Friday, July 26, 2013

Do Your Beliefs and Behaviors Ever Clash?

What does it mean when our behaviors don't reflect our beliefs? It means it's time to re-visit what we believe.

Beliefs change. This usually surprises us because we invest a good deal of energy into identifying what we believe about anything. When beliefs and behaviors contrast, the typical response or reaction is to manage or attempt to manage the behaviors. But what does that really do? Solely managing a behavior not in alignment with a belief puts us into a form of self-denial, if we don't also look at the belief.

Why do we hold beliefs? They act as a guidance system for us, an internal GPS (Global Positioning System) that helps us follow our path throughout the moments of our lives. If we have head and heart alignment with our beliefs, they can serve us. If we don't, meaning we just give lip-service to them, they merely act as a corral to keep our true feelings inside. If contrasts between beliefs and behaviors arise, there is something we can do. We can ask a series of questions.

What changed? This has to be addressed at both inner and outer levels. One level does not change without affecting the other. Determine where the change originated that created the contrast: inner or outer. Once you know where it started, it will lead you to identify what influence it had at the other level. Once you identify these changes, you can ask the following questions.

What do I want instead? This comes directly from knowing what you don't want, which is, at the root of this, the actual discomfort you feel from the inner- and outer-level contrast. Most people believe they want something specific to change so they can feel in balance or better than they do. Feelings come from within. They are not a result of circumstances, but of choices we make about how to feel about anyone or anything, in any moment. If you know how you prefer to feel, you can determine what you need to do at the inner and outer levels to get to that feeling. However, the resolution of this will be long-lasting only if you have head and heart alignment about this.

How committed are you to doing whatever it takes to create more of what you want? If all you are engaged in is wishful thinking, nothing substantial will change. Wishful thinking has a constant companion: noisy dialogue, whether in our heads or to anyone who will listen. Commitment has energy, and as author Kurt Wright said, is a magnet. There is inner conversation as you ask yourself right questions, but then there is action, much more action than dialogue, when you have commitment.

Most inner- and outer-level struggles result from people not knowing what it is they want, being afraid to admit what it is they want, or being afraid to take action needed to create what they want. This is not living. Most of us are extravagant about how much time we think we have in life. And, we mistakenly think that life is about what we accomplish rather than what we feel about ourselves and every moment, and what we contribute to each moment. Accomplish what you want; but make your goal to feel what you want to feel about you in relation to the entire process from start to middle to end.

When all is said and done, whether at the end of a goal or the end of a lifetime, what do you want to feel about yourself, the outcome, and the experiences that got you there? Was it an impoverished inner experience or a richly-textured one? Were you serene more than not, joyful more than not, enthusiastic more than not, loving and caring more than not, trusting of Source more than not? Did you seek and find head and heart alignment more than not, and so on? Did you choose one feeling over another, with conscious awareness? Did you pay attention to contrasts between your beliefs and your behaviors, and address this to restore harmony in you, your life, and your relationships? Did you choose what you wanted to feel about yourself, say, to remain in integrity, before you spoke or took action, at least, as often as you could do this? These choices are always yours. Be deliberate about your choices. It’s a good practice; one you’ll appreciate.   

Practice makes progress.
© Joyce Shafer

Friday, July 19, 2013

Do You Ever Contradict Your Beliefs and Affirmations?

You make affirmations because you want something to improve. Then something happens, and your response or reaction is as though you never affirmed at all. What’s going on?

We sometimes have just a split-second to choose what we’re going to say (or do). If there’s a lot of emotion involved when triggered by what someone says or does, we may not respond quite the way we might have liked to. We may realize we’ve been triggered, but awareness of that and the opportunity to manage ourselves better takes a backseat (or leaves the room entirely) to how ego wants to react. Afterwards, we may feel disappointed in ourselves. We may know we could have handled ourselves better. We may question what we really believe, because as Joyce Meyer said, “What’s in our heart comes out of our mouth.” Now we’re in a quandary: do we mean what we affirm or don’t we?

This was my recent experience when someone asked me a question worded in a particular way about a topic that, I admit, is still a sore-spot with me. The question triggered my ego (which has an old tape loop playing about this), and what came out of my mouth was based on that. Within seconds, I felt disappointment in my response choices. My ego spewed words akin to the momentum of a boulder tumbling out of control down a hill: I couldn’t seem to stop myself from saying what I did, nor did my ego-aspect want me to. Once I stopped talking, I thought of all the things I could have said instead, words that would have been in alignment with what I affirm and actually believe. I “should” on myself about this one on and off the rest of the day.

