Category Archives: Self-Help

How to be More Decisive

Are you someone who has a hard time making decisions? Maybe it takes you forever to figure out what you want to do, where you want to go, what job to take, what to wear, who to call, etc.

You over analyze every decision and drive yourself, and your other half, crazy.

There are a few reasons why you could be having trouble making decisions. The first could be the perfectionist inside you. Indecisiveness is a common struggle for the closeted perfectionist.

You have a desire to find the best solution and you want to find certainty in situations or elements you have no control over. You are constantly battling with the “what if”. Should we do this thing on this day or the following week — what if it rains? What if it is too hot? What if no one can make it? What if people are bored? Or don’t like the food? Or think our house is too small? It can go on and on and on…

When clients come to me with this concern, I am always curious as to where they learned these indecisive tendencies — maybe they have regrets from a decision they previously made, or maybe they learned it from a family member when they were growing up.

Perfectionism

Did you have a family member who was overly-critical of you or your decisions when you were a child? Or was there someone in your life who was always over-analyzing? Was there someone you felt like you could never please? If this was the case then you first have to accept that you cannot please everyone. Every aspect of yourself cannot be perfect. No one is going to love every single thing about you. That is what makes us humans, not robots. Accept yourself and find confidence in your decisions.

Therapy can help you let those overly-critical people go and set yourself free.

If you made a decision in the past you are not proud of and it has left you fearful of making a mistake again, let go. Forgive yourself. We all make mistakes, but that does not mean that we can’t learn from past decisions and trust ourselves to make better choices next time. Mistakes are opportunities to learn, to figure out what works, and what doesn’t.

Therapy can help you forgive yourself and regain your confidence.

Not Etched In Stone

Not every decision is etched in stone. In fact, very few decisions are. You can always pivot, and make changes. For example, you decide to get a tattoo and you have grown to regret it, you can always change it, add to it, or pay to get it removed. Or, maybe you took a job that is requiring more travel than you intended, you can always find a new opportunity to switch positions.

You can evaluate your situation and adjust accordingly. The big mistakes happen when we let our unconscious selves make smaller mistakes. Rather than avoiding decisions or being fearful of making mistakes, evaluate briefly and let yourself take the step that seems right at the time.

Big decisions are made up of lots of small ones.

We are all on paths through life composed of thousands of mini-decisions. There will be good and there will be bad, there will be regrets, and there will be triumphs. They all lead us where we are meant to be. They help us to grow as people, to learn, to become wiser adults.

You can boost your willpower, here is how:

Just like the muscles in our legs and arms, our brains get tired too. When we spend all day making decision after decision — the willpower part of our brains gets spent. Without even potentially realizing it, you begin to make poor—or even completely avoid—decisions. It is called decision fatigue and scientists are just beginning to learn more about its potentially detrimental impact. 

Whether it be shopping, working, dieting, it is easier for us to make smart, educated, well-thought decisions in the morning before we have depleted so much of our energy. It is why it is easier to eat healthier breakfasts than dinners, and why we often reach for that piece of candy at the end of the day. Our brains are exhausted and our willpower is depleted. 

Think about building a home, or picking out clothes at the store, you are making decision after decision — what hardware to put where, what lighting fixture, where should the outlets go, do I want the purple shirt or the red shirt, is this dress too big, should I spend this much money, etc. Chances are at the end you feel like throwing in the towel. Or you say “ah screw it, I will just go with this one.” This is decision fatigue. The list can go on and on. But, by recognizing that decision fatigue exists and acknowledging its potentially damaging impact, you can make changes to your life to increase your willpower. 

Reduce decison fatigue

Here are some ways to get started reducing decision fatigue and boosting willpower:

1.) Plan reoccurring decisions ahead of time: Obviously you can’t plan every decision before it happens. That is just life. But many of the decisions that are draining our willpower are the ones we make over and over again. Things like what you are going to wear to work, what you are going to eat for lunch/breakfast/dinner, when you are going to hit up the gym, etc. This stuff you can plan before you go to bed at night so the next day you have willpower for the big stuff. 

2.) Whatever is most important in your day, do it first: Maybe it is exercising, getting a project done, getting the laundry folded, helping your child with a project, whatever it is wake up early and get it done. You are the freshest version of yourself when you wake up. Get up, get to it and start your day off on the right foot, it may even help the rest of the day to unfold smoother.

