Trust

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“Every disease is a physician.” ~ Irish Proverb

Have you ever experienced an unanticipated, three-day whirlwind in a hospital’s Trauma Unit followed by seemingly endless tests and diagnostic procedures? For yourself? When you visit a doctor or hospital, it’s likely with a sense of trust and hope. You’re at your most vulnerable, but you trust the doctor and you know s/he wants to do the best for you.

Unfortunately, the relationship isn’t always so straightforward for the doctor. Of course s/he wants the best for you, that’s why they joined the profession. But increasingly, physicians are being pulled by powerful forces that affect their decisions and the way you will be treated.

For we who want to visit a doctor or hospital in good faith, we also need to acknowledge there’s a ‘dark heart’ to medicine – created by the pharmaceutical industry which see doctors as little more than the deliverer of its expensive and sometimes dangerous drugs. And often, it is this dark heart that bring trust into question.

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The push by drug companies to make even bigger profits has dire consequences, one that Professor Ian Roberts at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine describes as “industry slaughter.” Every year an estimated 100,000 Americans and 30,000 Britons die from an adverse reaction to a drug prescribed by their doctor and those are only the deaths that are identified as being the result of a drug.

Having been discharged and prescribed two new drugs, I researched a bit more. In a 2010 Gallup Health and Healthcare survey, 85% of Americans over 65 are confident in their doctor’s advice. 67% of those between 50 and 65 are confident, as are 65% of people under 50. This surprised me so I dug further.

Americans’ trust in the medical profession has plummeted in recent years, and lags well behind public attitudes towards doctors in many other countries, according to Professor Robert Blendon in a 2012 study at the Harvard School of Public Health. Per the survey of people in 29 countries, the U.S. ranked 24th in public trust of doctors.

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What’s driving trust levels down is that physicians in the U.S., as groups and leaders, are not seen as broad public advocates for health and health care issues, stated Blendon. “In the U.S., they’re seen more as a group concerned with their own professional problem and economic issues.”

I suspect there are endless studies that support or dispute these conflicting views. A few years ago I attended a full-day workshop led by renown trust expert Dennis Reina. One of several takeaways was a definition of interpersonal trust: An expectation about future behavior of another person and an accompanying feeling of calmness, confidence and security.

This leaves me wondering, who are the pawns in our healthcare system? The doctors or the patients?

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Most of us value trust. We want to trust others. And in many cases, we do. If trust is a matter that you question (not simply with health care), you can consider looking inward to your own integrity and believability with these three practices:

  1. Show people you care about them. When people know you care about their interests as much as your own, they will trust you. If they know you are out for yourself, their internal alarm sounds and they will say to themselves, “watch out for that person.”
  2. Say “I don’t know.” Admit that you don’t know and say it upfront and direct. You’ll get a lot of credibility for that.
  3. Recognize the need for risk. The extension of trust always involves an element of risk. There is no guarantee that the other person is deserving of your trust, but once the trust has proven well-founded, it can create even greater levels of trust.

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Very Hard Things

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“One of the hardest things in life is having words in your heart that you can’t utter.” ~ James Earl Jones

I recently lunched with three friends. We enjoyed a casual conversation that, at one point, meandered into various thoughts and experiences about courage. The things no one else is doing. The things that scare you. The things that define you and that make a difference between living a life of mediocrity or outrageous outcomes.

It got a little deeper. We generally agreed that hard things are the easiest to avoid; to pretend they don’t apply to you. The sense that ordinary people (like us) accomplish great things because they often do the hard things; the things that take courage. Being the demure one among we four, I decided to ask the others what the hardest thing was that they ever had to do. Truly, the most gut wrenching act or decision. And lunch took a very different turn.

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I’m not going to go into what was disclosed. Each of us had a very personal story, just as you and others have. What I will share is that as I was driving back to my home office, I cried. Because I realized how fragile I have been and at times, still am. Especially when we must muster whatever courage we have and deal with life’s hardest things.

Not always do people get the lessons and character they ought to — out of the hard things in life. Some are not good learners in life’s school. Some grow bitter in disappointment and lose some of their innocence. Others have their vulnerability pierced when they endure trial.

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There aren’t many ways to avoid very hard things. It’s part of thriving. Yet there are counter-balances to dealing with life’s biggest challenges; actions to redirect your energy and attention. If you seek or need to refocus, especially after having dealt with something very hard, here are three considerations:

  1. Find beauty in small moments. Don’t wait for the next big thing to happen — winning the lottery, kids, promotions — find peace in the small things that happen every day. Enjoy the pleasure of sharing something you enjoy with someone else; holding hands with your partner; a quiet cup of coffee in the morning. Noticing small pleasures on a daily basis can change the quality of your life.
  2. Start a family. I don’t mean have kids. Make the decision to have a family, which means giving of yourself fully to another person or several people. Risk being vulnerable by sharing your fears, quirks, and failures with someone else; you might find it makes you even stronger. Find someone or some people with whom you can share love, mutual respect, and trust.
  3. Practice self-compassion. People often find it easy to offer support to others at a cost of being less compassionate to themselves. Research shows that people who are kinder to themselves, who don’t get bogged down in personal imperfections and weaknesses, are more likely to be in better health.

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Masculine Qualities

“There are very few great discoveries in the world. Tantra can claim the greatest discovery. Even after nuclear weapons, Tantra’s discovery has been standing there for ten thousand years unused, an insight of such great value. The insight is that man and woman are not just one – man just man, woman just woman – no. They are both together: man is half man and half woman, and the same is true about women.” ~ Osho, Sermons in Stone

Recently, I was discussing desirable masculine traits with a female colleague. She shared five qualities with me that she heard from Shelly Bullard, a Marriage and Family Therapist. I wasn’t surprised that these five aligned with themes addressed in coaching, as well as qualities frequently highlighted in this blog.

My colleague was explaining reasons we’re attracted to certain people and one of those reasons is whether that person is masculine of feminine. And I suspect some of you reading this post are saying, really?! 🙂 She went on to say that as a man, you must have these qualities to appear attractive to a female. However, not every woman is going to want a man with these distinctly masculine traits. Confused yet?

Presence Presence is the ability to be consciously connected to the here and now. Women can feel a man’s presence when he listens to her. She can feel presence when a man is connected to his core. And presence is a practice at which one can get better. Culturally, we’re in an epidemic of not being present; we find many ways to distract ourselves every day. Thus, being present in interactions is highly desirable and valued.

Purpose According to Bullard, purpose can be many things. It can be to change the world; to push your body to its limits; to build a business or home; to make art; or to be the kindest person you know. It’s not so much about the purpose, rather, it’s that you have a purpose or that you’re in the process of discovering/fulfilling it.

Direction With purpose comes direction. Purpose is knowing what you are here to do and direction is doing it. Women are attracted to men who get things done. A man’s clear direction makes the feminine feel safe. If she knows a man can navigate well on his own, then she has more room to relax in a man’s presence. She doesn’t have to show a man how to do it.

Honesty and Truth Both of these traits are important in all relationships. Trust comes from acting in honest ways. A distinct (though not exclusively) feminine quality is intuition and with intuition comes the ability to sense BS a mile away. (The converse holds true for some men, too.) When a man learns to be completely honest with himself (about struggles, shortcomings, challenges, strengths, etc.) then his integrity can be felt/sensed and he’ll be trusted.

Humor Humor is at the top of most women’s lists because humor has the ability to lighten the mood. The feminine gets bogged down with her emotions, as well as her to-do lists. (Bullard said this, not me.) This is stressful for women. If a man can make her laugh, it’s a getaway to flow. Women are grateful for a man’s ability to add joy and light to everyday life.

Now typed, I’m unsure why I chose to share this. I suppose, in part, it’s because I appreciate and strive to live these qualities – but for my own reasons, not necessarily to satisfy another’s criteria. In my mind, masculine and feminine qualities are gifts. And perhaps it’s the mix that each of us possesses which makes us unique.

So… wise readers, what say ye?

Dealing With HSP

“The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves, and wiser people so full of doubts.” ~ Bertrand Russell

Sensitivity is your ability to pick up on sensory information with your nervous system. It is neural. It is like a sensitive microphone; it picks up on subtle sounds. Not good or bad.

