How Do You “LET GO”

Life is the best teacher, a friend, a soul mate. She teaches you what none others can teach and it is in living life through the challenges she throws at us is what makes life.

There are things in life you can’t hold on for ever and life isn’t for ever either. Life from the day you are born, moment by moment, tells you to let go. Nothing lasts forever, you are at this stage in your life because you have let go of your childhood, your youth, some of your age-old habits and idiosyncrasies. Through the years of your life to date, you may have different ways of doing things, you may have changed your job, your career or possibly even some of your relationships that were not working for you.

In each of the transitions in life be it natural, by accident or by choice, you have been able to move forward because you have let go of something. Yet, there are modes in your lives where you continue to grip on some things that you expect to last forever. You refuse to Let Go.

This could apply to your relationships, projects that you have put your heart and soul and yet don’t see the desired results, business venture that you are passionate about but ROI tells you otherwise, your behavior at work or socially, and may be aspects of your overall being.

What is the emotion you undergo when you refuse to let go?

  • Fear of the unknown
  • uncertainty
  • perspective of failure in your mind
  • discomfort
  • denial to see the benefits
  • negativity
  • love the perceived sense of control

Destiny isn’t always good and be it in some paths chosen in relationships or with respect to our professional life, you have to let go and consider the people and the opportunities in those paths as lessons learnt for better things in future. You may say easier said than done.

♠Letting Go is not to regret the past, but to grow and live for the future.♠

I’ve found that the more I cling to outcomes and things, the more I create an anchor that drains my energy and in turn I discourage myself.

So how can you help yourself Let Go?

1. Internal conversations – each of us have a conversation that we have with ourselves. This could be self talk or negative talk. Your thoughts control your feelings and these feelings translates into your internal conversations. Your brain drives your behavior from your internal conversations.

What are you telling yourself when you hold back from letting go ?

2. Labeling Emotion – each time you struggle with the idea of letting go, stop to reflect. Do you understand your emotions and beliefs? Why do you think that way? Try to label the emotion (could be fear, anxiety, uncertainty, failure) associated with the struggle of letting go – this helps to calm your brain and focus on action forward.

♣Do you tend to dwell on what used to be that is distracting you from taking the necessary action to move you forward?
♣Do you tend to complain and take no action to see what can be done differently to achieve desired outcomes?

Our brains are geared to rewards and thus expecting desired outcomes from our efforts is but natural. However, consuming yourself with the negative outcome only results in frustration and negative emotions. Instead, when something doesn’t go as per your expectations, train your mind to view this circumstance as a chance to learn something you didn’t know. Every experience teaches you something and it a matter of consciously looking at it from a perspective that helps you to move forward.

♣Learning to understand your emotions, reflection on your actions and the experience sets the path for refocusing your energy and “letting go” less painful.

3. ReframeDo you reflect and once you reflect do you reframe the situation by finding out what’s really going on?

Our brains are constantly on the lookout to move towards what it perceives as a reward and away from what it perceives as a threat. And is five times more likely to perceive something unknown as a threat than a reward. This possibly explains many disquieting parts of our life. Certainty concerns being in the know. Being able to predict gives us that feeling of control and certainty. Without prediction our brain needs to use a lot more energy intensive PFC. In today’s fast paced global world, it is becoming more difficult to anticipate what’s next. To fuel this uncertainty is our own beliefs and biases as to how we perceive a situation. All this makes letting go more difficult.

♣Reframing a situation helps you to manage your beliefs, your perception and your feelings. It helps you to look at situations from a different context and not narrow yourself to your own bias.

4. Criticism – do you criticize yourself and everyone else, every time something doesn’t go as per your plan. Does this stop you from letting go of unfair expectations of yourself and others ? Life is a roller coaster and not perfect. Letting go eases your agony that you put yourself through by engaging in “blame game” and “know it all”. When you catch yourself thinking and behaving in a manner that signifies that you know everything and have little tolerance to any new ideas or methods, it is time to stop and reflect.

♣How flexible are you to expand your mind and go out of your comfort zone?

5. Control Freak – one of the common hurdles to letting go. Each of us are unique and have our contribution to make. We can control out behavior, our choices but how others act or behave is outside our control. Positive change occurs when you decide to let go of control over everything in your life and work.

