Wednesday, March 8, 2023

When it Comes to Resilience, Attitude Really is Everything.

When it comes to resilience, attitude really is everything. Having an optimistic view of yourself and confidence in your strengths and abilities creates conditions for success and healthier living.

To start, let me be clear. When I talk of optimism, I do not mean that rose-colored glasses, Pollyannaish-way of looking at the world. True optimists know bad things happen; they experience tragedy just like everyone else. But what separates optimists from their pessimistic brothers and sisters is how they move forward in their thinking and actions relative to those events.

Much of the way we view the world has been shaped by the messages we received as children. I was fortunate to grow up with women who were remarkable optimists. My mother and my maternal grandmother -- women who lived through great difficulties, such as the Great Depression, single-parenting, loss of children and spouses -- still managed to demonstrate the belief that things will always work out in the end. They taught me to live life with anticipation and a hopeful expectation towards a desired outcome predicated not on wishful thinking, but through dedication and commitment to the goal. 

I was well into my teenage years when I learned that not everyone grew up learning this positive outlook. A dear, childhood friend was taught differently. She received messages such as: 

  • Feeling good about yourself? Be forewarned. There will always be someone who can't wait to knock you down. 
  • Just because you did good today doesn't mean you will tomorrow.
  • If you expect the worst, you'll never be disappointed.

According to Dr. Martin Seligman's theory of learned optimism, optimistic children grow up to be optimistic teenagers and adults. In his book, "Learned Optimism," Seligman states that there are three factors that determine a learned optimistic paradigm: 

1. Optimism is acquired from our mothers. How our mothers reacted to problems set the stage for our own reaction to difficult situations. If mom dealt with everyday problems with a bright and hopeful outlook, then we, as children, learned to do the same.

2. Optimism is influenced by the adults around us. The way adults (parents, teachers) chastise us can leave a lasting impression on how we perceive our own abilities. (Thank God for my mom and grandmother. I attended Catholic school in the 1960s ... enough said.)

3. Optimism is shaped by family turmoil. Family crises such as divorce or the untimely or tragic death of a family member can contribute to a child's general view of life later life. 

Optimism, according to philosopher and futurist visionary Dr. Max More is an "empowering, constructive attitude that creates conditions for success by focusing and acting on possibilities and opportunities." This is why optimists tend to recover faster from difficulties. When something bad happens to optimists, they view the circumstance as temporary rather than permanent; they see the situation as affecting a specific part of their life, rather than pervading all areas.

Now, some people prefer to label themselves as realists, explaining events just as they are. As writer Robert Brault so simply explained, "The realist sees reality as concrete. The optimist sees reality as clay." 

Do you view life with optimism -- Braultian realism -- or are your more in line with George Will, who said, "The nice part about being a pessimist is that you are constantly being either proven right or pleasantly surprised" ? What's your worldview? I'd love to hear from you. ~ Rita

Wednesday, March 1, 2023

Friends, Among Our Greatest Gifts in Life

Friendship is an art, and very few persons are born with a natural gift for it.
~ Kathleen Norris

My grandmother used to tell me that if I had one true friend in life, that was the ultimate blessing. My life, then, is truly blessed for I have several wonderful friends.

Aristotle wrote there are three kinds of friendship....

1. Friendship based on utility. This type of friendship changes according to circumstances. With the disappearance of the "usefulness" of this friendship, the friendship breaks up.

2. Friendship based on pleasure. These friendship are regulated by feelings, and the chief interest is in momentary pleasure. As affection changes, so does the friendship.

3. Perfect friendship is based on goodness and mutual knowledge and respect. These friends spend time with each other, contribute to the other's happiness and vice versa. Friendship of this kind is permanent.

The Roman philosopher Cicero believed that in order to have a true friendship with someone one must have complete honesty, virtue, and trust...and friends do things for each other without expectation of repayment.

Ask yourself, who is that one friend in your life who meets Cicero's standards? How much love do you carry in your heart for that person?

Now ask yourself, when was the last time you spent quality time with this friend? When is the last time yo spoke, rather than texted, IM, or communicated through social media?

If the answer is less than 3 days, pick up the phone. Call your friend. Hear his or her voice...and make a solid date to see one another within the next 10 days.

"There was a definite process by which one made people into friends, and it involved talking to them and listening to them for hours at a time." ~ Rebecca West

Have a joyful day everyone. And remember to live a flourishing life.

Wednesday, February 8, 2023

Musings from a Recovering Worrywart

Unless you knew me when I was very a young girl, you might be surprised to learn I was quite the worrier. My mother used to say, “You’re such a Worrywart, Rita.” And the tag fit. I was a worrywart. I did tend to dwell unduly on perceived difficulties in my life that developed a pattern (habitude) of troubled emotions and thought patterns.

Then one day I saw a book on my mother’s nightstand entitled Psycho-Cybernetics by Maxwell Maltz. The book was a gift to her from her sister Vera. My Aunt Vera was a beloved, albeit feisty, woman ahead of her times. She lived in Hollywood, CA and she was always sending Mom books, articles, and such on personal development. (To this day I carry in my handbag the miniature, red leather copy of As A Man Thinketh by James Allen that she gave my mom back in 1968.)  

I devoured Maltz’s book in a matter of days. It seemed that with the turn of each page my mind opened and expanded to a new way of thinking about myself and how I move through the world. By the time I was done, it was crystal clear to me that my thinking truly did affect the outcome of my life. 

