Riding the Wave of Life.

Riding the Wave of Life.

By Madisyn Taylor

While riding the wave of life you must also practice stillness so you can flow with, rather than resist the wave’s motion.

Our lives are continually in motion, buoyed by the wave that is the universe’s flow. As the wave rises and falls, we are carried forward, through life’s high and low points. The universe’s flow may take us to a place in life where we would rather not be.

As tempting as it can be to fight the direction and size of this wave that propels us, riding the wave is intended to make life easier. When you ride the wave, your life can evolve naturally and with minimal effort.

Riding the wave, however, is not a passive experience. It is an active process that requires you to be attentive, centered, and awake. You must also practice stillness so you can flow with, rather than resist the wave’s motion.

Because life is dynamic and always changing, it is when we try to make the wave stand still or resist its direction that we are likely to get pulled under by its weight. If you try to move against the wave, you may feel as if you are trapped by it and have no control over your destiny.

When you reach a low point while riding the wave and find your feet touching bottom, remember to stay standing so that you can leap forward along with the wave the next time it rises. Trying to resist life’s flow is a losing proposition and costly because you waste energy.

Riding the wave allows you to move forward without expending too much of your own efforts. When you ride the wave, you are carried by it and your head can “stay above water” as you go wherever it takes you.

It can be difficult to trust the universe and let go of the urge to fight life’s flow, and you may find it easier to ride the wave if you can stay calm and relaxed.

Riding the wave will always take you where you need to go.
Meta-Moments.

Meta-Moments.

By Marc Brackett

As we all know, our best attempts at calm, thoughtful reflection work only when we feel in control of our emotions. If you’re raging with resentment or crushed by disappointment, you’re probably not capable of the reasoning required to see a situation in a new light. You first need to bring down your emotional temperature, lower your activation, and give yourself the space required for rational thought. Maybe you take a few deep breaths, a few steps back, a walk around the block.

Then, maybe you’re ready for the Meta-Moment. A decade ago, Robin Stern, psychoanalyst and associate director of our center, and I were wondering why so many people in our society are addicted to strategies that derail them from achieving their goals. Robin had worked with hundreds of patients who were unsuccessful even after learning new tactics, and I observed schoolchildren and educators who didn’t employ the strategies they were learning, even when they knew they were helpful.

Many of us were exposed to destructive responses early in our lives–negative talk, screaming, blaming and so on. They require little cognitive control, and they’re often effective at getting rid of negative feelings and providing temporary gratification. But at the time, we fail to realize these strategies also can ruin our relationships and derail us from achieving our goals. 

So we developed a tool we call the Meta-Moment. In simplest terms, it’s a pause, a hitting of the brakes and stepping out of time. We call it meta because it’s a moment about a moment. It might mean mentally counting, as in “1, 2, 3,” or 1 to 10, depending on the severity of the emotion. Taking one or several deep breaths may also be a part of it–anything to give ourselves room to maneuver and deactivate.

A Meta-Moment is when we stop the action and say, “Am I hearing this correctly?” Or maybe we might say, “I need to pause and take a deep breath right now so I don’t blow my top, break down sobbing, or react in some way I will probably regret.” This helps us go beyond our first impulse and find a wiser response. As the author and consultant Justin Bariso put it, “Pausing helps you refrain from making a permanent decision based on a temporary emotion.”

Pausing and taking a deep breath activates our parasympathetic nervous system. This reduces the release of cortisol, a major stress hormone, and naturally lowers our emotional temperature. Pausing also gives us the chance to quickly ask two useful questions: “How have I handled situations like this in the past?” and “What would my best self do right now?” 

To tap into their best selves, some people think of a set of adjectives such as “compassionate”, “intelligent” or “conscientious.” Other people picture an image or look at an object. A good friend who is the principal of a middle school has a Smurf on her desk to remind her to be her best self. Visualizing our best self can redirect our attention away from the triggering person, words or event and back towards our values. 

