Category Archives: Letting Go

Our Everloving Quest to Control Our Lives

~ Zen Habits By Leo Babauta ~

By Leo Babauta

Almost our entire lives are spent in a quest to gain control, security and comfort in our lives. Unfortunately, we never really get it, so we keep trying, relentlessly.

This is the main activity of our lives.

What would happen if we stopped?

We could be less restricted by fear, less anxious, less driven by the need for comfort … and more in love with life as it is.

You might be surprised by how much we strive for control.

The Ways We Try to Get Control

The basic nature of live is that it is everchanging, uncontrollable. When we think we have stability in life, something comes up to remind us that no, we don’t. There is no stability, no matter how much we’d like it.

And this kinda freaks us out. We don’t like this feeling of instability, of loss of control. So we do things to cope, out of love for ourselves. These are strategies for control, security and comfort.

Some examples among many:

  • We go on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Reddit, Pinterest, because doing so is comfortable and feels like we know what we’re doing (a feeling of certainty, of things under control).
  • We make a to-do list or even try out an entire productivity or organizational system, because it feels like we’re getting things under control.
  • We clean, or declutter, or organize our desks.
  • We tackle email, because it’s out of control, and getting it under control sounds much less anxiety-inducing.
  • We procrastinate on a project that fills us with uncertainty, and procrastinate with our favorite distractions, which have less uncertainty for us.
  • We get frustrated with other people, even angry, because they’re acting in a way we don’t like (we don’t control that part of our lives, and it’s difficult for us) … so creating a story in our minds about how horrible they are and how right we are and how life would be better if they just did X, helps us to feel under control.
  • We try to organize the apps on our phone, to avoid dealing with our feelings of difficulty.
  • We plan, plan, plan. On paper, in our minds. Everything feels under control when we plan.
  • We research, google things, so we feel we’re gaining control over a topic.
  • We buy books to gain control over a topic.
  • We sign up for classes.
  • We make resolutions and goals and bucket lists.
  • We create systems.
  • We try to gain control over our health by creating a diet and workout plan.
  • Shopping feels comfortable.
  • Eating for comfort.
  • Drugs make us feel like we’re controlling our state of mind, including alcohol.

There are thousands more examples. Examine everything you do with this lens: is this activity a strategy to somehow gain control?

Now, I’m not saying these strategies are bad. They help us cope with difficult feelings. Some of them result in a healthy life. They all come from a place of love.

But it is good to be aware of this need for control, and perhaps this awareness can even help us free ourselves.

Why These Attempts at Control Keep Failing

So we do everything above, all day long, when things are feeling uncertain, uncomfortable, out of control, unsafe. They are strategies for control, security, comfort.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t work.

Let’s say you make a to-do list and a plan to make yourself feel under control. Now you have to do the first thing on the list. But this makes you feel uncertain, because it’s a difficult task and you don’t know if you can do it. So you go to the easier things on the list … but the difficult task is still there, just put off for a bit, and you feel bad about it.

Eventually you run to distractions, or check your email, so you don’t have to do the task. Or you start cleaning up around your desk. You make some calls. The feeling is still there, though, in the back of your mind. None of the strategies work.

Or take another scenario: you’re feeling lonely. You don’t want to face this feeling, because it’s uncomfortable and you don’t feel under control. So you eat. Or you shop online. Or you watch TV, porn, Youtube. The feeling doesn’t go away. So you do it again. Or you turn to alcohol or drugs.

Maybe you get everything under control — you’re organized, have systems for everything, are spot-on with your productivity, have only healthy habits. Congratulations! You win! Except, things keep coming up that are ruining your perfect palace of control. You get anxiety until you deal with these things, and get control back. But when you were doing that, more things came up. People are calling, emailing, interrupting you, and you get irritated often because everything is getting messy. Your OCD is not resulting in a feeling of comfort and control, but just the opposite.

