We All Need Compassion…From Ourselves

file000318417020

I believe that a universal experience in life is that we are often extremely hard on ourselves.  We criticize ourselves for our failures and shortcomings, we devalue our strengths and contributions, and we tear at the fabric of our very being with anger and sometimes hatred.  We don’t always see this in others because this can be an internal experience, but I know that we sense it and feel it in ourselves.


When we tear at our core value as a human being we only end up with depression and frustration. It keeps us from believing in our future potential and leads to more negative thoughts and behavior.  Self-doubt causes a tremendous amount of stress as we want to have a different life but feel like it’s unattainable.


I see this dynamic so many times in my work as a career consultant. Through no fault of their own, many people are laid off of their jobs due to a downturn in their company or some type of corporate restructuring.  Talented people with incredible experience to offer will begin to doubt themselves and their ability to find another job. Some will blame themselves for not working harder or playing the office politics more effectively, but that wouldn’t have mattered.  These people are bystanders caught up in a new world of business that wants to hire and let people go on a moment’s notice.    But for many people, it’s hard to not separate themselves and their self-worth from their layoff.


I also see this in people who are trying to lose weight who have a failing in their plan. I’ve been there too.  This goal that we are trying to reach is so important to us, that when we make a mistake or fail to achieve our goals we take it hard and blame ourselves.  This blame goes beyond taking responsibility into the realm of self-criticism.  I know that at times in my life, it transferred into self-hatred.  There was a time when I was a kid I was so mad at myself for being fat that I took a wire hanger and whipped my legs until they were sore.  That only happened once, but the self-doubt and self-hatred cropped up now and then as I experience weight loss success and failure throughout my life.  If you’ve every struggled with your weight over your life, this may feel familiar.


The problem with this self-criticism is that if often leads to more self-destructive thinking and behavior.  In a previous podcast, I confessed that I am a stress eater and I know many of you listening are stress eaters too. The Catch 22 with this lack of compassion on ourselves is that the stress leads us back to food, and usually food that is not good for us.  We think these self-critical thoughts, get stressed, stress eat, get frustrated with ourselves, think more negative thoughts and the loop continues.


Why is it that we are so hard on ourselves?  What I find true is that some of us would never talk to other people the way we talk to ourselves and if they heard how we talk to ourselves they would be horrified.


When searching for a good definition of compassion I found this on Wikipedia:


“The Dalai Lama once said that compassion is a necessity, not a luxury, and that without it humanity cannot survive. Compassion is a process of connecting by identifying with another person.  This identification with others through compassion can lead to increased motivation to do something in an effort to relieve the suffering of others”.

It seems that it’s easier to have compassion on others, but how do we have a compassionate response to our own struggles and failures?


First.  We have to give up the idea of perfection.  As we move toward our goal of losing weight we cannot expect perfection. We will have ups and downs. Success and failure. What is important, though, is steady progress, not perfection.  Be kind to yourself and give up the notion of that this process will go exactly how you want.

2nd. We need to realize that we are only human and can’t do everything all at once.  Sometimes we fail in life because we are doing too much. When it comes to your health, the research shows that small changes made over time yield better results than major changes done quickly.  If you are struggling with your weight, be compassionate with yourself and give yourself plenty of time to make the changes you need.

3rd. Don’t dwell on your mistakes or failures, rather own your mistakes and forgive yourself. Then move on and start again.  In an earlier podcast I talked about how you are only one meal away from being back on track.  I have used that mental strategy hundreds of times over the years to keep my progress going. In the past, I would let my mistakes rule my thinking and I would give up.  Forgiving yourself isn’t always easy, but it’s important. It’s a way to have self-compassion.

4th. And most importantly,  believe that you are worthy of compassion. You have intrinsic value as a person, and regardless of your successes or failures, you deserve to be loved and respected. There is an organization called the Charter for Compassion and their creed explains much of what I want to say here:

“The principle of compassion lies at the heart of all religious, ethical and spiritual traditions, calling us always to treat all others as we wish to be treated ourselves. Compassion impels us to work tirelessly to alleviate the suffering of our fellow creatures, to dethrone ourselves from the centre of our world and put another there, and to honour the inviolable sanctity of every single human being, treating everybody, without exception, with absolute justice, equity and respect.”


 One of Jesus most famous sayings is, “Love your neighbor as you love yourself”.  If we increase our compassionate response to ourselves, we will have a larger capacity to have compassion on others. We will benefit, and those around us will benefit because we all need a little compassion now and then.

Solve Your Problems By Not Focusing On Them

 

There are times in life when it seems that we can’t find answers to our problems.  No matter how hard we try to come up with the solution, we get more frustrated and anxious because we are not making progress. If feels like we are spinning out of control or going down a dark tunnel with no return.

One of reasons for this is that we are trying to use our analytical mind to solve complex problems.  Our analytical mind is great at solving problems that have concrete solutions like balancing an out of balance checkbook, scheduling a vacation, or finding an alternate route to work.  But when we have problems in our health, relationships, or career our analytical mind isn’t helpful because problems in these areas are often complex.  We need another way to solve them.

The best thing we can do is to let go and stop focusing on our problems. This sounds crazy, but it works. When we stop focusing on our problems with our analytical mind, we allow our creative mind and internal wisdom to work on the solution in the background and bring the solution to the foreground when it’s done.

We have all experienced this when we’ve been stuck on a issue at work. We try hard to figure it out and get to a point of frustration where we say, “Forget it!  I can’t figure this out!”.  At this point you get up and go for a short walk or go for a cup of coffee.  As you are drinking your coffee and looking out the window at the beautiful day you suddenly come up with the answer!  That is your creative mind and internal wisdom at work.

