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Choosing Your PowerBecoming who you deserve to be, at home and in the world!
By Wayne D Pernell
Balboa PressCopyright © 2012 Wayne D Pernell, PhD
All right reserved.
Chapter OneIf You'd Just ...
You're about to build on the strengths you have and learn some new tools to begin Choosing Your Power. That's what this book is about. It's a journey of exploration and stepping into the self you deserve to be.
In this chapter, I invite you to stay curious. I'm going to help you reframe some of the "simple" rules of success. It's about being curious rather than petulant. You know, like an adolescent who does the opposite of what he or she is told. You can be skeptical. Just allow yourself to look at all the potential sides of something. And in terms of petulance, well, it's easy to get fed up with the "if you'd just have a positive attitude" stuff. So engage in a sense of wonder, stay curious, and come with me ...
As intended by the directive from chapter 1, it's important to slow down enough to be with yourself for a second. Quiet your mind. Judgment comes quickly. So stop thinking. Stop judging. And stop listening to the stuff that translates to "If you would just ___________, your life would be oh so much better." There's no just about anything you do.
You know the fill-in-the-blank stuff I'm talking about:
» If you'd just believe in yourself ...
» If you'd just try harder ...
» If you'd just have a better attitude ...
If is so powerful, and I'll guide you to daring to desire in a few chapters. For now, we'll look at the not-so-pleasant side of things. Yes, I have to take you here. You're a little cynical anyway, so this shouldn't be too terrible for you.
Being told that things could be better if ... is a tough thing. You've heard it before; you've told it to yourself before; and you even want to think it's true. You might even do the thing that you believe would make your life better if you could. But it's like being told to stay warm when you don't have a jacket. You'd love to put it on. But really? How do you just have a better attitude or just believe in yourself when you never have? You can fly! How do you guide yourself down a path of success if you've never been taught how? Oh, and just have a positive attitude, and it'll work itself out. Really? It'll work itself out? Well, it would if ... but there you go again with that not-so-positive attitude. Why should it work out if you're not going to be positive to start with?
What really comes first, success or the positive attitude? Having a better attitude and truly believing in yourself aren't the places you start. You get there, so let's start with where you are. You got to where you are by having the tools (or strategies or instincts or dumb luck) to get there. The point is that something is working.
Don't "yeah but" that concept here. You might be a total wreck right now, or you might be the most successful person on the planet. Either way, you're here, and either way, you can choose to improve. We all can. The point is that no matter what your life situation is right now, something is working so that you are alive and willing to consider improving. That is what's working for you. You're considering getting better; you've begun to accept that things can be different, and you've entertained how you can continue Choosing Your Power!
1. You have tools. They've worked to get you to where you are now. That's a place somewhere above mere survival. Congratulations!
2. You're considering getting better, and you're wondering how to do that. That's fantastic because when you wonder how, you're asking a question that will help you sharpen the tools you already have. Asking better questions gets you better answers. Keep asking!
3. You're willing to consider additional tools. You're not quite sure what you have, and you may not be certain about what you need. That's confusing enough and it's worthy of celebration.
Congratulations! Really. A lot of people don't even think about getting better. You are on track simply by wondering! Remember that "stay curious" thing. That puts you ahead of the game already!
Start with an inventory.
Look around you. Look in the mirror. Yeah, go ahead ... Just ignore those not-so-kind thoughts. Reflect on your friendships. Who in your life has made a really positive impact on you? Okay, now for the harder part. You're holding this book because there are also people in your life who have made not-so-positive impacts on you. You can take a moment to reflect on them as well. They've helped you become who you are right now.
Acknowledge what you have that's working.
Take a minute now. Seriously, just reflect ontruly think aboutthe top six things that are working for you. You have them. It could be the fact that you're thinking about it, it could be that you're talking back to these words and ready to argue with me that not a whole lot is working, or it could be the fact that you've actually got a list of things that are working. So stop the chatter and get a clear list. What are the top six things in your life that are working for you?
Now take a few minutes to break from reading, just long enough to stop the chatter and look for the positive. One more time. Really. Do this now.
Acknowledge what you have That's not working.
Wow. It seems like humans get trained to look at the not so great. We can walk into the most beautiful halls, museums, and cathedrals with shrines painted in gold and trimmed in precious gems and surrounded by dazzling stained glass, and you know what? Our eyes will catch on the one tile that is missing way up in the far corner. It's so easy to go to the "this is what's wrong" place.
