Choices

Best Way to Effect Change

Best Way to Effect Change

Photo by Artem Sapegin on Unsplash

 

“If you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.” – Wayne Dyer

 

When something’s not right and you want it to change, there are several ways to go about it. No doubt you want to tailor your actions, so they reflect the best way to effect change. While taking the initiative and acting may be the quickest and most efficient approach, there are some caveats to consider. You might not have all the facts, for example, or what you do know may be distorted by perception or long-held belief. It is also quite possible that your viewpoint is skewed, thus leading to erroneous conclusions and poor judgment.

Considering that there are always going to be situations and instances where change is desirable, as well as times when only you can do something about what needs changing, perhaps the best way to effect personal and situational change is by changing the way you look at things.

Granted, this isn’t easy to do, especially if you grew up in an atmosphere of rigid compliance where any testing of authority was not tolerated, and you were constrained to act within certain boundaries. Questioning the status quo may feel like anathema now that you’re an adult may feel like an impossible task, one that you’re loathe to entertain. A little-known yet very powerful way to begin to assert your independence is by thinking outside the box you were put in when growing up.

Suppose you were always called stupid and told you’d never amount to anything. Many well-meaning parents fall into the trap of being overly critical of their children, perhaps projecting their own insecurities while wanting in good faith to ensure their offspring have a better life. That their thoughtless remarks and labels have the opposite effect may never occur to them, at least without parenting counseling. That kind of cruelty on the part of parents, siblings or others is enough to stunt anyone’s growth. Finding your own path under such circumstances was likely difficult because you believed the criticism was right. Difficult, but not impossible.

Maybe you’ve attempted to change things in your life and failed repeatedly. This also tends to put a damper on any motivation to seek further change. Again, the prospects for self-change are difficult, yet not impossible.

It is important to note that there is no directive of human behavior that requires any individual to steadfastly accept their circumstance. You have the power to effect change for yourself above all else. It doesn’t matter if you grew up impoverished, in a dysfunctional family, with no support system, suffering childhood illness, mental health disorder or some other condition. Nor does an upbringing in an affluent household guarantee the ability to enact change, even if such changed is steadfastly desired. What is necessary, however, no matter the circumstances or conditions under which you grew up, is the willingness to put aside old beliefs and negativity and look at the world around you with open eyes and an unbiased heart.

Is there a wrong you seek to make amends for? What about an injustice you believe came about as the result of your actions? What avenues can you take to create a better life for yourself than that which you came into the world to? Can you find the path to follow to achieve greater success? Is it possible to mend your ways, repair your reputation, begin to love again, heal damaged relationships, find a way to balance work and home, explore your true potential and achieve almost any goal?

You bet there is.

If you are willing to cast aside the barriers and suspend judgment so that you can take in the reality that is now, you may be surprised that what you thought was so, what seemed impossible to change, is false. What is available to you, what you can change, will not only astound but also invigorate you.

How to get started with a plan.

Once you’ve cast aside beliefs that may have held you back in the past and resolved to move forward with determination and enthusiasm, you still need a plan. Venturing forth without a firm grasp of the change you’d like to effect, or a timetable to help guide your actions and help you stay the course, or a guide to refer to so you know if you are making progress or not, the mere desire to effect change will stall. To help you navigate effecting change, your plan must consist of the following:

  • The plan must be motivating, a course of action that you can not only see yourself taking, but one that fills you with vigor and excitement. The more internally motivated you are, the more likely your chances of success. “If you can dream it, you can do it.” – Walt Disney

 

  • It must be workable, a blueprint that you readily accept and believe yourself capable of putting into action. Deciding on a plan that’s going to put you in a position of tackling goals currently far out of reach is not the way to go. You need incremental stages, perhaps smaller goals or ones that are shorter in duration, before you can feel confident of your ability to take on harder goals or ones that require skills you don’t now possess. “Believe in yourself! Have faith in your abilities. Without reasonable but humble confidence in your own powers you cannot be successful or happy.” – Norman Vincent Peale

 

  • To increase likelihood of success, the plan must consider potential hurdles and contain alternate scenarios and courses of action. Weigh each one according to its merits, gauging how close it gets you to your goal. “I have a number of alternatives, and each one gives me something different.” – Glenn Hoddle

 

  • The plan must also be modifiable, a guide that you can modify as conditions or needs change, or you’ve attained the goal and want to proceed to something else. Being constrained to a rigid plan is a quick recipe for disappointment and abandonment of the impetus to change. “Setting goals is the first step in turning the invisible into the visible.” – Tony Robbins

Expect the unexpected when proceeding to effect change. To the extent that you can bounce back from setbacks, learn from your mistakes and missteps and find the lesson that’s often hidden within seeming failure, you’ll be developing and enhancing resilience, a crucial self-strength that allows you to overcome life-changing situations and stressful circumstances.

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This article was originally published on Psych Central.

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How to Do the Right Thing

How to Do the Right Thing

Photo by Fabien Bazanegue on Unsplash

 

“With integrity, you have nothing to fear, since you have nothing to hide. With integrity, you will do the right thing, so you will have no guilt.” – Zig Ziglar

 

When faced with deciding on how to act, sometimes the toughest part is figuring out how to do the right thing. Of course, how you view the right thing, what you think of as the right thing, makes all the difference. And this is often not clear. You may experience conflicting emotions, feel ambivalent about potential choices, or strongly for or against certain action – whether you are convinced that it either is or isn’t the right thing to do. How, then, can you make an informed choice and be confident that you’ll do the right thing?

Start with integrity.

Merriam-Webster defines integrity as, “firm adherence to a code of especially moral or artistic values.” The word refers to moral or ethical strength and the quality of being honest. When you start with integrity, you are being true to your core values, not straying to conform with popular opinion. Acting in integrity is not always easy, for there are shortcuts that will speed the process that may sabotage the outcome, even as they provide a quicker path to the result. Without integrity, you may feel remorseful and guilty at an unfair or unfavorable result, while you have no cause for such negative thoughts when you act in accordance with your beliefs. Ask yourself first what you know in your heart feels right. Your mind may rush in with excuses or propose different courses of action, but your integrity will never fail you.

What about when the right thing isn’t so obvious, or when it’s decidedly against prevailing opinion? If you must act in opposition to what others think or do, will you be considered a disruptor, an outsider, someone to keep at a distance, decry, criticize? Temporarily experiencing discomfort when you do the right thing is likely something you can weather without too much difficulty. The key is to be comfortable with your choice. Again, when you start with integrity and follow through with action that reflects your integrity, you’re reinforcing your commitment to truth, justice and honor.

Be considerate how your actions will affect others.

Recognize that people may not agree with your action, even if they approve of the intent of your decision. Think through the possible ramifications of your action and how they will affect others, as well as how your actions may make them feel. This does not mean you compromise your desire to do what is right, although it may allow you to incorporate softening effects into your action.

For example, if a co-worker consistently shows up to the job with alcohol on his or her breath, or exhibits other signs of drug or alcohol addiction, you may not want to notify human resources, but it is the right thing to do. Your colleague needs professional help, and this may be the necessary wake-up call so that he or she can get the detox and psychotherapy it will take to get clean and sober. If it’s a family member you believe is in distress from substance abuse, poly-drug use, and/or mental health disorder such as anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and other conditions and could benefit from counseling and treatment of some kind, figuring out a compassionate way to approach him/her and the specific language to use may somewhat ease the shock of your words. Note that those suffering from drug and/or alcohol abuse are often expert in denial. Also, you cannot force anyone to get treatment, no matter how desperately it is needed. You can only be there with your support and love and encourage your loved one to seek help. Know that family support is crucial in recovery from substance use and mental health disorders.

Stop worrying what others think.

Suppose you know that what you’re about to do will aggravate, infuriate, confuse or surprise others. Despite being the right thing to do, you fear the retaliation and disapproval that will follow. There’s no point to stewing over what others think. They’re going to vent their emotions, let you know their opinion, maybe even steer clear of you for a while. Stop worrying what they think. What’s more important is to be at peace with your actions.

What about loved ones and family members who take offense or retaliate with rejection, harsh words or withdrawing of affection over your actions they deem harmful to them in some way? The sting may be onerous, yet if you truly believe you’ve done the right thing, you must be able to live with your decision. The offended loved one or family member may come around, even thank you later, although it is also true they may hold resentment for your do-good actions.

There is also a bright side of doing the right thing, however, taking action that others don’t expect, and that is the opportunity for them to see you in a different light, to rethink their perception of you. When you do the right thing, you’re also giving yourself a boost in self-esteem. Knowing what’s right and doing it are the hallmarks of personal integrity.

Doing the right thing can be contagious.

Standing up for what’s right can inspire others to take similar action, to step out of their comfort zone and act in accordance with core beliefs and values. While you may initially feel alone in choosing the course of action you firmly believe is the right thing to do, your example may encourage others to follow your lead. First one, then another, then a few more may do the right thing. Your action can precipitate contagious behavior. Yet, even if it doesn’t, you are content with your decision, knowing that you acted with integrity and followed through to do the right thing. You can lead by example, even if others decide not to emulate your behavior.

 

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This article was originally published on Psych Central.

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What Does Your Apology Say About You?

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What Does Your Apology Say About You?

Photo by Will O on Unsplash

Photo by Will O on Unsplash

 

“A meaningful apology is one that communicates three R’s: regret, responsibility and remedy.” – Beverly Engel

 

When you say that you’re sorry to another person whom you’ve wronged, or who believes you’ve wronged them, what does your apology say about you? Is that even important? Doesn’t the fact that you deliver the apology in the first place hold greater weight? After all, an apology should be about the person harmed, not the offender. While the apology has been much studied, not much literature exists about the effects of the apology on the apologist. Maybe it’s time that someone study that.

“I’m sorry.” But, do I really mean it?

Countless times each day we hear people say, “I’m sorry.” We say it when we inadvertently cut in front of someone to get into a door, when we bump into them in line, when we’re taking too long to order, and the queue of customers continues out the door. While we may mean what we’re saying, we likely don’t consciously think about the words. We just say them out of habit. Not that being quick to acknowledge the wrong or perceived wrong is bad, it may just be perceived as insincere – if it’s even overtly acknowledged. What’s the other person going to say, anyway? Unless they’ve got a wild hair, are easily angered, impatient or just rude, they won’t call you out on your behavior. But maybe we really don’t mean it. Others may notice, or they may have become so used to such feigned apologies that it doesn’t faze them anymore.

Timing is everything when you deliver your apology.

It’s a familiar quote, “Timing is everything.” Whether in whole or as part of a longer quote, the exact words have been uttered by sports professionals, entertainers, business executives, Internet sensations, religious leaders, politicians, chefs and others. There must be a germ of truth in the statement. In fact, there is, according to research.

Aaron Lazare, author of a book about the apology, and others have said that effective apologies generally share certain underlying features, the most important of which is timing of the apology. Lazare also said this about apologies: “One of the most profound human interactions is the offering and accepting of apologies.” Early and delayed apologies, if heartfelt, can be equally effective.

A 2013 study published in the Western Journal of Communication, “Effects of Timing and Sincerity of an Apology on Satisfaction and Changes in Negative Feelings During Conflicts,” found variability in satisfaction of recipients of apologies relative to timing. Earlier apologies resulted in greater satisfaction in being understood during the communication in conflicts that could have gone past 10 minutes. On the other hand, later apologies were deemed more satisfying communications when delivered in less than 10 minutes of conflict discussions. One author noted that apologizing too frequently “becomes background noise.”

The lesson to take away here is to make a determined effort to be forthright in your apology, considering how and when best to deliver it so that the recipient is both ready to receive it and you can communicate honestly and empathetically.

It’s not about you, but an apology you make does affect you.