Finally, consider that you might feel things are stable, but then someone dies, you get injured or sick, a family crisis happens, you company goes into crisis mode, there’s a crisis in your country. Things are never under control, so you feel anguish because you thought you had stability.

Luckily, we have another way.

The Mindful Way

If life is uncontrollable, and because we don’t like the feeling of being out of control, we do all kinds of things to seek control … but it doesn’t work … what alternative is there?

We can practice mindfulness, and learn to accept the uncontrollable nature of each moment.

Start by just sitting still, and try to pay attention to the sensations of this moment, around you and in your body and even in your mind. Just notice what’s going on.

Then notice that your mind wants to run, to planning or worrying or getting a grasp on things. We run from this unknown, uncontrollable moment to a strategy of control.

Notice this urge to run, to control … and don’t act. Do nothing. Just observe, taking no action.

Notice how this feeling of being out of control feels. Where is this feeling located in your body? What is the sensation of it in your body? Is it one thing, or changing? Investigate with curiosity.

Be still with this sensation in your body. Practice with this a little at a time, for days, for weeks. You’ll start to get to know it intimately.

And then it won’t be so bad. You’ll learn to sit with this feeling of out-of-controlledness, and be OK with it. You’ll learn to trust in this moment, not to lead to an outcome you want (control!), but to turn out just fine.

You’ll need to do fewer things to get under control, to get comfort. You’ll still do some of them, because no one ever truly masters this (control!), but you’ll need it less.

And then what? What’s left when we don’t try to control? Love. We still act, but not out of a need for control. We act out of love for others and ourselves.

This is the other way.

The Expectation Filter

~ Prepare-Enrich.com ~

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Let’s say there’s going to be a party.

Expectation A: You’ve been looking forward to it for weeks, building it up to epic proportions in your mind. All of your friends are going to be there, you’ll get to wear that new outfit, and it’s at that new, trendy place in town so the food, drinks, and ambience will be fantastic!

Let’s say there’s going to be a party.

Expectation B: You’ve been dreading it for weeks, wishing you could come up with a plausible excuse to get out of it. You probably won’t know anyone, you have nothing to wear, and it’s at that new, trendy place in town so it will probably be crowded, expensive, and parking will be terrible.

Reality: So the party was last night. Some of your friends were there, but a few didn’t make it. No one seemed too preoccupied with attire—some people dressed up and some didn’t. You were a few minutes late trying to find a parking spot, but you found one relatively close by. The food and drinks were moderately priced and relatively tasty, but nothing exceptional.

Based on the two sets of expectations above, how do you think you’d feel about the party at the end of the night?

The party was what it was. You couldn’t control how it turned out simply because of what you expected from it, and it didn’t change itself to match or defy your own expectations. Instead, your expectations affected how you perceived the quality of the party and your overall experience.

Now think about your relationship with your partner. Have you ever let unrealistic expectations influence your perception of him/her or of the relationship itself?  Whether they are expectations that we set explicitly or the ones that creep in subconsciously, unrealistic (and/or uncommunicated) expectations not only prevent us from experiencing things as they are, but they also distract us from truly appreciating the good in a situation. You might fail to appreciate the thought and effort your partner put into cooking dinner just because it didn’t turn out perfectly, or overlook the fact that you can still talk late into the night because you still bicker about those certain topics. Perhaps you take for granted the way your partner always remembers to buy your favorite cereal because he/she still leaves the dishes in the sink instead of putting them in the dishwasher.

Many times I have found myself getting angry or upset with my spouse, only to realize that the true reason for my feelings was that the expectations I had created in my mind had not been met. Of course, being that I’d never actually communicated these expectations to my husband, let alone based them in reality, it would be unfair to be angry with him as a result. I’m a person who likes things to go the way I plan, and when that plan is diverged from, I tend to get irritated. But this is on me, not on him. I am definitely not perfect, but I’ve learned to check myself before blurting out a knee-jerk reaction of annoyance. By remembering to remove my “expectation filter,” I can better appreciate my reality.

Change Your Story to Change Your Life

~ Zen Habits By Leo Babauta ~

By Leo Babauta

Whenever we undertake a new change in our lives — whether it’s starting a new job or business, or changing a new habit — we tell ourselves a story about it.

We’re the hero of our story. Unfortunately, it’s not usually a very good story — it involves the hero not believing he or she can do it, wanting to give up and give in to the easy route.

Imagine if the great stories of all time went along the lines of our stories:

  • Harry Potter doesn’t fight Voldemort because it’s too hard and anyway, he just wants to play games and go on Reddit.
  • Odysseus decides not to make the journey home because he knows himself — he’s just going to give up, and anyway, isn’t the siren’s call of Facebook/Instagram too strong?
  • Don Quixote never ventures out for adventure on his brave steed Rocinante, because he doesn’t think he can do it, and instead stays home with his books of romance.
  • Frodo heads back to the Shire, because he believes he doesn’t have enough discipline to stick with something very long.

These would be horrible stories, wouldn’t they? Who would root for these dudes?

The story we tell ourselves goes along these lines. They’re different for each of us, but if we’re not succeeding at something, it’s quite probably because we are telling ourselves the wrong story.

Try it now: think of a habit change you’re trying to make or that you’ve tried but failed at in the recent past. Maybe exercise, meditation, writing, defeating procrastination, etc. Now think about what story you told yourself about yourself. What image did you see in your head of yourself? Was it a brave hero triumphing over all odds, never to be deterred by the forces marshalled against him by the cold harsh universe? Or was it of an ordinary character who probably would give in to the donuts and Netflix when things got hard?

Maybe you can’t hear the story you’ve told yourself. Instead, try to sense what feeling is in your heart as you think of yourself conquering this new habit change or life change. Does it feel full of doubt, anxiety, fear, dread? Or is it full of joy, triumph, deep caring? The song you’re singing to yourself (unnoticed by you) is of that note, that chord that you’re feeling in your heartstrings.

We fail because of this story. It stands in our way, more than the actual thing we’re facing. When things get tough or uncomfortable, we tell ourselves: it’s OK to quit, it doesn’t matter, we’ll do it next time, we’re not disciplined enough, we suck at this, we can’t do it, it’s too hard, it would be nice to take a break, life is too short to struggle, we deserve a reward, just this once won’t matter, we’re going to fail, it’s better to fail quietly, we just don’t feel like it right now, let’s not think about this, hey a squirrel!

So what can we do if our story is working against us?

Change the damn story. Create a song to sing about yourself as the epic hero of your dreams. Sing this song daily, and be proud of it. Go after the dream, fight the forces of distraction and dullness and self-doubt, rise up to be your best self. You are the writer of your story, the composer of your song, and every moment is a chance to rewrite it, a new draft ready to be crafted into something better.

Or drop the story. See that without the story telling you that you can’t or shouldn’t do something … there’s just the physical reality of the world around you, no quitter and no hero. Just you and this moment, and it’s a good moment, and without the distraction of a story, you have a basic underlying goodness and love in your heart. That’s all you need: just take this love in your heart and be happy, and do the things that are compassionate for yourself. The struggles you’ve been up against can all go away if you relax them and turn to the goodness of this moment, and take a loving step.

6 Ways to Create an Awesome 2016

~ Zen Habits By Leo Babauta ~

By Leo Babauta

It’s the start of a new year, and like me, you’re filled with optimism.

A new year is like a blank slate, and you can fill it with whatever you want!

Unfortunately, most people make a bunch of resolutions and then let them fizzle out by the end of the first month or so. How can we overcome this, and keep our motivation throughout the year to make it as awesome as it can be?

I’m going to offer some ideas to consider. You don’t have to do all of these, but pick a couple and most importantly, put them into action!