Imagine you are on your way to an appointment at 3 pm. You leave well ahead of time. However you get caught in a nasty traffic jam. You try to change lanes, honk, curse, get agitated and yet nothing changes. Each time you succeed at changing lanes, your frustration increases because you realize that the new lane is no better. There are many situations similar to this which are beyond your control in your day-to-day life. You cannot have everything you want despite your efforts to make it a success. Let go or else you get caught in a negative vicious cycle.

6. Negativity – negativity breeds negativity and saps your energy. Your surroundings in terms of the people you are with matters to your overall being. There are some people in this world who are full of negative energy and drain you. There are others who provide soul food and are full of positivity and energy. Be with people who support you, challenge you but help you grow. Let go of relationships that jeopardize your being and don’t accept you for what you are.

♣What would you experience if you surround yourself with people who believe in you and help you get better in what you do? 

♣What would it be like if you spend more time with people who have positive vibes and make you feel valued?

Letting go is difficult when we allow ourselves to be overly attached to outcomes, when we have given our heart and soul to some relationships. My own journey of having to let go of things and relationships which weren’t working for me hasn’t been easy. What has helped me in the journey of life is to reflect, reframe and think about the way forward and believe in myself. Gearing my brain towards the rewards associated with the new path helps ease the pain that I associate with letting go.

I’ve learnt and am still learning to be willing to open up to possibility, learn new ways, grow in effectiveness by LETTING GO.

→If you “Let Go,” it does not mean you are giving up but you make a choice to take a different path to your ultimate vision.←

How do you Let Go?

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When The Going Gets Tough

“I’m stuck.”

“I feel I’m running on a hamster wheel with no scope to get off. “

“I’ve no time to think or look at anything else because I’m always swamped with so many things I’ve to do.”

How often have you felt this way or heard your friends, partners, colleagues say this at various points in your day or their day?

Several of my coaching relationships start at this point.

We all go through this at several points in our life or at specific points in our day.

Is it a regular phenomena or something you feel at specific points in your day or specific periods of time at a stretch?

If you look around you, you’ll realize many people are stressed out or at a breaking point.

What are these stressors ?

Is it with work?

Is it with some transitions that you are going through at work or in life?

Is it with overall life in general in terms of your dreams and priorities?

What is the cause of these stressors? 

Is it fear of being dispensable and losing your job or not being able to advance in your area of talent? Or being forced on account of lack of choices ?

What about your day-to-day stressors? Is it because you are not taking the required break ? Are you facing the fear of missing out, if you are not seemingly present in what you are doing ?

What is the impact of these stressors?

- are you being thoughtful in your responses on email and other forms of communication?

- do you tend to not pay attention to the tasks that you are doing and to the people around you ?

- how often do you play the blame game in these moments ?

- do you feel threatened and sense of fear or a fight or flight mode?

Why does this happen – our brain is complex and research from various neuroscientists are discovering more and more that the parts of the brain work together as a symphony, so as we separate one part out, we have to remember that it doesn’t work in isolation. The prefrontal cortex (PFC), which is the executive center controls our ability to understand, think, decide, analyze, memorize, inhibit and recall.   So the PFC is vital to our daily survival, and yet there are many factors (environmental, hormonal, and genetic ) that can impact how well it works. The activity of the PFC Is also extremely energy-consuming.

If anything internal or external is impacting the functioning of the PFC, the activities relating to the 5 things above become harder and harder. Decisions will be harder to make, you won’t understand things as easily and inhibiting behaviors, or emotions will be harder.

Most of us are used to reading a proposal, at the same trying to understand it, possibly recall something from previous information. The more we add to this mix, the tougher it gets for the PFC to manage.

And one of the biggest drains to the PFC is inhibition, humans have the ability to socially control behaviors and emotions. And we need this to be able to function. These inhibitions could be in the form of not deciding to drink another cup of coffee or  go to dinner with a friend since you have to complete the task at hand.

Social Control is draining to the brain, and that thrown in with the other activities of the PFC fuels the drain. The more drained we become, the less effective we are at being able to understand, think, decide,  question, memorize or recall.

The more the stress/threat to the PFC, the greater the chances of our amygdala (flight or fight response part of our brain ) to take over, thus increasing our emotional response, and reducing our ability to use the PFC in general.

Do we need to take breaks ?

