How to manage stress and preserve (or restore) lasting vitality

•July 31, 2009 • 1 Comment

Stress has the capacity to be both beneficial and detrimental.  It can sharpen the senses, provide extra energy in times of need, and temporarily “enhance” our perception.   On the flip side, it can take away from our ability to cope with problems effectively, implement timely solutions, and worst of all, it can destroy our health.

To ensure optimal stress levels, one must always keep his health and commitments in check.
Every two commitments you fulfill back-to-back create fantastic stress-defeating energy.

Good stress (eu-stress)

  • Sharpness, alertness;
  • Can energize you and push you to act for longer in the short-term
  • Can illuminate your true priorities (when the less important falls by the wayside)

Bad stress (di-stress)

  • Eats away from the inside;
  • Doesn’t let the mind rest;
  • If prolonged, pushes you beyond healthy limits;

Stress management

Ample evidence exists that stress management is not an art, but a science.  While every individual is different, several factors are scientifically proven in their effectiveness for stress reduction:

  • Rest; without question the most effective tool.  The paradox is precisely that we often cannot rest because of impending stress and duty.  The trick is learning to rest despite things that require your attention.
  • Exercise; particularly cardiovascular training. This is because healthy physical exertion provides a constructive outlet for the pent-up energy that comes from stress, provides much needed oxygen to the brain and organs of the body, and removes toxic waste substances such as cortisol, which are generated by stress.
  • Detailed Plans for Action: Because much stress stems from the uncertainty of what will happen or how one is to deal with the challenges at hand, detailed plans for action provide the much needed structure for stress reduction.
  • Contingencies: think of these as “risk management”.  For every source of stress, there are steps that can be taken to provide a sort of “insurance” against stress.  Think of it as giving yourself “breathing room” for situations that can take a stressful toll on your health and life.

THE BOTTOM LINE

Every stress factor can be mitigated.  Evaluating the source of the stress and creating a balancing point is the first step towards taking control.

The Principled Approach aims to integrate your own intuitive stress-management strategies into your daily living and create habits of thought and action that will sustain a healthy balance of optimum stress levels, allowing you to excel under pressure without becoming burdened by it.

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How self-sabotage can keep us from living the very life we strive for

•July 31, 2009 • Leave a Comment

Defining self-sabotage can be tricky, because it can take place in so many different forms. For now, let’s consider a simple definition: Not allowing oneself to have that which is rightfully deserved, usually due to an internal conflict.

Self-sabotage is the ultimate misalignment of action and intent.  Usually, it is characterized by one of the following:

  • Taking illogical action that brings results contrary to the desired outcome;
  • Stopping effort short of completion when one’s goal is already in reach;
  • Exhibiting fear or avoidance at the prospect of completing a goal;

Whatever the cause, the internal conflict that’s at work requires a resolution.
Self-sabotage is self-driven, which means it will never allow you to get what you want until you can understand its source.

Possible sources:

  • Fear;
  • Reservation of some kind;
  • Unresolved issues/trauma, damage;
  • Riveting habits that don’t allow for the necessary flexibility;
  • Self-perpetuating, self-destructive mentality;
  • False beliefs or hopes;
  • Poor experiences of the past;
  • Repressed guilt and consequent self-punishment;

THE BOTTOM LINE

If you suspect the presence of an internal conflict, you must take care to resolve it immediately. If you do not, even if you accomplish your goal, you will find a way to sabotage yourself eventually in some other way.

The Principled Approach aims to align the nature and mechanics of your unique existence towards the fulfillment of your own personal path. Naturally, resolving internal conflicts is part of the unique process of identifying key individual driving forces in your life.

Ambiguity and the pursuit of self-actualization

•July 21, 2009 • Leave a Comment

Whereas uncertainty is not knowing what will happen, ambiguity is a matter of not knowing what to do. One is a matter of faith and self confidence, and the other is a matter of competence and skill.
Why does this happen?
Ask yourself truthfully the following questions:

  1. Have I done my due diligence?

Due diligence simply refers to research.  But it’s not web-browsing or reading magazines.  Surface scans will no longer do here.   If you’re trying to figure out your direction in life or in a particular project, you need to become as close to an expert as you can get with the time and resources you can afford.

Again:  You need to become as close to an expert as you can with the time and resources you can afford.

If an attractive opportunity or idea jumps out at you during the course of your thinking about where to go next, take the time to self-educate on it to the best of your ability before filing it away.  Have you ever experienced the feeling that the answer you have been looking for has been there all along?  Well, this occurs when due dilligence is not done for one reason or another on a critical issue.  Perhaps you assume you know enough about it already, or you dismiss it as something you don’t have time for.  It will come back to bite you.  The rule is: when you don’t know what to do, you need to expand the possibilities of what’s possible in the life or project at the moment, NOT eliminate.