Think about people who live their lives only focusing on the "what's wrong." They find it, and instead of simply noticing, they'll latch onto what's wrong and become slightly superior for finding it. They might even use the fact that they found the "wrong" thing as leverage to be offended. "You said this and it happened that way." That's a trap, and while it feels better in the moment, if you've gone to that superior place or if you're judging something as being less than or wrong, you're only serving to push other people or significant experiences away.
As an exerciseand as an exercise onlylet's indulge that part of you. Let's go to the place where you can look at "what's wrong" and focus on what's not working or what needs fixing in your life. Move from examining what's wrong to what you need as a solution. Remember, this chapter's title is "If You'd Just ..." So, let's explore the sense of thatthe "if only" feeling. What's wrong, and what needs fixing?
» Do you need a different job?
» Do you need a different partner or for your family to be different somehow?
» Do you need more money?
» Do you need more friends?
» Do you need a different home or living situation?
» Do you need a different car, computer, or cell phone?
In chapter 7, we'll dive into a list of "Watch Words." There, we will explore how oppressive the word need really is. It's time to reframe any of what's missing in your life and look at two things. First, stop playing the victim in the world and living at the whim of others. Start by changing the word need to the word want. In Chapter 5 we'll discuss how to move from desire to destination. For now, just know that you can be back in control if you claim a true desire over a need. Notice also, that being clear about your desire(s) is different than merely floating out an empty wish.
» I want a job where my talents are noticed and I'm respected/valued for my contributions (vs. I wish I could run this place).
» I want a partner who supports me and challenges me enough to grow (vs. I want a wealthy, good looking partner to just take care of me).
» I want a car that is reliable (vs. I wish I had a Maserati).
Second, acknowledge that you have tools and strengths and that you're not done yet.
» I got to this age by using the tools I had.
» I'm still learning, and every day offers exciting opportunities.
» I picked up this book because I believe in myself, and I truly want to grow in positive ways.
So the to-do action steps you get to begin to practice are:
1. Become attuned to the language you use as you speak with others and, perhaps more important, when you speak with yourself. Beware of using the word need when thinking about things you want to attract to yourself and be conscious of even the small things like ordering food ("I need a ..." vs. "I'd like a ...").
2. Interrupt any language that contains judgment or condemnation (about yourself, any part of yourself, or others). As you talk, you may hear yourself use language that might tear you or others down, even if only a little.
a. By not participating in gossip or judging yourself negatively, you train your mind and create openings for the much more positive to get in.
b. Body image and body size actually change when you start focusing on facets you like rather than focusing on those you don't like or that you worry about. Do you like your hands, your calves, or your toes? Focus there anytime you feel like you need to comment on the way your jeans fit or any other attribute that isn't quite "right."
3. Build your menu of alternate words so you can change the language you use. Stop yourself midsentence and shift your focus to something more positive.
Words become powerful. You say them to yourself, you hear them from others, and the problem is that you begin to believe them. The point here, and in fact all along the way, is choice. Truly choose what you focus on and don't just become lazy by leaping to conclusions or making assumptions. That means start to look at the information you have differently. You have information to which you ascribe a certain feeling or impart power. Examine; don't assume.
It's clear that making assumptions often gets people into trouble. There is, however, one assumption that can set you just a bit freer: no one woke up this morning to make your life miserable. It's not raining to make you wet. The flight wasn't late to make you worry about your connection or your meeting. It's not being done to you. Whatever it is, it just exists. It's information for you, and it's neutral.
All information is neutral. Even if you were told you won the lottery, that's neutral information. Most people would see it as a fairly positive thing. A few might view it as not so great. The thing is it starts as neutral. It's a condition to which you get to choose to react.
All of life is exactly thata condition to which you get to choose to react. So starting by bargaining with yourself or the powers that be with words like if you'd just makes no sense. It neither supports you nor empowers you to get further. You can choose though.
You can choose what you think by interrupting what you were thinking. After practicing choosing your words and selecting what you think, you actually begin to choose how you think. Since your thoughts affect everything you have and bring into your life, choosing the positive makes a big difference.
So stop thinking. Reflect on what has been working and what has brought the positive into your life. Interrupt what hasn't been working, and begin to substitute the positive.
As an exercise (yes, another one), describe your clothes. Writing down the description makes this exercise that much more potent. Or say it out loud. If you're in public, it's okay to whisper. Describe what you're wearing. The task isn't just to list your clothes. Rather it's to deliberately create a neutral inventory. There's no such thing as "I'm wearing my old faded top" or, on the other side of judgment, "I've got on my really nice slacks." Instead, go deliberately neutral: "I'm wearing a pale blue knit top, dark blue pressed jeans, and brown open-toe sandals." There's no mention of what brand or how nice or beaten up they are. They just exist.
