How Do You Accomplish More with Less Time?

By Dr. Victor Schueller | emotional wellness

We face a certain truth – there are only 24 hours given to us each day.  How we use those hours is at our discretion, of course, but with often-competing commitments and requirements for us to fulfill each day, the amount of time we have left for ourselves is rapidly consumed.

The challenge that we must undertake is to leave enough “in the tank” emotionally and energetically so that we can enjoy a quality of life that is full of joy, fulfillment, happiness, and purpose.  However, for many, the balance between commitments and conveniences is disrupted.  Let’s face it – we have a problem managing what many call the “work-life” balance.

The solution?  Many people look to “compartmentalize” the various aspects of their lives.  When they are at home, they have a “home mode” that they function within so that they can enjoy their time at home.  When they are at work, they compartmentalize perhaps their work as a whole, or even divide up their work tasks into mini compartments and manage things that way.

In my opinion, while compartmentalizing can have its advantages, there are major drawbacks to this energetically and emotionally.  Based on my personal experience, this requires a tremendous amount of energy, simply because one is holding back the energy that seems to permeate through the compartments from the other aspects of life at times.  When at home, work sneaks in sometimes, and when at work, home life can come around too!

But more problematic than the “bleeding through” when it comes to compartmentalizing is that one finds themselves vulnerable to compartmentalizing who they are based on what they do.

Compartmentalize what you do, and overflow with who you are

We risk losing authenticity when we compartmentalize who we are along with what we do.  If someone has an occupation as a manager, compartmentalizing their work and personality as their “work persona” can leave that person coming across as restrained, un-authentic, unfeeling, or uncaring.  This same person may be thinking to themself, “I’m completely the opposite of that!”  Yet, that is what others have come to believe based on their lack of overflowing of who they really are.

So, yes, we can compartmentalize the different aspects of what we do in a day — perhaps when it comes to being a dad, I can be that and do those “dad things,” and when it comes time for me to go to work and teach college students, I can be that and do those “instructor things,” and then when it comes time for me to take care of patients I can be that and do those “healthcare provider things.”

But the glue that holds it all together is who I am.  And this, I’ve found, is the key to managing a heck of a lot in not a heck of a lot of time.

Understanding your core values

“Who we are” is defined by the core values we hold.  What are core values, you ask?  Core values are those “rules” you play by when playing the game of life.  Do you like it when people are dishonest?  If not, then “honesty” is a core value, for example.

If you can define four or five core values that you hold as your own, and live by those values in every aspect of your life, you will overflow the compartments with who you truly are, and let your true self and your great virtues that make you who you are flow authentically through you no matter what you do.

The “I AM” exercise

To help you determine what your core values are, you can simply do the “I AM” exercise.  Here’s how you do it: Grab a piece of paper and a pen or pencil.  On the top of the piece of paper write the words “I AM…” and then think about words that describe you at your very best, free of any flaws or defects.

You may write words like, “generous,” “caring,” “loving,” “friendly, ” “compassionate,” and other virtuous words.  Then, after doing this for a few minutes, circle the four or five you like the most or describe you best.  Those are your values.  If you wrote “generous,” “generosity” is the core value.  If you wrote “loving,” “love” is your core value.

Once you have determined your core values, then just let them shine in everything you do.  Be loving everywhere.  Be generous everywhere and all the time.

When we can overflow who we are, we share the best virtues of ourselves with those that we interact with and have an impact upon every day.  We will help others see us as our authentic selves, and we also will serve as a positive inspiration on others, who will wonder how the heck we can do what we do every day — getting everything in and staying upbeat and positive while doing it all!

It truly is possible to get more done in less time, but usually when we are blessed by the positive virtues you embody each and every day, allowing them to overflow and bless others in their abundance.

Using Awareness as a Tool to Overcome Emotionalism

By Dr. Victor Schueller | communication

One of the biggest challenges we face is having a conscious control over our emotions and our responses to what takes place either internally or externally.  In other words, a major challenge is actually being the way we ideally view ourselves, unshaken and uninfluenced by the things that come along the way in our lives.

Because, let’s face it – we know we want to be more loving, compassionate, and kind but there are events that come along that pull us from those ideal states of being.  We experience frustration, fear, and confusion, among other things, and the emotional experience then pulls us along a path of reaction that does not embody or represent us at our best, exuding love, compassion, and kindness.

So I was asked this the other day: “Just how do we keep our emotions from getting the best of us?”

Awareness is the key to overcoming emotionalism

My response was a suggestion of increased awareness of our emotional experiences.  That’s a great starting point.  It is not the end, by all means, but when we’re looking for any way to get started on having a better handle on our emotional disposition and responses, it’s better than nothing.

The problem with negative emotions is that they are tethered to a need or desire.  A negative emotion is a signal that a desire was not met, or that our preferred progression of events did not unfold as we’d like.  For example, if we want to be on time, but events transpire that lead us to be late, we experience frustration.  The negative emotion had arisen from the desire to be on time, but that didn’t happen, thus the frustration results.

Logic would tell us that we just need to retrace our steps, and I would agree.  The end of the trail is the frustration.  What caused the frustration?  The need to be on time?  What is the cause for the need to be on time?  The answer to that will provide us with the information we’re looking for.

This is where simple awareness can be invaluable for us.  Being aware of the things that are triggering our emotional responses can be paramount to stopping the cascade of events that results in us deviating from an ideal version of ourselves.  This deviation alone can be the cause of further frustration and angst.  So having a clear awareness of what is starting us on the path toward a negative emotion or an emotional response we don’t prefer is the key to overcoming emotionalism.

If your child’s inability to find their shoes in a timely manner was the reason you were late, and you don’t want to be late, your negative emotions are indirectly arising from your child’s lack of timeliness; this lack of timeliness resulted in you not meeting your desire to be on time.  Gaining awareness of this leads us to further inquiry (and awareness).  Next, for example, you could simply ask yourself why it is important for you to be on time?  This will lead to awareness of another aspect of this situation.  Further, you could ask yourself why you need to be attached to that idea of being on time.