But that’s what we tend to do, isn’t it?  We tend to want to narrow down the list as soon as possible and “get down to it”.  It’s a paradox, because the more you eliminate in this stage the more you limit yourself.

“In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, in the expert’s there are few.”  ~ Shunryu Suzuki, Beginner’s Mind.

Ironically, with all the pressure you may be feeling to “just do something,” what the self is really searching for is an open road through which to naturally grow towards the desired state of existence or achievement (if working on a changeable task).  To allow for this possibility you must allow for the possibility of opening, which is impossible when super-imposed (IE self-imposed standards, or work deadlines/standards) issues are constantly pressuring something towards “completion”.
First of all remember that a state of “complete” is an illusive and inaccurate description of a project or state.  Nothing is really ever completed.  If you haven’t experienced this yet, you will.  But for practical examples, consider that;

  • If you build a house and don’t do a single other task, it will not be long before that house is not livable;
  • If you write a research paper; it will not be long before the information in it is outdated or incomplete, or before you find a way to say something better than you’ve said it before;
  • If you get married – you may consider it a great joy and accomplishment; but it will not be long before challenges present themselves in your relationship regardless of the status of “marriage”.

Apply these examples with anything else and you will see that very few things actually reach a state of completion.  You can complete a purchase, a contract, or a specific exercise.

The completion point is important because it communicates our general predisposition to “get it done” when that may not at all be the point or what’s called for in the situation.

To come back to the point of ambiguity of “I just want to do something“, that point is often driven by a sub-conscious or near-conscious desire to get something completed rather than allow things to be as they are.  If this is the case, be careful because it can turn into a long-term, self-sustaining trap of ambiguous living.

Question: “What do you do?”      Answer:  “I’m trying to figure out what to do!”

That cycle is self-perpetuating, which means it will continue to feed itself until you find a way to break the pattern.  The way to break the pattern is, once again, openness in the face of the daunting challenges of “figuring it all out.”  Part of that openness is the ability to remain open to possibilities while performing the very due dilligence necessary to determine if a particular direction is the right one for you.

But this is not what happens, is it?

Instead, we find a possible course of action and cling onto it for dear life in an attempt to define or resolve something to completion, hoping all the while that this is the one single answer which will allow us to eliminate the looming stress of all other pending possibilities.  Stop hoping; it’s not going to happen.

However, the alternative is as simple as it is liberating.

Instead of focusing on information and task management; focus on the management of the self in the course of your self-education of the possible emerging directions. Find ways to act with genuine interest on one possibility until you have done one of two things:

  • Seen enough to know that this is not the ultimate answer to your predicament; in which case you can be free to move on;
  • More likely: found a way to polarize or assimilate the insights you find along the way into supporting growth towards future possibilities;

Not a single piece of information, circumstance, interaction, or contact is wasted when it is experienced in the state of openness.  Even if you got shot down from an opportunity, publicly embarrassed, got your feelings hurt, and lost valuable time, you will have gained something if you were open to the experience.  If this seems unbelievable, that’s because it’s not governed by conventional logic.  It’s paradoxical. This means normal rules don’t apply, or that it doesn’t make rational sense.  It’s the way it is.  Practice it, and see what happens.

At the very least, do the due diligence.  Forget the urge of “having it all figured out.”  Clarity comes when you stop grasping for it, much like wealth, love, freedom, and enlightenment.  As you learn and grow, the opportunities will open all around you and meet you half way.  Let them, by being informed on the practical aspects of what you seek.

Some guidelines for due dilligence work.

  • Are you informed?  Plainly put – do you know what’s going on within the sphere of influence in which you’re operating?  Do you know what the critical issues are?  Relevant players?  Leaders?  Skeptics?  Do you know their positions on the issue thoroughly, without emotional reaction (either identification with, or rejection)?
  1. Have I taken the appropriate amount of time?  (to be expanded, come back soon!)
  2. Have I applied myself attentively and fully?*     (to be expanded, come back soon!)
    • This one is particularly important.

Ambiguity is a tactical problem, which means that there have to be some practical tactical steps one can reasonably take in order to resolve it.

If we can assume that as true, then the solution becomes to identify mere possibilities, at first, and later courses of action and the critical decisions that can be made based upon those options.

Practical Exercise

Objectively (without analysis or deliberation as to whether a course of action is actually plausible or even possible), list and identify the direct and indirect courses of action (active and passive).  This may require first analyzing what’s at stake, what’s a priority, goal, desired outcome, etc.
See “Path of Mastery”  under the Personal Achievement Foundation for a comprehensive goal overview.