I encourage you to listen to this short podcast and learn more about how our creative mind can help us solve some of our more frustrating problems.

 

 

 

If you have questions or topics you’d like me to cover in a blog or podcast, email them to me at dennis.robert.bird@gmail.com

 

 

6 Questions to Ask When Making Hard Decisions

Credit: Flocutus

Photo: Flocutus

Do you have a hard decision to make?

Life is filled with circumstances where we need or are forced to make hard decisions.  The reason these decisions are difficult is that there is not always a clear way forward and we are filled with anxiety about making the wrong choice.

In my life and in the lives of many people I’ve coached, I’ve seen people struggle with decisions around:

  • Starting or ending a relationship
  • Leaving a job or staying
  • Committing time to an activity or saying no
  • Starting a plan to get healthy or doing nothing
  • Making a significant purchase or holding on to your money
  • Moving a family for a work opportunity
  • Planning to retire or keep working
  • Starting a business or working for someone else

Whatever the hard decision you need to make, I find the following questions helpful in making the best decisions we can.

1. Is the option in alignment with my values?

One of the biggest stresses in life is when you act in ways that violate your deepest values. If we make choices that conflict with our values, then this is an indication that an option may not work for us.  Not all of our values have equal importance in life. I think it’s helpful to rank order your values so your decision falls within your highest priorities.

2. Is the decision about something where there is clearly a right or wrong?

Many decisions we struggle with have nothing to do with right or wrong, yet we have anxiety about making the wrong choice.  If you are buying a car and staying within your budget, does is ultimately matter if you buy a Toyota or a Ford?  If you are pursing a new job and have two offers, could both options be a good fit?  If there is no discernible right or wrong, what seems best to you? In these types of scenarios, you can’t make a bad decision so determine what may be the better option for now.

3. Do I have enough information to make the decision?

Sometimes we get paralyzed when making a decision because we don’t have all the details about the benefits or drawbacks of our options.  This requires that we take time to ask questions, do some research, or consult with experts.  Once you have the information you need, the path to making a better decision will be clearer.

4. Will I regret choosing or not choosing an option later in life?

Author Mark Twain has this great quote: “Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbour. Catch the trade winds in sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.

When making a decision about how I am going to spend my time or resources this is a question I often ask. I find that if I believe I will regret a decision later in life, then I have the insight of what I need to do now. Sometimes playing it safe is the best option, but sometimes taking a calculated risk, trying something new, or starting a new venture will lead to less regrets.

5. Have I talked through my options with people I trust?

Don’t go it alone when making tough decisions.  We all need an outside perspective to gain clarity on next steps.  Engage with good friends, family members, and colleagues.  Read books written by authors you admire.  Talk with a leader in your business or industry.  Hire a coach. I believe it’s a good idea to have a good mix between people we consult with, some who have personal interest in our outcome and some who don’t.  This mix will give you different feedback.

6. Have I given this decision enough time or too much time?

There are decisions we can’t rush. The outcomes have significant meaning in our life and relationships. The decisions could affect others and so we need to take time gather information, ask ourselves the above questions, and consult with people we trust.

The are also times when we are delaying a decision we know we need to make.  This heightens anxiety and leads to frustration.  If we are taking too much time it may be a signal that we don’t feel capable to make a good decision or that either option we choose has difficult components.  In these situations I encourage setting a deadline for a choice to made, gathering any missing information, and talking with people you can trust and who will hold you accountable.

 

A  challenge in making hard decisions is that sometimes there is information or experiences you can never know unless you try. When people are going through divorces, leaving a job, or moving to new cities there is anxiety of the unknown.

Will I be OK?

Will I succeed?

Will I like it there?

Sometimes we will make a decision that we later regret and here is the good news.  I don’t think any experience in life is wasted as long as we learn and grow as individuals. We all make decisions given the information and context of our life at a given time, so let’s have so compassion on ourselves.

One of the best decisions you can make is to be your best self. Start there and use the above questions as a guide on your way.

 

 

If you find this helpful or any other information on my website beneficial, hit the share buttons and spread the wealth!

Does Saying “I’m Sorry” Mean More Than “I Love You”?

 

ttronslien-0749

How often do we say or do things to people we love that we regret?

If life were perfect the answer would be “never”. But the reality is that we are all flawed and will cross the line into hurtful words and actions.

Healthy relationships are not conflict free.  Conflict is a part of life, but what sets healthy relationships apart from unhealthy, is the ability to repair after conflict.

Psychologist and researcher Dr. John Gottman and his colleagues has studied the interactions and conversations of thousands of couples.  He has found that a key to healthy relationships is the ability to:

1. Repair through words and actions that say “I’m sorry”.

2.  Work to build  trust through exploring the life of the person you love with questions and listening.

Listen to podcast above and hear a short excerpt of a speech given by John Gottman on this topic. Plus I summarize my thoughts on why saying “I’m sorry” is difficult for us and addition steps for building our relationships so our repairs are helpful.

 

If you’d like to read more on this topic I highly recommend John Gottman’s book:  The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work

His strategies apply to our relationships with our spouses, partners, children and friends.

Drive By Wisdom: Should Humans Be On The Endangered Species List?

 

We need to consider our future as a species.  Human’s are brilliant, special, and inventive.  But we are also destructive, abusive, and violent.  In this short video I’ll explore my thoughts on our future and ways we can make a difference for our species, other species we share this world with, and our environment.

Drive By Wisdom: Ask For What You Need

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It’s hard for us to get our needs met if we are not willing or brave enough to ask for what we need. In this episode of Drive By Wisdom, we’ll explore how asking for help can improve your life.  Click on the video below: