All posts by jkleinman

Having Gratitude Changes Everything!

loveMomHave you ever felt like life can be like Groundhogs Day?  We wake up thinking that today will be just another day, just like every other day.  We wake up thinking about what we have to do, what we haven’t done, what we are or aren’t happy about, or who we’re not happy with.

We get stuck on autopilot, and day after day, life seems to be the same old, same old.

What most people are unaware of, is that today is not just another day.  In fact, we never stop to think about the fact that today is the only day we are ever given.  When tomorrow comes, it will be today.  Yesterday no longer exists.  The only place where our life actually occurs, is today.

What would happen if you were to choose, at this very moment, on this very day, to be grateful?  To actually open your heart to the blessings that you have in your life right now?  How would your experience of yourself, your relationships, your entire life transform?

On Mother’s Day, I woke up feeling like Groundhogs Day. 

My kids were distracted by their devices, there was laundry to fold, and the kitchen was a mess!  The voice in my mind went into it’s usual automatic rants about feeling overwhelmed, and no one even looked up from what they were doing to wish me a Happy Mother’s Day!!

But, when my mind is on autopilot, what I have learned is that gratitude changes everything.

I sat myself down on my deck and closed my eyes, and deliberately thought about everything that I am grateful for:  The fact that I own a home that can be messy, that I have access to food that creates dirty plates, that I have clothes to fold.

That I have amazing children who I love with all of my soul.  Even if they can be unappreciative. Or argumentative. Or difficult.

And when I became aware of what I had to be grateful for, it changed everything.  I got up and told each of my children that on this day, I am grateful to be their mother.  I am grateful that they were born.  I am grateful that they are exactly who they are.

And then the miraculous happened.  After a Mother’s Day picnic, and when the day was ending, my children gave me a gift.  But not just any gift.  A gift they created together that day.  Because of what I said to them.  A gift of words, written on paper, about how much they loved me, how much they valued me as their mom, and how much I meant to them.  Words I probably would not have heard, if I did not experience gratitude.

Gratitude changes everything.  It opens your heart to love.  Love for yourself, love for the people around you, and love for your whole life.  And when you open your heart to gratitude, you create a life that is nothing short of miraculous.

There Is NO Such Thing as Some Day

heart-gratitudeWhenever someone is seeking either a counseling session with me or is enrolling in one of my workshops, what they’re really looking for is to change something in their life that is causing them to struggle.  It could be that they want to change something about themselves or particular circumstances in their life.   It could be that they want to fix a relationship, have a parenting issue, or want a career change. The list of what people want to fix or change about themselves or some aspect of life is endless.

But, here is the one basic truth about how to end any struggle.  It really boils down to one simple step.  Practice love and gratitude.

Rather than practicing love and gratitude, we habitually and automatically live in fear and try to control that condition.  You see, most of us go through life believing that something in life needs to change in order for us to feel the way that we want to feel.  Most people have a “some day” approach to life. When the circumstances are different, I will feel different. So, we try and control the circumstances in order to fix how we feel.  And when we inevitably fail in controlling life, it makes us more anxious and uncomfortable, which makes us try to control it even more!  It is a vicious circle.

There really is a way out of this ridiculous loop.  You just have to try something very different than what we are habituated to.  Practice love and gratitude.  That’s it.  The results often are nothing short of phenomenal.  Give up the “someday” approach to life.  Stop waiting until life changes to feel fulfilled, content, and joyful.  Even if you’re dealing with something very disturbing, practice dealing with the situation with love and gratitude instead of the automatic fearful thoughts that cause anger, resentment and frustration.

Joy, fulfillment and satisfaction in life is a choice.  We can either blame the outside world for why we feel unhappy, or we can stop the “someday’ approach by practicing love and gratitude.

I don’t know about you, but I’d rather say goodbye to someday.

WANT A HAPPY LIFE? BECOME A COMPUTER RE-PROGRAMMER

150729204621-halt-and-catch-fire-super-169I recently came across an article in Psychology Today in which the author discussed a research study he conducted with college age students, who held themselves in high regard, where he asked the students to keep a detailed record of their mental chatter for a 2-week period.

Going into the exercise, the students expected almost 75% of their thoughts would be positive.

