Teddy Roosevelt did it. Harry Truman did it. Want to be an outstanding leader? Keep a leadership journal. As part of my executive coaching work, one of the most effective tools I recommend that powers up the coaching process is a leadership journal. The exercise of leadership is not unlike a sport you play. When you review your actions in the field you learn what worked, what didn’t, and adjust along the way. Leadership guru Peter Drucker said: “Follow effective action with quiet reflection. From the quiet reflection will come even more effective action. ”
There are many benefits to reflection.
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We normally think of fear as something that’s holding us back, or something to be avoided … but what if we could see it as a powerful tool?
What if we could master that tool? We’d become masters at life, able to push through fears of rejection, failure, ridicule, and more.
Fear is normally like a barrier for us, keeping us from doing awesome things in life. Or if we push up against that barrier, we see the fear as making the experience miserable, and cringe because of it.
But in truth, fear is a useful thing. Once upon a time, fear was a signal to run from a lion or some other danger, and that was pretty useful. These days, we don’t usually have much physical danger (the lions have more to fear from us), but the same fear signals still happen, even when it’s trying to pursue our dreams or becoming vulnerable to other people.
These days, the fears aren’t physical — they’re more about not being good enough. Here are the top fears in a survey I did earlier this year:
So fear, then, is no longer a signal that we should run.
Instead, fear is a useful signal that we should go toward something.
Let’s find out how.
Freedom & the Wall of FearWhenever we feel fear, it means we’re up against some kind of wall … on the other side of the wall is some kind of freedom.
This is a freedom we desire, and that’s a healthy thing to want that kind of freedom. But we push up against the fear, and it can hold us back because our normal response is to avoid that wall of fear. By avoiding it, we remain on the side of the wall where we stay comfortable, where we know what we’re doing, where things are easy. We’re trapped by that wall of fear, as long as we keep avoiding it.
What would happen if we pushed through that wall? We’d have freedom: the freedom to connect with others in a vulnerable way, to put ourselves out there and pursue the life of meaning we really want, to publish books and websites and podcasts and poems, to explore the world or create a non-profit organization, to make friends and love with an open heart.
Freedom is on the other side of the wall of fear. So when we feel fear, it’s actually a signal that we should go toward the fear.
Yes, it’s difficult. But avoiding it doesn’t work. It just causes more difficulty. Instead, we can go inward, and see the turmoil that’s in there that the fear is signaling, go into our cave of darkness and process whatever’s in there. That means looking at how we think we’re not good enough, trying to learn to love ourselves, learning to trust ourselves to be OK even if we get rejected or if we fail.
And we can also courageously take action, in the presence of fear.
Acting in the Face of FearJust because fear is present, doesn’t mean we have to run. In fact, we can practice acting mindfully even with fear in our bodies.
The practice is to notice that there’s fear, and notice our habitual reaction. Stay with the fear, and notice how it feels as a physical sensation. Notice that it’s not so bad, that we can actually be OK in the middle of that physical sensation. It’s just hormones in our bodies, just an energy of excitement.
Being in the moment, we can take action: write a book, have a conversation, go to a social event, get on stage. We can immerse ourselves fully in the moment, feeling the fear in our bodies but still doing the action.
Fear is a worry about the future, which doesn’t exist. Noticing that, we can turn back to the present moment: what’s here in front of us. We can be grateful for what’s in front of us. We can smile at it, and take action.
This takes practice. Try it now. Practice it every day: go toward whatever scares you, repeatedly. Lean into the fear. Be courageous, pushing through the wall of fear into the freedom of openness
by Leo Babauta
While a certain amount of stress in our lives is normal and even necessary, excessive stress can interfere with normal daily activities and take a toll on our personal lives and health.
The Relationship Between Emotions and Addiction, pt. 6: Happiness
The final topic of our in-depth exploration of each core emotion is happiness. Happiness is the most pleasurable, desired, pursued, elusive, mercurial emotion of all. If happiness is so pleasurable and desired then it can’t be a reason people use drugs, right? Wrong. People often use drugs to both achieve and sustain happiness and the drugs work, sort of. As Tolstoy astutely observed, there appear to be many more ways not to be happy than there are ways to be happy. Drugs are one method people employ to feel happy. Therefore, understanding happiness is vital to understanding addiction.