Granted, an apology is supposed to be about the other person, not you. Yet, the affect your apology has on you is often overlooked. To be more in touch with your motives, as well as your humility and humanity, it’s first wise to understand the basis and purpose of the apology. In an important study on apology by Cynthia Frantz of Oberlin College, “Better Late Than Early: The Influence of Timing on Apology Effectiveness,” the author reminds us to be more focused on the person we’re apologizing to than ourselves. The point is that you want to be reassuring to the point that he or she believes you sincerely understand your wrong. In addition, without acknowledging the wronged person’s emotional state, your apology likely will fall flat, being received as insincere.

However, it’s also worth noting that once you focus your intentions and fashion your words, giving appropriate thought to the timing and place to deliver your apology, you’re engaging in proactive behavior that will have an emotional effect on the recipient as well as you. You know you’ve followed through on a substantive issue, even at some pain, shame and embarrassment on your part. It feels good to lift this burden and you can move on from here.

If you blurt out the apology with no consideration of when and how it’s delivered, though, it likely says something quite different about you, perhaps that you’re more concerned with getting this off your mind than caring how it’s received. Other potential reflections of you as a person because of this ill-conceived and half-heartedly delivered apology could be that you’re self-centered, superficial, and overly consumed with appearances than substance.

Sex makes a difference, apparently.

It seems that men apologize less frequently than women, and that they report fewer offenses they believe they’ve committed. That’s according to a 2010 study published in Psychological Sciences, “Why women apologize more than men: gender differences in thresholds for perceiving offensive behavior.” Another study found that men apologized more frequently to women than other men.

A side note is that hallmark traits of psychopaths include lack of empathy, lack of remorse or guilt, no matter how much they hurt others, failure to accept responsibility, pathological lying and shallow affect, among others. If a psychopath does offer an apology, it’s usually to exert control or manipulate the other person, as they are masters at both.

How to deliver a heartfelt, genuine apology.

You want to be earnest, honest, empathetic, concerned and compassionate when you’ve hurt someone by your actions or words and want to offer an apology. What does a real apology look like? It’s all the former and a few more necessary ingredients. A real apology must contain the following:

  • Delivered with appropriate timing.
  • Acknowledgement of the hurt you have caused.
  • Recounting the incident in detail – so the wronged person knows you know what you’ve done wrong.
  • Taking responsibility for the situation.
  • Recognizing your part in the event.
  • Stating your regret.
  • Asking for forgiveness.
  • Promising that it will not happen again.

Note that in some situations where you’ve wronged another, an apology is not complete unless and until you also make appropriate restitution.

 

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This article was originally published on Psych Central.

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Best Ways to Spend Idle Time

Best Ways to Spend Idle Time

Photo by Pacto Visual on Unsplash

 

If you ever feel like there just isn’t enough time in the day to get things done, you’re probably overstressed, overworked and overcommitted. On the other hand, do you sometimes recognize that time stretches on, like you’re in a slow-motion movie, and it seems like this moment will last forever? How can two different views of time exist? Here are some of my favorite quotes on time that may serve as reflection on the best ways to spend idle time – and be time well spent.

Spend time with family.

“I absolutely love spending time with my family.” – Kevin Alejandro

You may not get to choose your family, yet you do choose whether to spend time with them or not. Too often, though, we tend to take family for granted, feeling they’ll always be there – until they’re not. Use spare time to do something with family, for it will always be some of the best idle time you’ve ever spent.

Find the beauty in each moment.

“Time is but the stream I go a-fishing in.” – Henry David Thoreau

When was the last time you looked at your surroundings? Really looked, not just allowed what’s there to serve as background? There’s true beauty all around, if you but make a conscious choice to look at it and be amazed by its power to enrich and nourish you.

Reflect on your blessings.

“I think, every time I’m on the mountain, I’m just so thankful to be there.” – Chloe Kim

I’m grateful to be alive, having experienced a brush with death more than a few times. Some might call me lucky, while others just marvel I’m still here. Nevertheless, what those life-threatening experiences taught me is to be profoundly appreciative of life. I’ve been blessed with many gifts, not the least of which is my ability to find the positive in almost any situation.

Relax.

“The time to relax is when you don’t have time for it.” – Sydney J. Harris

Why put off doing what relaxes you when the science proves that relaxing activities help refresh, restore and revitalize your body, mind and spirit? Take a half hour for meditation, or engage in restorative yoga, or surrender to a luxurious massage. If something relaxes you, you’ll reap enormous benefits from using the time you have to do it.

Enjoy your passions.

“If biking is your passion, set aside time to enjoy a good ride.” – Patrick Dempsey

I’m passionate about many things. For example, I find the wilderness awe-inspiring and mysterious and treasure memories of driving, hiking, fishing, swimming and exploring America’s great national parks. That wilderness is also dangerous and ever-changing doesn’t lessen my passion to be in it. I just exercise appropriate caution. I have other passions as well, some of which many share. These include gardening, walks in nature, creating tasty and low-fat desserts, writing, decorating, shopping for the best deals, and painting. It isn’t the what but the fact that I do what I’m most passionate about. Whatever time I spend with my passions is the best time.

Have a cup of tea.

“Tea time is a chance to slow down, pull back and appreciate our surroundings.” – Letitia Baldridge

I love a good cup of tea. My favorite for the past year is green tea, sweetened with Stevia and organic honey. Perhaps some of the research around the anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties in tea swayed me when I first started drinking in during convalescence from a hospital stay, although I have to admit tea drinking is totally different from my daily latte experience. I do appreciate my surroundings when enjoying each of them, and I value the time I spend treating myself to both.

Walk in nature.

“The butterfly counts not months but moments, and has time enough.” – Rabindranath Tagore

Whatever the season, nature is always there to be experienced, appreciated and treasured. Personally, I’m fond of trail walks, possibly because there are numerous nature trails near my home. Whenever we travel, though, I’m always keen to explore the local trails and plan our lodging to take advantage of the most scenic trailheads. There’s a sense of peace and belonging I get from walking in nature. For me, it’s a kind of meditation. I’m conscious of breathing in and out, being in the present, fully aware and alive. What a wonderful and welcoming way to spend a little time. Besides, as  research shows, nature walks, especially in groups, can help banish stress and increase well-being. And, for women with depression symptoms, regular walking can improve their quality of life.

