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10 Natural Laws #9: Self Esteem

John Owens

10 Natural Laws #9: Your Self-Esteem Must Come From Within

From the time we are born, we are completely dependent on adults around us for our existence. Fortunately, we are wired to respond to infants’ cries and coos with our attention, nurturance, and feedback. We learn from infancy that others have the ability and commitment to respond to almost our every need, if only we just express our pleasure or distress. As we grow a little older, we learn to take care of some of our needs. We also create new wants: that particular toy or package of candy, mommy’s attention to our creation (right now!). Fundamentally, however, children know that their existence and well-being is dependent on pleasing (or manipulating) adults figures. Up to about the age of 12, in my experience, kids can be influenced because they need the approval of the adults around them for their survival.

One of the bridges to cross as we enter into adulthood is learning that the approval of others is still important, but no longer is key to our survival. It’s a hard and confusing lesson. Most of our lives we have been working hard to gain the approval of adult figures, and suddenly, or gradually as the case may be, we find ourselves in a losing battle to please the boss, the spouse, the teacher, anyone with whom we have an emotional attachment. In the process, we might lose sight of our core values, our life purpose and mission, which lie buried under the rubble and scree of our many failed attempts to create self-esteem through the approval of others. Following this path, you may end up miserable, owned by the people around you, whose inner tyrants are invited to run your life as you seek their approval. This is the fate of one who seeks their self-esteem through the approval of others.

I wrote last week about how negative behaviors are overcome by incorrect beliefs. One category of such beliefs if “I must be seen as…” This is frequently the belief structure of one whose self-esteem comes from external sources: “I must be seen as a nice (helpful, caring, generous, compliant, obedient, trusting, happy, not angry, non-confrontational, not a ‘bitch’, essential, accepting, etc.). There is nothing wrong per se with any of these labels; it is just when we become handcuffed by them in trying to elicit the approval of others that it is dysfunctional. While I carry this belief around, I see others as threatening and judgmental, or alternately, they are my audience. I may feel anxious and afraid, or needy and stressed, or just plain overwhelmed. The world from this perspective seems dangerous, watching me, and judging me. When this happens, people are no longer people. They become objects: judgers, ‘the audience’, or simply, the ones holding the keys to our self-esteem. To the degree we live in this condition, our hearts are not at peace.

When you make a choice to allow your self-esteem come from within, where does that esteem come from? Close your eyes and point to it on your body. Most of us will point to our source, our heart. When your actions resonate with your core values, your esteem is high. You feel that integrity. Esteem is no longer dependent on circumstances, of who approves of your, or what grade you get. If you value hard work and preparation, and you study well for a test or prepare well and work hard to achieve a goal, the circumstances of the outcome become some feedback for you, but the feeling of esteem and worthiness arise from within you. That can never be taken away from you. Your sense of self-esteem must ultimately come from within you.

Do you struggle with disappointing yourself? Are you trying to please others, and losing sight of your values and purpose in life? Life coaching can make a huge difference by helping you align your head, heart and actions. Click here to find a coach.

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10 Natural Laws #8: Change Your Belief

John Owens

10 Natural Laws #8: Negative Behaviors are Overcome by Changing Incorrect Beliefs

Last week I blogged about how you satisfy needs when your beliefs are in line with reality. This week is about the flip side of that. Beliefs we have that are not in line with reality are “incorrect.” Now I want to be clear and careful with that statement: We all, to some degree, are navigating our lives with ‘busted maps’. That does not make the person wrong. I believe Hennepin Avenue in Minneapolis goes east-west. And that’s true, except on the west side where it goes north-south. My mental map may be off, and that has gotten me lost more than one time. That does not make me wrong as a person. We are not the same thing as our beliefs, though at times we have an awful lot invested in them.

Let’s look at an example of how culturally-held beliefs can lead to negative behavior: the not-too-distant belief that people in this country of pink skin held that they were superior to humans of dark skin. In fact, there were many African-Americans who had internalized this oppressive message and bought into it. Many negative behaviors came out of this incorrect belief, from lynchings and segregation to disenfranchisement, and the patronizing attitudes of whites toward blacks. And it worked the other way as well, with most people of color believing they were inferior in intelligence, physically superior in strength and endurance, and that ‘it’s a white man’s world’, justifying their personal lack of ambition and victimization. We can look back on that now and see that there is no such difference between what we call ‘races’ of people. We collectively created a virtual reality that is not true, and caused all much suffering and separation.