Research participants were nearly twice as likely to give the correct response to a complex decision-making problem if they were distracted by a simple three-minute number-matching task before being asked for their answers, says a team led by Marlène Abadie of the University of Toulouse in France. A more-demanding distraction had no such effect. Extracted from HBR

How do we get away from these breaking points or stressors

1. Self awareness – do you know your limits? How comfortable are you in saying No? Self awareness is your knowledge, moment by moment of what is going on within you, what is your emotional state, and the choice you make at that moment on how to behave.

2. Self Regulation – are you setting your priorities ? Do you schedule your day and prioritize ? Do you tend to react to every phenomenon that comes by your way during the day? Self regulation is having a degree of present moment self-awareness.

3. Self generation – how often do you reflect and renew? Do you question your beliefs and assumptions and ready to challenge them and move on? Self-generation is about creating alignment between moment to moment behavior and action with the desired outcome.

Do you take downtime, no matter how busy a schedule you may have?

Leadership success goes beyond your talents, skills, knowledge and experience. All the talent and skills are of no use if the moment by moment choice in terms of your behavior and action is not mindful.

When the heat is on and the going gets tough, are you on a reactive behavior as a leader or are you one who takes a calm, focused and balanced view? Do you encourage your team and help them refocus, thus building the trust.

The mental fences or shackles is what we set for ourselves. Learn to connect with your inner self and focus on your vision but allow yourself to take breaks.

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Are you ready for a retreat into ‘The Silence’

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“We sit silently and watch the world around us. This has taken a lifetime to learn. It seems only the old are able to sit next to one another and not say anything and still feel content. The young, brash and impatient, must always break the silence. It is a waste, for silence is pure. Silence is holy. It draws people together because only those who are comfortable with each other can sit without speaking. This is the great paradox.” Nicholas Sparks, The Notebook

On Easter Friday, I went with my friend  on a hike with her dog. She mentioned that she wanted to try ‘Vipassana’ a retreat into silence for 10 days. I had heard of similar things that some of my other friends had attended.

My first question to her would I be able to read? Of course I knew that, ‘Vipassana‘ does not allow reading, writing, talking, listening to music or any form of communication.

I heard myself saying being silent is fine as long as I can read. Yeah, I think I can do that for may be three days, but ten full days, I doubt it.

She started sharing similar things that she needs music, or TV or books to read.

My sister puts the TV on as soon as she comes home. The TV is on but she is not watching it and probably barely listening to it. It is almost like background noise in her house.

How many of you know people amongst your friends or family who have the music or TV on though they may not be listening or watching the same.

Why do many of us find this need to be doing something at all times?

Is it to simulate our mind?

Is it to avoid the silence engulfing us? Why did I worry about not being able to read or listen to music when my friend and I were discussing about ‘Vipassana’?

Why did my friend have similar concerns?

Most common responses you are probably going to hear is

  • the silence is deafening
  • I’ve no idea what I’ll do with silence all around me
  • I need to avoid the weird thoughts that come to my mind
  • I need to quieten my mind
  • I’ll feel lonely in complete silence
  • I’ll go insane.

I was worried because I am scared of being silent with no form of communication. I’m silent many times during the day but I’m reading or working or listening to music or writing or thinking or hiking or at the gym or yoga. Although I practice Mindfulness for a short period of time in the day, I can’t imagine myself doing meditation for 10 days and just being with myself and my thoughts. The lack of a stimulant in the form of books, articles to read or music almost feels like a vacuum in the absence of not talking.

Mindfulness and the practice of meditation apparently has been known to strengthen our pre frontal cortex.

I’m piqued but not sure if I am ready to take this journey of ‘Vipassana’ yet. It is a challenge and just because it is a challenge I’m tempted to do it.

I derive a lot of strength in silence during the day and when I am ready to undertake the journey of “Vipassana”, I hope I find peace and strength from that experience.

What are your thoughts?

Have you been on a journey of ‘Silence’ ?

10 “Choice” Secrets That Each Of You should Know

On April 26, 2003, Ralston, a 27-year-old mountaineer set out on a day of adventure in remote southeast Utah, alone and without telling anyone where he had gone.

“I dislodge – I pull – a large, like, 800-pound rock loose, that falls with me and eventually traps my right hand against the canyon wall.

He had only a liter of water, and no jacket. “I didn’t have plans to be out overnight,” he said.

