Since optimism can be learned, why is pessimism so rampant? Do we have any say in our attitude or is it simply, “just the way we are?”
“If you think you can do a thing or you think you can’t do a thing– you are right” ~Henry Ford
This now aligns in general with recent research in neuroscience. Pessimists are people who tend to see through a lens of pessimism and optimists have a brain bias that is toward optimism. Reality is not objective in these types of situations in particular. Your reality is real – to you. Life contains both and sometimes we get what we want and sometimes we don’t. The question is what meaning or story line do you assign to the outcomes that you see?
Is it one of what can be learned? What can you change? Do you just let your emotions swing you wildly out of control? Do you focus on what is missing or “wrong” or do you look for all the other great things in your life to be thankful for that you DO have?
You see, this choice of happiness or stress and overwhelm is within our control to a huge degree. Whether pessimism was learned or genetic, you can change it. We just have not known it was possible and we are just now learning how to consciously do it with more ease and less effort. I’m glad I had the courage to get a head start on the science…I have so much more emotional self-mastery now. Trusting intuition can be a beautiful and powerful thing.
Enhanced self-awareness and more skillful self-management are the foundations of emotional intelligence and are building blocks for optimism and resiliency. They are essential for maintaining motivation and preventing burnout. Research has shown that optimism is associated with enhancing intrinsic motivation and performance. It has a tendency to inspire others instead of discourage them.
I was listening to a video by an author where he defined ‘self-actualization’ in terms of ‘ego’ or selfish individualism – a type of narcissism. This goes to show the limitations of language and how meaning can be confused. The ‘self’ in self-actualization in my mind is just the opposite. It is the freedom from the mental constructs of the ego-self. And, it’s an ancient concept.
It is the awareness that there is a ‘core’ you that is beyond the labels and judgments of the ‘autobiographical memory’ of the brain’s cellular memory that forms the ego – in neuroscience terminology. Self-actualization is another way of saying, ‘enlightenment’. It is the ‘real you’ Self. It reaches beyond the social conditioning that says, ‘you are only this or that’. Or, ‘you cannot be, do or have this or that’ – just because society holds you in an itty-bitty box of judgment.
Self-actualization is about recognizing more and more who you really are and hopefully accessing more of your true potential. It is freeing your mind from the limitations that create distraction, disease and dysfunction. So, just to be clear, my definition of self-actualization leads a person to be more collaborative with others, not more selfish.
Self-awareness helps us to wake up to aspects that are already present within us – we just don’t see it. The blind spots of our society’s conditioning over time can cause us to focus on what is allegedly, ‘wrong with us’. Sure, we all have shortcomings that challenge us to grow.
These behaviors are not ‘who we are’. They are ‘how we act’. We simply get it confused with our ‘Being’. We ‘do’ things that don’t serve our highest good nor others, yet we can change our behavior. And, we can do it without creating so much self-recrimination and guilt. In fact, it is easier to change our behavior when we cut the story line that ‘something is wrong with us’. This perception creates resistance to behavioral change as we run away from the conversation to change instead of facing it courageously and compassionately head on.
I saw the movie, The Great and Powerful Oz the other day. Oz had big dreams and lots of self-sabotaging behaviors – like lack of integrity, selfishness without regard for others and reactive, non-reflective thinking. Yet, ‘Goodness’ lived within him and given the right inspiration, he did tap into a part of himself that desired to help others and not simply be run by his own greed and fear. Granted, he still needed to develop more honesty by the end of the movie.
This journey of tapping our true potential and living up to our lofty ideas happens in stages. Our habits evolve easier with self-awareness and the desire to tap the courage of our heart. To do this easier, we need to understand how to, ‘optimally operate’ our amazing brain to that we can change with greater ease.
Currently we wire our brain more often than not, to:0
Managing change effectively involves managing mindset. Where your mind is set determines if change is scary and ‘hard’ or exciting and ‘easier’. I don’t want to imply that change will be without discomfort but it doesn’t have to be down right painful.
How you see it – perception – matters. ‘Survival of the fittest’ is a pervasive perception that drive us into our ‘survival brain’. I don’t think there is anything primitive about our amazing brain, yet there are evolutionary levels of engagement that impact our behaviors in everyday life.
I look at the brain in terms of its three evolutionary levels (See image). Level 1 and 2 is in a nutshell all about our survival instinct and our mammalian need for security, love and self-esteem. Neuroscience has shown that ‘perception is reality’ and truly reality is not, ‘objective’.