Peeling away the layers

It’s sort of like peeling an onion, starting at the surface, and then digging deeper and asking, “Why, why, why?”  Why are you frustrated?  Why do you have the need?  Why can’t you let go of the need?  Why is it important for you to have this need?  The answers to this question will lead you to increased awareness of the situation and put you on the path to dissolving the emotional response.

Finally, one thing you can easily do to also increase your awareness is to detach yourself from the first-person experience of the emotion itself as it is happening.  I would suggest its something akin to watching the event as if it’s on a movie screen rather than through your own eyes in your own body.

If it’s fear you’re experiencing, for example, picture the emotion of fear as a leaf or a log floating on the surface of a river.  The log approaches, passes before you, and then moves away from you as it travels along the river.  If you can visualize that emotion doing the same thing: approaching, passing before you, and then moving away from you, as an object not attached to you, you will find that your own response to the emotion is very different and more manageable.

After the experience passes you then have the opportunity to start peeling away, and asking those “why” questions to help you should that set of circumstances arises in the future.

Awareness is a powerful, yet frequently overlooked tool that we have at our disposal every day and every moment.  Perhaps trying to introduce this tool to your life, especially after having a negative emotional experience, would greatly enhance your life and provide you with the control you would enjoy having over your emotions so that you can share your love, kindness, and compassion with those around you the way you’d prefer.

Photo by Simon Migaj on Unsplash

The Top 6 Influential Books I’ve Read to Date

By Dr. Victor Schueller | book

Have you ever read a book that had such an impact on you that you were never the same after reading it? I’ve been positively impacted by many books, and so I thought I would share my list of the top 6 influential books I’ve read with you. Below is a list of the books that, to date, have impacted my life the most after having read them. Included with the names of the books are links to the books and my explanation as to why these books were impactful for me.

Here they are, in no particular order:

Tribal Leadership: Leveraging Natural Groups to Build a Thriving Organization

Why it was impactful:  This book was instrumental in my understanding of human nature and how we organize ourselves into “tribes” when we work in communities, namely organizational communities.  I learned about how people (and organizations) can settle into “stages” that are both identifiable and predictable, and more interestingly and importantly, how to use leverage to move people to a higher level of functioning to have a positive impact on the organization.  It was by reading this book I learned the importance of core values and what can happen in a negative way when we don’t identify and embrace them.  Whether you are a leader in a business or not, this book can be an eye-opener.  Anyone who works in or for any sort of organization, whether it be a for-profit or non-profit, will benefit tremendously from reading this book.  If you enjoy research-based publications, this one is for you.  The back of the book is loaded with the research that substantiates the observations and conclusions shared throughout the book.

I actually interviewed Dave Logan on my radio show, and if you’d like to hear that interview just click here.

Autobiography of a Yogi

Why it was impactful:  This book introduced me to the work of Paramahansa Yogananda, and through Yogananda, I was introduced to the concept of self-realization.  Self-realization has come to mean to me that I need to search within myself to make a difference on the outside of my life.  Through the personal pursuit of self-realization, I’ve come to seek a personal relationship with God, and I made meditation something that I don’t just talk about, but actually practice regularly (daily).  In the pursuit of self-realization, I’ve reduced my blood pressure, improved my diet, improved my overall health, and have less stress and anger.  I’ve come to recognize God’s grace and God’s presence in everyone and everything in the world.  This book opened the door to the embedded messages in sacred scripture and has allowed me to read these books with a new perspective and forge a closer relationship with God, as well as enhancing my spiritual and physical health.

The Biology of Belief: Unleashing the Power of Consciousness, Matter and Miracles

Why it was impactful:  Bruce Lipton’s’ breakthrough book shows how our beliefs can switch on and off our genes which can have a positive impact on health.  He also shares a very interesting take on how biology bridges into spirituality later on in the book.  The reason I enjoyed this book so much was because Bruce has a great way of taking difficult concepts and making them easy to understand and blowing your mind at the same time.  For example, he shares how the cell membrane is very similar to a microprocessor and is actually the brain of the cell, not the nucleus like we’ve always been told.  If you’re looking for proof that validates how what we think has a tremendous impact on our physical being, look no further than this book.  You’ll not only learn a lot about science but about how the human body and mind are intertwined and inseparable.

I also interviewed Bruce Lipton on my radio show, and if you’d like to listen to that interview, click here.  Part 2 is found here.

Nonviolent Communication: A Language of Life: Life-Changing Tools for Healthy Relationships

Why it was impactful: This book has really changed the way I interact with other people and, quite honestly, has served as the foundation for much of my coaching work, my book, and much of what I do in my work as a speaker and presenter.  Our interactions with other people start with what we say and how we say what we say to others.  This book has shown a new way of communication to me, and it has positively impacted my personal and professional relationships.  It has helped reduce stress and angst in my life, and it has helped me move from expectation to understanding and empathy.  Marshall Rosenberg has really left us a wonderful gift in this book, as he gets us to understand that concepts like “good and bad,” and “right and wrong” don’t belong in our dialogue.  He helps us move from damaging our relationships to saving them through connecting at the heart.  And, to be honest, if you’ve ever watched Marshall in a YouTube video, where he uses his jackal and giraffe puppets or puts on his “special” listening device, you can’t help but laugh in amusement and appreciation for his special way of transforming our interpersonal relationships.  If you’re ever looking for a comprehensive and thorough way to transform your interactions with other people, this book will give you all you need.

Holy Bible

Why it was impactful: When I have struggled for answers, I’ve looked to the Bible for help.  The most refreshing thought about my relationship with the Bible is that even though it has been a part of my life for as long as I can remember, I get more out of it now than I ever have.  What I have come to understand about the sacred books is that there are different ways that we can read them.  We can read the book at face value like we would read any other storybook.  If you read the Bible this way you’ll be treated to a story that provides lessons for living along the way.  However, if you read the Bible in a “deeper” way you will pull meaning out of the words that are metaphysical and even more spiritual than meets the eye upon the first read.  The Bible is chock-full of symbolism in its words and stories.  If you’re searching for a deep and personal relationship with God the messages are there, hidden in plain sight.  Once I started reading the Bible with a deeper appreciation for the symbolism and hidden messages in it, it became much more intriguing, educational, and spiritually valuable to be as a guide.  If you have a hard time making sense out of the Bible, I recommend finding a study Bible, which provides interpretations and meanings of the passages throughout the text.