But he was out overnight – five nights in all – 127 hours between a rock and a hard place

Ralston says it wasn’t long before he realized he faced an almost unfathomable choice.

“It was a conversation I had out loud with myself. You’re gonna have to cut your arm off, Aron. ‘I don’t want to cut my arm off.’ Dude, you’re gonna have to cut your arm off,” he said. “I said that to myself out loud in the canyon.”  Link

Aron Ralston had to make the Choice to amputate his right hand in order to survive a mountaineering ordeal.

Each of us make a choice every second or fraction thereof, be it, to wake up at a specific time, to eat breakfast, to drive or take public transport, to take medication or not when we are sick and the list goes on.

Choice, be it trivial or life altering, and a choice whether it is in the affirmative or negative or not making one at all, is an integral part of our life.

To be able to choose, we must evaluate all available options and select one for the greater good especially in those that touches and affects the lives of others.

The prefrontal cortex (PFC) located in the front part of the brain just behind the forehead acts as the brain’s command center. It is this part of the brain that allows us to choose rationally, to plan ahead, develop strategies, and also to adjust actions or reactions depending on situations. The PFC improves with age and process of growth and development continues well past adolescence. It enables us to focus our thoughts,  thinking whilst learning or analyzing different concepts or activities including complex ones.

Many times the desire of choice is so strong that it could interfere with one’s ability to determine the best option possible out of all those presented. A perfect example is a retail binge which we yield to in that impulsive moment when we see something spectacular, though if we had exercised the power of choice, we may have decided to wait till later.

Today, we have many choices to live our life contrary to two or three decades back. The desire to choose is natural and one that is required for survival.  But do we exercise our choice properly and what happens to those who are denied the choice of basic rights ?

Sheena Iyengar in her Book “The Art Of Choosing” (a must read) explains that humans voluntarily create and follow systems that restrict some of our individual choices to benefit the greater good.  We all face situations in our lives may be at work or in day-to-day where things happen beyond our control.  She refers to several studies that have found that stress increases when one works in circumstances where they had less control or brain perceives that they have less control than what they expected.  But in addition to the stressors at work , we suffer from the daily grind that is beyond our control  be it the pollution, traffic jams, delayed public transport leading to frustration and health issues.

However, we have the ability to create choice by altering our interpretations of what is around us. We have the choice to determine how we behave in challenging and less comfortable situations and it is this that distinguishes each of us.

I have been inspired by her book to write this post. She has also done a Ted talk on the same topic.

So how can we exercise our conscious choice for betterment of “You” and the world at large. Choose to

  1. Be positive – life is not a bed of roses. Roses grow with thorns and life will throw challenges which may throw you off the cliff, but a negative attitude makes it worse. Choose to be a realist but be positive.
  2. Be You  – look at a child. You see authenticity, spontaneity and children just love being who they are.  Always make it a point to be you and Choose You without hypocrisy.
  3. Be kind – You would like to be showered with kindness and that goes for each soul in this world.  Pass on the kindness. Surprise yourself and others by a random act of kindness.
  4. Be happy – there is no Vitamin to be happy but “being one.” You control your happiness by the choices you make, don’t make or not choosing at all.
  5. Be helpful – don’t walk away and turn your face to someone in needed of help.
  6. Be appreciative of your life, people you have around you, and every little thing that matters. The fact that you wake up to a new dawn which may have been denied to someone else is one to be thankful for.
  7. Be Committed – Actions give power to your words, stay true to your word and the responsibilities that you have chosen.
  8. Be responsible for your 2*2 space, for protecting the environment, for spreading the right values and for leaving the world a better place than when you came in.
  9. Be Mindful - no matter who you are or what you are be human first and be mindful of what you do, speak and act.   Remember that, “be who you want someone else to be”, make your deeds worthy of being emulated by others.
  10. Not give up – know when to walk away and when not to give up. In fulfilling your dreams don’t squash someone else’s dreams.

No matter what our background or differences it is the choices that connect us.  Choice could be something as simple as to Smile.

 Every choice you make has an end result – Zig Ziglar.

10 Hurdles To Emotional Learning

When dealing with people, let us remember we are not dealing with creatures of logic. We are dealing with creatures of emotion, creatures bustling with prejudices and motivated by pride and vanity ~ Dale Carnegie

When I say Emotions, you almost immediately associate ‘Anger’ and ‘Sad’ as the synonyms.  Emotion is the mental state and this could be positive or negative.

