Monday, October 20, 2014

Your Big But


In the 1985 movie Pee Wee’s Big Adventure, Simone is telling Pee Wee about her dreams of living in Paris. She finishes her story with, “…but, ” and then tells him that Andy, her controlling boyfriend, will never let her go. Pee Wee responds with the classic line, “Everyone I know has a big but.” Pee Wee makes a good point.
 

I was reminded of this recently during a coaching session. My client and I were working on aligning him towards his ideal job, and throughout the conversation he kept saying, “…but I don’t think I can do (this) or (that),” or, “...but they probably won’t hire me because…” As our session progressed, I watched his but get bigger and bigger. As his doubts increased, so did his but.

So what's up with the big but? Why the doubt? And where do our big buts come from?

First, let’s look to science. In his book, The Mindful Path to Self-Compassion, Dr. Christopher Germer states, “We have evolved for survival, not happiness, and thus have a natural tendency to focus on the negative.” Considering that our brains are naturally hardwired for problem-solving, sticking our but into everything comes naturally. Just call it pragmatic contingency planning. All fine and dandy until your but gets too big—then it just slows you down. When doubt and pessimism become your default setting, you end up dragging your but wherever you go.

Why We But In:
•    Protecting a belief system (covering your but)
•    Avoiding disappointment (saving your but)
•    Fear of re-occurrence (but it happened before…)
•    Bad habits (unaware we're being a but head)

So how do you lose your but? You don’t. However, you can reduce your but size.

Tips on Butting Out:
•    Eliminate doubt by trusting the process
•    Release the need to control outcomes
•    Change your default setting to optimistic
•    Do what you can, and then it let go

Finally, pay attention to feedback from others. Try having a friend or coworker call you out on your but. And the next time you’re feeling doubt you can ask them, “Does my but look big to you? Really, you can tell me. I trust you.”

To Your Better Balance!




Michael Thomas Sunnarborg
 

Find better balance in your work, relationships, and life. 
Visit 21daystobetterbalance.com to learn more. And look for the new trilogy book, 21 Days, Steps & Keys launching November 1, 2014. Get all three books in one!

Michael Thomas Sunnarborg is an educator, author, and life coach, who helps people reclaim their power of choice to find better balance and happiness in their work, relationships, and life. You can reach him at michael@sunnarborg.com


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Friday, October 10, 2014

Free Book, Anyone?

To celebrate the upcoming release of: 21 Days, Steps & Keys: The Complete Book Series to Better Balance, I am giving away 5 personally-signed copies on Goodreads. The giveaway starts runs from October 10-November 10, 2014, so be sure to click the link below and register today to win your copy!


Goodreads Book Giveaway

21 Days, Steps & Keys by Michael Thomas Sunnarborg

21 Days, Steps & Keys

by Michael Thomas Sunnarborg

Giveaway ends November 10, 2014.
See the giveaway details at Goodreads.
Enter to win

Monday, October 6, 2014

A New OCD


This past weekend I attended the wedding of my very dear friends, Shawn & Kathleen, in Los Angeles. After I’d arrived, Shawn asked me, “So how was your trip from Minnesota?” “Well, it was actually a bit challenging,” I replied. “First, I forgot your wedding present in the airport bathroom; then I left my phone on the plane in Phoenix; and when I arrived at LAX, I wasn’t even out of the Hertz parking lot when I got in an accident with the rental car. But other than that, I’m doing well!” As you could imagine, Shawn’s face was frozen in state of surprise, and all he could say was, “WHAAAT??”

Yes, “a bit challenging” would have been an understatement if I hadn’t been so calm. How could I be calm? Because I practiced what I affectionately call, the “New OCD”.  Allow me to explain.

With all of the distractions of our mainstream culture via social media and the explosion of technology, the clinical term OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder) has become as common as ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder)—words that have now entered our social vernacular. Although OCD refers to extreme activities or excessive behaviors that are based in “intrusive thoughts” that produce fear and worry, it is more serious than just a personality quirk. People with OCD often need medical and psychological help.