Bhagavad-Gita

Why it was impactful: If you’re not familiar with the Bhagavad-Gita, it is a Hindu scripture – sort of an equivalent to the Bible.  Again, you can read this book from cover to cover like a storybook and be treated to a very compelling story that will provide you with some life lessons.  However, this book was not intended to be read just like a storybook.  The symbolism and references to a deep relationship with God and the pursuit of self-realization are very much alive in this book.  To be honest, because of my Christian background the Bhagavad-Gita was a bit of a confusing read for me at first.  If you are taking it on for the first time and want to get as much benefit as you can from it I recommend that you purchase a version of the text which includes an interpretation of the passages.  Otherwise, the read will be quick and you’ll wonder where the wisdom can be found on the pages.  The link I provided is to a version of the book called “Bhagavad-Gita As It Is,” and it is the most widely used version of the book because of the interpretation that it includes.  For first time Gita readers the translation and explanation will be most valuable.

My Honorable Mentions:

Global Healing: Thinking Outside the Box

 

 

177 Mental Toughness Secrets of the World Class: The Thought Processes, Habits, and Philosophies of the Great Ones

 

The Emotional Life of Your Brain: How Its Unique Patterns Affect the Way You Think, Feel, and Live–and How You Can Change Them

 

Descartes’ Error: Emotion, Reason, and the Human Brain

 

The Divine Romance: Collected Talks and Essays on Realizing God in Daily Life – Volume 2

Do you have some books that you think others would enjoy reading? Feel free to share your top influential books in the comments below.  I’d love to see your recommendations!

How to Access Your Powerful Natural Painkiller

By Dr. Victor Schueller | Brain and mind

We all experience pain in its many forms.  Whether it’s physical pain, sadness, anger, frustration, disappointment, shock, confusion, or worry, we’ve come to know pain as an unwelcome guest in our lives.  Pain can frequently visit us in its many versions, as it can pave the way for sleepless nights, arguments, stress, anxiety, or other unpleasant side effects.

But what is pain, really?  What does pain truly represent and mean to us?  When we begin to investigate the nature of pain and its source, we can come to terms with its properties and value to us and see it for what it really is.

Pain provides us with awareness

While we may tend to share the opinion that pain is undesirable, the reality is that pain is neither good nor bad, or desirable or undesirable.  It just is.  When we experience physical pain, we are obviously made aware of physical damage or distress somewhere in or on the body.  Likewise, if we can realize that pain in its other forms, such as sadness or anger, has the capacity to shine a light on an aspect of our life that leads to personal discovery, pain can be a powerful feedback mechanism.  The key to allowing the pain to serve as a feedback mechanism is to dive deeper than the superficial experience of the pain.  While you may feel sadness, you may not be taking the opportunity to really experience it on its many levels and understand what it really is to you.

Pain resides in our passion

Diving deeper with an inquiry into our pain can provide much insight as to why we are experiencing it in the first place.  This provides us with an opportunity to go below the superficial experience of the pain and really gain an understanding of its source.  Upon further investigation, you may come to realize that pain resides in our passion.  When we care so deeply about something, such as being accepted by others, having peace in the world, or kindness between people, if we see a contradiction to or violation of that ideal it causes pain.  For example, if I was passionate about keeping my house clean, and someone comes into my house and makes a mess, I will experience the pain of frustration, anger, resentment, or even sadness.  Because my passion is cleanliness, but I see a contradiction, I experience pain.

Our natural painkiller – Indifference

With the understanding that pain provides us with awareness, and that awareness leads us to discover the passion behind the pain, we can move to resolving it within us.  The long and the short of it is that we can eliminate the pain through indifference, although in practice this is not so easy and takes time and patience.  However, if you can simply develop the awareness of the source of the pain, this is an important step in moving forward along the process of removing the pain from your life.

I suggest that you first find something else in your life about which you are indifferent.  For me, for example, I would say that I am indifferent about NASCAR.  How do I know I’m indifferent about it?  I know because I don’t care about who the drivers are, what races they’re in, when the races are, or who wins.  I have absolutely no interest in the sport, its competitors, or outcome.

Once you find something that you are indifferent about, you can examine the experience of indifference.  Take time to learn what indifference feels like to you, and how it creates a sense of ease and subtle strength.  When you are indifferent you are not affected by an outcome and you feel unattached.

After you have had some time to spend in that indifference, it’s time to return to your passion.  Now you can spend time in the process of inquiry, asking yourself just why this is a passion to you and why it is so important to you to maintain this passion.  Only you can answer these questions, and only you know what your next steps will be.  Sometimes simply understanding the nature of the pain and its source provides comfort and relief of the pain when it comes.  Awareness alone has the capacity to soothe and heal.

The bottom line is that pain is not necessarily bad or undesirable.  It’s something that leads to our awareness if we take the time to understand it.  That awareness can lead us on a path toward the elimination of the pain if we can come to understand the passion in which our pain resides.  Through meditation and contemplation, you can uncover the nature of your pain and its source and determine what the next steps are for you.  Understanding our pain is a journey, but on that path, you may transcend it to experience peace.

Photo: https://www.flickr.com/photos/practicalcures/22784724783

How Well Do You Appreciate the Mundane?

By Dr. Victor Schueller | emotional wellness

My family and I just returned from a long vacation.  I find vacations to be interesting because I’ve experienced that before you leave you can’t wait to get away from home, but when you are on your way back you are looking forward to being home again.  This time away was the longest my family and I had been away from home for any continuous period and we enjoyed it immensely, but the general consensus was that we were glad to be back home in our community with our family and friends once again.

But, what had changed?  Our home was the same.  The people and community we had left were there all the time, so that hadn’t changed.  It is interesting that with enough time one grows weary of the excitement of adventures in places away from home, and eventually “home” becomes exciting and appreciated in a renewed way.

There are a couple of things at play here.  One, I can see that we have an opportunity to examine exactly why vacationing sounds so appealing.  Does one vacation to “get away” from the mundane and the humdrum — the routine and “boring” day-to-day of living?  Sometimes we do!  Two, the experience of leaving and returning provided a moment of clarity and introspection on the value of the virtue of appreciation.