Psychologist Elaine Aron has been researching a temperament category she describes as “highly sensitive people” (HSP). Her work has been gaining increased attention in recent years. This little understood inherited temperament could be impacting your life or someone you love in surprising ways. According to Aron, this trait is not a new discovery, but it is something that has often been culturally devalued, making life challenging for people who live with it.

HSP experience everyday sensory input in a uniquely heightened way that can cause them both pleasure and pain. HSP feel emotions deeply and, as they tend to be empathic, find themselves affected by the emotions of others. We often think of sensitivity as weakness for three main reasons: it is out of our logical control, it makes us vulnerable, and we don’t know what to do with it, which means that we suppress and judge it – so it has manifested in weakness.

Could you be among the 15-20 percent of the population that make up this group? Here are six tell tales that tend to be associated with HSP:

  • You were described as sensitive as a child.
  • You pick up subtleties in your environment.
  • You can easily become overwhelmed.
  • You fall hard and fast (as in love).
  • You are conscientious.
  • You have a vivid imagination.

Some HSP develop animosity toward their way of experiencing the world. Yet it is not a curse, but a path to wisdom. HSP who deny their sensitivity can lead to unhappiness but exploring its benefits can lead to positive change in yourself and others.

If you sense that you are a HSP and would like to experience more of your sensitivity, here are three ways to strengthen that awareness:

  1. Distinguish between sensations and emotions. A sensation is neural sensory information in your body (butterflies in the stomach, tension in the shoulders). An emotion is a personal response to a sensation (I personally feel scared about this).
  2. Give yourself permission to feel your sensations, then engage with them. For example, “I feel my body shaking right now and that is okay. I can shake.” Rather than judging it by saying, “Why am I shaking right now? What’s wrong with me? I shouldn’t be nervous now!”
  3. Remind yourself that you are an active life participant. See yourself as being on the chessboard rather than viewing it from above. Allow yourself to feel in response to the position you are in. Ask yourself “What would feel better right now?” and then let that come to you.

Your body knows more than you think. Consider starting where you are and taking a step in the direction of trusting your body and its nervous system. I have. 🙂

Moments… Big and Small

“I believe that life is a journey, often difficult and sometimes incredibly cruel, but we are well equipped for it if only we tap into our talents and gifts and allow them to blossom.” ~ Les Brown

I suspect you’ve had many big moments in your life. Perhaps a significant graduation; the birth of a first child; Paris for your 25th anniversary. But do you remember the small moments, the ones that flash before your eyes? Quite often, it is those tiny moments that are far more significant – like wiping a tear from your grandmother’s eye when she buried your grandfather or actually listening to someone distraught about a matter you couldn’t affect.

Have you ever known someone whose personal challenges didn’t prevent them from supporting those around her/him? Were you aware that her/his suffering enabled them to be even more of an emotional bedrock for others? Maybe it has something to do with their having gained perspective on the important ‘stuff’ – things that really matter.

Not everything matters, though we mistakenly think it does. I invite you to reflect on the small, significant moments that have made up your life. Not summiting Mount Fuji but breaking bread with a homeless person. Try to remember. Think about what you saw, what you heard, what you felt. What was really happening in those moments? Even more importantly, what did they do for someone else?

You’ve likely been invited to answer this question: If you could plan it, how would you spend your last day on Earth? Spending some time with this exercise (by writing down your ideas) will help you focus and yield perspective on what really matters most to you. The question is fairly generic, but your answers will be telling. Dr. Kent Keith in The Paradoxical Commandments said, “Honesty and frankness make you vulnerable. Be honest and frank anyway.” Keith also said, “Give the world the best you have and you might get kicked in the teeth. Give the world the best you’ve got anyway.”

People search for what is meaningful in their lives, especially when they are broken, confused, frustrated, or simply bored with life. If you’re not passively part of a moment, you’re creating moments. And many of them are small, seemingly insignificant. But to others, they may be huge!

In a 2011 conversation, a chronologically gifted woman taught me that no matter what I end up doing with my life, I ought to make it significant. Even if your body or your mind is tearing itself apart, consider engaging your senses – your gifts. Start by being present. Look into people’s eyes and see them. Ask what matters to them. And celebrate moments with them.