What both the researcher and the students were shocked to discover, is that almost 80% of the thoughts they recorded were basically negative.  Unconsciously, it turned out that the students were much more critical, pessimistic and fearful than they let out in their day-to-day life.

Many of us would describe ourselves as happy, confident people.  I know I would!  I am definitely a “glass half full” kind of woman.

But there is the deeper part of myself, that I have to manage every single day.  And it’s this part of myself that runs 95% of my life!  I have a voice in my mind that is constantly telling me where I’m not enough and where and how I don’t measure up.  Right now, if I stop and pay attention, I can find that voice telling me what part of my life I need to fix, improve, or change. It usually says something like, “you really need to start eating healthier today.  You have gotten off track with that.” Or “Why weren’t you more patient this morning?” when my son missed the bus.

Most people don’t even know that there’s a voice in their mind speaking to them.  All of the mental chatter going on in the mind is so transparent, it’s invisible, like the air we breathe.  Most people don’t even know that It’s speaking to them, and that they’re listening to it.

Just like your body automatically breathes for you and makes your heart beat for you, your mind is on automatic as well.  And, what you may not realize, is that the thoughts are repetitive.

They are based on decisions you made about how life works.  Especially, what’s wrong with you and the reason you’re not really good enough.  You made all these core decisions when you were a young child.  Once they took hold, you started to see the world and yourself in that certain way.  And your mind, which is like a great computer, has been running those thoughts you made up about yourself and life, like software.  Automatically, incessantly, your mind converts what you notice, what you think, how you feel, to be consistent with those negative childhood beliefs.

Therefore, you are automatically diminishing yourself, or shaming yourself for what has already happened.  Your thoughts throw your mind into the past. Or, you worry about what will happen about the future, once the future arrives.

And once the software kicks in, you are no longer in the present.  And the present is the only place you are ever in, ever will be in, and is the only place where you can generate any control over your life.

It’s the place where you are free.  The place where you can BEGIN to notice your automatic programming.  It’s your own unique programming.  You developed it.  So, in order to truly feel the way that you want to feel about yourself, your relationships, your life, you have only one job to do.  And that is the job of being a Computer Re-Programmer

Being a computer re-programmer in your life means noticing what you installed.  It means recognizing that the computer program “I’m not good enough” has been running since you were a little boy or girl.  And now, it needs to be updated to 2.0.

As a computer re-programmer, it is your job to see that although the old program will still continue to run automatically, you can see when it’s running and do the update in the moment.  Notice when your computer is searching for evidence to validate the old programming.  The 2.0 version is about staying present.  No longer paying attention to the automatic programming that has been running for all these years!

Don’t even try to change it.  Just begin to notice it.  Notice what happens to your mood, your behavior throughout the day, your energy level when the old programming is running.  The more you notice it, the less command it has over you.

As a computer re-programmer, it is your job to diminish the control that the voice in your mind has over you.  The better you are at your job, the more you will be able to practice living in the present, rather than living in your mind.

I wish you all one thing in life:  Practice being an extraordinary computer re-programmer!

YOUR AUTHENTIC SELF: If I’m Not the Voice in my Mind, Who the F@*ck am I?

Who-Am-I-hand-in-front-of-faceThis is a question that has plagued philosophers and religious gurus for thousands of years.

We hear a lot of people ask, “What if the voice in my mind IS the real me?  What if it’s telling me the truth?  Shouldn’t I listen to it sometimes?” The short answer is that while it’s ok to listen to it, just don’t mistake it for your Authentic Self.

So, what the hell are we talking about when we say Your Authentic Self?  We mean this:  Your Authentic Self is who shows up when your Inner Critic is temporarily absent.  Whooaa…..it’s a little scary when you experience this for the first time.  We’re so used to this voice, that when it is silenced even momentarily, it feels like there’s nothing there.  But, when you let go, and just be….that’s when your authentic self shows up.  And, just as soon as you see it, it’s gone!  You are back to being swallowed by your Inner Critic.  You’re swallowed because your authentic self is usually buried under the incessant chatter of your Inner Critic, and is usually inaccessible.

While you can meet your authentic self in the absence of the Inner Critic, you can’t hold on to it.  It’s elusive.  It’s not a permanent state you can achieve.  It has many names, many words, many expressions, none of which are the absolute truth.  The best you can do is to point to something: a space, a feeling, an energy, a vibration, a stillness, a peace.  Whatever its name, it is a sense of being present to something true or honest, that touches you in a way that’s different from your normal reality.