Why do we want to “get away?”

When we experience learning moments which provide us with a new perspective, we have an opportunity to investigate internally what’s going on inside of us.  Are we trying to get away?  If so, why are we trying to do so?  What do we expect to get when we leave?  Are we seeking to satisfy an internal desire to fulfill something that we are looking for?  If we are looking to escape, perhaps we can take a moment to ask ourselves why we need additional external stimulation to elevate or enhance our emotional disposition.  Are we reliant on the external and the sensory experience to be heightened to elevate our threshold and provide us with enjoyment once again?  And, as equally important — how long before that becomes stale and we need to seek yet another heightened sensory experience to enhance the way we feel once again?

I tend to believe that the reason for my vacation was to share memorable and enjoyable experiences with my family.  I wouldn’t go so far as to say that I was trying to “get away” from anything at home, yet the adventure and memories that lie ahead were exciting and invigorating.  But, when we returned, everything was there as it had been when we had left.  Nothing had changed or moved essentially, but it felt exciting and invigorating to be home.  This was a clear demonstration in how our perspective shifts, which allows us to see the same thing we did before in a new way.

This was a clear reminder of the importance of presence grounded in appreciation.  I appreciated having a home with comfortable beds.  I appreciated my family and friends.  I appreciated the grass in the lawn.  I appreciated the many examples of abundance and blessings in life.  These things were there all the time before we had left, yet what had dulled prior to departure was my ability to appreciate those things.

A challenge – relying less on our senses to liberate us

So here is our challenge — how can we rely less on our desire for external sensory pleasure and its eventual diminishment to provide us with the foundation of appreciation for the mundane and routine in life?  How can we find deep appreciation each and every day for the things that are day to day and ordinary, so that we realize that they are not ordinary at all and that they are as exciting as we find them to be when we return from an extended absence?

This is a challenge for us, and it is rooted in presence and introspection.  By simply being present and in the moment and focusing on our abundant blessings it doesn’t take us long to start recognizing an overwhelming number of things we can appreciate.  We can start by appreciating our health, our family, our friends, our occupations, our homes, our relationships, and so on.  Whether it’s sitting in a chair and taking in the chaos around us or finding a quiet contemplative area, or whether it’s putting down on paper a list of things for which we are appreciative, it doesn’t take long to realize how truly blessed we are each and every moment of every day of our lives.

So here is our opportunity for examination: How can we depend less on sensory gratification and its eventual decline to highlight our blessings and more on our presence rooted in appreciation?  How can we cultivate a grateful disposition at all times?

In a world that depends so much on convincing us how much we need to satisfy our extrinsic desires in order to find enjoyment in it, this is a very significant challenge that we face every day.  And we have an opportunity to look inward in those moments and remind ourselves that it isn’t about how exciting we can make our lives by the things we do and take in through the external senses.  Rather, true joy and bliss come from examining our abundant blessings, and that is an internal process.  We don’t find happiness without — it is there, all the time, within our hearts.

 

Photo: https://www.flickr.com/photos/natasa_stuper/9133864311

What Do You Do When Someone Gets on Your Nerves?

By Dr. Victor Schueller | emotional wellness

If you’re human, you’ve had an encounter with someone who has rubbed you the wrong way.  Maybe it’s an annoying habit, or chronic negativity, or over-committing while under-delivering.  No matter what the personality trait, these annoyances can disrupt our peace and our workflow, and it can also seemingly suck the vital energy out of us, leaving us frustrated and exhausted, and no closer to a resolution of the issue.

What do you do when someone gets on your nerves?  After all, on the surface, we know that it’s not nice to not be nice to other people, and we also know that it’s a waste of time and energy to get hung up on how we feel about someone who annoys us in the first place.

Let’s start out by talking about what “annoyance” is.  The experience of annoyance arises from negative emotions.  These emotions may be anger, frustration, aggravation, impatience, or even resentment.  But we have to understand that when we experience these emotions we are allowing the activities and behaviors of other people to affect our inner environment.

Who controls your feelings?

After all, who makes you feel the way you feel?  If you are responding internally with “me,” you’re absolutely correct!  You are the one who makes you feel the way you feel.  But, then I will ask you — if you know that you are the one who makes you feel the way you feel, why are you allowing the actions and behaviors of others to affect the way you feel internally?  Why are you allowing the external to affect your internal?

We’ve all been there, and maybe you’re still there now.  You are allowing the behaviors of others to disrupt your ideal “you.”  If you’d do an inventory of your core values, chances are they would include values such as love, respect, kindness, and compassion.  And, when we act in alignment with those values, we satisfy them and therefore experience the positive emotions that come along with living in accordance with those values.

If you’re struggling to find a way past the annoyance from others who are disrupting your peace, I suggest that you focus on the act of disconnecting yourself from that other person and the emotional experience that accompanies your relationship with them.  This involves shifting from a perspective of allowing the external to affect your internal to one in which you arouse curiosity within regarding the needs and feelings of other people.  When you invoke curiosity, you employ empathy and compassion.  These are two core values which can provide you with the leverage you need to return to your own core values and re-instate your control over your own personal emotions and be unfettered by the actions and behaviors of other people who may have annoyed you up to this point.

When we arouse curiosity about others’ feelings and needs, we seek to establish a relationship between the two.  After all, feelings are connected to needs.  If we need something and we don’t get it, it results in a negative feeling.  The end result is that usually there is an unpleasant or unwelcome behavior that accompanies it.  This may be the very thing that we are observing in those who are getting under our skin or bothering us.

Two questions to ask

So when we observe that annoying behavior, the questions to ask are, “What is going on inside that person?” and, “Are they struggling to fulfill an internal need?”  You can even go beyond that and start to think of what a person may need.  Now you need to be cautious that these needs that you’re coming up with are actual needs and not interpretations.  An interpretation would be “they need to be right,” where a need would be “recognized as competent.”  The two on the surface may sound the same, but you can see that the interpretation employs the concept of “right/wrong,” whereas the other does not.  Try to keep needs as objective as possible.  If you’re struggling to come up with needs, the Center for Nonviolent Communication provides a comprehensive list that you can refer to for some assistance.