  1. Monthly challenges with weekly focuses. The problem with a year-long resolution is almost no one can really stay focused for an entire year. But if you break it into monthly challenges, then it’s much more doable. For example, if you want to get into shape, do a January challenge to go for a walk every day, or run three days a week. Even better: break the month-long challenge into weekly focuses … so you just have to run for three days this week. Then another focus the next week, etc. Once the first month is over, take what you learned and use that to shape your next month’s challenge.
  2. Make someone else pay for your failure. This is a really powerful form of motivation. Set a challenge for yourself for a month, and if you fail, then a friend agrees to have something bad happen to her or him. For example, if you don’t run three times a week for the month of January, then your friend Amit gets an ice bucket dumped on him. Or your wife has to go three days without her phone. Obviously your friends have to agree to the consequence, but you can agree to be each other’s consequence, and pick a consequence you’d be unhappy about but willing to do. This is much more powerful than if the consequence of your failure happens to you, because you really don’t want to be the cause of someone else’s misfortune.
  3. Make someone else benefit from your success. This is just the reverse of the previous idea … if you succeed at your monthly challenge, then a friend gets to have something nice happen to him or her. This is really nice, because you will be motivated to make someone else happy.
  4. Start with mindfulness training. I’ve found mindfulness to be the foundational habit, because it gives you some key tools for forming all other habits. If you do mindfulness training for a month or more, you’ll have the skills you need to not fail at other habits you want to create for the rest of the year. For example, you’ll be able to see your urges and rationalizations, instead of being controlled by them. You’ll be able to mindfully put yourself in the space you want to focus on creating something, or for doing a workout. Join my Sea Change Program today to be a part of my 6-week mindfulness course that’s starting today!
  5. Find your accountability crew. It’s possible to stick to changes on your own, but having a group of friends doing it with you is incredibly effective. Find people who want to make changes too, and agree to hold each other accountable. Use an online spreadsheet to keep track of how you’re doing each day or week, and set consequences (see above) if you fail or succeed. Don’t let your crew fall off track!
  6. Make small changes. Instead of trying to change everything at once, and making drastic changes … try to make smaller ones that will gradually end up as big changes over the course of a year. So instead of trying to work out for an hour a day, try just a few minutes each day. This allows you to fit the new habit into your life easily, and as you gradually increase the changes one small step at a time, your mind won’t rebel against the change because it’s not too far outside your comfort zone. If you want to eat better, add one vegetable to your meal each week, instead of going on a drastic diet.
  7. Be curious. Instead of failing and then thinking, “I suck,” don’t think of your changes as “fail” or “succeed.” Instead, think of it as a learning process, and no matter how you do, you’re learning something. Each failure is just another data point, another way to find out what works. This is a flexible mindset of curiosity, of wanting to find out, rather than thinking you have all the answers. This allows you to deal with any obstacles or changes that come up, because you’re not fixed on one outcome, but instead are curious about how things work and what might be possible.

If you’d like to join my 6-week mindfulness course, I encourage you to sign up today!

An Affair You Don’t Want to Remember

shutterstock_189123707Have you had an affair?

When an affair happens in a marriage, it can be devastating. When coaching couples to help save a marriage and survive an affair, I admire the strategies laid out by Dr. Willard F. Harley, Jr., author of the internationally best selling book, His Needs, Her Needs: Building An Affair-proof Marriage.

His belief maintains that an affair is much like an addiction and it’s recovery needs to be treated as seriously and comprehensively as one would treat any other unhealthy addiction.

Dr. Harley states, “There are three parts to the way affairs should end.

1. The first part is revealing the affair to one’s spouse,

2. The second part is never seeing or communicating with the lover again,

3. And the third part is getting through symptoms of withdrawal after a permanent separation takes place.”

Coaching couples through this process means facing strong feelings and withdrawal symptoms, but it also provides spouses a good opportunity to learn to meet each other’s needs.

Affairs happen when emotional needs are not being met and the only road to recovery is to find out more about each other’s most important emotional needs and how to meet them. These proven strategies have worked for many.