Play with your cat.

“Time spent with cats is never wasted.” – Sigmund Freud

You needn’t be a cat person, or even have a cat in your household, to derive benefit from playing with a feline. It can be a friend’s cat, or the beloved furry friend of a loved one, family member, neighbor or co-worker. I’ve owned several cats over the years and they’ve always amazed me with their never-ending curiosity, playfulness and independent spirit. Hearing and feeling them purr fill me with a sense of contentment and joy. I can be watching TV, listening to music, or just sitting back doing nothing else but playing with the cat. Nothing against dog-lovers, for spending time with dogs ranks just as high in satisfaction. In addition, pets have healing powers and much more, according to research. They make you feel less lonely, for one thing, which is incredibly useful for shut-ins and those without family.

Be flexible.

“Summertime, this is the time that you flex.” – Cardi B

Each season presents unique opportunities to spend free time. My favorite season has to be summer, however, since there’s invariably good weather (occasional thunderstorms notwithstanding) and myriad activities to choose from to have a good time. The key, I find, is to be flexible. If you’re intent on going for a hike and a friend invites you to go swimming, have lunch at a favorite café, shop a great sale, the more willing you are to rearrange your free time to accommodate this unexpected gift the more likely you’ll be glad you did.

Make a choice.

“Time flies. It’s up to you to be the navigator.” – Robert Orben

While it’s true that each day contains just 24 hours, how you spend your time is very much your choice. Even if you must work, that’s a choice. Doing chores is a choice. Taking a break now and then is a choice. So is parceling out an hour for doing what you want, pursuing an interest, investigating something new, making new acquaintances. No one else dictates – or should be allowed to tell you – what you can or cannot do with your time. Own your destiny. Choose how you spend your time.

Savor a favorite food.

“We all need to make time for a burger once in a while.” – Erica Durance

Who doesn’t love a good burger? Whether its angus beef, turkey, salmon or veggie, burgers have long been a go-to form of comfort food for millions of people. The same holds true for many other favorite dishes, whether exotic cuisine or homecooked meals. That’s why turkey dinners are so scrumptious, why the smell of bacon makes you salivate, why the aroma of baking pies brings back your childhood. Instead of wolfing down a favorite food, pause and take in everything about it that’s special. Really savor it. This is the essence, I think, of mindful eating.

Make someone feel important.

“No matter how busy you are, you must take time to make the other person feel important.” – Mary Kay Ash

If you want to go for the gold, use some of your spare time to go out of your way to make someone else feel important and loved. This act of self-generosity doesn’t need to entail spending money. Indeed, often it’s the mere act of conscious listening to what the other person has to say that results in them feeling important, the center of your attention for that brief span of time. Acknowledge what they say, offering words of encouragement, comfort, congratulations, assistance or whatever the person seems to need most. Doing so sincerely and without haste will make you both feel you’ve made good use of the time.

Cherish the moment.

“Time itself comes in drops.” – William James

Time isn’t like a daylong downpour. It doesn’t present itself in four-hour blocks. Instead, time is seconds and minutes, more like gentle drops of rain. Once this moment is gone, it’s forever lost. For this reason, be mindful of the fleeting nature of time and make a concerted effort to live in the present and cherish every moment.

Feel empowered.

“The time you enjoy wasting is not wasted time.” – Bertrand Russell

I believe that every day I deserve to chuck my schedule aside for a while and do whatever I feel drawn to do most. I’m not talking about completely abandoning what must be done, just taking a short hiatus from tasks and responsibilities. The knowledge that I’ll return to my work or chores with a sense of renewal and feeling newly motivated further encourages and empowers me to do what I want with my idle time.

 

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This article was originally published on Psych Central.

Related Posts:

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How to Keep Frustration From Blocking Your Goals

Combat Stress With Mindful Walking

7 Tips on Calming the Noise of Life

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15 Ways to Increase Your Happiness

To automatically get my posts, sign up for my RSS feed.   

Want to get my free newsletter? Sign up here to receive uplifting messages and daily positive quotes in my Daily Thoughts. You’ll also get the top self-help articles and stories of the week from my blog and more.

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How to Remain Focused in an Increasingly Distracting World

How to Remain Focused in an Increasingly Distracting World

Photo by Rodion Kutsaev on Unsplash

“One way to boost our will power and focus is to manage our distractions instead of letting them manage us.” – William Goleman

 

I know I’m not alone in being easily distracted. In fact, with the proliferation of smartphones, smart TVs and other home devices, I’d venture a guess that all this burgeoning availability and use of technology contributes to societal distraction, not the opposite. Indeed, it’s so easy to succumb to the siren call of an incoming tweet or message, to pore through social media for hours to see what’s happening, to feel included, in the know, popular and liked that zeroing in on tasks at hand or what’s really important today can get lost in the competition for our attention.

After missing a few deadlines and failing to accomplish more than one pressing task, I embarked on a mission to teach myself how to remain focused – despite the lure of incessant distractions around me. Maybe some of the tips I’ve discovered that worked for me will help you find focus as well.

Take a personal time-out.

No, this isn’t a recommendation to go sit in a corner as punishment for bad behavior. On the contrary, when you opt for a personal time-out, what you’re doing is opening space to clear your mind and allow focus to return. I find that taking my time-out is most useful when I can feel my heart rate increase, my breath becomes shallower, and I sense the pressure of not enough time to get something done. In fact, it’s at these times that taking a pause is the best way to address digital distraction overload – literally.

During a personal time-out, it’s important to do nothing. That means no multi-tasking jotting notes, listening to TV news, reading emails, posting on social media, doing laundry or whatever. Put aside everything else and be in a quiet place where you can let your mind go blank. I like meditation, although yoga is also a great practice to utilize. As difficult as this may be for always-on-the-go and ever-connected individuals, stopping the whirlwind distractions for a short time is the only way to calm the noise and regain balance, equilibrium and sense of well-being. Trust me, after some trial-and-error, you’ll find this technique works. When you return to your day, you’ll likely be better rested and even find solutions or answers to problems or questions pop into your head without effort – almost as if they only needed the space to come out and be noticed.

Learn self-discipline.

Discipline often gets a bad rap, associated for years with punishment doled out by parents, educators, law enforcement, the court system and others. Yet, discipline is an integral part of learning, self-growth and success. Without discipline, no one would ever learn the multiplication tables or why you shouldn’t bang your sister over the head when she snatches your toys. The discipline to continue higher education by taking a series of ever-more complex and difficult courses is required to achieve a desired degree. It’s much the same way when it comes to self-discipline and how that can help you regain focus in today’s distracting and distracted world.

How does self-discipline in this context work? Take losing yourself in social media for hours as an example of distraction that erodes focus. Using self-discipline as a technique here means setting and adhering to limits on time spent with this activity. It must be something meaningful and workable in order to work, however, or you won’t wind up benefitting. If you say you’ll only devote one hour per day to social media, and it will be late afternoon once you’ve finished work, reward yourself with unfettered access to your social media for that allocated hour. Do not allow yourself to be tempted to sneak in a few furtive peeks when you’re supposed to be engaged in other tasks – like work, school, tending to the kids.

Now, the fact that research shows that teens spend up to nine hours per day using social media platforms and adults devote 4.7 hours per day on smartphone and other connected devices only shows how formidable the pressure of nonstop distractions is. Combatting this obsession will require cultivating some measure of self-discipline. The ultimate reward, though, when you exercise self-discipline to be gadget-free will be your ability to focus and remain focused when you need to.

Reap the benefits of family face-to-face communication and interaction.

The joke about family disconnection that’s not funny is played out daily in homes throughout the country. Mother, father and kids are at the dinner table and everyone’s on their smartphone. Communication between family members is often via text – while in the same room, ostensibly sharing a meal! Talk about lost opportunity for family bonding, parents and children sharing their day’s experiences.

Where all this broke down is anyone’s guess, but it likely had much to do with the proliferation of smartphones and the skyrocketing popularity of social media. Instead of face-to-face dialogue, where differences can be ironed out in real-time and by using visual and auditory clues, emojis and abbreviated language and shortcuts sabotage genuine conversation for a quick exchange, albeit less satisfying.

Granted, kids may not want to look their parents in the eye when they’ve gotten a bad report card, got caught speeding, or mom and dad are likely to grill them on their friends, who’s going to chaperone the party they want to attend and so on. For their part, parents may much rather issue vague generalities or denials of anything wrong than let on to the kids. Hiding from the truth, however, in this form as well as others, does nothing to confront and solve problems. Least of all, it aids and abets resorting to distractions as a coping mechanism.

How about instilling a family rule that says there’s no use of technology at the dinner table? Be prepared for intense opposition, even for yourself, as curbing the use of smartphones and such won’t be easy. Tell yourself that the benefits of seeing and hearing what’s really going on instead of getting it third-hand will be more than worth the temporary separation from the distraction of tech devices. After all, for many families, mealtime is the only block of time they share. Make it free of distracting interruptions. Make this family time count by focusing on what’s real and happening now.

 

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This article was originally published on Psych Central.

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How to Tap Into Your Capabilities

Photo by Alexey Topolyanskiy on Unsplash

Photo by Alexey Topolyanskiy on Unsplash

“You are capable of so much more than we usually dare to imagine.” – Sharon Salzberg

 

How many times do you think about doing something and then immediately discard the idea because you think you’re not capable? It’s amazing how often people sell themselves short. Just because you haven’t done something doesn’t mean you don’t have the ability or capability to do an excellent job. Perhaps some of this reluctance is rooted in fear – principally, the fear of failure. We don’t want to stumble and not complete the job or task. We want to be successful. Anything less is not acceptable. How do you tap into your capabilities? Here are some suggestions.

Open your horizons.

What we often don’t take into consideration, however, is that by denying ourselves the opportunity to show that we are capable, we further limit our horizons. Suddenly, the world is a much more confined space and we may fall into the mistaken belief that we don’t deserve to branch out and learn new things. The solution to this is to strike that barrier that seemed so impenetrable and overwhelming. Live life with no limits and see how opportunities begin to reveal themselves.

Learn from your mistakes.

Another self-limiting behavior is our avoidance of learning from our mistakes. Since everybody makes them, there must be something good that can come from the experience. Experts say that this entails analyzing what we did to find the element of wisdom in the actions we took or did not take. It’s from this that we profit from the undertaking. In fact, there’s something to learn from everything we do, and we learn by doing – whether it was successful at first, only partially successful, or not successful at all.

Seek encouragement from others.

Once the damper of self-limitation is in place, it can be incredibly hard to lift it. The support and encouragement of loved ones, family members, friends and co-workers or concerned others is an instrumental part of overcoming this self-imposed barrier. Besides, others may more quickly see talents and gifts you possess that aren’t clear to you. When you accept, and receive their encouragement, you’re more inclined to be motivated to discovery and self-growth.

Challenge outmoded beliefs.

But we also must be willing to challenge our outmoded and erroneous beliefs to stimulate our willingness to tackle the unknown. This includes going after that which we deem desirable, interesting, and worthwhile or simply to satisfy our curiosity.

Actively pursue new activities.

Maybe one way to approach cultivating our capabilities is to pursue those activities and endeavors that deliberately expose us to something unfamiliar. When we’re so used to doing the same thing day in and day out, not only can life become boring, but we also tend to become lazy. Instead of seeking anything new and different, we remain comfortable just doing our normal routine. The downside of this is that it doesn’t stimulate or motivate. It’s pure stagnation. No wonder it’s hard to discover more of what we’re capable of.

Learn one new thing every day.