Normally, we just get a glimpse of our Authentic Self.  Why just a glimpse?  Because it is the voice of the Inner Critic that is constantly swallowing us whole.  And therefore, the real work, is to build the muscle to separate ourselves from the incessant humming of our mind chatter, and experience what we experience when the Inner Critic is silent.   Therein lies the choice; to practice again and again separating yourself from the Inner Critic who presently runs your life, and begin experimenting with that which appears in the absence of that incessantly controlling voice.

Did you ever hear the saying, “When you have one foot in the future, and the other in the past, you piss on the present?” Your Queen Inner Critic will drag you into the past or the future, where insecurities and worries live. She will keep you feeling regretful of the past or worried about the future, but never grounded in the present moment.

This is why the work of Dethroning Your Inner Critic needs to be a daily practice. Once you learn the tools to silence Inner Critic and allow your Authentic Self to show up, you can practice these tools anywhere; at the bus stop, on the train, in the car, while taking a walk.

The present moment is all we have.  The past is already over.  The future doesn’t exist yet.  Any time you are in the present moment, you have access to your Authentic Self.

HEALING YOUR BODY IMAGE FROM THE INSIDE-OUT

6355913634301408071325721035_do-you-have-a-distorted-body-image-jul-11-2012-600x400.imgopt1000x70I have devoted my professional career to teaching people how to have extraordinary relationships with themselves and the people whom they love.  My belief is that the quality of our lives begins with the quality of our relationships.  And really, where the quality of our relationships begin, is with the relationship we have with ourselves.

I am especially passionate about empowering women to value themselves and love who they are, by letting go of the limiting beliefs they might not even be aware of, which rob them of experiencing contentment, joy and peace in their lives.

In almost 20 years of private practice, and through workshops which I’ve led all over the country, I have taught thousands of people that it is the voice of our mind that speaks to us all day long that is responsible for most of our suffering.  It is the voice that tells us what we need to fix, to change, to improve, and where we are just not good enough.  I call this voice the Inner Critic, and there is not a human being alive who escapes from this voice.

What most people don’t realize, is that you are actually separate from this voice, and you don’t have to continue to give it the power that perhaps you currently aren’t even aware that you are giving it.

When we are listening to our Inner Critic, we are always looking for something outside ourselves to help us feel the way we want to feel.  And it is our Inner Critic who convinces us that if we just do what she says, if we just fix this, change that, perfect some aspect of ourselves, we will be enough.

We all have some version of “I am not enough.”

  • For those of you who are teenagers, it could be because of your body, the way you look, or because of your grades, or because you aren’t popular enough.
  • For adults, it could be because you are not successful enough, or your kids aren’t successful enough, or you’re not a good enough mom, wife, or friend.

We think, If I just work harder to reach that goal, at some point I will feel the way I want to feel.  The bottom line is, we ALL buy into the belief that in some way, I am not ok as I am.

So the voice in your mind sets out to have everyone like you, to ensure no one thinks badly of you, to be acceptable to everyone, and to never get hurt, rejected or judged.  And in order to do this, says the Inner Critic, you have to constantly find all of the places in your life where you just aren’t enough, and fix them, to control what others think of you.

The relationship we have to our bodies is a microcosm of the relationship we have with ourselves.  The voice says, if I can just lose those 5, 10, or 40 lbs., I will feel the way I want to feel about myself.   If I just get the boob job, or the liposuction, I will finally feel like I’m enough.  If I can get the right grades, the right friends, the right job, the right marriage, then I will finally feel like I’m enough.  Our Inner Critics make us feel like we have to fight a battle to be someone other than who we are.  It’s like we’re hamsters on a hamster wheel, running and running, and never getting ahead.

We compare ourselves to an ideal woman in our minds, and no matter how hard we try, we never measure up to her.

This is especially true with regard to our bodies and how we look.  In my 20’s and 30’s, I struggled with my own body image issues, so I took up running as a way to ensure that my body looked the way that I thought it should.  I remember when I ran my first mile, and I was so proud of myself!  But, soon my own inner critic mind convinced me that a mile was not good enough.  I ran my first 5K, but eventually that was not good enough either.  I spent most of my 20’s and 30’s pushing myself harder and harder, chasing the ideal body, and feeling like it was never good enough. It was not until after I ran my one and only half marathon at 40 years old, when I saw how much my sense of worth was wrapped up in the shape of my body.  And for the first time, I actually admitted to myself that I have hated running for over 15 years! I was pushing myself to run faster and further, hating every step, but feeling like I had no choice but to force myself and endure the pain it caused.