Our thoughts and feelings can rule (and ultimately, "ruin") our lives. The only way to transform our automatic programming—which comes from years and years of our own experiences—is to release the connections to our triggers and patterns by releasing the belief that we are the thoughts and feelings that we experience. The largest part of this process includes becoming the "observer" or our fears rather than allowing them to trigger us into unconscious, and often destructive, behaviors. There are only two responses you can have to your thoughts and feelings: resistance or allowance. When you resist something, it continues to exist. But when you learn to allow things to come up and pass through you, they will eventually fade away. In his book, The Untethered Soul, Michael Singer does an extraordinary job of explaining this. I highly recommend the book if you’re ready for real change.

So in my life, I decided to learn how to manage my thoughts and feelings in a way that felt healthy to me. Now, whenever my emotions are triggered, I think a different OCD:   

1)  Observe. Step one is to observe what's happening. Be conscious. Be awake. Pay attention to what triggers your emotions. It may be a person, a smell, or even something simple like a song, but notice your immediate reactions. What just happened? What thoughts or feelings came up? What is happening when you are suddenly feeling anger? Sadness? Confusion? Stress?

2)  Contain. Step two is to contain the situation. Hold the event as a single moment, whether it has triggered something from the past or the present (or even the future if it’s something you’re worrying about that hasn’t happened yet). Treat the event as exactly what it is. Avoid connecting it with anything or anyone else. Just hold it right there.

3)  Detach. The third and final step is to detach from the thoughts or feelings. Know that even though you are experiencing them, THEY ARE NOT YOU. Become the detached observer of the event. Through your observation, quickly notice your reaction and then stop and carefully choose your response. Resist the temptation to let the emotion take over your power of choice and send you “off and running”.  Emotions are very melodramatic. Can you stay present and not allow this energy to take you away? Can you open your heart and allow yourself to face this fear? Can you walk through it instead of avoiding it?

Some Tips:

  • Time is critical. When something comes up, you need to immediately implement OCD—the sooner the better. Stay conscious. Focus. Breathe.
  • Practice OCD. How does it work for you? What comes up? When do you stay focused and when is it more difficult?
  • Make it a game to see if you can do it! Challenge yourself to see if you can get better at it each time something comes up.
Remember that reacting is natural, but responding is thoughtful. A deliberate response can be much healthier than a reactive one. Take the time to choose your responses wisely and see the results. With some practice, you will find that practicing OCD will allow you to move through any type of crisis quickly and seamlessly. It will take some work at first, but you will get better with time.

So what resulted from my “challenging" day? Minutes after I realized I’d lost the bag containing Shawn’s wedding present, I heard an announcement on the airport PA system, “If you are the owner of a gray Johnston & Murphy bag, it was found in the Men’s restroom and can be claimed at Gate 21”; as for my phone left on the plane, the Gate Agent was happy to go back onto the plane and find it for me so I could make my connecting flight; and the fender bender? Ah, that’s why we have insurance. I filled out an accident report and 15 minutes later I was on the 405 with my new rental car. No drama. No stress. I just breathed and practiced OCD. Worked for me. And it could work for you, too.

To Your Better Balance!

Michael Thomas Sunnarborg


Find better balance in your life, relationships, and work. 
Visit 21daystobetterbalance.com and learn more. And look for the new trilogy book, 21 Days, Steps & Keys... coming November 1, 2014. Get all three books in one!

Monday, September 22, 2014

Your Mind: Teacher, Creature, or Companion?


"It's mind over matter." "Make up your mind!" "Oh, never mind..." Just think about how frequently the word "mind" enters our daily conversations. Our minds are an integral part of our three-part being: mind, body, and spirit. We often associate the mind with our head, thought, and logic. But despite the form in which we imagine our minds to take, there are some very different roles the mind can play in our daily lives:

  • Teacher: The mind is a powerful and complex teacher. It re-minds us when we’ve forgotten facts or figures and helps us through a challenging problem. It causes us to stop and think when we need to make a decision, and uses our previous experiences as reference in order to make better choices. It keeps a record of everything we’ve ever thought, said, and done, and uses memory to bring us the gift of contrast (“Been there; done that”).
    Our mind works with our feelings and sends us signals that something might be awry and we need to pay attention to it. It is the reflective and supportive adviser—helping us weigh the pros and cons from changing our internet service provider to changing our views about the importance of diet and exercise. It’s with us every day, every hour, every minute, and doesn’t like to be shut off. But once in a while it will allow us to be away from it... maybe for a minute or an hour... and then when we reunite it's like plugging back-in and booting up the computer. Class is back in session.