Make it a point to pursue at least one new thing every day. This can be as simple as deciding to take a different route to work or talk to someone you don’t know or investigate some area of interest to see how you can get involved. Some of this is preparation and some involves a little legwork, but it all constitutes an approach that can open your eyes to possibilities and further galvanize your motivation to developing your innate capabilities.

Work on building your self-esteem.

While building self-esteem takes time and does involve navigating some detours and overcoming roadblocks, the effort you exert will pay off in the long run. Every small success or project completed adds to your self-confidence level and works to elevate your self-esteem. You must feel good about yourself to grow. It’s also important to never allow anyone else to tear you down. Refuse to internalize their criticisms, although do take to heart any valid advice, even if it goes contrary to what you currently think. You may have a blind spot when it comes to certain aspects of your behavior. Think of this as another learning experience, an opportunity to further grow.

Recognize that you have untapped potential.

Far too many people either fail to believe in or refuse to recognize their capabilities. Instead, they look at their potential as a finite resource. Besides limiting themselves in an unhealthy manner, such misguided thinking detracts from the joy of everyday living and overall well-being. The truth is that you have so much more in you than you even know – or ever believed possible. Start recognizing that you have a wealth of untapped potential. Now’s the time to dip into that, be inspired and pursue your dreams.

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This article was originally published on Psych Central.

Related Posts:

10 Proactive Ways to Figure Out What’s Most Important to You

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How to Build Character

Photo by Seth Willingham on Unsplash

Photo by Seth Willingham on Unsplash

 

“Character is a diamond that scratches every other stone.” – Cyrus A. Bartol

 

The desire to be of good character is not only a laudable effort, but also a worthwhile one that pays handsome dividends. It’s unfortunate that more people don’t see the value in striving to achieve character.

There’s nothing like good character for making an indelible impression. When faced with someone with stellar character, others cannot fail to notice and be affected by what’s right in front of them.

It doesn’t take much hard thought to comprehend what Bartol meant by likening character to a diamond. While in the literal sense diamonds do scratch other hard surfaces, including character might at first seem odd, but it really isn’t. Anyone of good character (or bad, for that matter) can make a lasting impression. Just as a scratch from a diamond that endures.

Think before acting.

Keeping this in mind, it’s important to think before we act. This is much preferred to recklessly or impulsively rushing to judgment and acting in a fashion that’s bound to be reflective of something other than true intentions. By allowing time to process adequately, possibly by taking a step back and weigh our options before acting, the likelihood of improving character increases. act.

While some might believe that life is too busy daily to care about character, that’s rather shortsighted. Holding the belief that if someone else finds what we do to be admirable, but we’re not all that interested in building character, is flawed. This line of reasoning is akin to rationalization. It’s like saying we don’t have to be responsible for what we do because we’re hampered in some way from achieving the results we want. But those are just excuses and people of good character don’t make excuses. They take measured action after thinking about what they’re going to do.

Often, however, the choices we make won’t benefit us immediately. Sometimes a certain action may help others, which is generally serves to elicit attention, at least by the recipient of our action. Yet there is much more to it than that. While benevolent action may take some time to show results, if at all, the effort does add to our character.

Think of character like a treasure trove of diamonds. They’re internally stored, they glisten and reflect goodness. The bright light is also visible to others in the form of the good that we do.

Build character in small increments.

Good character doesn’t mean you must be a saint. Everyone can work on this aspect of themselves and make incremental improvements. The secret is to take it one day at a time, one small act at a time.

While everyone is busy, instead of packing too much into today’s agenda, allow some space and time for reflection and play. Think about some small thing that can brighten another’s day. That might be a smile, inviting a friend to coffee, offering to help a co-worker with a project, or setting aside a half hour to play with the kids after work.

Little things add up. It is possible to build character painlessly over time, and realize the benefits of doing so through the admiration and respect of others.

Be patient.

For those who’ve struggled with bad decision-making, especially those who’ve worked hard to overcome problems with alcohol or drugs, trying to build character may seem like a losing battle. After all, there are so many other things to take priority, the highest one being tending to sobriety and working recovery.

Yet even with a string of bad choices in the past, anyone can learn how to restore character or build it from scratch. It does take time and effort, a willingness to persist despite setbacks. In this, it’s necessary to be patient, to keep the end goal in sight.

In the pursuit of living a life of meaning and fulfillment, working to build character goes together with all of what’s worthwhile and good. The results are also cumulative, restorative and healthy.

This article was originally published on Psych Central.

* * *

Related posts:
10 Proactive Ways to Figure Out What’s Most Important to You
5 Tips to Make the Right Choice
10 Flimsiest Excuses for Not Taking Action

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10 Flimsiest Excuses For Not Taking Action

Photo by Tim Marshall on Unsplash.

Photo by Tim Marshall on Unsplash.

When a decision needs to be made and work must be done, instead of springing into action and doing what’s necessary, too often the temptation is to offer an excuse. Often, the excuse is a lame one, such as the following:

I don’t know how.

Did it ever occur to you that you might have been given this task or project to expand your skills, gain new insights, or expand your abilities? Don’t push it aside because you are unfamiliar with it or lack experience doing it. Doing so makes you look weak, ineffective and possibly lazy. Ask for help if you need it. That’s a more proactive approach when you need to act.

I’m not good enough.

Not everyone has high self-esteem. That doesn’t mean they’re bad people or lack motivation. They just have a fear that they won’t be able to make good on commitments. Professional help may be warranted if self-esteem issues are a continuing problem. For most people, however, using the excuse that they’re not good enough is a stall tactic. And it will only backfire.

I didn’t have any help.

OK, so you had to go it alone and could have used some assistance. But did you let your boss, friend, loved one or family member know you were having difficulty and needed help? If you failed to request help, that’s on you. Don’t use lack of help as an excuse for not acting.

I was sabotaged.