A couple of years ago, a student raised his hand in class and said, “I have a question that I don’t think even you’ll know how to answer.” To say that I was activated is an understatement–arrogance is a trigger for me. I wanted to reply: “I might not know the answer, but remember I grade your papers!” Instead, I reached into my “professor of emotional intelligence” self and asked, “How about if I get questions from some of the other students now, and we can chat after class?” Then, I politely informed him that his question could have been worded more diplomatically.

The Meta-Moment is not just for regulating unpleasant emotions. Sometimes our best selves help us to stand up for what’s right. Once, during a speech, a colleague bullied me in an unusual way–he joked about the fact that I was bullied as a child. My first impulse was to run onstage and deliver a flying dropkick to his head; I regressed to that middle schooler being pushed around in the locker room. But I took a Meta-Moment and I waited until after the presentation. I went up to him and said, “I have no idea what motivated you to say those words, but it wasn’t cool and you can’t ever do it again.”

How skilled are you at taking a Meta-Moment? What adjectives characterize your best self? What are your go-to strategies when you are triggered or caught off guard? Do you ignore your feelings, act out, or meet them head-on?

When your boss criticizes your work and you feel disappointed, devastated or resentful, how successful are you at taking a Meta-Moment and saying to yourself something like “Feedback is a gift, there is always something I can learn”? 

Here are the steps to take for a Meta-Moment.

  1. Sense the shift. You are activated, caught off guard, or have an impulse to say or do something you might regret. You feel a shift in your thinking or body or both.
  2. Stop or pause. Step back and breathe. Breathe again.
  3. See your best self. Think of adjectives or an image that helps your best self appear in vivid detail, or look at an object that reminds you. You might also think about your reputation: How do you want to be seen, talked about, and experienced? What would you do if someone you respect were watching you?
  4. Strategize and act. You reach into your tool kit of healthy responses — positive self-talk and reframing are two good options — and choose the path that will close the gap between your triggered self and your emerging best self. This should always be the last step.

Recently, after an exhausting day of delayed flights, missed connections and other irritations, I felt on the verge of a meltdown. So I asked myself: “If a college professor with a doctorate in psychology has difficulty regulating emotions, what must it be like for a nine-year-old child or an adult under genuinely challenging pressures who have had little to no training in emotion skills?” 

That calmed me down in a hurry. 

Along with permission to feel, we must also give ourselves permission to fail. When that happens, we can only try again — take a deep breath or two, envision our best selves, and start over. We also need the courage to apologize and forgive ourselves as we’d forgive others. Courage might even mean seeking professional help when all else fails. We’ll never stop having to work at being our best selves. But the payoff is worth it: better health, better decision making, better relationships, better everything.

Excerpted from Permission to Feel: Unlocking the Power of Emotions to Help Our Kids, Ourselves, and Our Society Thriveby Marc Brackett. Copyright © 2019 Marc Brackett. Reprinted with the permission of Celadon Books, a division of Macmillan Publishing, LLC.

Marc Brackett, PhD, is the founding director of the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence, a professor in the Yale Child Study Center, lead developer of RULER, an evidence-based, systemic approach to social and emotional learning, and author of Permission To Feel

You have been offered a first-class ticket — so why are you still traveling in coach?

You have been offered a first-class ticket — so why are you still traveling in coach?

By Agapi Stassinopoulos | Author, Speaker, Thrive Global Faciitator

I was facilitating a Thrive seminar a few days ago. One of the things we always address at these seminars is “negative beliefs” — how they hold us back and undermine our thriving, productive, creative, and happy selves. Participants never fail to share beliefs such as “I’m not good enough,” “No matter how hard I work, I can do better,” “I don’t deserve success,” “I can’t be happy unless other people around me are happy,” or “I need others’ approval to speak my truth,” etc. When we ask them to think about when those beliefs first sunk in, the answer always comes back to limiting decisions they made about themselves in the earlier stages of their lives.

These beliefs spread like mold under the foundation of your home. You can’t see it until you start to feel sick. You feel depleted and off, like something is wrong, but you keep going and driving forward from one thing to the next. You can’t stop — you’re operating on survival. So you simply don’t have the time or space to dig underneath. And then one day, you decide to call an expert, and they tell you that your home is filled with mold, and it’s affecting your health and your life.