3.) Take care of you: It is hard to have willpower if you feel drained, unhealthy, unfit, bad about yourself, etc. Put time in your day to focus on yourself and make sure you are getting the proper fuel for your day.

4.) Make commitments, instead of decisions: Rather than getting down on yourself by constantly telling yourself you “want to lose weight,” “want to change jobs,” “want to start working out,” start doing it. You will have fewer decisions to make if you just rip the bandaid off and commit. 

5.) Fuel first: If a decision is coming at the end of the day, or maybe a big meeting at work, then take a break, refresh and eat something first. You will be more on top of your game if you can boost some of that brain fuel. 

6.) Keep it simple: Get rid of the things in your life that you don’t need. Don’t waste your energy on things that don’t contribute to your wellbeing, that don’t provide joy. You don’t need to keep doing unnecessary tasks that are draining your energy. 

Your willpower is not always going to be at a steady level. That is impossible. But the first step to making changes is recognizing where the problems are and working to rectify them. It’s ok to put off a decision for a day rather than being impulsive. You can decide to get some rest first, just don’t avoid it completely. 

Sources: 

New York Times: https://www.nytimes.com/2011/08/21/magazine/do-you-suffer-from-decision-fatigue.html

https://jamesclear.com/willpower-decision-fatigue

Quit calling them ‘negative’ emotions

Certain emotions frequently show up in science and the media as “negative” emotions. We all know them as sadness, anger, disgust, frustration, etc. Then there are the “positive” emotions—happy, excited, etc. Instead of classifying an emotion as “negative” or “positive” how about we just start calling it by what it actually is? 

We are sending the message that emotions are bad.

When we classify an emotion as negative, we are sending the message that it is bad. That we aren’t supposed to feel this way. It makes us feel guilty about having these so-called “negative” emotions. No one wants to feel “negatively” or do the “wrong” thing. But an emotion isn’t bad. It isn’t wrong to feel a certain way. We need to stop grouping them together as a set and refer them to as an individual feeling. Yes, I am sad that my grandfather is in the hospital. Yes, I am disappointed I didn’t get the job. Yes, I am frustrated that the dog had an accident in the living room this morning. This is life, folks. 

These emotions are ok, they are healthy, they are necessary. We don’t need to pretend that we don’t feel this way. We don’t need to feel guilty or that we are doing something bad by feeling upset or disappointed. Rather we need to let the emotions come. We need to feel them, accept them, allow ourselves to work through them. What we don’t need to do is ignore them. That only compounds the situation and makes things eventually erupt. So instead of thinking about emotions as “negative” or “positive,” think of them simply as an emotion. Leave it at that. There is no need for classification.

Don’t force happiness, do this instead

Somewhere along the line, we started being told that we should always be happy. It became this known ideal that emotions are bad. That needs to change. Emotions are not bad. They are part of us. We shouldn’t be pushing those unpleasant feelings deep into ourselves and trying to force ourselves to always be happy. 

Ask yourself, who are you pretending for? Allow yourself to feel all the emotions—the good and the ugly. Let it out. It is healthy and part of helping ourselves cope with the unpleasant things that happen in life. It is not just ok to feel sad, angry, frustrated, disappointed, unhappy, it is necessary. Life would be boring if it was all hunky dory all the time. In order to truly appreciate those moments of peace, you know those little moments, we also need those moments of pure chaos and distress. 

You need to feel safe in expressing your emotions. Surround yourself with people that accept you as you are. Stop pretending. By not allowing yourself to feel you are only doing harm to your mental health. You can’t make all those feeling go away. Eventually, they come back up. By allowing yourself to show them and feel them fully, you are tackling the situation head-on. Have you ever felt that moment of relief after a good long cry? That moment of clarity? That realization that you are ok and you can get through it? We need all those emotions to get to that moment. 

Find that friend, or that village, that accepts you fully. You need to be with people who don’t want you to pretend, who don’t expect you to hide how you are feeling. This big beautifully scary, serene, tragic, wonderful world we live in requires a whole range of emotions. 

Have you ever tried to force happiness? How did that make you feel? 

We are not supposed to be happy all the time

It would be nice if we could be happy 24/7, stress-free, relaxed, all smiles, but that is not reality. We are not supposed to be happy all the time. We are supposed to feel a range of emotions. 

Could being ‘happy’ all the time actually be dangerous?