On a personal level, we all hold some patterns of belief towards others that are incorrect, and lead to negative behaviors. I’ll mention four that are major causes of personal conflict and misery:

I’m better than: This incorrect belief that I am somehow superior because of my differences to another allows me to treat others, whom I feel superior to, as objects. In fact, all of the misbeliefs I will mention have this in common: objectifying others and making them to be something less than human. I feel I am in the right, and whatever my sins, they are excusable because of my superiority. I see (some) others as inferior to me; I feel disdainful of them. I think they are wrong. I may pity others, or feel disgust and loathing for them. My world view is one of competitiveness, keeping score. The world is troubled, and it needs me.

I’m Deserve: In this misbelief, I view myself as entitled, deserving of special treatment. I often feel mistreated and victimized. I may feel unappreciated for who I am. I view others as mistaken, ungrateful and they mistreat me. I feel deprived, and am resentful of being denied what I am entitled to. I view the world as unfair, unjust, and that life owes me more than what I have.

I Must be Seen as: This one covers a lot of ground, and includes the reverse, ‘I must NOT be seen as…’. Here you can fill in the blank: I must be seen as… smart, happy, engaged, competent, sexy, authentic, caring, etc. Or, I must not be seen as…uncaring, angry, foolish, weak, stupid, greedy, etc. (think here what might apply to you). While I carry this belief around, I see others as threatening and judgmental, or alternately, they are my audience. I may feel anxious and afraid, or needy and stressed, or just plain overwhelmed. The world from this perspective seems dangerous, watching me, and judging me.

I’m Worse Than: This is the world of the victim. I view myself as not as good as others, broken or deficient in some way, fated and cursed in life. I see others around me as privileged, blessed, having advantages I don’t possess. People are seen as separate from me because of their advantages. I feel helpless, and I will fail to engage in the world. I may feel bitter, resentful and jealous. Or I may feel, or be, depressed. The world seems impossibly hard, stacked against me, or that I am ignored.

These four incorrect beliefs cover most of our consequent negative behaviors. If we can replace these and other incorrect beliefs with others more aligned with reality, these negative behaviors will change. So what can we replace these with that is better and truer to what is real? As a coach, I don’t try to persuade others to believe something that I hold, just because it works for me. So I won’t tell you what to believe, but leave you with this inquiry: If your beliefs (above) are no longer serving you, it is time to try a new belief on for fit with your core values. What is in the deepest part of your heart that is true about you and your world? If you are ready to take a courageous and truth-seeking look into this, you may be ready to hire a life coach. He or she will ask those penetrating questions, and help frame your answers in ways that serve you to be more, give more, and align with your authentic self. Find a coach.

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Natural Law #7: Satisfy your needs

John Owens

Natural Law #7: You Satisfy Needs When Your Beliefs are in Line With Reality

Have you heard the joke about the man at his psychiatrist’s office who said, “I just don’t understand, Doctor. I’ve been seeing you for over a year, and I still have these butterflies all over me.” The psychiatrist replies, “Well, for heaven’s sake, don’t brush them off on me!”

All of us (me, too!) have beliefs that are not in alignment with reality. It may not be butterflies, but the signs are there: disappointment, frustration, betrayal, panic or narcissism, to name a few emotional indicators. We also carry messages that we have internalized about ourselves or the world that may not be true. The big misconceptions many of us carry are “I’m better than…;” “I must be (or must not be) seen as…”; “I am less than…”; and “I deserve…”

When we believe in these lies, we set ourselves up for separation from others, and for not having our needs met. I’ll explain how, but first I want to point out that carrying these beliefs does not make us bad or deserving of retribution. We got these messages from somewhere, from family, or kids at school, or elsewhere. It does not matter where it came from. The fact is that each of us holds certain misbeliefs that were ‘installed’ on us, and we internalized them by making them our own. If your older brother constantly called you an idiot every time you were unsuccessful at something you tried, you may at some point start hearing your brother’s voice in your head when you failed at some attempt, even if he is not around. You believe you are an idiot, and try to live your life on top of this distress. You may find yourself failing continuously because of the lie you believe in. This is ‘internalized oppression’. It came from outside you, but whoever installed it on you is not the one to make you change your internalized belief. You are responsible for recognizing a disconnect between Reality and your beliefs. Your emotions are often a good indicator of that. So are the truth-tellers in your life, who tell you like it is. Natural consequences are possibly our greatest teacher. At bottom, it is up to you to do the work to own the misbelief as your own, see the impact it has had on yourself and others, and let it go, replacing it with a belief that is closer to reality than the one you let go.

