The law of cause and effect is one of life’s great truisms. When applied to human behavior, it means that through our actions, we generate outcomes. Yet, most people behave as if cause and effect didn’t exist. They live on autopilot, reacting to events without considering the results of their actions or the role they’ve played in creating their lives.
Chronic negative thinking and the emotions it invokes is, like many destructive behaviors, a form of addiction.
An old acquaintance of mine recently wrote an article about positive thinking—a subject that is often misunderstood. For many years I, like many people on the personal-development path, believed that by writing down and repeating positive affirmations (positive statements about yourself or your life, written in the present tense as if they were already true), I would think more positively and the changes I sought in myself and in my life would happen automatically. I hung these inspiring statements up all over my house, memorized them, and repeated them out loud, sometimes as much as 100 times a day. But it seemed that no matter how many times I said them, the changes I hoped to achieve continued to elude me.
This month’s newsletter article features a recent interview Lauren had with Reader’s Digest about how to determine whether to continue or end a relationship, partnership, or marriage.
RD) How do you know if you should break up with someone? Are there questions you can ask yourself? Or a checklist?
LM) Knowing if and when to end a relationship can be difficult. It’s even more challenging when there are additional factors such as children, a co-owned property or business, and/or comingled finances.
It was with great sadness that I learned about the passing of Louise Hay, a woman whose influence had a significant impact on me personally and professionally.
My introduction to Louise’s work was in 1991. I came across her book, You Can Heal Your Life, while doing research for a new workshop I was designing called Cancer as a Chance to Live. The workshop was focused on helping people with cancer to use their illness as a pathway to changing whatever wasn’t serving them in their lives. At the time, my German husband and I were living and working in Munich, and involved in the study of Psychoimmunology (the interaction between psychological processes, and the nervous and immune systems of the body). I was fascinated by Louise’s writings on the mind-body connection, and I started recommending her book to clients, family members, and friends.
Fear is one of the biggest obstacles people face in managing change and moving forward in their lives. If you’re living your life based on avoiding the things that you fear, you’re not free to take risks or pursue your dreams. If your energy is being expended in avoiding failure, rejection, physical harm, and emotional pain by avoiding the people, places, and situations that trigger your fears—then that energy is tied up in your vigilance to stay safe instead of in fulfilling your potential.
Resistance is a natural element of change, which can hinder or terminate movement. Whether the human body or an organization, a system will resist change perceived as threatening. During organizational transitions, people resist in response to fear of losing control or their jobs. Although they may recognize the need for change, their fear causes them to hold tight to the status quo.
Patti Scialfi, a recording artist in her own right, has been married to Bruce Springsteen since 1991. They have three children together. Some time ago, she was interviewed on the radio about her new CD, and my ears perked up when I heard what she had to say about her marriage. “You know, I was a child of the ’50s,” she told interviewer Liane Hansen of NPR. “There was the idea that love is a simplistic promise of completion . . . that you’re going to find the missing half, your lost twin, your soul mate. I don’t think that you can look for something external to really complete you that way.” She went on to say that her marriage had broadened her and given her a sense of fulfillment, but, she added, “You can’t really look for that. And if you’re looking for that, you’re going to be disappointed.”
Despite two years of therapy and a high degree of professional success, a client came to me several years ago seeking help with a problem I’ve seen many times in my coaching practice. “Nate” was plagued by feelings of low self-esteem, unworthiness, and never being good enough. Although he hid it well, the energy it took to maintain the image of someone who had it all together was exhausting him. He was also afraid that others would see through his façade and find out that he was really a fraud. Not only was this causing him a lot of stress at work, his insecurities were having a negative impact on his marriage, as he was often withdrawn and distant with his spouse.
Many people fail to achieve their goals because they never learned the skills that produce success. No one ever taught them how to set clear goals, create effective action plans, or sustain their motivation.
Whether you want to become a better leader, create a more fulfilling career, or bring greater balance into your life, there are three keys to achieving any type of goal: focus, strategy, and commitment.
Self-empowerment can defined in many different ways. I define it as knowing who you really are—your strengths and limitations, your interests and passions, and your goals and life purpose—and living a life that honors who you really are. This not only empowers you, but makes you a powerful force out in the world.
Feeling stuck or unable to accomplish your goals? Change can be difficult, and many people lose motivation to achieve their goals. When you slip up, just think of it as course-correcting. Welcome the challenge—it means that you’re taking charge of your life. Don’t judge yourself. Instead, treat yourself with compassion, and determine what’s needed to get back on course.
Below is a question a client recently asked me during a coaching session. Since so many people struggle with setting boundaries, I thought I'd share the question and my suggestions.