Just as this mold impacts our day-to-day actions and all our relationships, so do our beliefs — so it’s very important to take an inventory, to have the courage to look at each one and ask the fundamental questions: When did it start? Is it true? Can I let go of it? And can I upgrade myself to today?

It’s like we have a first-class ticket, but we’re still traveling coach — and some of us are even choosing to sit in the middle seat! I promise you, if you look in your pocket, you’ll find a first-class ticket, good for life. So it’s time to upgrade your life. Here’s how to get started.

1. Identify the source of the negative belief that’s limiting you.

You may have built a belief that is holding you back from who you can be. Once you identify it, bring it to the forefront, review it, and feel the feeling of contraction it had created in your self-expression. Then you have to see the judgments you made about yourself, others, and the situation, and start to forgive it, them, and yourself. You may even want to write it down and burn it. 

2. Now let it go, and tell yourself: “That was then, and this is now.”

It’s important to remind yourself that this belief is no longer accurate. You can literally see a clean slate in front of you: i.e. Agapi’s life: Scene 1, Take 1. You no longer have to run your life based on this old belief. You’d bought into it some time ago, but it simply does not apply today. You are free to be and own who you’ve now become. Sure, we’re all still a work in progress — and we’ll always be expanding and growing and letting go — but when we let go of our fundamental limiting beliefs that have been running our lives, we then can put ourselves on the right track and remove our self-imposed roadblocks. It will become easier over time, and with meditation, to see the destination more clearly and enjoy the scenery along the way. 

In my own life I’ve worked with the belief “I’m not safe,” which was rooted in my early years around my father, who was a concentration camp survivor and had a very erratic temper. I would often witness his explosive reactions to his employees, my mother, and in general the people around him. They could flare up at any time, out of the blue. That was a difficult thing to witness as a little girl, so I became on guard and began adjusting myself in the hope that I would help him stay calm. To this day, I always have to remind myself that that was then, and this is now. I’ve come a long way, and I know how to take care of myself and keep myself safe. 

I deeply encourage you today to find one of your key limiting beliefs (there may be more than one) and replace it with a positive one, i.e. “Even if other people around me are unhappy, I have a right to my own happiness,” “I deserve and enjoy my success,” “I now give myself permission to express my truth and my feelings,” etc. Remove the mold from your foundation, lay in new floors, repaint the walls, and you can even redecorate.

Please share with me the one thing you’ll do today to move forward to your first-class seat. It’s a much better ride, and you deserve it.

The Wonderment of Life.

The Wonderment of Life.

Stopping to feel a moment of gratitude for the miracles of life on earth, can be what you need to shift your day.

Most of us begin our days with a continuous list of things we need to do to keep our lives running smoothly, but we rarely take time to note all the things we don’t need to do.

For example, we don’t need to figure out how to breathe. We don’t need to find a way to make sure the earth continues to revolve around the sun. We don’t need to concentrate to ensure that our heart beats and our cells regenerate.

All of these things, and many more, take care of themselves without our having to think or do anything at all. This is the miracle of life on earth.

Beyond the wonder of the natural world, we have the wonder of human-created conditions such as indoor plumbing, electricity, automobiles, airplanes, telephones, and the Internet to name a few. Someone living just a hundred years ago would be overwhelmed by the ease with which we can communicate with people all over the world.

When you wake up tomorrow, take time to notice how many things are running smoothly, how many small miracles compose your day.

As you take in your world, you might feel a moment of gratitude for the basic fact that, once again, the sun has risen to illuminate the abundant earth, and the earth’s gravitational field holds you and all that you hold dear in a tight, life-affirming embrace.

By Madisyn Taylor
Give Thanks!

Give Thanks!

Whether we celebrate with family, friends, neighbors, or the solitude of our own company, we embrace the sacred treasure called by each of our names.
More than any other day, we give thanks for the potential born into each of us to sense, contemplate, communicate, embrace, shape, move, experience, and so much more that we share in common with humans around the world.
We give thanks for life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
For the harvest, connection and belonging, love, laughter, the dreams we cherish … for each who watch over us, protect us, empower and inspire our potential …
Happy Thanksgiving!
Celebrating the In-Between Times.