Now I was about 13 years old when I read that transformative book. Being a voracious reader, I went to the library and began what became my lifelong journey to understand the cycle of how thoughts effect emotions and thus behavior. I gobbled up the writings of untold thinkers, beginning with the Ancient Greek philosophers up to modern-day thought leaders, all of whom had (and have) a very similar message: You are what you think about all day long. 

My being a worrywart hasn’t truly dissipated. It is a pattern (neuro-circuitry) of thinking and reacting (habitude) that formed when I was quite young. When times get tough, when something is troubling me, I can feel that old worrywart downward spiral begin. However, what I now do is I recognize the habitude sooner and I put into motion the various strategies I’ve developed for myself to slow down the activity in my mind. 

As I said, these habitudes took root and deepened and strengthened at an early. Those of you who have heard me speak, have come to one of my workshops, have heard me share my story of some of the events in my life that shaped my initial belief system. 

Worrywarts habitually travel down a dark, long, narrow road replete with obstacles such as fear, all-or-nothing thinking, and other cognitive distortions. Yet, what I know is this. We can change our lives by changing our thinking. We can change our outcomes by exploring those habitudes that don't serve us and by be willing to do the work to strengthen the habitudes that do serve us and create more positive thought patterns. 

We can travel a different road, enlightened by understanding and widened by a willingness and desire to explore the realm of possibilities. You can change your thinking, change your patterns, and change your life. I know this because I did.
~ Rita

PS Want to learn more about changing your Habitudes? Check out my Live Online Talks! 

Wednesday, February 1, 2023

Are.You Feeling Challenged By Obstacles?

Are you feeling challenged by obstacles? Are you clear as to what that "thing" is that is preventing or hindering your progress?

I view any obstacle that gets in my way as an opportunity to learn something new. It's not always an easy lesson. And sometimes the learning of the lesson takes time, patience, and reflection.

Changing the way we think about obstacles effects our success rate for as the Zen Buddhists say, "The obstacle is the path." To begin, we have to identify the type and source of the obstacle. Ask yourself: Do you view the obstacle metaphorically as a pebble, a rock, or a boulder? Is it external or internal?

External obstacles are those things outside of your control, such as environment, money, physical limitations. Yet, because they are external does not mean you should give up. What is always in your control is how you choose to respond (cognitively) not react (emotionally) to the challenge.

Internal obstacles are things such as fear, self-doubt, and what I call your Habitudes -- Patterns of thought and behavior affecting our attitudes towards life; habitual ways of thinking and acting that may or may not serve you.

Our beliefs and thoughts about a situation affect our reaction to it. The way we think about things can actually give things more meaning than they actually deserve. By giving meaning to things, we give them power in our lives. That's why I asked you to think metaphorically about the obstacle. What is its size? How easily, based on that size - pebble, rock, boulder -- can you remove it from your pathway?

"Obstacles don't have to stop you," said Michael Jordan. "If you run into a wall, don't turn around and give up. Figure out how to climb it, go through it, or work around it."

Wednesday, January 25, 2023

Serenity Now!

 Most people upon hearing the words "serenity now!" recall the famous Seinfeld episode where Frank Costanza is advised to say "serenity now" aloud every time his blood pressure is in danger of going up. The episode's plot was inspired by real-life events of writer Steve Koren who, while driving with his arguing parents, was bewildered to hear his father shout "Serenity now" at the top of his lungs as part of a rage controlling exercise. 

"Calmness of mind" James Allen wrote, "is one of the beautiful jewels of wisdom. It is the result of long and patient effort in self-control." Like Frank Costanza screaming "serenity now," a churning mind eventually may lead one to blow.  

Often we become anxious about things we cannot change: the economy, the weather, our commute to work. Recognizing the difference between what we can and cannot change can help us live more peaceful and productive lives. Patience and perseverance leads to success in our endeavors.

The Serenity Prayer has special meaning to those who are often looking for peace during times of turmoil, despair, or uncertainty in their lives. Closely associated with Alcoholics Anonymous and other 12-step programs, the Serenity Prayer offers strength and calm into those seeking a more stable life. Written by theologian Reinhold Niebuhr, most people are familiar with this first stanza: 

God grant me the serenity 
to accept the things I cannot change; 
the courage to change the things I can; 
and the wisdom to know the difference.

However, Niebuhr's prayer also included these concepts:
  • Living one day at a time
  • Enjoying one moment at a time
  • Accepting hardships as the pathway to peace
Managing stress is a pathway to having serenity now. Meditation and mindful prayer help the mind and the body to relax and focus. As psychologist Ron Breazeale wrote in an article for Psychology Today entitled "WaysTo Manage Chronic Stress, "these techniques can give you "insight into new perspectives, to develop self-compassion and forgiveness and to begin to rethink the priorities in your life."

Here are a few ABCs to bring serenity into your life now:

Ask:  . . . yourself this question -- What is it about this situation that I can manage?

Breathe: Stop and take 10 mindful breaths. Nothing special is required to do so, just focus. Be aware of your breath coming in and then going out.

Connect:  . . . with a friend. Don’t e-mail or text. Pick up the phone and hear his or her voice. Better yet, plan some face time together. (That's Face time as in getting together, not Facebook time!) 

Do: … absolutely nothing! Spend time with yourself, your thoughts, your dreams.

Exercise: Go for a walk, a bike ride, kayak down a peaceful.

Forgive: . . . yourself first, then others.