And we live in a culture that perpetuates this idea.  Every day we are bombarded with messages from commercials, magazines, television and movies, that tell us we are being judged on our appearance, how far away our appearance is from an unachievable ideal, and that our worth as a woman is measured in how close we are in relation to that ideal.  In fact, much of the beauty industry depends on the self loathing attitudes of women.  If we suddenly woke up one day and actually began liking the way we looked, what would that do to the multi billion dollar beauty and diet industry?

It is the unending struggle to impress others, to attempt to control what other people think, that has become a national obsession, and a national crisis.  Depression, anxiety, eating disorders, and addiction is at an all-time high, because people of all ages are being seduced into believing that whoever they are, whatever their lives look like, and whatever they look like, is not enough.

In our culture, we are not taught that we are separate from the Inner Critic voice of our minds.  Our minds are on autopilot.  Just like our bodies automatically breathe for us, our minds go to the same “not good enough” place.  And we have been doing it in some way, shape or form for our whole lives.

We are not taught how to separate from the automatic voice in our mind.  Our minds are on autopilot.

We are not taught that what it truly takes to feel the way that we want to feel is to understand the difference between our authentic selves and the voice in our mind-The Inner Critic.

We are not taught that if we monitor our automatic critic, then our relationship to how we treat our body will naturally take care of itself.  Instead, in our culture, we focus on diet, exercise and weight loss as being the key.  In other words, our relationship to our bodies is about fixing, changing and perfecting it from the outside-in, rather than the inside out.

I am passionate about having people understand that the key to obtaining the peace, joy and contentment that we all crave, is about examining the false story that our Inner Critic has convinced us is the truth.  It is only when we learn the tools to distinguish the messages of our Inner Critic that we have been seduced into believing, that we can feel how we want to feel.

 

10 SECONDS CAN CHANGE YOUR LIFE

stop-watch_WebI don’t know about you, but when any one of my relationships in my life is out of whack, I am totally out of whack.

I have devoted my life’s work to figuring out how to consistently have thriving relationships.  I am not saying that my relationships are always perfect mind you, but I AM saying that my I don’t have ANY relationships that are consistently problematic.  That’s because because no matter how bad it gets, whether it’s with my husband of 20 years, one of my three kids, my amazing friends, or extended family, I am always aware of one thing:  what the voice in my mind is telling me about whatever is happening.

See, many years ago, through my ongoing inquiry into how to live my best life and be my best self, I discovered this amazing thing:

There is this voice in all of our mind that never shuts up.  It is constantly thinking:  worrying about how we’re doing in life, what’s going to happen in life, how others think of us, how we measure up to our expectations, or to others expectations, how our kids will turn out, how our bank accounts will turn out, on and on and on.

I don’t know about you, but when I’m caught in this broken record mind chatter, I am miserable!!  And you know what?  Even though I teach this, to the couples I counsel, in my workshops, my blogs, and I’m writing a book about it, I still get caught in it all the time!!

Why?  Because it’s impossible not to.  It’s literally like the air we breathe.

It is an acquired, learned skill to understand that most of what floats around in our minds is complete and utter bullsh*t.  And it’s so unfortunate that this skill is not something that is taught in formal education.  Because without knowing that you listen to bullsh*t all day long, you interact with the bullsh*t like it is reality.  This is why I am trying to educate as many people as I possibly can, to understand the difference between their Authentic self, and the voice of the Inner Critic.  Because seeing the difference between the two literally has the power to change the course of your entire life.

And, once you learn this skill, it takes 10 SECONDS!!!  Ten seconds to spot the voice, and the story that it spews, disengage from it, and change your whole outlook about yourself, your life, or another human being.

If you don’t have this skill, you can’t see it. It is as transparent as the air you breathe, and the lies and stories of the voice in your mind become your truth.  This is how your Inner critic can literally ruin the quality of your life and all of your relationships, especially the one with yourself!!