Once we begin to understand that the unpleasant behavior that we observe stems from what I would consider a “pain point,” meaning that they are struggling to have needs met, we become more compassionate and understanding of why they do what they do.  Now if you’re not closely related to that person, you can stop right there, and simply understand that their annoying behavior is caused by a non-fulfillment of their needs or values.  This is where the disconnect happens.  Once you do that, you are no longer tethered to their issues, and you restore your control of your own core values and realize that your happiness is not determined by external circumstances or factors.

However, if you do have a relationship with the other person, you can simply ask them what you can do to help them or help them feel better about what’s going on in their life.  You can alternatively share your observations and how it is impacting your ability to meet your own needs, and engage in a discussion toward a resolution of the difficult issue.

It doesn’t happen instantly, but taking that first step and acknowledging that you are in control of your emotions and attempting to disconnect your emotions from the actions and behaviors of others can be a crucial step in regaining your composure and inner peace in the midst of annoyance or frustration.  This is such an important step, and it’s frequently one that we don’t even consider, because we’re getting carried away in a negative emotional experience, and projecting the responsibility of our emotions onto another person.  This is not correct nor justified because we know that we, and we alone are responsible for the way we feel.

Two last things to consider:  Number one, people aren’t annoying on purpose.  The behavior stems from a deeper cause.  Number two, we may be an annoyance to other people and not even realize it.  Our behaviors and actions may be disrupting the peace of others, which is, in turn affecting your relationship with that person.  We’re hard pressed to find anyone in civilized society that is actually and intentionally attempting to disrupt the peace and well-being of other people.  We all are in this world, trying to do the best we can with what we have.  If we can all step back and realize that we’re all cut from the same cloth and going through this human experience all together, perhaps we will gain a valuable perspective that inserts a little more patience and understanding into our lives when it comes to interacting with other people, annoying as they may have seemed to us at one time.

Photo: https://www.flickr.com/photos/pedrosimoes7/34126109625

Wondering If You’re on the “right” Track in Life? Here’s How to Find Out

By Dr. Victor Schueller | emotional wellness

A couple of weeks ago I was talking to a group about simple ways to find more happiness in life.  I shared a story about a man who was very successful in that he had his own thriving business, had lots of money, and loved his work as a business owner.  Someone had asked that man why he worked so many long and hard hours.

He answered that it was because he wanted the things that came with success.  He wanted things that were enjoyable to touch, taste, smell, see and hear.  The other man then asked why he wanted those things.

On it went, the successful man answering why, and the other continuing to ask “why” back, again and again.  Eventually, they got down to the core reason why he did what he did, and that was to be “happy.”

We all want to be happy

If we all were asked the same question – “Why do you do the things you do?” – the core answer for many of us would be because we too want to be “happy.”  But some of us are “unhappy” most days of our lives, and the idea of happiness seems so distant and so unrealistic at times that we become pessimistic about life and doubtful about the possibility of happiness.

But, what is happiness, really?  If you ask ten people you’ll probably get ten slightly different answers.  One may tell you being with their family is happiness.  Another may say happiness is to have meaning in life.  Still, another may suggest for them happiness is having stability.  It’s easy to see that happiness is defined by many as an idea or vision rather than an emotion.

In reality, however, happiness itself is an emotion.  It is just like sadness, anger, frustration, or joy.  It’s fleeting.  So what we’re trying to do is capture something that changes from instant to instant and hold it indefinitely in a sustained state.  This is virtually impossible for most people, simply because we don’t have years of practice in the ways of meditation and deep introspection that is required to find a continual and perpetual state of bliss.

Instead, we find ourselves with the challenge of understanding that what we believe happiness to be and what happiness really is are two very different things.  And if we continue to chase after happiness the emotion with the idea of realizing the vision of what happiness represents for us, we will find ourselves unsuccessful and, eventually, unhappy too.

May I suggest to you that instead of holding on to this idea of “happiness,” that you focus on ways that you can become more resilient, have a more positive outlook, be more aware of your surroundings, look inward more often, and develop your ability to stay focused and fixed in concentration on a single task or idea.  The reason I suggest this is because these are some of the emotional styles that have been identified through roughly forty years of research into our emotions by Dr. Richard Davidson at the University of Wisconsin.

There are six emotional styles that “define” our personality, and these play a huge role in how “happy” we are from moment to moment.  For example, if you are more resilient, meaning that you can bounce back relatively quickly from setbacks, you are generally going to sustain a more positive emotional state, so to speak, more often.  If you’re interested in learning more about these emotional styles and even take your own emotional style quiz (and receive tips on how to improve some of these if you’d like), please follow this link.

The good news is that you can alter your emotional state through what Davidson calls “effortful training,” but the not-so-great news is that this type of training does take some time.  Chances are you’re reading this because you’re trying to figure out ways that you can help yourself now (while starting on that effortful training too, right?).

The “I am” practice

One thing I suggest to help you determine whether you are “on the right track” in life for you is to do a very fast and easy exercise called the “I am…” practice.  To get started, find a blank sheet of paper and a pen or pencil, and write the words “I am” at the top of the page.  Next, think about how you would describe yourself at your very best — think about how you would view yourself in perfection and write those words down.

You may write words like, “loving,” “kind,” “compassionate,” “silly,” “respectful,” and the like.  Just keep writing down as many words as you can think of that describe the perfect version of you.  After you believe that you’ve come up with a sufficient number of words, take a look a what you’ve written.  These are your personal core values.

Core values are your “moral code” for the life you lead.  It’s the rules by which you play the game of life, and when you follow those rules, life is “better” more often than it is not.  For example, if you wrote down that you are “honest,” then “honesty” would be the core value.  If someone asked you to be dishonest, or if you were dishonest yourself, chances are you would not feel “good” about yourself because you are acting in contradiction to one of your core values.

Generally, if someone is rather unhappy in their life one of the reasons may simply be that they are living a life that is not in alignment with their core values.  After all, if you’re playing the game of life by rules that oppose the ones you’ve established for yourself, it’s not going to be a fun game at all.  While there may be other causes for unhappiness (obviously), if you are struggling to know if you’re on the “right” path for you in life, starting with an assessment of how closely you’re aligned with your core values is a great way to begin.