  • Creature: The mind is a powerful and complex creature. It creeps around and waits for the opportunity to jump out and scare us, or catches us by surprise when we’re not looking. It lurks around the dark corners with a mirror and attempts to make us look into it and judge our appearance. It can be the constant critic, judge, and antagonist, carrying around a thick history book of everything we’ve ever thought, said, and done, and then re-minds us about our mistakes and uses them against us like a court of law where we're guilty until proven innocent.

    Our mind has a voice recorder that plays back every negative word that every person has said to us, sticking to our fears like a sliver we can't remove. It keeps us up worrying at night, wakes us up with a headache in the morning, and never stops running. And we’re tired of the chase. Sometimes we’d rather be without it. It controls our manners when we’ve been scolded and makes us feel ashamed for who we are. It can be our worst enemy. And if we spend too much time focusing on what it is constantly saying, it can make us feel crazy and out of control.

  • Companion: The mind is powerful and complex companion. It wishes us happy birthday, and re-minds us where we parked the car in the stadium parking lot. It’s there to provide a history of everything we’ve ever thought, said, and done, and then uses our success to re-mind us about how far we’ve come. It plays back the recordings of anyone who’s ever thanked us, praised us, or shouted our name as we raced toward the finish line. It allows us to take a moment to pause and reflect upon a fond memory triggered by a beautiful song or the smell of fresh-baked cookies.

    Our mind is there to help us stay calm amidst a crisis, or speak a kind word to a friend in need. It’s our constant friend, confidant, and partner. And it always answers when we call. It’s there to motivate, encourage, and inspire us, and becomes the coach urging us to hang in there and just keep swimming. It reminds us that it’s okay to make mistakes, and it forgives us every time—no exception. It loves and accepts us as we are. It is our best friend and our family. It holds us when we are alone and reminds us that everything will be okay.

Question: Is your mind playing the role of teacher, creature or companion today? Depending on the situation, it could playing the role of one, two, or all three at once. But the most important thing to remember is that it’s our choice to pay attention to what feels best. Whichever voice we focus on becomes the loudest. 

The best part is that we can control our minds. We can choose to focus on the teacher, creature, or the companion. When our minds are working for us in a positive and supportive way, we can better connect with our inner beings and bring more alignment and consistency to our lives. That’s the secret to finding better balance.

Today, become aware of your thoughts and the role of your mind, and remember you have the power of choice. Then, choose wisely what you consider your truth… for it is, truly, “all in your mind”.

To Your Better Balance!

Michael Thomas Sunnarborg

Find better balance in your life, relationships, and work. 
Visit 21daystobetterbalance.com and learn more.
  

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Swallowing Feelings? You Might Get Fat


Carbs are bad? Carbs are good? Too much protein? Not enough? With all of the hype about eating plans and fitness fads, what do we believe? And what works?

Let's place food aside for a moment and focus on a different aspect of health—emotions. Through my years of social research, I've found one of the biggest factors contributing to body weight is emotional weight. If we don't express our feelings, our repressed emotional energy causes stress. Scientific research tells us that stress directly affects our metabolism, hormones, the ability to process calories effectively, and so on. In the end, stress causes our bodies to not functional normally and we gain weight.

The solution? Express your feelings. Stop eating your anger, pigging out on your pain, and drinking your disappointment.


Here's 5 tips to help you start a "conscious cleanse":
  1. Check less bags. You know how airlines charge for each bag checked? Traveling gets expensive fast. So does emotional baggage. Take time to focus on your biggest issues and clear up unresolved issues with friends, family members or yourself. Lighten your load; enlighten your life.
  2. Get em out. Whether it's with a friend or by yourself, start to speak, write, sing, dance—whatever it takes—to express your feelings. Emotions are energy, and energy is in constant motion. Nothing stands still. It's no different with your body, and those feelings need to go somewhere. First get them OUT in a healthy way. Then you can deal with them rationally.
  3. Get help. There's nothing wrong with reaching out when you need support. In fact, the human experience is about connection with others. We were never meant to exist in isolation. Talk things out with a good friend. Or even better, take advantage of your health insurance and meet with a counselor—it's their job to help you unwind your ball of emotional string.
  4. Move your body. Get out of bed, off the couch, or walk out of the house. Shift your energy. Negative energy feasts on idle bodies. Physical activity supports mental activity, which supports body wellness as well as psychological relief. Feeling stuck? Go for a walk. It can do wonders.
  5. Don't judge. Your feelings are always valid. Always. Did you get that? Try hyphenating it for even more effect: all-ways. There is never anything wrong with any of your feelings. They are part of you and every emotion belongs somewhere. How, why, when, and where you express your feelings will produce a variety of experiences, but your feelings are never wrong. Believe in yourself.
To Your Better Balance!