There are seven major positive emotions : desire, faith, sex, enthusiasm, hope, love, romance.  And the seven major negative emotions are : anger, fear, jealousy, hatred, revenge, greed, superstition.

Our brains harbor a lot of emotions and it is the negative emotions that is worrying.  The amygdala  is most commonly associated with fear and anxiety.  Each of us have a chronic or habitual emotional level that determines the overall well-being or satisfaction.  If a threat is perceived,  the amygdala tends to hijack the reasoned response process.  We have certain triggers-things that cause us to have an emotional reaction and elicit our innate ‘fight of flight’ response.  This limits our capacity to think clearly and causes us to move to default behaviors that may not be skillful or effective.

Emotional intelligence (EI) is the cognitive ability involving traits and social skills that facilitate interpersonal behavior.  The four main components of EI are : Self-Awareness, Self-Management, Social Awareness, Relationship Management.

Our emotional level, thus is the manifested frequency level of everything and anything that is real (perceivable) to us in our world and actual life’s experiences.

Have you wondered as to Why are these negative emotions triggered?

1. Change  results in discomfort and stress – a lot of us expect life to be easy and when challenges and hurdles come along, it overwhelms us and may cause negative reactions.

2. Human Being rather than Human Doing - we forget many times that what really matters in each of our lives is what we are, what we build and what we share.  Living life with a passion and being your true self is the most important.

3. Relationships – many times we tend to chase people though they may have shown no interest in building and maintaining relationships. In our busy lives we ever so often forget to make time for those who matter the most.  We allow our pride and ego to be the mainstay of relationships and taking those, who have been with us through thick and thin,  for granted.  This leads to disappointments and triggers a lot of negative emotions.

4. Allowing our mind to control us – life is not perfect and sometimes we allow a bad moment, or a bad day to take control of our state of mind and the reactions to other unrelated events of the day.

5. Help – not asking for help when you need it desperately.  Each of us need help and cannot survive in isolation.

6. Know when to walk away and when not to give up - many times we hold onto things without asking ourselves the utility value in the same.

7. Surrounding ourselves with people who make us unhappy and drain our energy out – ignore those who hassle you, stalk you, embarrass you and step beyond the boundaries of decent behavior on social media and in real life.

8. Not being accountable & responsible - not walking the talk which leads to distrust and guilt. We loose our identity by not learning to say,  ‘No’ resulting in over committing and under delivery.

9. Not taking a break- many of us get into the rigmarole of  doing too much without pausing. In that we live without enjoying the simple pleasures that life has to offer. We are stressed out, irritable and a vicious circle ensues.

10. Focusing on past – allowing our past to continue to dominate us to such an extent that we become victims of it.  We focus on the negatives, loosing ourselves in the problem.  More often than not,  we repeatedly point to our unhappy circumstances to rationalize our negative feelings. This is the easy way out. It takes, after all, very little effort to feel victimized.   But the negative thinking and behavior hurts only one person the most and that is “You”.

So how do we deal with our Emotions especially those that trigger a negative response.

Adaptability is all about recovering from the anxiety  & adversity that change initially brings & then having the flexibility to move ahead vigorously.

I find that one way to practice this idea is to write or think about a good experience. Not only does this remind me that there’s life beyond bad feelings, but it also serves as an emotional anchor.   I find my memory can become a positive emotional reference point, to remind me of the range of possibilities when I am at my worst feeling down and out.

Refer my post on Twelve Ways to Inspire Yourself When You Are Feeling Down and Out

The role emotions play in shaping thinking accounts for a large part of why we see a failure of good thinking in most leaders.  You are free to choose behaviors that are truly in your own best interests.

We all have so much to give. We just need to consciously choose to access and share it.  When we give good vibes, good thoughts,  and a smile, we generally get it back.  Recognizing emotions is the basis of self-knowledge and interaction. An emotion comes up to the conscious level when we are ready to manage it.  I like to think emotions as colors, some simple, and yet others are blends.

Emotional memory management enables us to manage our emotions in a way that will produce more positive outcomes.  It is the “habits of mind” that reveal intellectual character.  Please watch my video on “Emotional Blindspots‘.

The 3 core development steps for all Leaders are:  Knowing Yourself, Choosing Yourself and Giving Yourself.  What do you think ?