Moving Beyond Limitations

Most of us carry old stories from our childhood. As small beings on this planet, we watched our families and other important people in our lives for input about how we needed to act to get the love and attention we instinctively knew were critical for our survival. In the process of figuring out how to get and keep our early caregivers’ approval, we accepted information we were told—about our personality flaws, the nature of other people, or the way “the world works” as true. Three most common, self- limiting stories The late Debbie Ford suggests that information we gained in childhood solidifies into one of three core stories we come to tell about ourselves—“I’m not good enough”, “I might be abandoned or rejected”, and” I can’t trust” (people, life, God.)  Those stories, carried into adulthood, are at the basis of the limitations we set on our lives as well as at the core of the relationship and career issues we face. Think about it for a minute.  Do you hesitate to ask for what you want? That is likely the story that “I’m not good enough” to have what I want or “I’m afraid I’ll be abandoned or rejected” if I ask for anything.  Do you find yourself micromanaging or controlling others actions? That often is an “I can’t trust” story. Moving away When those self-limiting stories are triggered by an event or another individual, they typically bring strong feelings of anxiety, fear, or perhaps anger with them.  Because those feelings are so uncomfortable, we learned ways to make them go away—by stopping what we are doing and...

Resilience: Building The Ability to Bounce Back

Where did this come from? I pointed to a note someone had left in my husband Vito’s ICU unit where he was lying paralyzed. A serious case of Guillain-Barré, a neurological disease that attacks the myelin sheath around nerves, had rendered his body’s nerves useless. I had gone out to grab a quick lunch only to come back to find a yellow post-it note with some words scrawled on it. Who left this? I asked as I re-read the quote, beginning to tear up. The words landed squarely in a well of vulnerability and need that I hadn’t yet named. Despite my outward facade of having it all handled, I really needed to hear those words. That quote meant someone believed in our family’s ability to handle this latest gut punch, even if I was feeling kind of shaky. The ICU nurse smiled and said that Dr. Jason Litten-our son Nick’s oncologist-had dropped by. He only had a short break from his own duties, but wanted to see Vito and spend some time with him. Jason was especially important to our family. He had been the lead on Nick’s oncology team from the moment that Nick was diagnosed at age sixteen and had seen us through some really hard times. It was precisely that knowledge of who we were as a family and what we had gone through that made his words so powerful. He believed in us and in our ability to get through this. But even more than that – Jason held up a mirror so that we could see it ourselves – our own resilience. He...

Going From Bad to Better: The Gratitude Strategy

Focus on the positive. It’s hard to believe that a serious life crisis and the word “blessing” would come in the same sentence. When my son and husband had cancer, idea of looking for something positive in our family’s experiences probably seemed hyper-religious or Pollyanaish in the extreme to some people. Spiritually, I viewed it as a form of radical surrender to an organizing framework of my life; practically, it kept me sane. Tune down the victim thinking. Leaving behind the “poor me” mentality meant walking away from the norm. After all, my family was going through hell. Didn’t I deserve to throw myself a pity party and invite a few friends? Yet, as comforting as it seemed initially to wrap myself up in the cold comfort of victim thinking or anxiety, or as easy as it was to allow the fears take over my day, I always came away from those internal, negative conversations wearier than before. And I couldn’t afford to add to my exhaustion. So, logically, anything I could do to grow the positive in my life made more sense to me than focusing on the negative. I needed all the infusions of energy I could get and I found that looking for and counting my blessings filled me up. Gratitude turned out to be the best antidote I could find for fatigue, anxiety, self-doubt and dread. Cultivate gratitude. Research bears the importance of gratitude. The Greater Good Science Center, citing the research of more than 30 scientists and graduate students, has found that gratitude impacts not only our emotions with increased happiness, joy, optimism, compassion,...

Going From Bad To Better, Part 2

Recently my client, Christine, called for an emergency session. Her business was in danger of going under and she couldn’t think straight. The mind monkeys, those fearful and critical thoughts that can chatter incessantly in our heads, were distracting her from problem solving a way out of her predicament. When she showed up for her appointment the next day, it was obvious that she hadn’t slept well. Christine was living on fear-fueled adrenaline, unable to light anywhere long enough to see past the fear. What’s the worst thing that could happen to you? I asked her after she brought me up to speed on what had been happening since our last appointment. Christine responded with a litany of the potential but terrifying personal and financial outcomes that had been tap dancing through her brain for the last week. Interestingly though, as we talked through each one of those scenarios—ranging from owing a huge debt to having to stay in a loveless marriage—we uncovered some important truths hidden underneath all of the awful possibilities that her mind had been busily fabricating: She had an amazing work ethic and an engaging, positive personality—she could get a job and work off the debt if necessary. Her parents and friends were very supportive and would give her a place to live, if she needed it. She had some options and resources she hadn’t explored yet that might allow her to sell her business and clear her debt. She’d been through a lot worse and survived. She could make it through this crisis Christine had been so caught up in her fears that she...

Five Ways Your Crisis May Be Changing Your Life—For The Better!

“Where there is ruin, there is hope for a treasure.” ― Rumi What? My crisis has an upside ?? What kind of do-gooder, Pollyanna optimism is that? Don’t get me wrong. Every single crisis I have ever been through was heart wrenching, scary, and kept me awake on numerous nights when I desperately needed sleep. I don’t like crises. In fact, I coined a little acronym for them that explains just how much I would like to avoid them. I call them AFGOs, which stands for Another Frickin’ Growth Opportunity. And yet…..I grew. From every single one of them. Sometimes the growth was exponential—like finally seeing just how strong I was when my son and husband both had cancer within the space of three years. Other times, it was only in retrospect that I saw the impact of the crisis—the ability to buckle down and study in order to graduate with my MBA (something that was in doubt after the first two semesters in grad school.) So, what are some gifts that come from crisis? Researchers in post traumatic growth have found five areas where many people report a positive change in their lives, in the aftermath of a disaster or crisis: 1) Greater appreciation of self. While I owned, finally, the strength and resilience that others had always seen in me, my clients have had similar realizations. Angela (name changed) discovered just how good her business instincts and decisions were when her husband was incarcerated. She handed over the creative side of the business to others and began handling the day to day running of the company. In...
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