Really? Is it true that your co-workers, family members, friends or others have ganged up on you to make you look bad? Sabotage at work, home, school or elsewhere isn’t all that common, although it is rather commonplace to put forth this excuse for an inability and unwillingness to act. Your less-than-stellar results should never be minimized by blaming others. That just shows you to be a small person, not very much a part of the team.

Others can do it better.

Maybe they can, but using this excuse now – especially if your boss, teacher, friend, parent or other loved one has given you the task – is just a poor way to handle the situation. Instead, think of this as an opportunity to prove your worth, show your talents and demonstrate how you can be relied upon to see the task through.

I have too many projects now.

It might be worthwhile to look at who’s responsible for all the projects you do have. Who loaded up all these items on your desk in the first place? Could it be that you did this yourself, not anticipating the kind of conflicts you’d encounter when one or more of them ran up against each other?

The way out of this dilemma is to pare projects down to the essential, stripping away what isn’t productive, necessary or time-sensitive. Don’t take on more than you can handle.

It wasn’t my fault.

After a blunder, oversight or colossal failure, you may use this excuse to deflect criticism and point to others as the culprits. It also is a weak way to get out of doing anything further, especially to rectify the mistake you’ve already made. Whether it’s a misstep at work or elsewhere, own up to your mistake and offer suggestions on how you’ll turn it around. Otherwise, you’ll risk looking irresponsible.

I’m not feeling well.

If you’re sick, you should be at home recuperating. Don’t go into work or school or bounce around town running errands, having coffee and perpetuating the excuse that you’re not well enough to tend to your responsibilities. Besides, nobody wants to be around someone who’s got a bug, is miserable with symptoms or lolling about doing nothing. They’ll resent your presence and steer clear. Worse yet, they may have to wind up doing your work as well, and that’s not going to help the next time you need their assistance with something.

Something’s come up.

The excuse that some other pressing obligation took precedence over what you’re supposed to be doing is common. It even has legitimacy to it on occasion. The problem is that too many people fall back on this white lie as a reason to avoid acting. After a few times hearing this excuse, however, the person in charge or those who are relying on you to get things done will start discounting your reliability.

This can wait until later.

When you’re really trying to get out of a project or task, throwing out the notion that this one can be put off until another time doesn’t garner any points either. It tells the person who’s looking for results that you’re a skater, someone who can’t be counted on to get the job done. Sooner or later, you’re likely to find that your procrastination costs you dearly. You could be overlooked for a promotion, others may fail to include you in activities, and your closest friends, loved ones and family members may turn elsewhere for help when something needs to be done.

This article was originally published on Psych Central.

Photo by Tim Marshall on Unsplash.

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10 Proactive Ways to Figure Out What’s Most Important to You

Photo by Jakob Owens on Unsplash

Photo by Jakob Owens on Unsplash

Life offers infinite variety, along with myriad challenges and opportunities. It’s easy to get lost in indecision with so many choices. You want success, yet wonder if you’re on the right path. You’d like to have balance in your life, but there are so many conflicts that you often find yourself spending energy too much in one direction.

What’s happening here is a lack of prioritization, of figuring out what in life is most important to you — and then acting upon it. While not life-threatening, a failure to identify what is most meaningful to you can erode your quality of living. To ensure that you have the most opportunities to live a full, happy and productive life, you must zero in on your key priorities. Here are some ways to do just that.

Identify the most important people in your life.

When you care about someone, they are important to you. Sometimes, however, we take loved ones, family members, friends and coworkers for granted. This does both them and us a disservice. By listing the most important people in your life, you make a conscious effort to recognize and value these meaningful relationships. Since man is a gregarious creature by nature, tending to those closest to you is a practical, effective way to make the most out of life.

Think about what you most enjoy doing.

For some, it may be arranging floral displays, trying out new recipes, walking at sunset with a loved one. Others may most enjoy sports and recreational activities, or reading books, listening to music, participating in spirited debates. Whatever you most enjoy doing is obviously important to you. It is more than passing time or relaxing. If you take the time to identify what you like doing the most, you are more likely to make room in your life to take advantage of those opportunities. In the process, besides identifying what is most important to you, you will also be acting upon that knowledge.

What qualities, skills or talents do you have?

Looking back at your life, what qualities, skills or talents would you say you have? When you were a kid, for example, were you great at marbles, ping pong, sledding, multiplication tables, spelling bees? Did you find you excelled in science or English or math? Are you skilled in carpentry, landscape design, building things, figuring out how to fix what goes wrong? Do you lose yourself in artistic expression, creating something from nothing? There is a strong likelihood that what is most important to you is deeply embedded in these qualities, skills and talents.

List your highest achievements and accomplishments.

In line with analyzing what you believe you do best, take some time to jot down the successes you’ve had. It doesn’t matter if it’s a huge accomplishment or something minor. What does matter is the feeling the result gave you. When you are proud and excited about your accomplishments, you experience joy and satisfaction in life. It is also a good hint that these are important to you.

Ask your friends, loved ones and family members to list your best qualities.

You might think you know your best qualities or strengths, but you might over- or underestimate what you’re good at. Besides, you are not very objective when it comes to self-analysis. That’s why asking those who know you best what they believe are your best qualities is illuminating. You might discover, for example, that you possess keen analytic ability, something you haven’t tapped or put to effective use. Maybe it’s your compassion that is most impressive. Or, the fact that you listen well and are supportive of others in a way that’s empowering and uplifting. Once you know what these qualities are, you can decide what, if anything, you want to do to take advantage of them. There is something here that is important to you. Perhaps asking others to help you identify them is a painless way to figure this out.

While it might be challenging, you don’t have to sacrifice a goal because it’s too difficult.

One of the saddest things to witness is someone giving up just as they are about to reach their goal. We’ve all done this, not that it’s anything we like to admit. Granted, some goals are incredibly challenging. They’re difficult, expensive, take an inordinate amount of time, or require resources and allies that are hard to come by. The secret to holding fast to a goal that seems out of reach is to parcel it into pieces. Take it apart and identify stages or steps. By focusing on the next stage instead of the end goal, it’s easier to make the effort necessary to see this phase through. Over time, you’ll pass through various stages on the way to the goal. That’s how you achieve even the most challenging goal.