What we are ready to work on in our internal life becomes apparent to us through natural consequences, our feelings, and the feedback we get from others. Having a alliance with a life coach can help you to get rid of the busted maps you have been navigating life with, and replace them with better ones that will satisfy your needs. From experience as both a life coach, and from being coached myself, I know that the coaching partnership can be a very potent antidote to dysfunctional beliefs. So I recommend checking out life coaching to help you have more fulfillment.

I’ve discussed so far how misalignment of beliefs can cause dysfunction and misery in your life. So how does alignment of beliefs with reality satisfy your needs? A good metaphor can be found in rocket science: NASA wants to put a device on the surface of Mars. To be successful, a detailed and very accurate map of reality must be known: the positions of the planets, distances, rotations, the mass of the rocket assembly and the thrust of each rocket, literally thousands of details have to be known and the relationship of each to one another must be understood. Here we have some hard and fast physical laws, Newtonian physics, that guides the engineers. Any significant deviation from these natural laws, like miscalculating the mass of the rocket by 2%, could have disastrous results and the need of landing the device on Mars would not be met.

The world of human needs is not so different than the world of physics. If I believe an internal ‘law’ that I am selfish and unlovable, how likely am I to attract people to be my close friends? If I believe I deserve to go faster than anyone else on the freeway, my speeding and weaving through lanes might work for a while, but my need for human connection will not benefit, and eventually I’m going to get stopped and cited for a big fine. If I believe I have something of great value to give to the world, something, too, will come of that, and Reality will provide me the feedback I need to give that gift in the way that the world is ready to accept.

Some key points on aligning your beliefs with reality:

  • Learn to recognize the signs of believing a lie: disappointment, frustration, anger, withdrawal and resistance from not having your needs met.
  • Inquire “What is my need that is not being met?”.
  • Rather than ask “why” your need is not met, ask yourself, “What is the belief I hold in conflict with my need?”
  • Get curious. Try on different beliefs and find one that fits you better. Start with the exact opposite belief, and try others that you can come up with.
  • Decide what belief you most resonate with.
  • Make a list of actions that you can do using this new belief. Some things you will say “Yes” to, and an equal or greater number of things you say “No” to.
  • Pick the action items that you will commit to.
  • Start implementing your new actions and belief. Make yourself accountable.

All of this is made easier, faster and more permanent with a certified Life Coach. Find one for you at www.minnesotacoaches.org.

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Natural Law #6: Behaviour=Belief

John Owens

Natural Law #6: Your Behavior is a Reflection of What You Truly Believe

What is it that you believe about yourself and the world?

Here’s a little story that illustrates the point made from the title of this blog. A shoe manufacturer once wanted to expand his market, and sent his two best salespeople to Africa to prospect the potential to sell his shoes there. The first salesman spent a week there and emailed back. “No one here wears shoes. Market potential for shoes looks very dim.”

The second salesperson also toured Africa for a week and emailed back. “No one here wears shoes. We’ve hit the jackpot!”

We are always looking at Reality from different perspectives, and those perspectives arise from our beliefs. I am going to go out on a limb here and say that we make those beliefs from concious or unconscious choice. If our beliefs are a set of choices we make, and perspectives arise from those beliefs, our behaviors are also based on choice. The first salesman, believing the world is a hard place, or that people are not willing to change their ways, takes on a perspective that there is no viable market for shoes. The second salesman processes the same information, but her belief, that people are adaptable and willing to try new things if they are useful, sees enormous opportunity. The behaviors of these two salespeople, arising from opposing beliefs, will be very different. I’d expect the first one to quit and go back. And the second one I could see setting up shop and demonstrating to anyone who would listen the benefits of her company’s shoes. The behaviors of each of these two hypothetical examples will most likely be consistent with their beliefs.