Michael Thomas Sunnarborg

Find better balance in your life, relationships, and work. 
Visit 21daystobetterbalance.com and learn more.


Monday, August 18, 2014

Get Out of Your Own Way


Feeling frustrated? Finding yourself tripping through life? Wondering why you keep coming up against the same issues over and over again? If so, you're not alone. But did you realize that the majority of the barriers in your life are, in fact, created by you? A hard pill to swallow, but true.

Here's how it works. We are all like computers that have been programmed by our culture: the people and experiences that exist in our immediate environment. These impressions form our core beliefs systems and become hard-wired into our brains, helping to predetermine our every thought, decision, and action. In addition, our immediate thoughts are feeding into this "reality", whether it's what we want or don't want. Attention to anything brings more of the same. 

If this "programming" is working for you, then great! But if it's not, the goods news is you can change these patterns if you become aware of them.

In my writing and coaching, I introduce a three-step process. Step 1: Awareness is the opportunity to recognize this "automatic" programming by raising our awareness to the things which directly affect our sense of balance. Step 2: Alignment, is putting ourselves into alignment with the thoughts, beliefs, and people with which we feel most harmony and happiness. And Step 3: Activation, is using that knowledge to make better decisions. With a little practice, this three-step process can become second nature. Good habits nurture good results.

To create a new experience, you must create a new destination. If your desire is to make changes in your life, then you must make changes to your current environment. Your first task is to remove the challenges, barriers, habits and thoughts that are preventing the things you desire from coming in alignment with you. Basically, get out of your own way! And in the meantime, use your thoughts as a road map and your feelings as the compass, to help get you to a new place of peace, acceptance, and relief.

To your better balance!

Michael Thomas Sunnarborg

Find better balance in your life, relationships, and work. 
Visit 21daystobetterbalance.com and learn more.

Monday, August 4, 2014

Know Thyself

 

This above all: to thine own self be true,
And it must follow, as the night the day,
Thou canst not then be false to any man.

William Shakespeare

It was apparent at an early age that I was gifted with an abundance of energy, naturally extroverted, and happiest around people. It wasn’t until after college, when I moved to Hawaii, that I started exploring my true expanded self. I found balance for my exuberance by connecting with the quiet spirit within—a deeply curious side of me that was hungry for more meaning. As time went by, I realized that my life was a direct reflection of the people, places and relationships I'd developed along my path—and they all stemmed from the relationship I'd developed with myself.

To truly "know thyself" is to learn how to love and accept yourself as you are—even with the attributes you strive to improve. Being in a healthy relationship with yourself starts with the awareness of your thoughts, feelings, and intuition, and then using that knowledge to make healthy decisions that are in alignment with what you truly want.

So if our relationships are reflections of our own love and acceptance, how do we improve them? We improve the relationship with ourselves first. Try this simple test: This week, make a list of the most important people in your life, and then answer the following questions:
  • How do those who love me see me differently?
  • What feels true? What feels false or inauthentic?
  • Where could I be more transparent with those I love and respect, and how might this change our relationship?
  • What is this relationship saying about me and my choices? Is it helping me grow?

Write down your observations and ponder them throughout the week. You might find that there are parts of you that nobody even knows! You might also find that you're not living in your integrity. Think about what is really true for you, and what truly brings you happiness. You may be surprised.


When we take the time to really know ourselves—our strengths, joys, limitations, and fears—we can present ourselves to others with truth and transparency. And this significantly changes our relationships... and life.

To Your Better Balance!
Michael Thomas Sunnarborg

Find better balance in your life, relationships, and work. 
Visit 21daystobetterbalance.com and learn more.