This just happened to me a couple of nights ago. Before I went to bed, I told my teenage son to turn off all of the lights and turn the TV off before he went to bed.  (He goes to bed way later than me these days!).  At 2:30 in the morning, I woke up to get a glass of water in the kitchen, and guess what??!!!  All, and I mean ALL, the lights were still on, as was the TV!!!  So, here is what the voice in my head said:  “He is so irresponsible!  It’s like he just doesn’t listen to a word I say, and doesn’t care about anyone but himself!!”  Sound familiar?  I was getting myself all worked up, my blood pressure was going up, my face was getting all tense, and I started planning how I would rip him a new one in the morning.

But, then I used the one tool that has literally changed my entire outlook on life.  I stopped, and I took 10 seconds to find the voice of my Inner Critic.  I saw my Inner Critic’s message clearly:  “He doesn’t care about me or what’s important to me.  It’s like I don’t even matter to him.”  There it was.  The same feelings I have had over and over again in my life: I DON’T MATTER!

Once I saw the story that my Inner Critic was making up, I could separate myself from that story.  Do you know how many times I’ve heard that same G-d damned story over the course of my life?  Do you know how many times in middle school I felt like I didn’t matter?  When I got fired from my first job I didn’t matter?  When my boyfriend broke up with me I didn’t matter?  When I felt like I wasn’t successful enough I didn’t matter?

Of course I matter to my son.  He is being a teenager!!  Now, mind you, the next day, I still made him do some extra chores around the house to make up for the irresponsibility from the night before.  But, my reaction to him was very different once I took 10 seconds to separate myself from the message of my Inner critic.

And truly, this 10 second tool has changed the quality of my entire life.  I no longer get as triggered when things in life don’t go my way, and I no longer get as angry when people act like jerks.

Those 10 seconds created a totally different relationship with my son.  Instead of letting my knee jerk emotions take over, I made a decision to separate myself from the same story my mind plays over and over.  And when I did, I was able to stay in the space of love and connection with him.  I was still annoyed that the lights were left on, mind you, but my knee jerk anger was not about the lights!!

And I promise you, so many of you out there are suffering in your relationship with yourself or the people you love, because you don’t yet know that you are listening to nothing more than a made up story, a broken record playing over and over, and you think it’s the truth.  Learning this skill will change your life.  And once you know it, it only takes 10 seconds!!

For more information on how my workshops and private sessions (FaceTime available) can make a difference in the quality of your life!  Visit DethroningYourInnerCritic.com to register or to schedule an appointment, email me at Joanna@ExtraordinaryRelationships.net.

YOUR RELATIONSHIPS DETERMINE THE QUALITY OF YOUR LIFE

Ok, I will admit it.  I am addicted to healthy relationships.  When my relationships with my husband, kids, parents, and friends are all thriving, I am thriving.  And when any one of those relationships are out of whack, I am completely off center in my life.

I became a relationship expert because I truly believe that the quality of our lives is determined by the quality of our relationships.

But, what most people do not understand about their relationships, is that the quality of your relationships starts with your relationship with YOURSELF!

Of the thousands of clients I have worked with in my 20 years as a psychotherapist, there is one thing that every single one of them has in common when they are struggling in their relationships:  They’re all waiting for something “out there” to change in order to be happy in the relationship.  Regardless of whether:

  • They keep attracting the wrong people,
  • They’re unhappy with their spouse,
  • Their children need to be more grateful and appreciative, or
  • Their parent needs to stop criticizing them,

The common denominator is always this:  None of your problems in your relationships are caused by another person.

I hear you!  I know you think that if they would just change, things would be different.  But this is where you lose yourself.  This is where you feel powerless, anxious, depressed, and generally dissatisfied in your life.  Because the only person you can change is YOU.  Period.

Whenever you are waiting for someone else to change so that you can be happy, you will never feel the way you want to feel.  And so many of us have been living our lives like this for waaaayyy too long!!

The problem never lies outside yourself.  That’s right…NEVER.  All of the places in your life where you are struggling start with YOU!!  They come from beliefs and ideas about yourself and life, that began a long time ago.  I mean a really long time ago!  (Hint, hint…it started when you were a kid!)

See, when you were a kid, you began listening to a voice in your mind, which you thought was YOU.  And that voice has been speaking to you like a broken record ever since.  I call this voice the Inner Critic, and it is largely responsible for the problems in your relationships.