Time constraints and what nobody needs more Of

•July 21, 2009 • Leave a Comment

Time is both an internal as well as an external barrier. It is external to the extent upon which external events impose upon our time, internal to the extent that we subjectively allow them to. So having time is actually a balance of not only how we manage time alone, but how we manage life and our response to it. The greatest of experts have known about for decades yet it is seldom written about in detail.

In today’s rigorous culture, it’s imperative that we change the way we think about our time and how much of it we choose to invest and in what. It is the only common non-renewable resource that we simply cannot create more of as of yet.

In his book entitled “The 4-hr Work Week”, author Timothy Ferris challenges some of the most rudimentary aspects of how we view our lifestyle progression. It is a best seller and is highly recommended for the development of perspective on what Ferris has coined as “Lifestyle Design.”

How Preconceptions Affect World View

•July 21, 2009 • Leave a Comment

Our personal preconceptions make up our unique belief system that influences the way we see the world.  This belief system can either be an asset or a liability, but more often than not it is a combination of the two.  Ultimately, it impacts how we view our choices and make decisions.

Some factors are:

  • Inherent skill set, and whether we consider it low, intermediate, or high;
  • How beliefs about that skills set influence our choices in education, career, and independent projects;
  • How those choices influence the outcomes of our personal, professional, and financial goals;
  • The personal value system, and its role in aiding our selection and conscious practice of all of the above;

More often than not, limiting preconceptions are beliefs about what has to happen before you can _________ (fill in the blank).

Some examples might be:

Desired State Preconception
I need to take control of my financial situation; I have to make more money.
I want to improve my skills; It would require time I don’t have right now.
To learn and develop credibility; I have to go to school and get a degree, or do something extraordinary.
I wish to write It’s all been said before, so who would read it?

In all of the above examples, preconceptions are internal responses to questions we haven’t consciously learned to ask. In other words, we’re subconsciously driving our thinking in a direction that is counter-constructive, does not allow for a creative solution, and serves as an automatic stop-point to that line of thinking.
This is how ordinary obstacles become the killers of dreams!
It’s important to understand that it’s not your own voice that makes those distinctions in the first place, it happens as a result of super-imposed pattern of influence. Perhaps that’s what other people, namely parents and teachers, have told you. Or perhaps it’s the kind of stifling criticism you have learned through years of belonging to an organization that promotes dependence, rather than independence.

In either case, an in-depth delving into one’s belief system about all facets of life may be necessary before the appropriate conclusions can be made about a suitable course of action.  In a pressure-driven world of “do, do, do,” the threat of distraction is constant and time spent on introspection is generally considered unproductive.

The only solution is to adopt a practice in which one trains oneself to habitually question the source of his or her reaction to events, circumstances, and choices, and examines the cause behind either the pursuit or aversion of knowledge/desire/career/growth, or whatever else may be the case.  This practice continues regardless of whether you consider yourself to be successful or not; it is a way of continuously refreshing one’s perspective, constantly striving to see situations and people in a new light or with “new eyes”, and continuing to re-define one’s approach to life from that place.

Overcoming the age barrier

•July 21, 2009 • Leave a Comment

It is a fact that in today’s world, the younger generation faces a unique set of challenges. The generational competence has shifted drastically with the emergence of the Internet, the technological evolution, and the global economy of competition.

These factors are compounded by subsequent differences in values, the process by which experience is obtained, and new methods of learning that are becoming available every day.

As a result, the new generation faces some interesting questions, such as, for instance:

  • How do the young people of tomorrow demonstrate their superior skills without formal prior work experience to show for it?
  • How will the new generation of workers adapt to established economies which were built on a different set of values and practices (and vise versa)?
  • How will they overcome the barriers created by the traditional educational system?
  • Where will they get the kind of training and support that is tailored to their unique demands and pace of growth?

Answering these questions alone can define possibilities if you are facing the age barrier as an obstacle.

The biggest barrier to communication

•April 12, 2009 • Leave a Comment

I would like to invite you to explore a crucial element that serves as the single biggest barrier to communication in almost any setting.

This element is the feedback loop.

First,
it’s important to clarify what communication really is.

Communication = information exchange

Therefore, it always takes place between two reference points even when those reference points may not be “people” per se, consciously communicating with each other. Computers communicate all the time, either via email, IP, ping backs or countless other systems which are designed to capture, process, store, and relay information of various kinds.  Hence: one-way and two-way communication. In order to be truly dynamic and engaged, communication has to be two-way (at the very least, among people).  This is because of the critical component of feedback.

Feedback mechanisms (loops)

Feedback is an ongoing process, not a single occurrence.  It’s not something we necessarily say, but a combination of factors that collectively relay our perception of a situation to another person.

