Over the coming days I will be publishing articles on specific steps that can help you find your confidence and start living life on your own terms, if you choose so. This step-by-step guide is an extract from my coaching program, created as a result of my personal experience and life practice of various theories, discoveries, research and publications in psychology, neuroscience, applied behavioral science and many others.
You will certainly come across some points you already know – this information is out there in this world, accessible to all. I have selected only what works for me, making me enjoy the journey of self-actualization. My clients, who have embraced these simple steps, have experienced breakthroughs and success in their lives.
Caution: this step by step guide is very simple, however, it is only effective for those who are committed to their success by making conscious effort and having discipline to practice each and every step consistently.
So, let’s begin with the step 1.
- Our minds and our ability to think is what differentiates us, human-beings, from all other creatures on earth.
- We live in the world of mental constructs and perceptions. There is absolute truth (what everybody on earth accepts as truth, e.g. 1+1=2) and there is relative truth (what is true for people based on their upbringing, culture, tastes etc.).
- Therefore, there are multiple realities, all based on how people see and interpret the world.
- Everybody, including you, has a choice to see things differently, think differently, feel differently, and create the experiences they want in life.
Principle: Your thoughts lead to your feelings (emotions) that lead to actions that lead to results. Your results are therefore the direct reflection of your thoughts. You, and only you, have the power to take control over your thoughts, feelings and emotions, in order to take actions that will lead to the results you want to see in your life. This is the gift of human-beings – to utilize the power of our minds to create the reality we want to live in.
Problem: From childhood and throughout our lives, our minds have been cluttered with information presented to us as absolute truth – by our parents, schools, institutions, religious organizations, authority figures etc., forming our “reality bubbles” and filling them with fog, making it thicker and thicker over time. This mental and emotional clutter is what keeps us exactly where we are, stuck in our “reality bubble”, preventing us from seeing different opportunities that are out there for us.
Solution: Decluttering, getting rid of mental and emotional clutter which keeps us stagnant, is the first part of this guide, and it includes a number of steps. Once our mind is clear, then it can be filled with some tools which will help maintain its clarity and mental strength.
Step 1. Get rid of learned negative emotions – shame, guilt, worry.
These 3 emotions are learned. They are not natural.
Just think about it. All babies are born with complete sense of self-esteem, self-worth, self-love. They know that they are worthy of attention, worthy of love, they enjoy life as it is. Even with a full stinky diaper, running nose, food all over the face, they are happy and smiling – they aren’t guilty or ashamed. Then comes the moment where the child starts hearing phrases like “shame on you”, “you should be ashamed for doing this”, “you should feel bad for…”, “you should feel guilty for…”, “you should feel ashamed of yourself”, “you are killing me by …”, “mommy won’t love you if…” and so on. The “guilt trips” continue at school, for not performing well enough, for saying something that the teacher finds inappropriate, and so it goes. Day after day people hear from their parents, authority figures, religious organizations, various institutions that they should feel guilty and ashamed for many different reasons.
It then continues with self-imposed moral standards which you don’t necessarily agree with but have either accepted as absolute truth, or impose on yourself to please, to fit in and to belong. You break a moral rule, you then feel guilty and ashamed of your behavior.
There are benefits to guilt and shame: guilt is a useful tool to manipulate others, to make them conform to the other’s demands and standards of behavior. That’s why guilt and shame are taught as a necessary, socially acceptable and expected behavior in our society. It is also a very efficient way to transfer responsibility on others by making them feel guilty. On the individual level, guilt and shame give you permission to repeat the same behavior – if you felt guilty and ashamed long enough then you might be forgiven. You also have higher chances of winning approvals by fitting in. It is an excellent technique to win pity of others if you look for attention.
However, when you choose to feel guilty or ashamed, you end up in stupor, inaction. You get stuck in the past, reviving the same past episodes over and over again. You don’t enjoy the present moment, plus you don’t take any action now, in the present, to move closer to your dreams.
Worry (don’t confuse with the planning), another learned emotion, happens when your mind travels to the non-existent future. You activate your creative imagination, paint the worst case scenario and horror pictures (you see – everyone has creative abilities), and here the worrying begins. You spend your time being dysfunctional, worrying about the “might be” dreadful future, instead of enjoying the present moment and taking action with confidence to create the future you want to see.
Our society encourages worrying. It is expected that if you care about someone then you are supposed to worry about that person. Worrying equals imagining all the bad things that might happen to the person, and feeling that way makes you a good mom, friend, colleague, partner. How smart is that?
The outcome of worry is the same as of guilt and shame – dysfunctional you. The individual benefits of worrying – you avoid taking risk, you avoid taking action, you live in the self-pity which attracts attention of other worriers.
Getting rid of shame, guilt and worry:
- Understand that guilt, shame and worry don’t serve your progress. At the contrary, they do a disservice by draining your energy, putting you in a completely dysfunctional mode in the present by making you think about the past or the future. These emotions can also manifest in a physical disease.
- Why would you want to waste your precious time thinking about the past which you can’t change? The past is over, it is gone. No matter how you feel about it, you can’t go back in time to correct it, at least not yet on this planet.
- Your past doesn’t define you today. Accept yourself and adjust the behavior you didn’t like in the past to become a better person today. This is called “learning from the past”. There is no need to feel guilty or ashamed in order to learn something new or take a corrective action.
- Go back to the “givens”. Review your value system to ensure it reflects your standards and not someone else’s. Your core values define what’s important to you, and they will differ from the values of others. It is ok, even if some are not pleased with your values. We are all different. You are not a clone of someone else.
- If someone sends you on a “guilt trip”, refuse the invitation by ignoring it or sending it back with a “thank you, won’t join you” note.
- Ask yourself: “What am I avoiding in the present by choosing to stay in the past / in the non-existent future?”. In many cases, you choose to live in the past or in the non-existent future to avoid something that requires action on your side.
- Thinking about non-existent future without taking any action to influence it is a waste of time. Take action – do what you don’t want to do, and do it first.
Get your mind back to where it belongs – the present moment. You have the power over it. Enough living in the past or in the non-existent future. Learn from the past and prepare for the future by getting into the present moment and working on yourself – enjoying life, building your strengths, practicing what you want to master, taking action to creating the future you desire for yourself. Begin now.