I suggest pursuing those “virtuous” values, like love, generosity, kindness, and respect.  Start by making a purposeful effort to embody those virtues as often as you can, while being mindful and aware of the times when you begin to violate those values.  For example, you may find that you employ sarcasm on a regular basis throughout the day.  This does not align with love, kindness, or respect.  Once you pick up on this, you can turn things around and refrain from sarcasm until it becomes something you don’t do anymore.

One last tip – listen to those nearest and dearest to you.  Are they telling you things about your behavior?  For example, my wife had told me that I seem to need to have the last word in conversations or discussions.  Was she right in her assessment?  Well, after thinking about it and being mindful in my conversations, yes, she made an accurate statement.  Sometimes it takes our ability to set the ego aside and listen to those who not only see us as we are but also are not afraid to tell us to learn of those things that we do that are not in alignment with our values.

If you’re looking for a way to get started today to determine whether you are on the “right” track for you in life, just take a few moments to describe who you are at your very best, and then do some soul searching and practice some introspection to see how closely you are aligned with your own personal core values.  Chances are if you find that you’re closely aligned with your values, life is pretty good for you.  But if life is not so wonderful more days than not, I suspect you’ll find that there are some core values that really mean a lot to you from which you are far removed.  The more distant you are from your core values the more pain you experience from that distance.  If you are suffering, take some time to really think about what you can do right now, here, today, to start honoring your core values more often.  It just takes a few small steps in the “right” direction for you, focused on your core values, to get you started on the “right” path in life for you.

 

Photo: https://www.flickr.com/photos/53771866@N05/6162232402

Forgiveness – It’s Something We Do For Ourselves, Not Others

By Dr. Victor Schueller | emotional wellness

Most people don’t find themselves contemplating whether to forgive someone who killed one of their parents, but that’s where I found myself at a young age.  When I was sixteen years old, my mom and I were coming home from a local shopping trip.  As we approached an intersection, a man driving a truck didn’t happen to see us and pulled out in front of us and struck our vehicle.  My mom was killed instantly.

I struggled with forgiveness for close to twenty years, refusing to forgive.  I felt anger, frustration, and bitterness.  I felt cheated out of future experiences.  I suffered greatly, and I wouldn’t have suffered in this way if it weren’t for that single incident of carelessness on the part of another person.  It was so wrong, as I saw it, that the person who caused this got to get up and walk away, while my family suffered greatly.

I’ve taken my story on the road and have spoken to groups on the topic of forgiveness, and they’re well attended.  I don’t know if it’s because people are looking for a way to deal with their feelings, or whether they’re contemplating forgiving, or if they’re simply trying to gain a different perspective on their own circumstances.  But, the fact that people are willing to come to listen tells me that there is a deep and core tendency toward forgiveness in the human spirit.  It’s almost as if we have an inner “knowing” that we want to forgive, but because of the circumstances, it’s difficult to take that step.

Forgiveness is hard to do.

It’s hard to consider.  It’s difficult when we are faced with a situation in which we believe we were wronged, or that someone did something wrong.  It’s even harder when that act of wrongness causes pain and suffering on our part.  And when we are asked to consider forgiving, some people draw the line and decide they aren’t going to forgive because of how they feel.

For many, forgiveness represents weakness or approval in a way – that one is “giving in,” and saying that what happened is “okay.”  For others, they are still waiting for an apology from the other person, and it isn’t until they receive that apology that they can consider forgiveness.  Still, for others, there is bitterness, anger, hate, and resentment over what happened, and no matter what anyone says or does, what is wrong is wrong, and they will never, ever, consider forgiving, and they will never forget what happened.

When I stand up in front of people and present this idea of forgiveness, I don’t speak to them from the perspective of telling them that they’re wrong for not considering forgiving.  I simply ask them to think about themselves for a moment, and not about the person whom they are contemplating (or resisting) the offering of forgiveness.  That’s because, in my opinion, the reality of forgiveness is this:

Forgiveness is something you do for yourself, and not for others.

When you withhold forgiveness, you are only hurting yourself.  When you hold on to that anger, resentment, bitterness, or that feeling of being wronged or cheated, it causes distress and pain within yourself more than it will ever cause that same kind of pain within the other person.

Consider this:

“Withholding forgiveness is like drinking poison and waiting for your perpetrator to die.” (Author unknown)

Unless you’re calling that other person every day and reminding them of how much what they have done has deeply hurt you, chances are they are not hurting as much as you are over whatever it is that you’re upset about.  That’s reality.

In the meantime, your withholding of forgiveness is keeping you fixed in time over a painful event.  You’re held stagnant, unable to move forward.  You’re potentially ruining interpersonal relationships, both in the past and present.  You’re adding stress to your life and negatively affecting your health.  You’re primarily hurting yourself.

So what does forgiveness represent, and why do we need to finally forgive?

People get hung up on forgiving, simply because they are still experiencing negative emotions associated with the event that caused the pain in the first place.  They’ve been told somewhere along the line that you can’t truly forgive until you are no longer angry, sad, frustrated, bitter, or resentful about what happened.

This is simply not true.  Forgiveness simply means that you are ready to move forward with your life, and put this event behind you.

Is it possible to move on, but still be angry?  Absolutely.  Is it possible to forgive, but still be hurt or sad?  Yes!

Forgiveness isn’t at all about getting to that point where you say that you are no longer angry, so all is forgiven.  That’s not forgiveness!  Forgiveness is all about doing something for yourself, which is moving forward, and telling yourself that you’re no longer going to give any more time, attention, thought, or energy toward that one event that happened.  It’s about telling yourself that you are no longer a prisoner of the past and that you are ready to move forward, living and enjoying your life as the best version of yourself.

To forgive is to move on with your life, no longer shackled by the chains of a past event that had gotten you down or caused you pain and suffering.

That’s what forgiveness represented for me, when, after close to twenty years, I was able to forgive the man who killed my mom.  I didn’t do it for him.  I did it for me.  I realized that I was fixated on this past event, and in the meantime, I was only hurting myself.  I suffered such tremendous physical, and emotional pain because I felt so wronged and cheated.  It was time to move on do something for myself, and so I did.  I forgave him.