So when we look at our own behavior, what we chose to do, or chose not to do, we can trace those actions to our beliefs that are in operation. We can gain valuable self-knowledge about why we do the things that we do. Beliefs about oneself are some of the most powerful motivators or de-motivators we will ever experience. If I was raised by family that consistently gave me messages that I am clumsy, for example, I will likely internalize the message, and believe that about myself long after others have stopped telling me so. And if I believe I’m clumsy, I might avoid rock or ladder climbing, and many other things that require agility. Each time I spill my food, I’m aware of it, and curse myself for my clumsiness. The more I act according to my belief about myself, the more I make my reality and belief consistently the same. If I believe that money is the root of all evil, it’s filthy lucre, and comes as the result of servitude, what will be my behavior? And how much wealth might I manifest in my life?

Fortunately, our beliefs are choices, and we can change them. We humans are supremely able to adapt our beliefs to new information that we take in, and adjust our behavior accordingly. At times, we may struggle, caught between two conflicting beliefs that demand very different actions. Which one do we go with? How do we choose? This is where I am compelled (by my belief) to mention that having a life coach can be immeasurably valuable in helping to dispel and let go of old, self-limiting beliefs and behaviors. Coaching helps with making these choices through a comprehensive inventory of your core values, and looking for the direction that feels most alive and resonant with your core values. Coaching can also help to get you started in behaving in new ways, that over time may lead you to change the internal beliefs you hold to new ones that are better aligned with reality.

So here are some pointers that will bring greater self-knowledge and peace:

  • You can examine your behavior patterns to understand clearly what you believe about yourself and the world.
  • Your perspective on any given topic is a choice that often is a reflection of what you believe at that time.
  • You have the ability, as a human being, to change your perspective on a topic at any time. You may change it due to new information you get, or you may change perspective and gain new information as a result. It works both ways.
  • Changing behaviors can lead to changing beliefs.
  • A life coach is a great resource for helping to try on new perspectives and behaviors that can lead to new, more lively self-beliefs that replace self-limiting ones.
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Ten Natural Laws, #5: Daily Planning

John Owens

Ten Natural Laws, #5: Daily Planning Leverages Time Through Increased Focus

I get up on Saturday morning, with nothing definite to do, and like magic, the day evaporates in activity traps like email, crosswords, reading the newspaper and emptying the garbage. Suddenly, it’s 5 o’clock, and time to cook dinner. I wasted my day. Again.

Does this ever happen to you?

There is certainly nothing wrong with being in the moment and enjoying yourself. We all have our favorite activity traps, be it TV or computer games, email, puzzles, shopping, napping, or cleaning. By “activity trap” I mean the stuff that takes up our time that is discretionary and does not lead to greater fulfillment. It may be pleasurable in the moment, but a trap will never get us where we are going in life. And wasted days add up to wasted energy and wasted life.

Some people have a great ability to self-manage. I envy them. They can go through their day from one fulfilling or important maintenance activity to another. They just don’t much get distracted. I can’t do that. I have to make a list and then plan my day around what I choose from my list to get done. Without it, I might open the refrigerator to get my lunch, and eat two hours later because I suddenly saw the need to clean it. And so my important, but not urgent, task of writing today’s blog gets pushed off until tomorrow, or whatever day it is that I get to it. So what is your preferred style of procrastination?

I like to categorize things into Important / Unimportant and Urgent / Not urgent. When looking at my list of To Do Items, I rate each by a two-by-two matrix. Important / Urgent is Priority I. Important / Not Urgent is Priority II. And Unimportant / Urgent is Priority III. Priority IV, Not Urgent / Not Important can usually get scratched off the list, or used to reward myself. We have to do the Priority I items. That’s usually not one we let slip. It is the Priority II items that often make the long-term differences in our lives, like making that appointment for a physical, or losing weight, applying for that job, or making a date with your spouse. Continual failure to complete these tasks serves to hold us in a place of stagnation and misery. Our internal (or external) Saboteurs love to give us plenty of reasons to put Priority II items on the back burner.

Daily planning is the best and surest way I have found to consistently make progress on the items that will make a difference in my professional and personal life. What works best for me is to plan my day’s appointments, tasks and calls the night before. That way I go to bed with my intention set for the following day for what is critical for me to accomplish. I use a form, of my own making, but a store-bought one can work just as well. (I am willing to send you a copy of my Excel-based daily planner if you send me an email, which you can do through my website). This helps me be at choice for what I want to do each day and when I will do it. On the days that I don’t plan things out, well, I can see a huge difference in what I do or don’t get done, and how much fulfillment I feel for the day.

To summarize, here is a method to get more fulfillment out of each day:

  • List your calls, appointments and tasks each day, preferably the night before.
  • Prioritize by importance and urgency.
  • Set an intention and schedule for working on important/not urgent tasks each day.
  • Schedule your day in time slots. Adjust your time slots as necessary when things get off-track. Drop Priority III and IV items as needed, or schedule them for later in the day.
  • Reward yourself with Priority IV items when you meet your goals.
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Ten Natural Laws, #3: Inner Peace

John Owens

Ten Natural Laws, #3: Achieve Inner Peace by Resonating With Your Core Values Daily

Can you remember a time in your life when everything was going perfectly? When you felt fully alive, peaceful, and resonating with all that is? Take a moment to put yourself there again. Breathe into it and notice whatever it is you are experiencing. What is that like for you?

When your daily activities reflect your core values, you experience inner peace. It doesn’t take effort so much as mindfulness to align your core values, actions and thoughts into a single wholeness of being. Suddenly the internal voices that we all have, advising us about what we should or shouldn’t be, or should or shouldn’t do, quiet down so that we can hear and feel how who we are being and our life purpose have become one. For most, if not all of us, this is a powerful and often profoundly joyful experience.

I’ll share one such experience I had a that illustrates this alignment of actions and values. I had just decided that I would take my first coaching classes, and I was about to make the call to register. I had been searching for a way that would work for me in helping others transform their lives and live purposefully. A friend had suggested I look into coaching as a possible way for me. I was to learn later how much that commitment would help me to live my values of caring for, and deeply respecting, others, and my value of creating sacred space to do courageous work. As I reached over to pick up the phone to register for the classes, I was astonished to see my hand shaking! The hair on my arms stood up with goose bumps. I stopped moving momentarily, and checked myself out. Yes, I felt fear, that good kind of fear I feel when entering into the unknown of much greater possibilities. I also felt my heart peaceful, singing. I realized suddenly that I was meeting my destiny. I completed my call, and have since felt many, many moments of deep fulfillment and joy in my coaching career.

We are all striving for that feeling of fulfillment that gives us deep inner peace and connection to self and others. What are you doing to make that a daily occurrence for yourself? Here’s a few tips to get you going:

  • Know your values. Being aware of what makes you tick goes a long way towards making the daily choices — both big and little — that will honor your values in thought and deed. Engaging a life coach can help greatly in finding your core values, and there are other ways (see blog #2 from last week for pointers).
  • Pick one of your values that you want to honor more of in your life. It need not be your most important value. Pick something that will be easy for you to take action on. The key is to get moving with success right away.
  • Plan, or set a firm intention, every day to do something to express that value. If you value ‘family,’ set aside some amount of time, even 15 minutes each day, to be fully present and connected to a family member. If you value ‘fun,’ do something that is fun for you, like dance with your partner or kids, play a game, or make funny faces with someone you’re close to. The possibilities are endless. What is important is to take action, and notice how you feel while you are doing it.
  • Celebrate your success. I can’t emphasize this enough. Too much in our culture we do something, check off the To Do List box, and just move on to the next thing as if nothing important happened. Reward yourself and others you take with you in honoring your values. A fist pump, a dance move, a song you sing are simple, immediate things that you can do to celebrate. Use your large muscles when you celebrate to help anchor the feeling of peace and joy in your body. Breathe, and notice what you feel. Lock in your joy, and you will find it increasingly easy to seek out the things that will help you feel that joy. This is training your brain to seek success and inner peace!
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Ten Natural Laws, #4: Leave your Comfort Zone

John Owens

Ten Natural Laws, #4: To Reach Any Significant Goal You Must Leave Your Comfort Zone

There is a part of me that responds to the words of this blog title with fear and loathing. I don’t like it that, once again, I’ll have to leave my small circle of comfort to reach a significant goal. “Not again,” a part of me says, “you don’t really have to work that hard, and feel all those feelings. Let somebody else do it.”