Want to learn more? Visit marriagebuilders.com. As always, I am here to help and can answer any questions you may have. Helping couples survive affairs is some of my most rewarding work.

Doing My Best To…

Live Life On Purpose

Terri Mudge

Falling Up

bk2vKH4-cropOh No! I screwed up again!

I screwed up again, and now I have self doubt and worry settling in, then I found these words from an online blogger that helped me handle the difficult feelings.

From Scott Dinsmore:
“Every screw up gets you closer to your masterpiece. Make mistakes as often as you can. Start falling.”

“Make lots of mistakes, and you will get closer to your goal!”

I love this. And, I can relate to this, too. I have made plenty of mistakes, and expect I will continue to do so.

And, I might even try to make more mistakes now. Really, if it gets me closer to where I’m headed, why not?

Ok, well, here’s why not? Because it doesn’t feel good. It feels like crap to have regret, and you just want to crawl into a hole.  I certainly don’t want more of that. I have done my share of hiding out or avoiding, and when I do, my life gets smaller. I miss out on relationships, on opportunities, on more fully living life.

I don’t know if other people notice my hiding, I’m sure some have, but sometimes I think I am getting away with it. I am just a quiet person, so I think that I can just go on with my life, but just be there and not say anything and people won’t notice. Well, this hurts me in the long run. It prevents me from building relationships as I would like, it causes me to miss opportunities by being so wrapped up in what I need to say, or thoughts of what others are thinking, or what I need to do next. I miss the chance to share, to connect, to be IN my life instead of living like a by-stander.

But, what this idea liberates me to do, is to go ahead and get out there, and when I mess up, as is inevitable, then I can see this as the growth opportunity that it is! Screwing up may not be so bad after all.

Try this on for size! Instead of being sad about falling down, take a deep breath and realize you are really falling UP!

Doing my best to Live Life on Purpose!

Terri Mudge

Woulda-coulda-shouldaWoulda-Coulda-Shoulda is a poem by Shel Silverstein from his book, Falling Up, a poetry collection filled with illustrations, drawn by the author.

Driving on Ice

Snow street scenesIn many parts of the country, this has been a brutal winter…

Even in our part of the world, we have been putting up with more cold then we are accustomed to.

So, if you happen to find yourself driving on ice, what do you have to do to stay on the road?  Well, if you just put your foot on the brake, and don’t let go, then you will likely slide and cause an unsafe condition.

What I learned is this:
“Trying harder is not always the answer.  It can even make things worse.”

Swimming against a rip tide holds a similar result. If you swim directly towards the shore, you will wear yourself out and then you will be unable to safely return to shore. Instead, a method of going along with, letting go, and moving into the current with minor adjustments to swim across the tide. is a much more effective means of survival.

In relationships, “Trying too hard” can be equally damaging. Such as “trying too hard to talk things out,” if you are both frustrated, angry, and stuck in your way of thinking. This can cause you both to just dig your heels in, and not hear what the other is saying.

With children, when we try to make them listen to our rationale and do things our way, it is sometimes much harder than it’s worth. It can also make for a very unpleasant interaction, that may have been avoided. Therefore, the age-old advice to: “Pick your battles,” holds true.

So, what I see as a possible solution is to keep in mind the overall goal. For example, when arguing with a spouse, child or parent, ask yourself “what is the real meaning of this relationship? Is it to get something from the other person, or is it to share a life together, to connect, to encourage growth?”

And if we are keeping these values in mind: connection, sharing, growth, then how does this current behavior of “demanding that this person change” fit in with the over-arching goal? Is it working for you to pressure someone to change?

So, the question is not, “Is it the right/wrong thing to do or say?” or even, “Is this working to change the behavior or not?” but, “How does it impact our goal for growth, sharing and connecting in the relationship with the individual?”