Happiness is an umbrella term that is divided into two different meanings. The first meaning is often referred to as the hedonic form of happiness. Hedonic happiness is brief and transitory, made up of emotions such as joy, amusement, or ecstasy. Drugs are good at achieving hedonic happiness. The second meaning is termed eudaimonic happiness. Eudaimonic happiness is lasting and sustainable, made up of feelings like inner-peace, contentment, and life satisfaction. Drugs are not so good at achieving eudaimonic happiness. Sustainable happiness is not a sum of simple pleasures; it is a cognitive construction in which we judge our life-as-a-whole favorably. Long-term, excessive substance use usually results in actions inconsistent with values. Actions inconsistent with values usually result in people judging their lives-as-a-whole unfavorably, thus impeding eudaimonic happiness.
How we think about or appraise events and our lives-as-a-whole determines to a large extent how we feel. The impact of our thinking on our happiness is a problem, given that our language disproportionately favors terms related to the less pleasurable emotions previously covered in this series. Linguistic analysts use the term ‘hedonic asymmetry’ to describe the scarcity of words related to happiness and the predominance of words related to uncomfortable emotions like anger, sadness, fear, and disgust in the English language. It is hard to think happy thoughts, and therefore feel happy, when we don’t have the tools to do so!
Taken to a larger scale, an individual’s happiness has a dynamic relationship with culture and society. Interestingly, as the wealth of developed nations increased there has not been an equivalent increase in the happiness of the people populating those nations. There are thresholds below which material deprivation and poverty impact happiness, but above these thresholds quality of life and happiness are subjective and appraisal-based. Yet, the mentality of more continues to dominate the consciousness of developed nations. Even though the belief that acquiring more material possessions will lead to happiness continues to prevail, it is consistently challenged by research findings.
In the United States the pursuit of happiness is a revered staple of the culture. The problem is that many pursue hedonic, not eudaimonic, happiness. In the vast, expansive, sprawling strip-mall of America, hedonic happiness is the end and consumerism is the means. Once a Mercedes is owned the eyes drift to a Bentley, then a Rolls Royce, then a private jet, and the water mirage in the desert keeps disappearing right when you’re about to quench your thirst. The more happiness is the target the harder it is to hit. Engrossed in the pursuit of purpose one simultaneously forgets and achieves happiness. When feeling happy already people are much less likely to use substances problematically.
No discussion of happiness would be complete without including one of the most important emotional states related to happiness; love. Some prominent figures like Frank Tallis regard love as a mental illness. Indeed, in extreme forms love can lead to our deepest despairs. Love can also lead to the most important and meaningful experiences in our lives.
Despite love’s prominent role in our lives, we tend to share some fundamental misconceptions about this powerful emotional state that extends from happiness. We tend to think that love is something we fall into, that it happens by accident and without effort. Erich Fromm, in his landmark work The Art of Loving, points out that most people see the problem of love primarily as that of being loved, rather than that of loving. Seeking to be loved results in much energy spent trying to be attractive, rich, and powerful, in developing good manners, in being an engaging conversationalist, etc. Western culture predominantly believes the lie that to be lovable is to be popular and have sex appeal.
According to Fromm, another fundamental misconception of love is that it is a problem of an object rather than a faculty. Most see the difficulty in love as the challenge of finding the right object to love, and that after you find the right love object love is simple. If we just find Mr. or Ms. Right the rest is history, correct? Love at first sight, find prince charming and live happily ever after, right? Wrong and wrong. We would greatly help ourselves in love and happiness by focusing on developing the faculty of standing in love rather than running around hoping we will stumble in to the right object and find ourselves luckily falling in love. How do we develop the faculty of standing in love?
