts, without any attachment to whatever you notice.  Mindfulness is helpful because it creates space between thoughts and actions.  By increasing your awareness of your thoughts, you can begin to break old automatic or habitual chain reactions between your triggers, thoughts, feelings and actions.  Each time you choose to not to activate your old trigger-thought-feeling-action-result sequence, you weaken the connections.  Furthermore, each time you choose a different action, you program new connections.  With repetition and practice, you hardwire these new programs so your new thoughts and responses become your new habits.

When we respond to life, we:

  • become the directors, rather than the followers
  • establish stronger relationships
  • become better communicators
  • minimize confrontations
  • find more peace
  • reduce regret
  • build a confidence that we can handle any situation we come up against
  • we thrive!

In essence, when choosing to respond versus react, you are taking charge of your life.  Choosing to be responsive is taking responsibility of our lives. Recognizing the power of our words, our behavior, our tone, our delivery, etc. will make a positive difference to those in our lives. 

“Instead of asking others to change their behaviour, your power is in your changing your reaction to their behaviour.  You have no control over their behaviour, but you do have complete control over your reaction to it.” – Abraham Hicks

How you can build a response habit:

Think of a time or situation that always causes conflict for you.  What are the things you tell yourself about the situation? How do you usually react to it? Record your answers. 

Practice responding to challenging situations until these responses become reactions.

Each time you enter into a situation that you know tends to cause you to react, take a few minutes to write down how you normally react and how you want to respond instead.  What will it look like? What will you say differently? How will you act differently?

Photo source: Susan Wheeler (breezy window in Tuscany, Italy)

MBTI, Personality, Striving Styles

Will your (MBTI) personality type determine your success?

pexels-photo-109813

“Success is peace of mind which is a direct result of self-satisfaction in knowing you made the effort to become the best you are capable of becoming.” ~ John Wooden

The short answer is no. There is not one particular Myers-Briggs (MBTI) personality type that is directly correlated to successful outcomes.  No one type is better than another and each type have their own unique strengths, weaknesses and gifts. For example, an INTJ is not any more likely to be successful than an ESFP.  In addition, there is so much more to you than your type such as your upbringing environment, your unique tastes and traits that make you a unique individual.  No matter what personality type we are born with, we all have the ability to be successful.   While success is somewhat subjective to the individual, I think it’s described best as those who achieve their goals or live in alignment with their life vision and values.

So what does determine your success?  Ultimately, it is your habits, mindset, and utilizing the capabilities of your full brain that will determine your success.

That said, knowing and understanding your personality type, your strengths, your preferred working styles, will absolutely contribute to your personal and professional success.  While on its own it, knowing your type won’t impact success or performance outcomes, it is a key first step in developing self-awareness which is an important and foundational factor related to your overall success.

One of the most beneficial outcomes of learning about personality type is you will feel understood.  It will also help you improve relationships and become a better communicator with people who process things differently than you do, and reduce conflict both at home and at work.

Your MBTI describes your unique characteristics, how you process information, your preferences, and how you interact with the world.  Each personality type has a dominant mental process and an inferior mental process, and everyone has a natural preference for one of the two opposites.  Our inferior processes tend to be the sources of many of our weaknesses and embarrassments while our dominant processes tend to be easier for us to master and use effectively.   The best way to explains this is that we all have a preferred hand to write with which is easier for us, but that doesn’t mean we never use the other hand.  For example, if you’re right-handed and you suddenly try to switch to writing with your left hand you could do it, but it would take a log more time and it would look a lot sloppier.

Here is a brief explanation of the MBTI:

  • There are four MBTI dichotomies:
    • Introversion (I) or Extraversion (E) describes where you get your energy. Extroverts gain energy from interaction with the outside world while Introverts gain energy from pondering their thoughts
    • Intuitive (N) or Sensing (S) describes how you gather information. Intuitives focus on the abstract, theoretical, and “unseen” while Sensors focus on the concrete, literal, and real details of the world around them and their experience with it.
    • Thinking (T) or Feeling (F) describes how you make decisions. Thinking types “step outside” of a decision to consider the logic, pros and cons, and the truth of a situation. Feeling types “step inside” a decision to consider how it will impact the people involved, whether harmony will be maintained, and whether the decisions aligns with their values
    • Judging (J) or Perceiving (P) describes how you interact with the outside world. Judging types like to have a schedule and a plan. They like to get all their work done before “playing”.  Perceiving types like to mix work and play, and have an open-ended, spontaneous schedule. They like to stay open for new opportunities and inspiration.
  • Everyone has a natural preference for one of the two opposites on each of the four dichotomies.
  • They describe preferences
  • There is no right or wrong
  • You use all 8 of the preferences, but you prefer four
  • Sometimes how we are at home, at work, alter our personalities to fit that environment.

*Contact me if you would like to know your MBTI personality type

While understanding your personality type is incredibly insightful in knowing our strengths and development areas, this alone will not help you achieve your goals, or ultimately determine your success.  It is learning what to do with that knowledge, and how to go about making changes in our life so we can live more fully that will make us successful.

Learning how to utilize and develop your “full” brain, while uncovering and replacing your old stories and habits of mind that no longer serve you with those that are more in line with supporting your best selves, starts first with self-awareness.  However, this is just the first step because then we need to “do the work”.  This is the hard stuff.

This is why I think the Striving Styles Personality System (SSPS) is so incredibly effective and offers a more comprehensive development process.  It provides a systematic approach to building self-awareness and emotional intelligence for those who want to achieve personal goals and reach their full potential.

The SSPS is an evolution of Carl Jung’s research on personality type and the MBTI.  While I have extensively used and worked with the MBTI in organizations, and still believe the MBTI is a very effective tool  when integrated into leadership and employee development programs, for improving teams, coaching individuals, and career planning, it doesn’t identify what is getting in the way of achieving our potential.

The SSPS development process helps us to examine our mindset and uncovers those negative habits of mind, including your shadow fears, beliefs, and triggers, that ultimately undermine your efforts, ambitions and potential.  It helps us understand how our brains are organized and hardwired, as well as the specific needs and emotions that drive your behaviour.  It helps identify behavioural patterns we developed as children that no longer serve us.  It offers a deeper understanding of your predominant style, your major psychological needs and fears that are associated with your style, and your associate styles, so you can look at some of the things that might be getting in YOUR way of achieving your potential.

The SSPS is a development tool that offers a way of understanding ourselves, which helps us be able to answer the questions “who are we meant to be?” and what is it that is getting in the way of achieving our full potential.

Your success will be determined by getting clear on what you want in your life and how you want to show up for yourself and others, by valuing your unique strengths and your quirks, and by developing good habits, and developing a positive mindset.  As usual, I like Maya Angelou definition of success:

“Success is liking yourself, liking what you do, and liking how you do it.” ~ Maya Angelou

As a bonus, here are some other factors will determine your success:

  • Have a growth mindset, defined by Carol Dweck as “people believe that their most basic abilities can be developed through dedication and hard work—brains and talent are just the starting point. This view creates a love of learning and a resilience that is essential for great accomplishment.”
  • Get clear on what you want in your life and what does it looks like (1 year, 5 years, 10 years). Your vision statement should describe where you are going to be, and the values you will use to get you there.
  • Know your “why” of your vision because it is your ultimate motivator and is the one the thing that will inspire you and those around you.
  • Utilize meta-habits, or those foundational habits that enhance your ability to adopt other habits, such as exercise, self-knowledge, meditation, quality sleep, etc.
  • Believe that you have self-determination, the belief that you have control over your choices and your life.

Photo source: Susan Wheeler (pink rose in my garden, North Vancouver, BC)