We don’t have to forgive in person either.  It is perfectly okay to write a letter, getting everything out on paper, and then shred or burn the note.  It’s even okay to forgive in spirit, where you simply decide all is forgiven, and you’re deciding to move on.  That’s what I did.  Forgiveness is about energy and mindset, so however you decide to forgive, as long as it’s okay with you, it’s okay to do it the way you wish.

To forgive doesn’t mean you’re weak.  To forgive is a sign of strength, where you take a stand and stand up for yourself.  To forgive is to believe in the best possible version of you.  Forgiveness is one hundred percent an act of love for yourself, and a huge step forward to living your life with purpose, positivity, and on your own terms.  To forgive is to love.  And best of all, that love is directed toward yourself.

Photo: https://www.flickr.com/photos/27630470@N03/4333784680

The Truth about Anger (And How We Can Overcome It)

By Dr. Victor Schueller | book

As a parent, it seems every weekday morning I find myself dancing along a “spectrum” of emotions, anywhere from giddy and excited to downright angry and frustrated.  It’s like riding a rainbow of feelings every morning!

But I really dislike anger.  It’s ugly.  It’s an emotion that can arise more quickly than I am able to prepare for its arrival, and it brings along with it a wrath like no other, leaving hurtful words and actions in its wake.  As I’ve made attempts to be more mindful of my words and actions, anger has only left me increasingly frustrated because I can see it coming, I can see it erupting, and then I can see the hurtful results in the end.  The most frustrating part about it for me is that even though I see it coming and going, I find myself “locked” into it and I can’t shake it until it’s over.  I know I am experiencing it, yet I struggle with stopping it before it completely unfolds.

But, in retrospect, as I reflect upon the arrival and departure of anger after the fact, I have found myself asking, “What is anger, really?”  What is this emotion?  And, more importantly, where does it come from?

In my book, Rise Above Criticism, Negativity, and Conflict, I dive into the origin of negative emotions.  I explore the core principles of nonviolent communication, where we learn that negative emotions simply arise from an inability to meet one’s own needs.  And, of course, the “wrath” that sometimes accompanies our negative emotions in the form of hurtful words or actions, is usually our “tragic,” yet inadequate attempt to ask others to help us meet our needs.

So, I get it — anger comes as a result of an unmet need.  But, what is “it” that we “need” which is actually leading to the anger?  To me, this is the core question which will reveal the true nature of anger and help us understand what we can do to actually overcome it and (hopefully) eliminate it from our “arsenal” of emotions to make our lives and the lives of others more wonderful.

As I’ve taken the time to reflect upon this, I’ve arrived at the conclusion that anger arises when our expectations of an outcome that we desire are not met.  Anger comes along when we want and expect a certain outcome, but we then realize that the outcome will either not be realized, or there is the possibility of that outcome not materializing.  When we make this realization, anger rears its ugly head.

Based on this determination, anger comes from clinging to an expectation.  If we can eliminate the expectation, we can eliminate the anger.  However, eliminating expectation is not an easy task for any of us, especially when we’ve been conditioned to set goals and create visions of what we would like the future to hold for us.  After all, successful people are the ones who establish goals and create vision boards and then work tirelessly to make it all happen.  So, when does a person decide that their ambitions and expectations are doing more harm than good?

Here’s where we all need to do our part and reflect mindfully on our own source of anger.  We need to take some time to think about where anger arises in our own lives and determine where that expectation resides, and what is its source.

For example, when I get angry as I’m trying to get my girls out of the house to get to school on time, my expectation to be out the door by a certain time on the clock is my hangup.  I’m expecting to leave by that time, and if I don’t leave at that time, or events are transpiring which are making it obvious to me that we may not make it out of the house at that time, that’s when the anger arises for me.

I realize that the anger is directed at something that is predicated upon the actions and behaviors of my daughters.  I have little control, other than my cheerleading and encouragement to keep moving forward and to keep getting ready.  Sometimes that lack of control leads to frustration too.

So, what can we do when we realize that anger is coming as a result of expectation, and specifically, the expectation we hold which is not being met?  We can start by ditching the expectation and replacing it with understanding.

What is understanding?  For me, understanding is being mindful and empathic.  Being mindful includes being totally aware of what is unfolding, realizing that things are unfolding because that’s the way it is happening, and being indifferent and unattached to an “idea” of how things “should” happen.  There is no “should.”  There is only what “is.”

Understanding in the form of empathy brings along with it an understanding of what is happening in the lives of other people.  When I am empathic, I put myself into my daughter’s shoes (figuratively, not literally, of course) and think about how they may be tired, or how they may not be really into going to school that day.  Maybe there’s a social situation that is on their minds and that’s occupying their thoughts.  Perhaps they’re not feeling well.  There’s a myriad of things that could be occurring that I am missing when I am fixated on meeting my own expectations and neglecting what’s happening in real time with my family members in the morning.

While it’s not an easy task, at least it’s an understandable and reasonable undertaking here.  I know that anger comes from clinging to an expectation — our expectation.  When I can eliminate expectation, and replace it with understanding in the form of mindfulness and empathy, I can not only see how I can overcome anger but also replace it with a much softer and more loving approach that benefits not only me but those I love and care about.

Do you have opportunities where you can inject more understanding into your life?  Can you think of ways that you can be more mindful of what is transpiring at the present moment, and can you be more empathic and understanding of the situations in which others may find themselves, which is contributing to their actions and behaviors?

Perhaps if we all can make a more conscious effort to be more understanding when the opportunities arise, we can all make this world a much less angry and a much more loving place to live in, and we can serve as a positive example for others to follow.  While it’s not easy, if we can expect less and understand more, we can bring to those around us a version of ourselves that motivates and empowers those we love and care about.

Photo: https://www.flickr.com/photos/aigle_dore/15136545574

9 Things Master Communicators Do to Turn Potentially Negative Conversations into Positive Ones

By Dr. Victor Schueller | communication

Believe it or not, we have tremendous control over our conversations with other people, in that we have the power to greatly influence how it ends.  But, in order to control how positive or negative a conversation becomes, we need to have awareness of the primary influencers that can either improve things or contribute to things taking a turn for the worst.