‘Reality is an illusion; albeit a very persistent one’ ~Albert Einstein
It’s persistent because generally speaking, most people are stuck in Level 1 and 2 mind. It’s this mindset of how we see, ‘survival of the fittest’ that keeps us stuck in Level 1 and 2 mind of our brain. The way to thrive is to connect with your ‘thrival’ brain, which is what I like to call it. This Level 3 area, called the neo-cortex is our ‘executive functioning’ level of brain of self-awareness, higher decision-making, confidence, imagination/innovation, empathy and spiritual purpose and connection.
Level 3 brain can transcend the survival brain fears – FEAR which is ‘Fictitious Evidence Affecting Reality’ – which keeps our storytelling brain stuck on fight/flight/freeze response. It can actually break the loop of deer-in-the-headlight reactions from the Level 1 and 2 brain/mind. This belief in competition at all costs, in order to survive becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Inner peace is closer than you realize. You don’t have to ‘do’ any thing. In fact it is your tendency to need to, ‘do something’ that is driving peace of mind out of reach. We have been taught to separate our self into pieces. Be one way at home and one way at office. One way at church or temple and one way with our friends.
In fact, the one thing we don’t tend to do is to question – who is the ‘real me’? Is there a ‘real me’ buried under all those ‘shoulds, oughts and have to’s? Yes – and this center, this core self is peaceful – peace filled – by Nature. You will have to slow down and reflect to reconnect with your Self however.
This segmenting of our self is reflected in our ‘divided brain’. Are we left-brain or right-brain? Why not both? We have two hemispheres for a reason. We also don’t tend to trust our own mind and heart. We have allowed the outer world to define us – who we should be, what we can do, what we can have – and we’ve lost our Self, our inner peace in the process of chasing outer ‘stuff’. Enough already.
Ironically, we can have the outer experience and enjoy it more when we show up whole. When we allow our authenticity to come through, drawing on our whole self, our whole mind, our spirit and our physical body, we come to life integrated. The path to inner peace is to stop living in pieces and to start living with purpose.
‘The purpose of life is a life with purpose’
We, human beings, love stories. One of the all time favorite theme is, ‘The Hero’s Journey’. Adventure stories and the lessons from ‘fairy tales’ were, and still are, at the top of my list of favorite movies, books and conversations. This is why movies like, ‘The Hobbit’ or ‘Lord of the Rings’ and even more contemporary movie settings in the ‘adventure’ genre are so popular. Too often we only live vicariously through the movies and lives of others. We see this journey in others yet remain blind to our own personal hero or ‘shero’ journey.
A facet of ‘self-awareness’ is recognizing that we are all on this journey. Our lives are an adventure of self-discovery, other-discovery and life-on-earth discovery. This includes the work that we do in the world. Do you perceive your work as a ‘hardship’ or a place to uncover your true potential? Do you see it as stressful, or simply a challenge to expand your vision for your life? How you perceive your self and your experience will determine how you respond to it – to your life.
We are all a hero on a journey and our journey defines our message. Take notes along the way so that you can then share your lessons.
I see a lot of unhappiness coming across the airways. I hear messages about what’s wrong with ‘us’. There are an awful lot of people at the office and generally, scrambling to ‘fix’ themselves in some way, shape or form. Here’s a novel thought – ever think about the fact that you are simply on a ‘Hero/Shero Journey?’
Leaders, and people in general, are searching for new answers. New answers – innovation – requires an open mind. I hear and read much about innovation. Much is being said about ‘cutting edge’ and ‘embracing change’ and leaders leading…and still many people cling to what they, ‘know’.
How do you ‘know’ something?
Did you know that our brain is remarkable at creating ‘self-fulfilling prophecy’? Also, many of the ‘social norms’ and ways of thinking had to start somewhere in time. Perhaps they served groups and the social structure at one time, but the environment changes. The difference is that now, the environment is changing a lot faster than only a decade ago.
Overwhelm has the potential to keep increasing while at the same time, we are all expected to perform at higher and higher levels. How will we do this if what we already, ‘know’ is all there is? The answer is obvious to me – we need to ‘know’ some new things and that only happens by being willing and then taking action.
For many, being willing is actually the challenge. Our ways of thinking have commonly caused many of us to ‘dumb down’ our Creator given magnificence as human beings. Each and every human being has some gift or talent that is unique in their own unique way of expressing. Each person has a potential that could, not only lead him or her to more achievement, peace, joy and confidence, but it can be used to serve the world and make it a better place.
Whether it is leadership performance at the office or within your social service or your home, we all need to grow and evolve in order to uncover the gold that is already within us. It’s time to stop, ‘Looking for love in all the wrong place’ and find it within so that we can bring it out to shine to the world. I believe it is arrogant and crude to consider our self as ‘defective’ or broken.