My responses were inarguably contrary to what I believe and affirm when not triggered. I really didn’t want to create a match to the words I’d spoken, so I had to look at what had happened, because I don’t want it to happen again (it might happen again, but I want my self-adjusting attention on this).

While I pondered this, I read an article in the June 2013 issue of More magazine titled, “Change one small habit, change your life”, by Brian Alexander. “A-ha” moments came to me while reading the article about the challenge of habits or habitual behaviors, as this relates to why, after putting energy and effort into self-improvement, we can feel like it’s a “one step forward, two steps back” process at times, especially when triggered.

We are wired to form habits or habitual behaviors for the purpose of brain-energy conservation. Have you ever felt worn out from thinking long or hard about a something that challenged you? How often do you really want to have to think that hard? Do you want that much thought to be applied to, say, sweeping the porch? Have you ever done something like brush your teeth or fold laundry while your mind was focused on something else or just drifting from thought to thought? Isn’t it convenient not to have to use the same brain-energy to fold laundry as to balance a checkbook?

Many habits or habitual behaviors are what Alexander called “boilerplate templates”: actions we do frequently or repetitively. The brain would rather we have such templates or habits in place so it can conserve energy for reasoning and decision-making. We could consider habits or habitual behaviors the personal assistant that handles certain details so the executive part of our brain can reserve energy for matters that require more complex thought.

We’re easily swayed to form habitual behaviors by the brain through the reward system. The reward is a chemical response that either pleases us (like eating that piece of chocolate we crave) or relieves stress or anxiety (like eating that piece of chocolate we crave). Rewards are what we use to train animals, aren’t they? We give them a cue (a trigger) and they respond accordingly and receive their reward. Two-legged or four- or feathered: we all like rewards. And we tend to repeat what brings us desired rewards.

Our brains are wired to first and foremost keep us safe, alive, fed, and rested, which is our primary focus as youngsters and underlie our adult existence. Once these needs become easier to manage and maintain, the part of our brain that helps us look beyond basic needs becomes more active. We become aware of, or return our awareness to, the cause-and-effect factor regarding our past, present, and future experiences. This kind of thinking requires rationale or reasoning. And therein is the conflict for us: the choice between immediate reward (ego-based satisfaction) and rationale (contemplate consequences before we speak or act), which requires more brain-energy and can feel less satisfying to the ego-aspect that wants what it wants when it wants it.

There are times in our daily life when the reward we seek is relief from stress. Each person’s ability to manage his or her way through this reward vs. rationale maze is as individual as the person. This is why some people can change a habit or habitual behavior with seemingly little to no effort but it can be a real challenge for someone else, which makes criticizing anyone who is challenged in this way unjust. And because our triggers and stress-relief processes are unique to us, one habit we have may be easy to change but another one kicks us in the backside when we try to get rid of it, especially if it’s a stress-reliever we’ve relied on.

When times are challenging or extremely stressful, the desire for reward tends to outweigh the desire to be rational because our desire to relieve stress, painful emotions, or pain becomes paramount to that part of our brain activated first, to ensure our survival. Little thought is given to cause and effect during stressful or painful times—we want relief as quickly as possible. This is a survival mechanism that kicks into gear, akin to why your body demands sleep when you need to heal from an illness or injury.

There is also something researchers call depletion. It’s the result of trying to maintain self-control in a manner that denies rewards. This is why when you diet inappropriately, meaning a diet not appropriate for your personal chemistry or one of the starvation-type diets, nearly all you can think about are foods you’re denying yourself. You feel so deprived, that your ability to focus well goes off kilter. Once again, the part of your brain assigned to basic survival kicks into high gear: it wants to relieve stress caused by denial.

Depletion can also be the result of not saying all that the ego really wants to say when triggered. And, if ego does speak out, but still does not get the desired result, this is also a form of depletion and is why any of us speak repetitively about unresolved matters. That we might find a more constructive way to express ourselves with integrity for all involved in an effort to resolve an issue often isn’t a concern of the ego that feels threatened or criticized; so it experiences denial of what it craves, which is to feel safe, accepted, and satisfied.

Depletion keeps us craving whatever we perceive the reward to be, which makes changing a habit or habitual behavior quite challenging. However, sometimes what we crave is inappropriate; so it’s not as much a matter of satisfying the craving as it is exchanging an inappropriate reward for a more appropriate one.