Celebrating the In-Between Times.

While celebrations are intended to honor life’s more momentous occasions, much of real life tends to happen during the in-between times. While moving from one moment in time to the next is seldom considered a significant occurrence, it is during those in-between times that we are most in tune with life’s most profound, albeit simple joys. Between birth and death, triumph and sorrow, beginnings and endings, we enjoy innumerable experiences that often happen unnoticed. These times are just as worthy of celebration. 

The in-between times are seldom about landmark moments. How you choose to celebrate them or which moments you choose to celebrate is up to you. You may want to celebrate the simple facts that you are alive and that every day is a chance to spend time with the people you care about or do the work that you love. Then again, when you look at the good that exists in your life, many reasons for celebrating the in-between times may become clear: a cup of your favorite tea, a beautiful sunrise, a good book, and the smell of fresh air can be reasons for celebration. 

Celebrating the in-between times can be as easy as paying special attention to them when they do happen, rather than taking them for granted. It’s your focus of attention that can turn an in-between time into a celebration. You can also pay homage to the in-between times by slowing down and allowing yourself time to look around and allow your heart and mind to take in all of your life’s wonders. Far too often, we can let those simple moments of awe pass us by. The in-between times are when life happens to us between the pauses that we take to honor our milestones occasions. Without the in-between times, there would be no big moments to celebrate.

BY MADISYN TAYLOR

Shift from Doing to Being.

Shift from Doing to Being.

By Christopher Lyddy and Darren Good

If you’re like most people, you’ve had the experience at work of sitting at your computer and suddenly coming to realize that you haven’t typed a word in ages. Instead, you may have just been mindlessly ruminating about a past incident with a colleague, or imagining the next encounter.

Getting “stuck” in this thought process, according to numerous interviews we conducted in a study of working professionals, can really interfere with being mindful at work. If this has happened to you, you’re not alone – in fact, it happened to everyone we spoke to. Our study helped us to understand when this happens – and how to get yourself out of this kind of thinking.

What is Doing mode?

Psychologists describe two different modes of mind: Being and Doing. Being mindful involves directly experiencing the present moment with acceptance, and as you likely know, is associated with a wide range of beneficial outcomes for workplace well-being, performance, and relationships (JOM). If we were only concerned about well-being, it would be easy to say “be mindful all the time.” They can’t simply be mindful “on the cushion” all day long. 

Yet while working, we need to think in order to act, and that’s where Doing mode comes into play.We use this mode to recall ideas and memories from the past, use them to process our present, and then plan for the future. This capability enables us to perform almost any kind of work. 

Using this mode, however, can be a trap. Often Doing mode shifts from helpful tool for planning action to “revving up” and dominating how we function. How does this play out? We become caught up in our concepts, our narratives, our selves, and our judgments and habits. We don’t just think through an email responding to our colleague, we become caught up in our own story about their faults and our interests, and then instead of writing an email correcting the issue, we write a nasty one pouring fuel on the fire. Just like in the example above, our thoughts rule us, keeping us from engaging the situation intentionally, and undermining how we feel and function. Doing mode offers only a limited set of tools, and often it’s the wrong mental toolbox for the task at hand. 

At times like these, we need less Doing and more Being – but how is this possible? Our interviews suggest the need to identify we are stuck in Doing mode, shut it down momentarily to activate our Being mode, and then re-engage with both modes active. We can then work in a more mindful way, with greater acceptance, intention, and effectiveness. Inspired by our research and emerging clinical psychology practices, we suggest doing a new practice to help you get out OUT of your Doing mode. 

How do we get OUT of Doing mode?