The first step is to see love as an art. We would do ourselves a great service to proceed in love as we would in mastering any artistic endeavor like music, painting, sculpting, film, writing, etc. Once love is viewed as an art, we work to master it as we would any art form – we must first learn the theory and then learn the practice. Over time, theoretical knowledge and the fruits of tireless practice merge into a seamless, at times almost magical experience that some call flow. To truly master an art the mastery must be of ultimate concern. However, most people do not identify mastering the art of love as a major focus or primary concern in their lives. People generally want to fall in love and be happy, but their energy towards those ends is focused on methods that rarely result in the desired outcomes. Unfortunately, trying to be lovable and pursuing happiness in usually a recipe for being alone and feeling empty. Once we feel a void within and alone in the world our behavior can quickly become violently or silently destructive.
Final ThoughtsI began this series stating that whether we like it or not, emotions run our lives. Some readers took strong objection to this claim, and understandably so. Reason does afford us the freedom to act in accordance with, or contrary to, our emotional experience. But whether we are acting impulsively or rationally, emotions are core motivators of human actions or inaction. Many describe the first four emotions covered in this series (anger, sadness, disgust, fear) as negative emotions. I hoped exploring each emotion would help challenge the absolute embedded in labeling any emotion as positive or negative because all emotions, even the uncomfortable ones, have important functions.
Happiness and love can have negative effects and sadness and depression can have positive effects. Because substances change, numb, or enhance how we feel, emotions are a factor in every decision to use drugs. Understanding the roots of our emotional experience can increase our awareness of what we feel and allow our reason and rationality to be more effective in its duty of helping us determine what course of action to take or not take in response to how we feel.
Learn more about how fear, disgust, sadness, and anger play into patterns of addiction.
by Thaddeus Camlin, Psy.D.
Anger can be one of the most challenging emotions that we work with.
Clients are sometimes afraid of their anger. Or, maybe they consider it inappropriate to even feel this way at all.
Not only that, when anger is misdirected, it often leads to poor choices, damaged relationships, and even violence.
But anger can actually be an asset to our clients . . . as long as it’s channeled properly.
So how can we help clients express their anger more effectively?
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Many of us feel overwhelmed by all we need to do, and it can be downright stressful.
I’d like to share three practices to take you from overwhelmed to just whelmed.
You can’t eliminate stress, anxiety or the feeling of being overwhelmed from your life, nor would you want to. However, you can see them as wonderful places to practice some amazing things that will help in all areas of your life.
When you’re feeling overwhelmed, stressed or anxious … you can do one or more of these three practices:
Each only takes a moment, but they can transform your world. Try them, with love in your heart, and see a deep trust in yourself start to grow.
by Leo Babuta of Zen Habits
Procrastination starts from an avoidance of something from fear, then becomes a pattern that hardens into a habit.
We reinforce this procrastination habit through years of practice, and it hurts us in so many ways in our lives — not only with work tasks, but much more.
The procrastination habit affects:
So the question becomes, how do we stop hurting ourselves, after all these years? How do we start to unravel our hardened procrastination habits and create more helpful patterns?
The answer is to start thinking of these hardened patterns as grooves.
The Grooves of Our HabitsWhen you first procrastinated, you didn’t have a hardened pattern. You had a choice. You could do your homework (or pick up your toys, perhaps), or you could put that off until later and do something else that’s perhaps more fun.
You felt fear or resistance with one task, which made the other option more appealing. You chose the easy route, and that felt good in the moment. There was immediate reward. There was difficulty later, but that was something future you had to deal with.
All other choices like this were rewarded with immediate gratification. So by repeating this choice over and over, you start to wear a groove into the ground. After awhile, the reward isn’t even needed … the groove becomes so much easier to follow, and getting out of the groove is so much harder. The longer we keep sticking with the groove, the harder it is to change.
Habits are grooves. You stick to the old ones, until you’re willing to put in the effort to get out of the grooves and make new choices.
How do you get out of the groove you’ve made? Conscious effort.
How to Change Your Patterns, or Get Your Groove OnThe steps of breaking out of a groove are simple, but they require concentrated effort: