Bet On Your Strengths

pushupcs700_0I suck at math. I always have. It got so bad that I almost didn’t graduate from high school because I just couldn’t get through algebra.
In college, I had to take every math class twice before I could pass it. I became so comfortable with it that I knew the first time I took College Algebra or Statistics, I knew it was just for practice.
It was frustrating and it made me even doubt what the hell I was doing in college in the first place.
Eventually I got through all my college math courses. I even got decent enough that I passed Research Methods and Advanced Research Methods on my first try.  By then I had learned I needed to read my math books just like they were any other text book and teach the material to myself. Still, I was never good at advanced math, I just learned how to get through it.
I was unhappy for a lot of my high school and early college years because I struggled and focused so much on my weakness with math. It wasn’t until later when I started focusing on my strengths like art, writing and behavioral sciences that I became happy. Only then did I really start to feel smart and like I belonged on a college campus.
I literally felt free when I didn’t have to take another damn math class and was able to actually focus on what I was good at.
A Deficit Mindset
Many of us spend much of our lives unhappy and unsatisfied because we are constantly focusing on our weaknesses. We focus on the things we aren’t good at and neglect the things we are good at.
People who suffer from depression, low self esteem and anxiety are especially notorious at this.
Many of their personal stories paint them as victims and not victors. They feel weak and only focus on their weaknesses, not the strength it took for them to even survive the sometimes traumatic experiences they went through.
When people have this deficit type of mindset, they tend to not only focus on their faults, but also the faults in others instead of focusing on their positive qualities and seeing other people for who they are.
This type of mindset can affect any of us.  If we focus on or weaknesses and try to become better, of course we can improve, but we will probably never become great at it and we will expend a lot of time and energy for minimal gains.
What if we used that same amount of time and energy to focus on something we are good at?
Sticking with the math analogy, I know someone who has a great business mind, but she isn’t particularity good with numbers so she hired someone who is and that has allowed her to take a lot of her energy off of the finance part and focus more on creating the business of her dreams.
Had she allowed the fact that she wasn’t good with numbers scare her from starting a business or bog her down with late nights balancing books and getting frustrated, her business may not have been as successful as it is. She may have never been free to do the things she was good at doing such as marketing and networking.
FOCUSING ON YOUR STRENGTHS WILL MAKE YOU HAPPIER
By putting all of your energy into your strengths and not so much on your weaknesses, you’ll not only be happier,  but you will start taking your life to a new level and start living more authentically.
I have a client who was recently very depressed and suicidal. On paper she is very successful. She’s smart, married, has one child, makes six figures, has a beautiful home and a luxury car. She has accomplished everything she has ever dreamed of, but she is unhappy because she’s always afraid of losing it all.
She worries about losing her husband, losing her job and losing everything that comes with that. Although she is brilliant, she is constantly telling me about all of her faults. It’s like she doesn’t even see her strengths. She’s focusing so much on her weaknesses and worried that other people will see them, that she is filled with anxiety and depression.
Her “weaknesses” are keeping her unhappy, distracting her from the wonderful life she has right in front of her, and serving absolutely no purpose at all other than driving her crazy.
We don’t have to pretend we don’t have weaknesses. We have to embrace them, except them and then focus on our strengths. Our strengths are our keys to living more authentic lives.
Focusing on your strengths can boost your confidence and overshadow your weaknesses. 
One last example from a couple I counseled.
The wife was so focused on her husband not being a “manly man”. In her eyes, a manly man fixed cars and was a great handy man. That simply was not her husband. He was mechanically challenged. She focuses so much on that area of “weakness” that she was very unhappy in the marriage.
Through strength based counseling she learned to see her husbands strengths. First of all, he was a good man, a good husband and a terrific father. He adored her and the kids, took care of business and yes, maybe when the sink got clogged he was clueless to fix it, but that’s what handymen and plumbers are for. She actually fell in love with him all over again when she learned to focus on his strengths. She had almost stopped seeing him for the things she had falling in love with him for.
Unfortunately, many people never learn that and she could have ruined their marriage simply because of her world view of what made a man a real man and focusing on what she perceived as her husbands faults.
Many people do this to themselves. They are living day to day unhappy because they are constantly focusing on their deficits instead of embracing their strengths. They drive themselves to unhappiness, misery and even suicide.
“You need to bet on your strengths and don’t give a f*ck about what you suck at,” is one of my favorite quotes by entrepreneur Gary Vaynerchuk.
I’m not saying not to challenge yourself. I believe we need to challenge ourselves and put ourselves in uncomfortable situations in order to grow. What I am saying is, if you suck at something, don’t let it tear you down. Find something you are good at and become even better at it. That’s what’s going to take you to the next level.

#MyTipsForMentalHealth

While many of us may never experience a severe mental illness that requires medication or therapy but, all of us at times experience less than optimal mental health. It’s part of the human condition.  Here are five of my favorite and easy tips to help improve your Mental Health.