Let’s revisit why we want to pay attention to what we say. We want a particular reward, say, an easier experience of life, so we seek to align with appropriate beliefs and to use words that support the beliefs and desired results. But if we’re triggered in a way that causes us stress, anxiety, or anger, the old habit of seeking immediate relief gets activated, and the reward of self-management gets shoved to the side. Words, including ones in opposition to what we’ve chosen to and do believe, can escape from us. And what can really make this more difficult is if we don’t realize we’re in this trigger-to-reward (or relief) loop, as I was initially unaware of in the personal example I shared. As with any tape loop, it repeats unless or until it’s stopped somehow.

We can go at all of this from a direction that researchers have discovered really does make a difference: Appreciation. Deliberately connecting with feelings of appreciation, gratitude, thankfulness—call it what you will—relieves stress and anxiety, not just when triggered, but before, so that we aren’t so easily triggered as we once were. Appreciation practiced daily, as often as needed or chosen, can actually ease our trigger-response, which is after all, a habitual behavior.

The article made a case-in-point about this regarding a woman who had so many stress-provoking moments in her life each day that she became used to (think depletion) reacting as though everything, including small matters, was a catastrophe. She got herself out of this loop by choosing something to appreciate or feel gratitude about every day, especially when triggered. Can you see how all of this would influence Law of Attraction?

Alexander wrote, “Self-awareness, self-monitoring and will power are all key to busting out of a bad habit and forging a new one.” There is a school of thought, though, that says will power really doesn’t work, that success is more about our Why and whether or not the reward from a new behavior motivates us more than the “reward” the old behavior provided. But, we can put self-awareness, self-monitoring, self-adjustment, and appreciation into practice, which creates small wins for us. Small wins lead us to the desired habits and results we’ve chosen.

The next time you catch yourself saying something contrary to what you really believe and affirm, go ahead and stop yourself. Put the brakes on that runaway train. You might even say aloud to whomever you’re with that what you just said is an old program and no longer what you really believe; then state what it is you really do believe. Do this to alter the energy you’re transmitting and to halt the unhelpful loop, as well as to reduce the energy of that particular trigger for a future time. It’s a good practice; one you’ll appreciate.  

Practice makes progress.
© Joyce Shafer

Friday, July 12, 2013

Do You Feel Shortchanged in Life?

Do you ever feel shortchanged in life? It’s an understandable feeling to have, especially in a world that pushes a more-is-mandatory mindset. But, is that mindset helping or holding you back?

“I’ve spent too long thinking about what was taken and not what was given.”

That is a line of dialogue spoken by Prince Caspian in the movie The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader. When I heard it, it gave me pause. How often we follow the train of thought about what we feel was taken from us, including what we feel was taken from us ahead of time. This may include thoughts like:

I should have been born wealthy.
I should have been born into a different family.
I should have been born in a different geographical location.
I should have been born beautiful/handsome.
I should have been born with better hair.
I should have been given a better education.
I should have been . . . You get the picture, and probably have your own list of “should-have-beens” you could add here.

Notice that nothing is listed above that states “I never should have”. Never-should-have statements are more often than not about choices we made, or didn’t make. But look at something specific about the ahead-of-time statements: I’m not saying you couldn’t add to that list in a way that contradicts what I’m about to say, but the kinds of things listed Can All Be Changed, can’t they, especially in this day and age. Changes might take effort, time, and or money, but they can be accomplished or obtained.

Sometimes we’re given something and then it seems taken from us through some form of ending. Such times are ones when we might feel and focus on the “taken” aspect first and foremost. This is understandable, and natural, for us. But, we may get stuck here and focus more on what we once had, or never had, or haven’t received as yet, than on what we had been given, and on what we’ve been given that we still have.

Loss is the very thing Prince Caspian is referring to in the movie dialogue line. (Movie Spoiler Alert coming next.) Caspian’s focus is on finding his “lost” father, and he is given the opportunity to reunite with his father who had died and gone to live in Aslan’s land of eternal life. But to do this would mean he’d have to abandon the life and potential opportunities he’d been given, ones he’d not fully appreciated as yet, because for so long he instead sought to recover what he’d lost.

We were given life and the opportunity to experience it, to mold it and us in ways that feel and are appropriate for us. We were given family and or friends who become our family. We were given more resources than we’ve used or likely ever will.

We were given innate gifts and the opportunity to nurture and use them; though, we sometimes don’t develop our gifts, because we’re trying to impose other people’s gifts on us, whether others impose this on us or we impose it on ourselves because we don’t see the value of our own gifts. When we ignore our gifts or attempt to live as though we have someone else’s gifts, we frustrate ourselves. We make life harder for us than it needs to be. This can also cause us to believe something was taken from us, rather than see what we were given. And, we deny the ability of others to benefit from our gifts when we don’t use and share them, which impedes fulfillment for us.