I hope this helps us to let go of the need to try to fix it all, and lighten up and allow others to be the imperfect people that they are. And while we’re at it, maybe we could allow ourselves to be imperfect too.

Doing My Best to…  Live Life on Purpose!

Terri Mudge

Acceptance


“It’s Always Something.   If it isn’t one thing, it’s another.” 

 

It's Always Something.  If it isn't one thing, it's another.

It’s Always Something. If it isn’t one thing, it’s another.

Do you remember this line from the late, Roseanne Roseannadanna?       I love it, and use it often to cope with the annoyances that come up daily.  It helps me to add humor to the frustration of it all.

Or, there’s this favorite quote, “It is what it is.”

So, what’s it all about, this Acceptance of things that are here.   Well, they are here anyway, so we might as well Allow them to be here.

But, “I don’t want it!!!”, you say.  And of course you don’t, who would?  You aren’t a glutton for punishment.  You don’t want to be suffering.  You want things to be different.  And, maybe you have tried over and over to make things different, and it’s not working.  You are stuck.    Yes, Stuck, icky, sticky, Yuck, Stuck…   Stuck in our lives, stuck in our patterns, stuck in a pile of mud.. .

I was stuck in a pile of mud, a while back, during last hunting season, on a long, deserted road, somewhere in Alabama.  I was on the way to a hunting camp at night, with my 2 young children in the car, and no husband (he was there waiting for us).  We were stuck… and … scared.

Have you ever gone out into the country on a long, desolate road, and then stopped the car and  turned your lights off…. Whoaah.. . that is dark…. And  quiet…  and Scary…   Well, you don’t have much time to sit and worry, when the 2 children begin to speak their minds, “Mommy, what are we going to do?  Mommy we are going to be stuck here forever.   Mommy, we might die here.  Mommy, AAAAAaaaaaAAAHH!  Do Something!”   And on it went.

And needless to say, their little voices did not do much to soothe my discomfort, except that this did inspire me to realize that If I didn’t do something different, we were all going to soon be in a car full of screaming, and that sounded even more miserable than what we were already dealing with.

So, I switched over to positive, hopeful talk.  I stepped out of the car to assess the situation…  and dropped down into a very gooey pile of mud.  And, I then got up and kept on going… looking for a solution, a board of some kind, anything to help.  Not finding much, I went to the road, in hopes of informing a passerby that we could use a hand.  And quite soon, a man with a work truck on his way home from a long day, stopped to assist.  He had some straps and he tied them to my car, then we pulled, and pulled….Snap goes the strap….and, oh no, what else do we have?  He found another option, a safety harness, and he tied this on, and we pulled, and pulled.  Slowly, my wheels started to get unstuck, and then we were pulled out into the road.

Yay!!!   Everyone cheered, everyone thanked the kind man profusely.  Everyone is happy!!  And, if it was only that easy in real life.    Sometimes it is that easy, and we just need a boost.    We just need some help to get pulled out of the muck.  And sometimes we need to be stuck a little longer, to learn a lesson of some kind.  And, until we learn our lesson, we may remain stuck.   And, we can do lots of screaming while we are there, but that doesn’t do much to solve the problem?  Or does that just make it more miserable for ourselves and for others while we are there?

What if we try another approach, when we have tried many options, maybe all of the options, and nothing is giving way?  What if we chose the “Acceptance stance”?

It looks like this… If you find yourself in quicksand, what is the best way out?  Well, it turns out, that, struggling with it, only makes it worse.  You sink deeper.  But, if you move slowly, and stretch out your arms and lay back, relaxing, then you can float.   You don’t like it, you don’t want to be there, but if you just rest into it, relax, and allow, then it will become easier.

Struggle, cussing and fussing, only increases our suffering.  So, let’s all slow down, take a long deep breath, allow ‘It’ to be as ‘it’ is..,    and ….   hope that someone comes along to pull us out of the mud.

Doing my best to ..   Live Life On Purpose….  Terri Mudge