You can still pursue your dreams and make ends meet.

Maybe you find yourself stuck in a job you don’t like. You took it because you needed the money and stick with it because things haven’t changed financially, or because you can’t see a way forward. It’s time to ditch this dead-end thinking and map out a plan to make changes that allow you to both pursue your dreams and take care of your financial responsibilities. It may be that you decide to back to school to get additional training or pursue or finish a degree. What you learn in the process, the people you meet, the opportunities you are exposed to can make a profound difference in your outlook. In addition, be sure to maximize your leisure and recreational pursuits. If you love skiing, schedule some ski trips. If painting is your forte, get busy creating in the medium of your choice.

Deal constructively with the depression or anxiety and may have stood in the way of doing what you want.

Fleeting sadness or anxiety is a normal part of life. The emotions, while not without pain, can motivate us to make necessary changes. Prolonged depression or anxiousness, however, will only be alleviated with professional help. Perhaps medication and/or therapy is in order. If you find that these powerful emotions are standing in the way of doing what is most important to you in life, you owe it to yourself and your loved ones to get the help you need.

Get past the feeling that you’re not good enough.

Most of us have felt the sting of disappointment, either that we didn’t live up to our own expectations or those of someone else. Overt or covert criticism, biting or harsh comments, the gradual shifting away of friends and colleagues just adds to the sinking feeling that we’re not good enough. Yet, others don’t define us and we should never allow them to act like they can. The only way to be good enough is to believe that you are. Since no one can make you do anything and only you make the decision how to live, choose the option that’s affirmative and uplifting. Select what gives you the best likelihood of achieving the outcome you desire. Give it your utmost effort, attention and diligence. If you do the best you can do, you’ll always be good enough. In fact, you’ll be better than just good enough. You’ll be right where you want to be.

What makes you happy? Do that.

Happiness is like sunshine. It makes you feel good, envelops you in warmth, and costs nothing. Yet, how many times do you walk away from happiness and instead involve yourself in some task or activity that’s boring, uninvolving, repetitive, endless or unproductive? If you want to be happy in life, think about what makes you happy. Find a way to insert that pursuit or activity into your everyday life. It might be walking in nature, working in the garden, whipping up a culinary delight, playing with the children, making love to your partner. Whatever it is, this is something important to you, something you value highly. Be sure to do it as often as you can, with full presence of the moment and joy that you can have this experience.

 

This article was originally published on PsychCentral.

* * *

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How To Start Telling The Truth Instead Of Lies

Photo by h heyerlein on Unsplash

Photo by h heyerlein on Unsplash

“The truth may be stretched thin, but it never breaks, and it always surfaces above lies, as oil floats on water.” — Cervantes

 

A little-known fact is that it isn’t all that uncommon to bend the truth. People do it all the time. I know I’ve slipped and told a few whoppers. Sometimes it is to spare someone else from feeling uncomfortable. Sometimes it is to give yourself an escape from consequences you know you will encounter by telling the truth. But guess what? The truth will eventually come out, no matter how hard you try to avoid it.

There is something universally appealing in this, although few would admit it. No one wants to be regarded as a liar — even though almost everyone sometimes falls into that category. The idea that little obfuscations or outright tall tales would come back to haunt us isn’t particularly attractive. While working so hard to skirt the truth — knowing full well that it is wrong, but doing it anyway — means there is some self-improvement that needs tending to.

Think of the biggest lies in history and how they eventually were unmasked. The world is flat was debunked. Men are superior was called into question. “I’ll call you” is universally discredited. Big lie or little, as Shakespeare’s quote in “The Merchant of Venice” so aptly reveals — “the truth will out.”

If you accept that truth has more value than lies and acknowledge that it is going to come out anyway, how do you begin to cultivate the habit of telling the truth to begin with? Is this something you can teach yourself to do — after years of doing just the opposite?

You can and here’s how.

Stop and think about what you are going to reveal.

Before you respond to a question, embark on telling a story, fill out an employment application or apply for a loan, pause and think what you are about to reveal. The first thought that pops into your head may be a lie, or it could be the truth, which you quickly push aside. You will know whether it is truth or lie. Being able to identify what the thought is qualifies you to make the decision what to do next. You need the time to figure out what you are going to say or do.

Prepare a truthful answer.

Prepare answers (truths) you are willing to say ahead of time so you’re not stumped when you need to say something. Let’s say you are going to a job interview and you want to appear your best. You know you will be asked about your strengths and your accomplishments. Instead of saying you saved your previous employer $100,000 by uncovering duplicate projects when you only observed someone else doing that, if it is true you were part of a team that streamlined corporate projects to maximize efficiency, say that instead. If you are not particularly innovative, talk up how you’re a hard worker that supports team efforts. If you take the time to realize your strengths, you will be able to come up with talking points that are true, not false.

Give yourself time to think of an appropriate (and truthful) answer.

If you are uncomfortable, ask for a break. Maybe the truth you tell now would cause harm, make someone unhappy, or result in your getting fired. Instead of instantly incriminating yourself, ask for a break — literally. You need some time to frame the truth so that it’s less harmful, or to summon your resources if the blowback will be serious. It is better to say nothing than to blow it completely by telling a lie that will come back to roost.

Work on your core values.

Learning to tell the truth instead of spouting lies every time you open your mouth takes patience, time and practice. Begin by addressing your core values, identifying them and striving to live in accordance to them. If you value friendship, act like a faithful friend. If you prize family above all else, put your family ahead of everything else you do. Be the person you most admire. Adopt the traits of people you respect.

Ask others for help.

No doubt you have people in your life who are familiar with your tendency to embroider the truth, to embellish stories for effect, or to keep telling falsehoods despite your best efforts to stop. Ask for their help in supporting your quest to tell the truth. Have them call you out when they recognize you telling a lie. This might smart a bit, but you need the assistance to change your behavior.

 

This article was originally published on Psych Central.

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