Q: I often find myself torn between wanting to be a supportive and good friend, parent, and co-worker by helping others with things that they need, and getting things done for which I'm responsible at home and at work. If I say no to someone in need I feel guilty, but saying yes all the time makes my life very stressful and exhausting. I also don't want to hurt people's feelings or have them think I'm unsupportive. How do I say no and maintain good relationships with people I care about?
A positive and mutually respectful relationship with your boss not only makes going to work more pleasant, it can have a significant impact on your job performance and career. But some managers make this very challenging. Many bosses have never learned effective managerial and leadership skills, so average to bad managers are more the norm than the exception.
Many years ago, I discovered that my then live-in boyfriend (a psychologist and beloved couple’s therapist) was cheating on me with a colleague he knew from work. The affair had begun while my mother was dying, and I accidentally found out about it a month after she passed away. My initial reactions were disbelief and shock, followed by excruciating pain, then morphing into a seething rage from which I didn’t emerge for the next three years.
Healthy relationships are critical to our well-being, yet many people never learned the skills to cultivate them. Not all people have what it takes to be supportive, and not all unsupportive people can be avoided—for example, family members and co-workers. But the idea is to identify the qualities that support you, spend time with people who demonstrate those qualities, and, as much as possible, avoid people who are detrimental to your well-being. There are many ways to cultivate healthy relationships, the first of which is to become a supportive friend to others.
Resistance is a natural part of change, which can hinder or terminate movement. Whether it’s an individual or an organization, a system will resist any change perceived as threatening. In companies, people resist in response to fear of losing control or their jobs. They may recognize the need for change, but fear causes them to hold tight to the status quo.
Resistance is energy, the force of which can be overwhelming. Often, we are inclined to manage this force with force. However, although we may overpower our opponent and win the battle, the war will be lost, because we will have foregone the crucial commitment we needed from the other side.
At the New Year, many people make resolutions for change. In fact, many of those resolutions are the same ones year after year! Yours may be to make positive changes in your personal life, improve your partnership or marriage, find a more fulfilling career, or become a better leader.
In my work, I often talk about 3 critical success factors for change. The first one is to Live Boldly, summoning the courage to challenge your status quo and step out your comfort zone. The second is to Live Intentionally, having a clear vision of what you want. The third is to Live Strategically, identifying and taking the actions needed to bring your vision to reality.
These 3 components are interdependent with each other and requirements for achieving any type of change or goal—something that took me quite a while to learn.
Out of all the relationships we have in our lives, the ones we share with family members can be the most challenging. And there’s nothing like holiday stress to trigger the old wounds and unresolved issues that plague so many families. Sharing close, loving, and supportive relationships is a basic human need, yet many of our family relationships fall short of this ideal.
Each of us comes into this world as a whole, integrated human being. We’re born with innate personality traits, natural strengths and talents, and tremendous potential. Growing up, we respond to our life conditioning by adopting habitual roles, beliefs, and behaviors that often diminish our potential. These patterns follow us into adulthood, and they shape our feelings about ourselves, our personal lives, our relationships, and our careers.
A foundational element of my work is to help people uncover the patterns that keep a lid on their potential, identify the roots of these patterns, and take action to transform them. This involves identifying the innate personality traits, strengths, and potential of their Authentic Self (the person they were born to be) and the limiting role, beliefs, and behaviors of their Conditioned Self (the person they learned to be).
The next step is to develop strategies for change. This entails learning how to think and act by conscious deliberation versus by automatic default. Living by deliberation means intentionally aligning your thoughts, behaviors, and choices with the outcomes you’re trying to achieve. When you’re living by default, you’re reacting on autopilot from old, conditioned patterns. And while those patterns may have served you in your environment growing up, they’re usually not very effective in producing the results you want as an adult.
Letting your Conditioned Self run your life is like continuously swimming upstream. It depletes your energy, stifles your strengths, keeps you settling for less than what you’re capable of creating, and undermines your relationships with others. Over time, the chronic stress it produces can even weaken your immune system and compromise your physical health and well-being.
Shedding the shackles of your life conditioning and liberating who you really are is a life-changing process. Instead of your energy being consumed by trying to be perfect, berating yourself, living up to other’s expectations, avoiding failure, dealing with conflict, numbing your pain, or managing fear, it’s available to let you discover what you enjoy, take new risks, pursue your dreams, share positive relationships, and create the personal and professional life to which you aspire.
This type of inner work—delving into the roots of your limiting patterns and taking action to produce tangible, lasting change—can be challenging, uncomfortable, and even painful. But the years that I’ve been doing this work—and the transformative results I’ve seen over and over again—has taught me two very important things: the only way out is through and the rewards are well-worth the journey.
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© 2013 Lauren Mackler
Lauren Mackler is a world-renowned coach and author of the international bestseller, Solemate: Master the Art of Aloneness & Transform Your Life. www.laurenmackler.com