The purpose of this exercise is to practice finding the neutral space and then choosing to impart a positive impression on what you're noticing. Let's say your top is old and faded. Calling it pale blue instead of saying it used to be cobalt is the task. Then when you come to this next step, say something nice about it. "This pale blue top has lasted through three years of regular wear and washing." That's so different than "Ugh, this old thing!"
Now let's try it for other situations. Describe your surroundings. Go neutral and then find something positive: "My apartment is so small and cluttered" turns into "I have a place to live and many of my things are visible" which then turns to "I love having a space to call my own with the ability to keep my stuff with me."
Practice the following statements:
» I work with some interesting people. I'm glad I can choose to act differently than they do when faced with stressors.
» I'm on the road with some expressive people. I can choose to smile, knowing that clenching my jaw doesn't get me there any faster. These people are good reminders for me, and if I could, I'd like to thank them for helping me smile.
» I've just finished reading the second chapter in this book, and I'm already taking steps to change my life for the better. I'm practicing new ways of thinking. By acknowledging my progress, I can choose to let go of past patterns and welcome opportunities to find new ways of being. This feels good!
Chapter TwoPermission Granted
You're sorry, and I'm confused.
I stand in a building's lobby, waiting to enter the elevator. As the doors open and the stream of people flows out, some people push past while others tiptoe by, squeaking out apologies. "Oh, sorry."
Yep, you're sorry, and I'm confused.
I don't quite understand what happened that caused you to apologize for exiting the elevator and making room for me to step in. Really, I don't get it. Chances are you don't understand it either. It's just what you do. In fact, you probably didn't even know you were doing it.
It's time to break away from being apologetic and step into being who you really, truly are: powerful and valuable in the world. Really, what exactly are you apologizing for? You're sorry that you're in my way? Don't we both belong here? Is it possible that you're sorry for taking up any space in the world at all?
You know who I'm talking about. The chronic apologizers. It's a disease. It has to be. It's a disease in the world that an apology is the go-to standard way to respond.
There are some people who seem to apologize more frequently; women are probably just more vocal about it. I know there are men who apologize for just breathing another person's air too. You may recognize yourself; if it's you, you're likely to want to apologize for having apologized. And if it's not you, it's likely you know someone who takes care of everyone else so that no waves are ever made.
Far too often I come across people who catch themselves doing something for which they feel compelled to apologize. The apology, "Oh, sorry," speaks volumes. True remorse and regret can be conveyed appropriately in the sorry remark. But that's not always how it's used. Often it's a tool of survival.
"Sorry" is used to preempt the negative judgment that comes after being caught doing something perceived as wrong. It's almost as if the "guilty" person is saying, "If I apologize before you have a chance to get mad at me for being in the wrong place at the wrong time or for doing something wrong, then you won't be as mad at me." If others can't get mad, then they can't punish you. So you'll cower and punish yourself first. This fear-based response helps very little in the long run. Most people don't like to be judged. Some people hold a significant amount of fear about thinking someone might think badly of them, so they shrink back, apologize, and do what they can to placate and make nice, even when no real offense exists.
That may have worked to get you through day-to-day survival of an abusive, alcoholic, or otherwise oppressive household as a child. We each have tools that have helped us grow up. The task now is to really assess whether the tools we have been using to get here are still serving us. As adults, we owe it to ourselves and to the people around usat home, at work, and beyondto show up. So now that we are adults, "sorry" is a very, very broken tool. From whom are you protecting yourself?
Think about how you are judging yourself and then how you train others to judge you. You teach others how to treat you by how you present yourself to the world. As noted in the introduction of this book, Choosing Your Power is about accepting and then overcoming your own worthy struggle. How have you judged yourself? How have you presented yourself to the world? How have you allowed others to treat you? How have you been training others to treat you?
Excerpted from Choosing Your Power by Wayne D Pernell Copyright © 2012 by Wayne D Pernell, PhD. Excerpted by permission of Balboa Press. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Table of Contents
If You'd Just ....................2
Not Good Enough....................24
Decisions Terminate Panic....................38
Envisioned Positive Outcome....................54
Communication Magic for Your Daily Life....................72
Gratitude and Attitude....................93
Re-Lation-Ship and the Existential Dilemma....................112
Overwhelmed by Choice....................142
Spiraling Toward Freedom....................158
About the Author....................187