You see, it is when we are children that we first feel something we don’t want to feel…shame, embarrassment, inadequacy, worthlessness.  And because we’re kids when we first feel it (while our brains are still immature) we decide that the source of these feelings is because, in some way, we’re not good enough.  Not a single human being escapes feeling this way at some point as a kid, no matter how good of a life you’ve led.  This is when the Inner Critic is first formed.  It says, “This is why you feel this way!”  So, we begin to figure out how to avoid feeling this way about ourselves.  Except, it’s impossible!  But because we keep believing the lies of the Inner Critic, we keep trying to fix, change or perfect ourselves, and the people in our lives, to fit our pictures. But alas, this is a road to nowhere.

When you are listening to the voice of your Inner Critic, when you meet a man that is emotionally distant, the Inner Critic says it is because you are not lovable enough.  When your spouse forgets to take the trash out, it says it is because you are unimportant.  When your child says “I hate you”, it convinces you that you are a bad mother.  And your Inner Critic doesn’t stop there!  When you react from the perspective of your Inner Critic, you’ll try to fix the emotionally distant guy and get him to love you.  You’ll criticize your spouse like your life depends on it, hoping you’ll finally get him to see the light. You’ll scream back at your kid, hoping that you can make him see you as good.

How’s all that working for you so far?  Get the point?

Until you can learn to spot the difference between the voice of the Inner Critic and your Authentic voice, nothing will change.  But, the good news is, the solution to having the relationships you dream of, is within YOU!

I promise you, this is really good news!  All it takes is a willingness to learn about the voice in your mind that has kept your relationships on autopilot most of the time!  Once you are willing to take a look at the story your Inner Critic has been seducing you into believing, you will be able to create relationships with the people you love that are more fulfilling, intimate, and satisfying.

When you are responding from your Authentic Self, you will be able to ditch the emotionally distant guy, rather than spending years trying to fix him.  You will be able to see that the forgetfulness of your spouse is not about you, and maybe find a solution to issues with love and respect, rather than criticism.  You will be able to remain calm with your kids when they are acting like…kids!

Please join me February 11th, 2017 from 10 am-4 pm for a One Day workshop titled, Your Inner Critic:  The Troublemaker In Your Relationships.  This course has the potential to transform the quality of your whole life, by transforming your relationship to yourself and the most important people in your life.  Come learn what has already transformed the lives of hundreds of participants!

Who gives a F*@#k if you’re scared?

fear-research-jpg__1072x720_q85_cropHow would your life change if you actually learned to like yourself?

Even if you have what looks like a really great life: great family, friends, a good job, why is it that deep inside, you feel restless, as though something is missing?

Why is it that most of the time, you don’t feel the way you want about yourself or your life?  No matter how much it looks to the world like you are doing great, on the inside, you feel like shit.  You compare yourself to others, feel like you don’t measure up, beat yourself up, and you’re probably sick and tired of feeling like no matter what life looks like, this isn’t it!

Here’s how learning to like myself started for me:  I spent much of my adolescent and early adult life struggling to find inner peace.  On all fronts, I had a fantastic life.  I had loving parents, wonderful friends, good health, boyfriends, and a good job.  Why, then, did I frequently feel I was just not “good enough?” 

Life was all about getting to the next level.  Once I got “there”, all would be right in the world.  Once I got into college, life would come together.  Check.  Once I got my first job, then I would feel complete.  Check.  Once I moved out of my parents’ house, all would be right in the world.  Check, check, check.  

Nope.  Nope.  Nope.  When I got to the point that I couldn’t take it anymore, I enrolled in a six-day retreat, to learn how to experience more joy and satisfaction in my life.

And I had an epiphany that would forever change my life.
One of the retreat’s challenges was a ropes course designed to force you to confront your fears.  As I stood on a platform the size of a dinner plate, mounted 100 feet in the air, the instructions were simply to step off.  Although I knew intellectually that my safety harness would keep me safe, it didn’t stop my feet from remaining on that dinner plate for almost a half hour.  Finally, a voice from somewhere spoke to me: “Don’t let fear stop you,” it said. Even though I was scared to death, shaking and crying, I stepped off the platform.  The result from this simple step, was a  question that would forever change the course of my life: “Who gives a f*@k if you’re scared?”