I speak to clients all the time who are feeling down. They ask me what is wrong with them for feeling down even though they can’t identify a specific stressor in their life. I help them to learn how to cope and find happiness in themselves, to feel better, but there are always going to be moments of sadness. There are going to be times when we just don’t feel happy. This is life.

In fact, some say it is dangerous to try to be happy all the time. It is better to allow yourself to feel all the emotions. Being happy is great but it is not the appropriate response to all situations. If someone you care about dies, you can’t expect to respond in happiness. If you are not having a great day, maybe your car won’t start or you got stuck in traffic on the way to work, it’s appropriate to feel frustrated. If your schedule is packed and you feel like you don’t have enough hours in the day to get things done, it is ok to feel overwhelmed. In fact, you should. Feeling these emotions helps you to cope. 

Life can be wonderfully beautiful in so many ways, but it can also be devastatingly tragic. If we are always happy and something bad happens, we won’t know how to process that information. We won’t know how to deal, according to Danish psychology professor Svend Brinkmann in his book Stand Firm: Resisting the Self-Improvement Craze. 

The bad things in life help us to better appreciate all the good. So, while it is good to look at the positive in bad situations. It is ok, and healthy, to feel all the emotions associated with the good, bad and ugly of the world. 

Source:

https://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/happy-all-the-time-positive-thinking-duty-burden-psychology-professor-svend-brinkmann-a7620311.html

Making the choice to be a single mom

Being a single mom is incredibly hard. It is doing it all, being everything for your children, and it is taxing on yourself. The reality is nobody actually decides “yes I want to be a single mom,” “yes, I want to do this by myself.” It is not a choice. It is something that comes as a result of another decision—whether it be getting divorced from your spouse, deciding not to marry the child’s father because of your relationship with him, or feeling like you have no other way to have children except to do it on your own. It is the absence of a partner but it is not a direct choice. 

I was raised by my single mom. She had choices to not be a single mom. She could have chosen to stay in an unhappy relationship so that she didn’t have to care for me by herself. Instead I would hear her cry in the middle of the night because this gig is hard. But it was something she needed to do for us, for herself. 

Of course she would have preferred to have someone to help split the parenting duties. Or course she wanted to give us a stable home. But she also wanted to show us that she wasn’t willing to give up on her ideals. That she was strong. That she wasn’t going to compromise her happiness to stay in an unhappy relationship. She was showing us to stand up for yourself and to follow your heart, as hard as it can be sometimes. She did make choices. Very difficult ones. But it was never about a desire to parent by herself. 

Screw the five-year plan

We get asked by our college professors, potential and current employers, our parents, our mentors—what is your five-year plan? You are encouraged to write it down. Put it on paper. Stick to it. The reality is, you need to learn to let go of that plan. 

Don’t get me wrong, it is important to have goals, plans, and dreams you want to accomplish. You can choose to write up an outline of sorts but don’t get too attached. 

We change. Life changes. Things happen that we don’t expect. That is the beauty in uncertainty. You never truly know where the road will take you. Events that happen to us shape us as people. Things we learn over time change our way of thinking. Our experiences create deep roots inside our souls, and the people we thought we would become no longer seems as fitting. 

We fall in love, we have children, we move for careers, maybe you end up in a place you didn’t originally plan. The course changes. There is no need to be a perfectionist about the plan. It is ok to deviate, to take another road. We can get so stressed, so exhausted trying to keep things lined up with the plan. But what is the real purpose of that plan? 

You made it to keep yourself focused. To help achieve success and happiness. If those things come a different way than expected, that is ok. I say it all the time, you have the key to happiness inside of you. By letting yourself get so attached and worked up over the plan, you are denying yourself the happiness to enjoy where you are and how far you have come and where you might go if you embrace change. 

Change is good. It is growth. It is learning. It is having an open mind. It is going with the flow. 

How has your five-year plan changed over time?

You have Imposter Syndrome? Hey me too!

It is not uncommon to feel like an imposter in your own body. It is called Imposter Syndrome, and I have it too. It is this deep-seeded fear of being found out. Like you aren’t really good at what you are doing. Like you don’t deserve the success you have. 

These feelings do not discriminate, many successful men and women feel like they are a fraud. 

Actress Kate Winslet told The Mirror, “Sometimes I wake up in the morning before going off to a shoot, and I think, I can’t do this. I’m a fraud.” Actress Emma Watson told Rookie magazine, “It’s almost like the better I do, the more my feeling of inadequacy actually increases, because I’m just going, ‘Any moment, someone’s going to find out I’m a total fraud, and that I don’t deserve any of what I’ve achieved.”