  1. Let go of what isn’t serving you. That includes the stories you tell yourself (i.e., I’ll never accomplish anything), situations, ideals and toxic people. Holding on to these things are bad for your mental health because they hold you back, make you unhappy and don’t allow you to live the life you were meant to live. This type of detachment isn’t about giving up, it’s about moving forward. One of the biggest things I’ve found that hold people back are when they become so attached to something that even when it’s no longer beneficial to them, they won’t let it go.
  2. Stop waiting for the perfect time to do something, or until you feel like it. Do it today and do it wholeheartedly. Tomorrow is not promised. Appreciate what you have right now, right in front of you. People are here today and gone today. Stop waiting until you climb to the top of the cooperate ladder to finally take that vacation, or wait until you find the perfect partner before going on a cruise. Stop showing up at work and in your life, just going through the motions. Live each day with passion and you may find yourself excited to do everyday tasks that once felt like a drag.
  3. Push yourself beyond your comfort zone, at least a little each day. Being too comfortable can hold you back from living your best life. Being comfortable can suffocate you and lull you into stagnation for personal and financial growth. Some of the best things in life are on the other side of fear and I’m not saying you have to jump out of an airplane to have that experience, but do something that scares you at least a little, like having that tough conversation, saying no when you normally would say yes or applying for that job that kind of scares you, yet gets you excited each time you think about it.
  4. Don’t be afraid of failure. This links to number three. We all fail sometimes and it’s okay. As long as you learn from it, you never truly fail. Fail forward is a saying that I love because in each mistake there is something that you can take away that will make you wiser, stronger and better than you were before. Learn from your mistakes and move forward, they don’t define you unless you let them. Use your failures for motivation.
  5. Maintain your inner peace by staying away from toxic people and situations.The only people we can control are ourselves, but there will always be people, situations and drama that will try to steal our inner peace. If we get caught up with negative situations, we’ll find ourselves full of unnecessary stress, worry and even anger. Back to number one, that may mean letting go of certain people, not taking things so personal or even limiting the amount of news we watch on TV if it’s causing us stress.

There are countless ways to improve your mental health. I like to go to the gym, to draw or go running to clear my mind. I have a friend who loves yoga and another who uses jujitsu as his therapy. What are some of your #MyTipsForMentalHealth?

Living Autopsy: Examining Yourself

Living Autopsy: Examining Yourself

One of my favorite people when it comes to motivation and realizing true human potential is David Goggins. The other day he made a short video about doing a living autopsy on yourself. By doing a living autopsy, what Goggins means is examining your life, thoughts, feelings and actions.

Negative thoughts. Fears. Anxiety. So many of us have these unconscious things that get in our way and sabotage us, keeping us from living our lives to the fullest. For the most part, either we aren’t aware of them or we accept them without challenging their source or validity.

Many of us say, “That’s just who I am”, but is it really? Is that really who you are, or who you’ve accepted yourself to be because it’s what’s been told to you by someone or perhaps, it’s what’s easier.

In psychology, we call this introspection.  It’s when you stop being controlled automatically by what you think and feel. Instead, you examine yourself to find out why you think and feel that way and how can you change it, if necessary.

The first time I ever truly experienced introspection was when I found myself attracted to a certain type of woman and I had to ask myself, why am I attracted to this type of woman? Am I really attracted to them or am I only attracted to them because this is what I have been told by society I should be attracted to?

After some deep introspection, I realized I had practically been brainwashed to be attracted to a certain type of woman when in reality, that wasn’t really my type at all. Now that’s fairly simple, but here’s another example.

Take a man who is madly in love with his girlfriend and he wants to marry her. However, he finds himself doing what he’s always done in his relationships when they got too serious… pushing her away.

He loves this woman, wants to spend the rest of his life with her, but deep down inside he knows he’s doing things to sabotage the relationship. He may eventually succeed in sabotaging the relationship and tell himself “I’m not the commitment t type, that’s just who I am”. Because of this, he may never experience that deeper connection he longs for. He can do a “living autopsy”, if you will and dig deep into his subconsciousness and go where he probably has been avoiding.

What he may find is that yes, he is afraid of commitment, but why? With introspection, he may think about the pain he felt when his parents split up and how hurt his father was that the family fell apart and how his father longed after his mother so much that he never remarried and only went through a string of meaningless relationships that always ended before he ever really got close to them, so much so that whenever his dad would bring a new girlfriend around he stopped attempting to remember their names.

During this introspection, he may realize that he is sabotaging his current relationship because he’s afraid he’ll end up heart broken like his father and that he was taught unknowingly that having short term, rather meaningless relationships was the best way to keep from getting hurt.

However, as an adult, he longs for a deeper connection, but keeps getting in his own way.

Being armed with this new knowledge that he is sabotaging a relationship with someone he loves based on what he experienced as a child may give him the insight to challenge those thoughts and fears and create a life for himself that’s more authentic and based on love and not fear.

This can go for almost any character flaw an individual may have. Let’s say that you have someone who is meek and soft spoken and this is keeping them from moving up the cooperate ladder because in their company they need to be able to stand up for and speak for themselves.

This person can hold their head down and say, “I’m shy, that’s just who I am”, or they can do a living autopsy and maybe realize that the reason they are shy is because it’s a defense mechanism that may have served them well in the past, now is standing in their way.

Maybe they grew up in a family where there was a lot of violence so they had to be small and unheard if they didn’t want to draw attention, and perhaps abuse to themselves. Now was an adult, this defense mechanism no longer works for them, but it has become so much of their character that they think it’s who they are and it will keep them from achieving and reaching their full potential if they don’t learn to challenge and overcome them, especially in situations where it’s stopping them from growing.

Why don’t people do living autopsies/introspection more often? Because it can be painful. You can lie and fool everyone else, but when you stop lying to yourself you may be afraid of what you have to face in order to stop living un-authentically.

We have to stop automatically believing the negative thoughts and emotions that fill our head and challenge what we believe about ourselves because in many cases it’s all just a lie. We have all been brainwash in someway to some extent, but the great part is that we hold the key to freeing ourselves!

This verse is from a song called, “What’s Inside Is Just A Lie” from a play called Passing Strange and it’s one of my favorite music verses of all time.”

“See I know this is going to sound a little bit crazy, but according to the Bauhaus Manifesto and I quote, What’s inside each and everyone one of us here in this room, what we mistakenly call our thoughts, our feelings, and our dreams, have actually been put there by a system. Therefore, What’s inside is just a lie! Our minds have been invaded, conquered, and occupied, hence, What’s inside is just a lie! And like a catch or a phrase, it gets locked in your head. What’s inside is just a lie! Somebody else’s desires get lodged in your brain! What’s inside is just a lie! So the only way to become your true self Whats inside (Starting to feel real) Is to create your true self. You turn your life into a work of art.”

 

Family Secrets: Childhood Sexual Abuse

30f6cf470f2d828e104d054e6a86f77bSpeaking with a young woman today, I heard a story I have heard far too many times.

This woman had been sexually abused as a child by a relative, but didn’t say anything out of fear and embarrassment. This relative went on to molest other children in the family until someone finally spoke out.

I’ve spoken to many individuals in the past who were molested by a family member and didn’t say anything not only out of fear and shame, but also because they thought that as long as the molester was perpetrating on them, he would leave their younger brothers, sisters or cousins alone.

In essence, they figured they would suffer through the abuse so that others wouldn’t have to.

The sad part is, in all of these cases, the molester went on to molest other children in the family anyway. In one case, there were three sisters all getting molested by the same uncle and neither knew about the other. All three reported that they didn’t say anything because they thought they were protecting the other sister from the abuse, not knowing that the other sisters were doing the exact same thing.

It was only when this uncle, after years of abusing these sisters, abused another member of the family that he got caught and is now serving time in prison.  By then at least four family members had been abused over the period of several years.

The Threat From Within

We teach our children to be cautious of strangers. We believe that the greatest threat to our child comes from outside of our homes and inner-circles.

1 in 4 women, and 1 in 6 men report being sexually abused as a child. Over 90% of sexual abuse is perpetrated by someone the child knows, loves and trusts. Family members, family friends, teachers, religious leaders and coaches are some of the biggest offenders.

There are many families who have this type of  secret, and some will even tell their children, “Stay away from uncle Bob” because they know they have a perpetrator in their family who for one reason or another is still around.

I even worked with one family who hid their family member’s pedophilic activity, partially out of embarrassment and partially out of  a family’s natural response to try to protect each other. This family member went on to molest at least three children before being sent to prison.

Why Do Children Keep Abuse A Secret

As adult survivors of childhood sexual abuse will tell you, there are many reasons why children will endure sexual abuse for years, some for a lifetime, without telling soul.

For one, children aim to please. They want to make someone they love and trust happy and are often willing to do whatever the person tells them to do.

Abusers also often coach their victims not to tell anyone. Sometimes this is done with threats of violence towards them or other members in their family. Other times it is done with the threat that the child themselves will get in trouble if they tell.

Shame, embarrassment and confusion along with countless other feelings and thoughts can keep a child from telling anyone about the abuse.

Most survivors of childhood abuse I’ve spoken to waited until they were were in their late teens or adulthood before they felt ready to share what they experienced as a child. Many reported that they were afraid that no one would believe them.

How To Help Your Child Break The Silence

We have to teach children the difference between a secret and a surprise. That may sound too simple, but as a start, it is very powerful.

  • Teach them that a surprise is supposed to be about something fun, such as a birthday gift or special party for a friend.
  • Teach them that secrets are something kids shouldn’t keep to themselves, especially secrets that involve touches of private body parts or anything that makes the child feel uncomfortable.
  • Encourage your child not to keep secrets from you.
  • Tell them that touches to private body parts should never be a secret.
  • Let them know that if someone tells them to keep a secret, especially someone older than them (including older/bigger kids), they should tell you or another trusted adult immediately.
  • If a friend tells them a secret, let your child know they should share it with you (the other child could be asking for help).
  • Let them know that it’s never their fault if someone touches a private body part and they will never get in trouble if they tell.

Abuse of all kind (i.e.,  physical, sexual, emotional and neglect) flourishes under the veil of silence. It’s beyond time that we break that silence.