In my work I invite people to look at their own lives and the day-to-day activities that fill them. Then I ask: How many of those activities have really mattered in terms of the true reason for your existence? (And yes, I recognize this depends on one’s definition of “true reason.”)

One simple suggestion today, an old-fashioned one… Consider demonstrating the importance of a relationship by calling someone just to see how they’re doing. To be honest, I receive very few calls from people who don’t have a self-serving agenda. Those who do call because they genuinely care about me, stand out. Think about it, how often do people call (not text or email) you just to say hi or to find out what’s going on in your life? Your call may end up being a significant moment for them.

Following Flow

“The point is, not to resist the flow. You go up when you’re supposed to go up and down when you’re supposed to go down. When you’re supposed to go up, find the highest tower and climb to the top. When you’re supposed to go down, find the deepest well and go down to the bottom. When there’s no flow, stay still.” ~ Haruki Murakami

Want to feel better, have more energy and live longer? Look no further than regular, old-fashioned, exercise. Exercise keeps us focused and helps to maintain balance and rhythm.

How much control do we have over our experiences, performances, or interactions? We don’t control very much because every experience, interaction, and situation already has a natural rhythm to it. This rhythm is determined by what is the best combination of environment, actions, and efforts to attain a maximum result. This natural rhythm is called flow and we choose to either resist the flow or join it. Going against the flow results in struggle, frustration, and errors. When joining the flow, we experience ease, awareness, and know what to do next.

Huayna Picchu, Peru

Huayna Picchu, Peru

To join the flow in any circumstance, you can follow these three steps:

  1. Get a sense and feel for the rhythm of the situation, experience, or interaction (as Mr. Van Damme does in the above video). Do this by avoiding forcing, controlling, or acting to make something happen. Simply be with it.
  2. Trust the flow by not expecting it to be a certain way or attaching meanings to what is happening. The flow is always taking the direction of success, we only choose to join it or go against it.
  3. Allow the flow with confidence in the abilities, intentions, and preparation for success. Fearing or not understanding what is happening doesn’t stop the flow; the flow continues, it just goes past us or around us.
Mt. Huashan in China

Mt. Huashan in China

Joining the flow is the only way to achieve and experience success in any experience, performance or interaction. It is neither a passive process nor a destiny. Join the flow by getting a sense of the rhythm, trusting the direction, and confidently allowing the flow to create success. It will – it always does.

Mt. Huashan

Mt. Huashan

Think of being in flow as a leap of faith. 🙂

You Have Your Permission

“When you have a good idea and you’ve tried it and know it’s going to work, go ahead and do it – because it is much easier to apologize later than to get permission.” ~ Grace Hopper

“Mother may I…?” “Simon says…” Do either of these expressions ring a bell? Perhaps from childhood games? Are you waiting for someone, anyone, to give you permission to succeed? While you may not think you are waiting for permission, when you need the approval or validation of another person to take a risk or allow your capabilities to be used, you are waiting for external permission.

Unfortunately, society often teaches that other people, especially authority figures, are always a better judge of what we are doing, have done, and can do. We don’t trust ourselves, especially the skills, abilities, and experiences making up our capabilities. If we trusted ourselves more we would know that as individuals we are the best judge of our capabilities and we are the only ones who can give ourselves permission to risk and succeed.

I don’t know about you but I’m not too thrilled about letting someone else determine my success and surely don’t want them to determine my failures. The key to self-belief and consistent success is always the point at which and the amount of internal permission we give ourselves. This permission to make mistakes and even fail, frees us to find the limits of our learning and experience. The permission to fail is the permission to succeed.

Regarding your permission:

  1. You have a right to assert yourself, even if it may inconvenience others.
  2. You are under no obligation to say yes, simply because you are asked.
  3. You deserve to succeed. You deserve to live your dream. You deserve to be recognized for what your abilities are able to produce. Three words: Just get started! On your terms.

Transitions

“Look at every exit as being an entrance somewhere else.” ~ Tom Stoppard

We all go through transitions. Some we initiate and others present as they are intended. They can be pronounced or they can be subtle. Transitions, however, are as constant as change because every major change includes a transition period with transitional experiences. Often we resist this transitional period and accompanying experiences just as we resist change. We want to be at the new spot, the changed behavior, or the result we sought to attain. While we want the change we desire, could we be missing the most valuable part of the experience, the transition?