Actor Ryan Reynolds told Men’s Health that he feels like just a “freckled-face kid, faking it until I make it.” Even Tom Hanks said on the podcast Fresh Air that he worries when people are going to discover that he is “a fraud and take everything away from me?”

Why do we feel this way? Why is it so hard to believe that we are capable of such success? The reality is you have earned it but sometimes you struggle with your self-confidence. Evolutionary speaking, humans have an instinct to stay small to protect ourselves and our children. Being big can be uncomfortable, and vulnerable. If we stay small we feel like it is easier to hide. We aren’t in the spotlight, few people are watching. 

We focus on our goals, our values, but then, in the end, deny our own roles in our success. Why? Who are we comparing ourselves to? It is ok to not know how you became successful. To not know how you “pull it off.” Take a moment to really look at yourself and think about who you are stacking yourself up against and then stop. Stop denying that you are deserving of your success. 

If you really have no idea what you are doing—as many of us don’t— that is fine, keep doing it. That is where creativity comes from. 

Do you ever feel like an imposter? Why?

Source: https://www.instyle.com/celebrity/stars-imposter-syndrome#3163080

Sick of people taking advantage of you?

People know a good deal when they see one, which is great, except when that “good deal” is you. Always being the one that is called on to step in, help out, or get the job done, can leave you feeling used, resentful, and overwhelmed.

The People-Pleaser

I am talking about being that person who never says “no,” the people-pleaser. The good news is you don’t have to go on like this. You can establish boundaries and teach the people around you how you want to be treated. You can learn how to say “no,” to do the things that make you happy and turn down the things that do not. Stop enabling. 

First things first, you should ask yourself why you feel like you need to please others? What drives you to never say “no?” Does it have to do with your self-confidence, or wanting to be liked/respected, etc. Are you trying to compete with others around you or prove something to yourself or others? Whatever it is, come to terms with it. Taking on all these things and being “walked” on is not good for you. You are worthy of your time. Your time is important. 

Establish boundaries. Be firm but permeable. I am not telling you to shut out the world and turn down everything. I am encouraging you to figure out the things you would like to be doing and do those things. It will do wonder for the relationships in your life because you feel better about how you are spending your days. You won’t feel the resentment you have felt. For example, if you have a friend or family member who is always expecting you to run errands or always wants to borrow money from you, let them know that ends now. Tell them nicely yet firmly that you are not comfortable helping in this way anymore. They may get mad for a little while, but eventually, they will learn to respect your time and energy. 

You need to take care of you before you can fully take care of anyone else. You need to create your own happiness. Put your foot down where needed and get back to doing the things that leave you going to bed with a smile on your face. 

If you need help getting started seek out a licensed counseling professional, they can help you begin the conversation. 

Embracing interests can determine future success

Clients tell me all the time that they want the freedom to make their own choices, yet they are afraid to fail. Sometimes they end up stalling to prevent missteps that could affect their future. They don’t want to do things they enjoy because they think it is not “useful” on their resume or for their future career. 

Your personal path

Sometimes doing the things you enjoy even though you don’t think they are “useful” at the time end up leading you to bigger and better things. It takes exploring your interests to grow as people. Just because it doesn’t feel “useful” at the time to take the class, or learn the hobby, it can be the first sign of creativity. It can feel like you are wasting your time but in the end lead to greatness. It is all part of our personal path. Life experiences, learning moments, all help us to become who we are meant to be. It may not be easy. Other people may laugh or ridicule us for the things we have done but they are all important to our success—however big or small. 

Steve Jobs took a calligraphy class at Rice University. At the time he was about to be a college dropout and wanted to learn more because he was interested. When developing the first Macintosh computer years later, the attention to typefaces became one of the most important/sellable features of the computer. It was that leap that helped to get him to the success he eventually achieved. It was all part of his path. Every experience can be a learning experience. By avoiding failure or potential mistakes out of fear, you are depriving yourself of a learning moment that could later change your life. You never know until you try. 

Failure can be scary. There is no doubt about that, but don’t let that fear stop you.  Don’t let that feeling of making a mistake in your education stop you from doing the things you enjoy. You never know where your experiences will lead you. 

What interest have you followed that later helped you in life?