One of the greatest things we’ve been given, in my opinion, is knowledge of and the opportunity to have a relationship with Source. There have certainly been times in history when this wasn’t the way it is today. Granted, there are still those who wish to or do limit and control this for others, but fortunately that isn’t prevalent. Most of us can find the knowledge we need about Source and choose to nurture that connection.

We literally waste our time, lives, and energy when we focus or dwell on what we feel has been taken from us, or should have been given to us, rather than on what we’ve been given, can create, and what we receive as we move through life. I leave it to you to contemplate how this fits with Law of Attraction; but take time to think of all you have and have been given, even if you’ve yet put it into best use. It’s a good practice; one you’ll appreciate.

Practice makes progress.
© Joyce Shafer

Friday, July 5, 2013

Do You Believe Untruths You Tell Yourself?

You and your life will never be more than what you think about yourself and life. So, what will you choose to think?

You assess, measure, and treat others and life according to the way you think, including how you think about yourself, which includes truths and untruths. You can think on purpose. You can think truths on purpose. You can choose to choose your own thoughts.

Here are some examples of untruths we tell ourselves and some truths we can tell ourselves instead:

U: Today is going to be a bad day.
T: I am grateful for today, and grateful I can trust myself to choose thoughts, words, and actions that support me and others in a productive, caring way.

U: My family member(s)/work associates/etc. take advantage of me, or don’t treat me right.
T: Everything and everyone is a blessing to me—even if a hidden one; and I choose to be a blessing to others. I can look for and find the blessings and appreciate them, whether that means I stay where I am or I don’t.

U: I know they are (this is) going to annoy me.
T: I choose to set my mind on peace, and I make choices appropriate for me from there.

U: I am what I do (job, homemaker, etc.).
T: I am the one who chooses what I do and who I am.

U: My worth is based on what I do and achieve, and on my bank balance.
T: My worth is aligned with Source, and is immeasurable in the heart of Source and in the hearts of those I am a blessing to.

U: My life sucks.
T: My experience of life is based on my perspective, and I always have the power to choose my perspective.

U: Who I am is based on what others think of me.
T: Who I am is based on what Source is—because we are one, as well as on what I choose to tell myself about who I REALLY am—an expression of Source.

U: I can’t be happy until (fill in the blank) changes or happens.
T: I am happy the moment I choose to be; and my deeper understanding of how life works (Law of Attraction) helps me to make this choice as soon as it feels appropriate to me to do so.

From Joyce Meyer: “You feel the way you feel because you think the thoughts you think. . . . (scientific finding) 87% of all illness is connected to wrong thinking.” What do you imagine this percentage is for other things going on in your life and for how you experience your life? If you want more joy and serenity, you can amend your perspectives so you can amend your emotions so you can amend your thoughts so you can amend your words and actions. You can choose to set yourself up to experience your moments in a more empowered way.

You can look to and rely on Source and Source’s infinite resources rather than solely on where you are in your life right this moment and what you believe you are capable of. It’s vital that you not let the opinions—positive or negative—of any one person or society influence knowing your truth, the Truth of Source, and the Truth of your connection to and with Source, and what you are truly capable of doing or accomplishing at, first, the inner level and, second, in your life.

You can tell yourself untruths or truths. You can tell yourself you’re all alone or that Source is always with you. You can tell yourself that life is a struggle or that Source always supplies and provides what’s needed, and in right timing. You can tell yourself that you are less or that you are a spiritual being in a body, engaged in a process of experiences that lead to spiritual evolution and empowerment. You can let fear control you or you can trust Source’s inspirations and trust yourself to make choices appropriate for you. You can tell yourself you cannot choose your thoughts or that you can and will.

You can choose to nurture and engage untruths or Truths. Both can lead you to spiritual evolution and personal empowerment, but Truths will get you there quicker and with far less drama.  

Here is something from Abraham-Hicks that you might consider making your Truth: “I'm going to be happy. I'm going to skip. I'm going to be glad. I'm going to smile a lot. I'm going to be easy. I'm going to count my blessings. I'm going to look for reasons to feel good. I'm going to dig up positive things from the past. I'm going to look for positive things where I stand. I'm going to look for positive things in the future. It is my natural state to be a happy person. It's natural for me to love and to laugh. This is what is most natural for me. I am a happy person!” It’s a good practice; one you’ll appreciate.

Practice makes progress.
© Joyce Shafer