Specifically, we suggest doing what we call an OUT practice. This has three steps: Observe, Undo, and Transcend. How did our interviewees know they were getting stuck in Doing mode, and in those moments, how did they find a way to engage their Being mode? While our findings are preliminary, our interviewees reported a few steps for how they got unstuck. First, they noticed themselves getting caught up (or on the verge). Then, they disengaged and stepped back from whatever stream of thought and emotion was occurring. Sometimes this was a quick mindfulness practice, sometimes this was just an awareness they were stuck. Whichever they did helped reground them in the present, allowing the thoughts and emotions to dissipate, providing greater peace and intentionality. This allowed them to reengage their Doing mode, but within the context of Being. Based on these experiences, we now detail the suggested three-step process for dealing with these inevitable moments of getting stuck in our Doing mode.

O: Observe

The starting point for getting out of Doing mode is to Observe that you are stuck. This can be surprisingly difficult because a big part of being stuck is believing in the trap we have built for ourselves!

Here’s an example from our interviews capturing this experience. A restaurant owner described that: “Your brain is just on top of itself, telling you all that you’re doing wrong, that you need to be doing. I didn’t know how to quiet all that chatter. It was getting in the way of my creativity and functioning.”

Some emerging research points to hallmark signs of this state, which you can use to gain clarity and at least notice you are stuck in the trap. Two of the psychologists who pioneered Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) offer some ways to diagnose if you are stuck. Zindel Segal writes that “Whenever there is a sense of ‘have to,’ ‘must,’ ‘should,’ ‘ought,’ or ‘need to,’ we can suspect … doing mode.” His colleague Mark Williams describes the hallmarks of this phenomenon in four domains: thinking, feeling, action, and body. He suggests that when you tune into your experience, you can observe each, noting if you are, for example, ruminating about something bad in the past or fixated on some goal, avoiding feelings, acting on autopilot, or that your body is tense.

But rather than simply accepting words from other people, why not explore your own experience on this? Sometime today, pause for a moment and check-in. Do you experience yourself getting stuck in Doing mode? Is your mind revving about goals, fears, frustrations, or dissatisfaction? If so, you could be stuck! And that’s great, it’s an opportunity to Observe.

U: Undo 

So you’ve observed that you’re stuck in Doing mode and starting to notice the characteristics of this state. At this point, you can begin the second stage of an OUT practice: Undo.

Rather than selecting actions based on your overactive Doing mode, engage the situation first fully from your Being mode. Here’s what that looks like, according to an interview from an analyst with a demanding boss. She said, “My boss called me really angry with a list of things to do. Instead of immediately my brain going into ‘I don’t want to do that,’ it was kicking into ‘uh-huh. Yeah.’ Just taking it in. What mindfulness tells me is accept what’s coming in.” 

Undoing often involves straightforward mindfulness practice. You should stop conducting whatever action you are doing, then get grounded however you like to do this. You could mindfully breathe for 30 seconds. You could really tune in to one of your five senses, or focus your experience on whatever emotions you are feeling in that moment. Whatever you do, make sure you connect fully and richly with your present-moment experience. This step is all about being mindful, NOT about doing anything in the situation. 

T: Transcend

Where our advice goes beyond the clinical realm is recognizing that at work, you can’t simply shut off your Doing mode – you actually need it to work effectively. After you finish the Undo stage of the OUT practice, you need to “turn on” your Doing mode again – but from a different place, one grounded in the state of Being. This allows us to Transcend the limitations of being stuck in Doing. Instead, we experience Being While Doing, what our interviews show is the core experience of mindfulness at work.

What does this look like? A relief worker dealing with hurricane recovery found herself struggling to communicate and work with teammates. She reported that: 

I found myself getting upset. These thoughts were taking over, I assumed that there was going to be an issue. Instead of losing it, I was able to do meditation, and get to this calm place where I can really see the steps that I can be taking. I texted him, ‘Hey, did you get this and that?’ He was like ‘Sure did!’ In my mind, I had made it this big thing. It was never an issue.

In this situation, she was able to first Observe herself getting stuck in Doing mode, then Undo that desire to judge her teammate, and finally Transcend this by selecting actions from a more mindful place. This led her to identify and fix a miscommunication in a calm way, leading to better relationships with her colleagues, a better team outcome, and most of all, peace of mind. This is the essence of OUT practice – neither Being nor Doing by itself, but rather, finding a way to engage in what we call “Being While Doing” – enacted mindfulness at work.

D