All it takes is some attention and focus from to make sure that you don’t fall into the typical pitfalls or traps that can sabotage an attempt to handle a conversation and keep it positive.  Pulling of the task of turning negative conversations into positive ones takes a keen awareness and presence found in master communicators.  If you want to know what they do, here is a blueprint you can follow to help you turn a those potentially negative conversations into positive ones.

Master communicators stay away from making assumptions about other people’s motives or behaviors

Whenever we tell someone what we think about what another is doing or how they’re handling a situation we can be headed for trouble.  All it takes is something like, “I think that you’re not taking this situation seriously enough” to make things difficult for you.  Here’s why:

When you start out with “I think,” you’re beginning with an opinion.  You’re interpreting their actions and behaviors and telling them what you have picked up based on what you’ve observed.  You may be correct in your diagnosis, but when you start with “I think,” and follow it with a “you” (or “you’re” in this case), you are making it about them, rather than focusing on what’s going on inside of you.  This can sound like an accusation to another.

As you finish the sentence with “seriously enough,” again, this is an opinion.  You’re opening yourself up to a debate.  How seriously is “seriously enough?”  And, what would someone have to do to show you that they are being the “just right,” amount of being serious, without being “too serious?”  Using “too” or “not enough” is based on opinion, and it’s a preference, but you are implying wrongness when you use those words because you’re saying that only you know the “just right” amount of seriousness necessary.

Master communicators try to see things from other perspectives

If we think that our way is the right way, or if we believe that we’re right and other people are wrong, this can lead to problems as well.  Many of the struggles I’ve seen with other people in simply getting along and understanding others is a failure to be empathic.  They don’t seem to be able (or willing) to consider what things may be like for the other person, or they spend little to no time being curious as to what it must be like to be in the situation in which another finds themselves.

Master communicators allow others to completely say what they have to say (or at least give them some time to speak and say something!)

Simply allowing another person the opportunity to finish a complete sentence or share their opinion or perspective can be a tremendous help and show respect for the other person.  Giving time in our own conversations for space so that another person can process and actually speak is a big help too.  I don’t know about you, but I’ve been part of conversations during which I was unable to share my perspective or even speak because the other person in the conversation was doing all the talking and not leaving any space or time for a reply or comment.  To try to overcome this yourself, depending on who is talking, after you or the other person is done completing a sentence or articulating a thought, blink your eyes twice in succession (one immediately followed by another) before speaking.  This gives the other person a small window to speak if they want to.

Master communicators speak only to observable, non-arguable facts

If someone rolled their eyes, shrugged their shoulders, and sighed, that’s what they did.  If you toss in an evaluation of those observations and ask why they are getting impatient, frustrated, upset, or even more egregious descriptions of their behavior, you’re setting yourself up for a defensive and non-productive response.  Even if they are all those things, your diagnosis doesn’t help.  If you would say, “I noticed you sighed just there.  What’s going on?” you are opening up to a conversation, rather than an argument about what the other person did (or did not do.

Master communicators listen for the “please”

People say “please” in the strangest ways.  Someone could be making fun of the size of your nose, and they could really be asking “could you please help me feel more secure about how I appear to others?”  If we can try to identify what a person’s “pain point” is, and what they are needing, you can “listen through” their sometimes not-so-nice words and find that they are really asking for you to help them.  The problem is that when others are asking “please” in a way that can offend or upset others, they’re pushing people away from themselves instead of making it desirable for others to actually help them.

Master communicators link feelings to needs or values

When you are listening to another person and what they are saying, try to figure out how they’re feeling at the moment.  Do you think they’re frustrated?  Angry?  Fearful?  And what is causing that feeling to emerge?  What is it that they value?

For example, if someone values their time, they may be complaining about how something is a waste of their time.  They are frustrated because they have a need to spend their time wisely and efficiently.  They are really asking “Could you please help me make wise and efficient use of my time?” but they are expressing their frustration in a way that can come across as a criticism or a complaint to others.

Master communicators ask for clarification

Once you’ve allowed the other person to express themselves completely, without interrupting, as you’ve tried to picture things from their perspective, and at the same time listening for the “please,” you may want to ask for clarification.  You may want to repeat what is their need or speak to their feelings, to see if they give verbal confirmation.  If you can identify their need, feeling, and rephrase their negatively expressed statements in a way that links the need to the feeling, you’ll make a positive connection, and the conversation will move in a positive direction.

The other person will know that you’re attempting to connect with them at the heart, and really understand what is going on.  Not only will they appreciate you listening to them, but they’ll also know that you’re trying to help them get whatever it is that they want, need, or value.

You could say something like, “I can really understand how it can be so frustrating when this information can be shared by an email, rather than having everyone sit in a meeting and listen to someone read the information off of a piece of paper.”  If you connect with that person, they’ll agree, and they will know you “get” them and what they’re trying to say.

Master communicators find a solution that meets needs or satisfies values of everyone

Finally, if you can connect on the feeling and the need, you can work with them to figure out a solution that works for them to meet their needs or help them get what they want or value.  You can ask them for their ideas or what they think would be a reasonable solution to this situation.  The idea is that this becomes a conversation where ideas and feelings and values are shared, so that everyone is heard and respected.  It’s important to take things to the next level, and also share your needs and values, especially if meeting another person’s needs seem mutually exclusive to you meeting yours.  That’s why…

Master communicators don’t forget their own needs and values

Remember that there doesn’t need to be a winner or loser in a conversation.  If you and the other person can really speak to the needs and values you both share, you will be able to continue the conversation until you get to a point where the needs and values of both are honored or met with a solution that works for everyone.  If you can only find a compromise, that means that the needs or values of one or more have not been met or recognized.

It’s possible for any potentially negative conversation to become a positive one, but it takes work.  It takes listening power, respect, time, space, and empathy.  As long as both people are willing to share from the heart, and as long as one person is able and willing to facilitate the exchange and guide it along, there should be no reason why the conversation shouldn’t end up with a positive outcome that works for all.

Photo: https://www.flickr.com/photos/cruzart/17037720877

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