There are times, for some, when changes take place simultaneously. This scenario can be stressful. Even one change can be significant. Think about events is which you were measurably involved. Were they exciting? Were they draining? How much stress did you feel? I worked with a client who was building a new home, launching a new business, having a new website developed, involved in a child’s wedding, and shifting into pre-retirement mode (as traditionally defined by age). He had a lot on his plate!

These events were overlapping and very time, energy and space intensive. However, four strategies made the difficult easier, the challenges less frustrating, and his enjoyment more joyful.

  1. In change, especially big change, let flow show you the way through the transition. We are so conditioned to make plans and take action that when big changes occur or are anticipated, we take the planning and actions to an even more intense level. When you relinquish total control and allow some of the decisions to sit, flow will show you the way. When flow guides you, the creative spark needed or the right person to do something always appears and right on time.
  2. It is easy to focus on the end of the transition, but the process determines success. No matter where we think something will end up as a result of change, the process will guide us to success if we trust it. When you focus on what could go wrong, you divert the direction of your intended outcome. Ignore the naysayers and keep focusing on and trusting what you want.
  3. Looking ahead to what could be and looking back at what has been, only keeps you from looking at the present. Change and transitions are ripe for the games of the ego-mind. Remember the ego operates almost entirely in the past (where you have been and why) and the future (where you could be and why that is better than the past). When you choose now from the possibilities in front of you, the transition will be smooth without a beginning or an end, yet it will take you exactly to the experiences you want, by presenting them over and over now. All choices are made now.
  4. All transitions are personal and even with the best intentions, other people’s  opinions, suggestions, and advice is just that – other people’s. I often find that change is tough for people because they are waiting for permission or advice on whether they should or how they should change. (Here’s a post that addresses “shoulds.”) This continues during the transition, if we trust the opinions, suggestions, and advice of others more than what we know is best intended for us and by us.

If you are making changes and going through transitions, I wish you the best for navigating them not only successfully but also effectively. Transitions make life interesting while expanding your possibilities and potential. Let it all flow, be in the process, be present, and take it all personally. You will be rewarded!

Strengthening Self-Belief

“It’s not who you are that holds you back, it’s who you think you’re not.”  Anonymous

How well do you know yourself? I mean really knowing your authentic self?

How about believing in yourself? Confidently? In total assuredness?

These are substantive questions. Honestly answering them can be quite revealing. And rewarding.

For much of my adult life, I have seriously believed in myself. That’s not been so much the challenge. Where I have had to dig deep and work hard is at getting to know who I am – at my core.

What I’ve learned (thus far) is that there is a subtle difference between confidence and self-belief. Self-belief has to do with a strong view or conviction you hold regarding yourself, and your abilities or characteristics. Confidence has to do with the trust you have in yourself as a person, and your abilities and characteristics.

For the most part self-belief and confidence go hand in hand. While it is difficult to have confidence without self-belief, it is possible to have self-belief, and little confidence. The reason why is because confidence has more to do with current capacity than with ability. So, for example, if you are not feeling well or are fatigued, that would affect your ability to perform to your best.

There are many schools of thought on the interplay between self-belief and confidence. What is generally acknowledged is that your level of self-belief is a good predictor of success and achievement in many different areas of your life. On a flip side, what prevents you from gaining confidence is the belief that “this is how you are” and that’s all there is to it. Both, however, are directly related to your life experiences.

Be not discouraged though (and I’m not suggesting you are). The good news is that it is possible to build confidence and self-belief. Here are five exercises to help strengthen the views you hold about yourself:

  • Imagine yourself successful. Always picture yourself successful. Visualize your desires and goals. See yourself in new settings, capable, and self-confident.
  • Reflect on your past successes. Each are proof that you are capable of achieving more success. Recall this when you begin to lose faith in yourself.
  • Set definite goals. Have a clear direction of where you want to go. Be aware of when you begin to deviate from your goals and take immediate corrective action.
  • Respond positively to life. Develop a positive self-image. Your image, your reactions to life and your decisions are completely within your sphere of influence.
  • Stay in touch with those things that have meaning and purpose in your life, because this will naturally build confidence and self-belief.