It is because of the continuation of this critical process – until the message is fully received and processed – that communication takes place. The effectiveness of the communication is only as effective as the feedback loop that happens between the source and its intended destination, and visa versa.

For this reason, the relatively broad subject of communication applies equally to a wide variety of areas that at first glance may not appear to have anything in common with Barriers to Growth.  It is when we begin to understand the impact of the communication and interaction process behind some commonly recurring
situations that take place throughout our daily life that we begin to grasp its true significance and how it influences everyday events.

Examples

-1-

Take collaboration, for instance.

The inability to express and communicate one’s ideas is one of the main reasons that people become discouraged in communication with others.

As a practical example, picture a back-and-forth exchange between two people who do not understand each other’s meaning on the subject at hand.

Person A continues trying alternate routes of explanation as he/she gradually chips away at the barrier to communication and gets closer and closer to the desired
realization of his meaning by Person B.

-2-

Likewise, in addition to communication with others, this can be the process of implementing ideas into practice.

Whereas the creative urge of ideas within an individual occurs naturally and without provocation, and needs only to be aided in its cultivation, the physical effort
of translating that urge into comprehensible worldly form is a matter of diligence and discipline. It may be helpful to think of this process as a progression of cycles, one in which every pass is an attempt to translate the core idea into its physically manifested equivalent.

Some of these “passes” or attempts will cycle closer to a mutual understanding or the fruition of a chosen task.  This constitutes an open feedback loop, where the exchange of information is encouraged and supplemented, allowing the “conversation” (or practice) to progressively gain momentum and depth.

Other passes or attempts will cycle further from this mutual understanding (which is inevitable), and will function as a closed feedback loop, one in which the
possibilities for expansion are limited by presuppositions imposed by one or more influencing sources (yourself included).  Sometimes, this distancing can pose a
renewed opportunity to gather perspective, reflect, and refresh our outlook on the entire situation as we ready ourselves for the next cycle of approach (hopefully closer to the core of the issue) or idea implementation.

-3-

Perhaps the easiest example to illustrate this point is that of the language learning process, particularly as it takes place in children.

First of all, immersion provides the greatest opportunities for learning because it eliminates the option of falling back on an already existing communication model.

Second of all, self-consciousness and reserve is far less developed in children, making them largely unconcerned with what may be thought of them by others (in their attempts to communicate via the new language)

Thirdly and finally, the ongoing trial-and-error approach at communicating his/her meaning continues relentlessly until it elicits the desired result (in this case, a receipt and acknowledgement of the meaning).

As a practical exercise, observe how the above three factors influence the feedback loop between the child and his/her learning environment, and what effect that has on the end result (learning the language).

Secondly, the above is true of internal communication – or internal dialogue – with oneself.

Have you ever experienced a situation in which you knew you had genuine motivation and the right idea about something, only to feel like (or be made to feel like) a complete idiot when attempting to capture that motivation or idea in some true form?  (Like write it down on paper, or share with someone in your excitement).

Why do you think this happened?  Were you convinced, either by yourself or someone else, that the largely unquantifiable “raw” form of creative inspiration, that urge that occurred inside of you wasn’t merited, or could not be justified?

Do you really believe that there must have been nothing more to it than you initially felt, or is it possible that the feedback loop between your conscious and intuitive
self could have been interrupted by one or more barriers or obstructions that were consciously or subconsciously created?

Can you see how this internal process may impact your choices, moods, or your perception of what the possibilities before you actually are?

Lastly~

I encourage you to think about the relationships and sources of feedback you experience on a daily basis, and consider whether they most closely resemble an open feedback loop, or a closed one.  Furthermore, evaluate your own thinking process and determine whether you largely contribute to open feedback loops (through adding perspective, expanding on the possibilities, and eliciting a sort of net-gain in meaning), or closed ones (through destructive criticism, unnecessary skepticism, debunking, and an ultimate net-loss in momentum).

By consistently training oneself to think in open feedback loops, an individual can learn to intuitively overcome virtually any barrier to communication, whether it is in collaboration with others or in the application of one’s own ideas and practices.  It’s a great approach to contributing and aiding in the contributions of others, and
our collective ability to do that as a whole greatly impacts the spectrum of social changes we can achieve.

Furthermore, by learning how to spontaneously and masterfully “open” feedback loops, one gains a score of psychological benefits, such as:

  • The ability to extract maximum meaning from negative experiences (thereby shifting their focus from suffering to learning and growth)
  • The ability to elicit or create new possibilities for oneself and others, either in conversation or in collaborative action
  • The ability to encourage, inspire, and otherwise lead others by being a liberating influence rather than a stifling/pressuring one.

Your feedback is greatly appreciated!