It was the moment that I decided that the way I act in my life would have nothing to do with the fearful thoughts in my mind.

When I came home, I started experimenting.  Rather than listening to the voice telling me to stay in my comfort zone, I pushed myself into being uncomfortable, all with the same question: “Who gives a f*@k if you’re scared?”

I started meeting new people I would never have talked to before.  I joined a lacrosse team, and I’m terrible at lacrosse!  I started having more fun!  And the irony was, the more I pushed myself out of my comfort zone, the calmer and more balanced I felt, because I was no longer afraid of being afraid!

It is this question that introduced me to the voice of my Inner Critic:  the voice of “don’t do it, or this could happen!”  I caught my inner critic worrying about how I would be judged or how I would fit in and be perceived by others, and I would say, “Who gives a f*@k if you’re scared?” I was no longer allowing my broken record voice to have power over me.

In fact, the only reason you are even reading this now is because my lifelong personal work has been to override my inner critic. If it were up to my Inner Critic, there is no way I would be leading workshops all over the country, writing blogs, and working on a book!  With every step I take, the question remains the same: “Who gives a f*@#k if you’re scared?”

Liking yourself begins with the choice to no longer give power to the broken record thoughts that play over and over in your mind.  The truth is that right now, the way you think is automatic.  Your mind goes to the same thoughts, all day, every day, about why you just don’t cut it.  It is your thinking that is FUNDAMENTAL to how you feel about yourself and your life.  You automatically base your worth on everything you do, have, or say, or what you look like.  And this never ending chase to “be good enough” is a race to no where.  You are like a hamster on a hamster wheel.  No wonder you’re exhausted!

What if you could really feel like you are enough?  Just as you are, without changing or fixing anything?  It really is possible!

And it starts with this one step:  Stop letting your Inner Critic keep you stuck in fear.

Remember, who gives a f*@#k if you’re scared!!

4 Ways to Create Extraordinary Relationships Over the Holidays

stress46-634It’s the holiday season, and stress and holidays often go hand in hand. Shopping, decorating, end of the year deadlines at work, and family planning can often leave us feeling impatient, cranky, and in some cases, downright depressed.  This added stress can often result in tension and conflict, old wounds can resurface, and relationships can breakdown.

In my relationship counseling practice, holiday seasons are my busiest time of the year.  Breakdowns abound with spouses, children, and extended family members.

Here are 4 ways to avoid the pitfalls and enhance your ability to have relationships that are loving and connected:

1.     Take Responsibility for the Quality of Your Relationship.  Most of us are conditioned to blame something or someone else for how we are feeling.  When relationships come under stress, we often want to fix or change something about another in order to feel better about ourselves, or blame someone else for causing the upset.  This is when the problem really starts:  the moment we blame others for the problem, the power for the correction evaporates.  Are you really going to change them and thus heal the upset?  How successful has this proven to be in the past?  When you put yourself in the driver’s seat regarding the quality of the relationship, you take control of the problem.  You are now back in control.  In other words, this holiday season, are you willing to intend to stay loving and connected, regardless of the actions or behaviors of others?  Do this and observe the outcome.  The results may astonish you!

2.    Express Appreciation.  When we are under stress, we often forget to express appreciation for the good in our relationships.  We simply take them for granted.  However, appreciation is one of the keys to creating extraordinary relationships.  Even if you appreciate something, however small, it changes how that person feels about you and about the relationship.  Whether it’s your spouse, your child, or someone in your extended family, when someone feels appreciated, it changes how they act in the relationship, potentially changing the overall love and connection that you both experience.

3.    Ask Yourself, “What am I really upset about right now?”  Sometimes when we are upset in relationships, we don’t recognize that we are actually triggered into some deeper pain, and are blaming someone else for making us feel that way.  Relationship problems are often a result of deeper feeling that get triggered.  Our own beliefs about why someone acted the way they did, or said whatever they said, can cause our emotional reactions to become intense. Taking a moment to becoming aware of why you are having an intense emotional reaction can change the way that you react and express yourself.  And by changing the way you express yourself, you effect the way they will respond to you.

4.    Check Your Expectations.  We often have a list of “should’s” for ourselves and for others.  And when our “should’s” are not met, we often get upset.  We get stuck on “autopilot”, unaware of our intention to create a loving space in which our relationships can flourish.   We tend to disregard the positive aspects of the relationship, and instead, focus mainly on its negative aspects.  When you make a conscious choice to focus on the positives, the love and connection that you truly desire presents itself as a real possibility.

Remember, you have the power to shift the quality of your relationships by remembering to put some simple practices into your daily interactions with the people in your life.  And these practices are most important when life becomes hectic and chaotic!

I wish you a loving and connected holiday season.

Practicing Presence

by Joanna Kleinman

living34-01I have devoted my life’s work to support people to live lives that they love.  I teach people how to investigate their lives and learn tools for them to be happy, to feel empowered, fulfilled and content.

By age 9, I was already aware that I was struggling to feel more comfortable in my own skin.  I had loving parents, close friends, and yet I struggled with feelings of inadequacy, insecurity, and fear.   I suffered feelings of not belonging, and that I was not as well liked as I believed I should have been.

What I didn’t understand at the time, was that my mind was in a constant stream of endless thought.  Experts estimate that the mind thinks between 60,000 – 80,000 thoughts a day. That’s an average of 2,500 – 3,300 thoughts per hour. And these thoughts are automatic, habitually evaluating, judging, and categorizing everyone and everything we encounter.   Our automatic stream of thought is forever searching, but what is it really searching for?  We don’t really even know!   And in our never ending search to find something, we continually end up feeling lost.

In my work with thousands of people, what I constantly keep hearing is how fast the years have gone by, and they really don’t know what they were focusing on for most of that time.  For most of us, we weren’t actually present to our lives.  We used this moment as a stepping stone to get to the next.  And the more we searched, the more exhausted, overwhelmed, and unfulfilled we became.

Harvard researcher Matt Killingsworth conducted a study to answer the question, “What makes us happy?”  In his research, he found that people are least happy when their mind is wandering and most happy when their focus is in the present moment.  In other words, what constitutes the experience of happiness has far less to do with what we are actually doing and more to do with whether we are focusing our attention on the present moment while we are doing it.  Killingsworth further concluded that the average person’s mind is wandering approximately 47% of the day.  That is almost half the day spent focusing on things that are not actually happening in reality!  Our endless stream of automatic thinking traps us into creating a reality that doesn’t actually exist.

So how do we interrupt this automatic and constant compulsive thinking?  The answer is this:  We must practice being present.  And this skill almost never happens by itself.  It takes a willingness to be your own teacher, and the desire to regularly practice this skill in your daily life.

Here are 6 ways to practice presence in your daily life:

1.    Start the day by asking these two questions: “What do I need to let go of right now to be calm?”  In other words, what are the thoughts I am having that are causing stress and write down any responses that come to mind.
2.    Next, ask yourself a second question: “What do I have to be grateful for?”  Set a timer for several minutes and write down whatever comes to mind.  If nothing comes up, make it up!  Anything can belong on that list.
3.    Pay Attention to the sounds around you.  Take a few minutes to turn your attention to all of the sounds that are around you.  Don’t go into an explanation of the sounds, how you feel about them, or why they are occurring.  Just simply listen.
4.    Pay attention to your breath.  Focus on feeling your breath go in and out.  This simple exercise for just two minutes a day is a powerful tool for practicing presence, as well as for relaxing. When your mind wanders, just notice it and say “thinking, thinking.” Then gently return to the breath, and focus completely on your breath.
5.    During the day, when you remember, pay attention to every aspect of whatever you ‘re doing in that moment.  If you are driving, notice the things around you, such as the cars or trees. Notice how your hands feel on the steering wheel.  When we bring mindfulness into our daily routines (dishes, laundry, eating), what we’re doing is bringing more focus to each moment. Always try to notice the thoughts that are there, and gently let them pass, and bring yourself back to your present task.  Just notice your thoughts jumping from one to the next, and lovingly come back to the present.
6.    Release the Tension in the Body. When you are truly aware of your body, you can notice there is usually some tension and stress someplace within it.  Learn how to release it.  Use your breathing.  You can practice relaxation anywhere.  For example, while driving your car, at a red light, notice if there is tension in your body.  If yes, notice where it is in the body and practice releasing the tension that you noticed.

This is hard work at first, as we are constantly forgetting to engage with these practices.  But if you continue to practice presence, your life will change in ways you hadn’t imagined could be possible.