Humility is accepting and loving our self with compassion, cultivating our purpose and gifts, not beating our self up. Instead of seeing our limitations as something shameful or ugly, we can retrain our brain – literally – to see with new ‘mind’s eyes’. You see perception is changeable and it creates your ‘reality’.0
Having a neuroscience background and having owned and operated a surgical and medical practice for many years prepared me for the new next level expression of my life purpose – to restore vision. It’s obvious how an eye surgeon restores vision. Then there’s expanding the vision for one’s life – that’s where my gift is focused now. Helping people to be themselves ‘Magnificently’ by closing the gap between their own intellect and heart is the new vision I have. Each and everyone of us is unique and can make our own unique impact – if we learn to get out of our own way.
I needed to be able to diagnose brain tumors and neurologic disease everyday I went to the office. At the same time I needed to hone my leadership skills if I wanted to have engaged, happy employees and deliver excellent customer service. Little did I realize years ago, just how visionary my intentions were to combine the two. While I obviously had the intellect to become an eye surgeon, over the years, decisions I made during my journey had caused me to close my heart down, except when working directly with my patients. From my teen years forward, I began a decent into the valley of over valuing the intellect part of my mind and disowning the emotional aspects of my mind.
While I was quite good at repressing my feelings, I began about 20 years ago to recognize the ‘repression’ was really ‘denial’. If you are alive, you have a heart and you have feelings. Heart is associated with feelings, the right-brain – and Wisdom. Yet this wisdom is made conscious to our ‘ego’ through the portal of our intellect if we are to communicate it to others. It was when I began to listen to the Wisdom of my heart that I began the search for how to integrate my intellect with the heart – The Ultimate Power Couple.
Initially, because it was during the 1990’s that I made my decision to recover from denying my feelings, I didn’t have any science to support me. The science and business community derided anything that had to do with intuition or feelings. Admittedly, I was terrified of feeling anything, really.
Knowing your life purpose makes life more meaningful and fulfilling. It gives you the “Why” to look forward to in your day, in your work and in your life overall. Knowing your true values can point you in the direction of your purpose, they underpin meaning. Otherwise, you may find yourself in the nightmare of the “routine” – Wake up, go to work, come home, eat, take care of “stuff”, go to sleep…repeat. How dull. How painful! Life is meant to be an adventure of growth and learning, not clinging to a mediocre life and then you die. How sad. Thank goodness for the power of choice, the power to change. While change can feel scary and uncomfortable, it is what adds spice to life. Besides, that – it’s unavoidable!
So why do we so often fall into miserable ruts and get stuck, yet are afraid of “change”? A huge part of it is conditioning. Sure, there is the element of “danger” in the unknown, but Mother Nature has given us the tools to cope and innovate. Our brain is amazingly adaptable and it is leads us to “self-fulfilling prophecy”. This is part of the problem – we believe change is scary and hard, so “be it unto you as you believe”. We have trained our brain to focus on what we don’t want and fear…and we sometimes find get it.
True potential is a challenge to uncover if you are out of touch with what is the most misrepresented and misunderstood aspects of being human – feelings. HeartMath research findings indicate that feelings (heart) are 5,000 more magnetic energy than that of thought (brain). When the mind and heart are coherent, or “on the same page”, a person is in a higher state of well-being and creativity. So, what is the passageway to more joy, meaning and worth?
Simple as that.
Simply yes, however, since the western world in particular, has built up so much resistance to feeling/emotion, it is not easy for most people to access anything but the more “negative” of feelings – the ones that repress our joy, worth and meaning. How ironic. We have created a society that disrespects the very part of ourselves that will bring us what so many are killing themselves over with excessive “doing” and “hard work”. The issue is we have a “perception” that causes us to increase exactly what we don’t want – negative, fear-based emotion and its subsequent feelings. We become attached to “wanting” to feel happy all the time (happy is not the same as joy actually, it’s situational) or to frantically avoiding feeling sad. The great number of people are also disconnected from their heart in a way that is unhealthy. Feelings are not bad or good except thinking (judgment) make it so.
“Remember that there is nothing stable in human affairs; therefore avoid undue elation in prosperity, or undue depression in adversity” ~Socrates, 469-399 B.C.
Our culture and social institutions historically and from what I’ve observed with eyes wide-open produce:
1. Reduction in joy (Focus on lack, fear and competition)
2. Reduction in self-worth (“Who you are” is equated with “What you do or have” and that apparently is “never enough”)
3. Reduction in meaning (The focus has/had been only on “shareholder value” in business instead of a higher purpose in work for the individual).