So whose voice is that? When I ask myself if that voice is coming from my heart and resonating with my core values, I know it is not. It’s the voice of my Saboteur, the part of me whose job it is to keep me safe, small, and ultimately miserable. Parts of our old brain are designed to do just that: keep us safe, not stand out to be a target, and take care of our wants and needs, maintain the status quo—at all costs. Anytime we want to change our lives, reach for a meaningful goal, start something new, and live our values more fully (see my previous Natural Law blogs), the Saboteur will appear (that’s its job!) and try to talk us back into our comfort zone of homeostasis.

The Saboteur can be ingenious, or as blunt as shaming us into retreating from what our heart wants. The most subtle and confusing is how we can co-create a Saboteur external to ourselves, a boss, ‘friend’, parent or spouse that fills the role perfectly of giving us compelling reasons to stay just where we are. And it takes a heck of a lot of discomfort to effectively stand up to either our internal or external Saboteurs (or both!) to change what we have been doing and how we have been being to move toward something new and meaningful. If you did not have to leave your comfort zone to achieve something of real value, you would already be doing it, right?

Much of the time we are existing in our comfort zone. If not, the constant state of stimulation that would result would cause physical and high anxiety. Paradoxically, the reverse is also true: Living entirely in our comfort zone will cause physical and mental illness, like an addict hooked on a very specific state of being and feeling that gets increasingly difficult to maintain, and eventually he/she breaks down. So it is important for us to manage our discomfort, to push outside from Comfort Zone into Learning Zone on occasion. Here is where change happens in our lives. There is excitement, which is a combination of both fear and joy. Pushed beyond the Learning Zone, we enter the Panic Zone, where our physical, social or psychic safety is challenged, and the old parts of the brain light up, preventing us from learning and growing. Obviously, this state of affairs will not lead us toward any significant goal if it is maintained for long.

So here are a few tips for moving out of your comfort zone and achieving your important goals. Keep in mind that using a life coach can be a powerful ally to keep you on track for all of the points here:

  • Write down your goals. Write the reasons that achieving these goals are important to you. What are the impacts on your and others’ lives that you want to make?
  • Keep your goal and your reasons with you. If I want to lose 20 pounds (yes, I do!), I’ll write that as my goal. I’ll also give my reasons, for lowering my risk of heart and circulatory disease, lower risk of Type 2 diabetes, much easier to bike up hills, improved self-image, more energy, etc. I’ll post that right at my spot in the dining room where I eat and another copy on the snack cabinet.
  • Identify your Saboteur. What’s the justification line your Saboteur rehearses for you to hold you to the status quo? Get to know this part so you don’t get caught unconscious and automatically do its bidding, like finishing an entire bag of potato chips, and then thinking, “I can’t believe I just did that!”
  • Be a compassionate self-manager. Good managers don’t shame, blame or yell or pass harsh judgment. Don’t do that to yourself. Change is not easy. You will have failures, just like you did when you were learning to walk as an infant. Take in the learning from the failure, and try again. Start anew each day.
  • Collaborate by design. What I mean by that is to enroll people around you, friends, coworkers, spouse or kids. Tell them your goal, and why it is important to you and to them. Ask for their support, and let them know what that support looks like for you. You may need to train them, but having a support system will help ensure you get the reinforcement we all need at times. You don’t have to do it alone.
  • Be accountable. That’s not a shaming experience; accountable means giving an account of yourself. If you did not meet a goal, be honest about what sidetracked you. Get beyond the circumstances (the refuge of the victim) and explore what messages you are giving yourself that prevents you from progress.
  • Celebrate each success. Every giant or baby step towards your goal is earned. Celebrate accordingly! You, and those around you, will want more of the part of you that grows and celebrates. Let that continue in a virtuous cycle. Yay me! I lost a pound this week! I’ll celebrate with a victory walk. Woohoo!
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Ten Natural Laws #2: Your Governing Values Are the Foundation of Your Fulfillment

John Owens

Ten Natural Laws #2: Your Governing Values Are the Foundation of Your Fulfillment

Every one of us humans has a set of core values that make us who we are. These core values are like the DNA of our soul. Our values must be expressed, or bad things happen to us and others around us. And when they are expressed, we feel deep fulfillment. The emotions are often joyful, but not always. Caring for a terminally ill loved one may be an expression of a core value of connection and caring, but the emotions that accompany that might be far more complex than just joy. Still, there is a deep-seated satisfaction that goes with living one’s values. You know it when you feel it.

So how do you know what your core values are? It is enormously helpful to be conscious of what your values are so that you can measure alternatives and make choices for yourself based on your values. But beware, our values are not always what they seem: our parents, our culture, and our circumstances growing up often impose values that we take on, feel they should be important to us, and we go on with life as if they were our own. An example: a bright young girl whose parents, both medical professionals, instill in her the desire to become a doctor. Through college pre-med classes she has done well, but in medical school she has a breakdown and can’t go on. She’s been pleasing her parents (honoring one value), but denying her creative side (stepping on another value). Later, she finds expression of her real value as an artist, and genuine fulfillment.

How do you uncover your core values? There are many ways to do this, but here are a few questions and methods that really get to the heart of this:

  • Think of one or two peak experiences in your life. Times when everything was flowing. What made that experience special? What values were you honoring? Keep probing.There may be just one important value operative, but likely there were more.
  • What are some things without which life would simply not be meaningful? The answers will lead you right to your values.
  • What is it that you can’t stand, that makes you really mad? These things are clues to values you hold dear that are getting stepped on. For instance, I hate it when people interrupt others (doesn’t have to be just me). My value of deep respect feels dishonored when I hear people interrupting one another (the Hindi word “Namaste”, recognizing the divine in one another is how I like to express that value).
  • Who are your heroes? Think of people whom you deeply admire; what is it about them that you hold dear? Their courage or connection, sense of justice or artistic expression? We frequently project onto others the values we hold for ourselves.

Once you have your list of values, you can start examining your behaviors and your choices in this light. It’s useful to rank them in importance to you at this point in time for you. Are you living your values when you take a certain action? Which choice will honor your most important value right now? What values have you not been honoring? What can you do to express that value in your life, work, or relationships?

Finally, notice what changes for you when you are more fully expressing your values. Are you feeling more fulfillment? Are other parts of your life going better as well? Is your heart at peace? Are you more generous, less crabby?

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10 Natural Laws: #1: Controlling your time

John Owens

10 Natural Laws: #1

You control your life by controlling your time.

All too often, we let circumstances take over control of our lives. Today, I set out to write several blog posts. That was at 11 AM. I got distracted when the phone rang, and talked to a friend for awhile. Then I looked at me email inboxes, followed a few links…next I knew, it was 12:30, and time for lunch. It’s now 4:45 PM; finally I’m getting started on my task. Hours of my life slipped away from me forever as I let reaction to those circumstances take over and prevail. I’m feeling crabby and unfulfilled, angry at myself for wasting a good part of my day.

This happens to all of us from time to time. It gets dangerous when our important/not urgent intentions get sidelined for days and weeks on end. And it is so easy for that to happen. So if controlling my life is controlling my time, what can I do to better control my time? Here’s some tips:

  • Create a structure that supports your Life Agenda. There are always some actions we can do that support us in becoming our bigger, better self. Create a schedule or rhythm to your day that promotes you working on those important-but-not-urgent tasks. My rhythm includes getting up by 7 AM each morning and being ready for any type of work by 9 o’clock. I can depend on myself to be ready on any given day.
  • Schedule what’s important. If writing this blog is important for me to do, I can put it on my calendar to spend 45 minutes at 11 AM to put into writing. It’s on my calendar, and it alarms me 5 minutes before I planned to start so I can clear off my desk area and be ready to roll.
  • Turn off distractions. Some people are motivated by music. Some are distracted by it. Close down your web browser if you tend to look at emails. Close your door and pull the cord on your phone. The world will not come to an end if you are not available for a couple of hours (belay that if you are an emergency responder). It can be a miracle-worker to design a little with your partner that these two hours today are your quiet time, DND.
  • Reward yourself! Do something that helps anchor the feeling of satisfaction with having completed a task or commitment in your body. Dance a little; twirl around on your chair; give yourself a hug. My advice is to use your large muscles when you celebrate, and let it into your heart that you feel celebration for controlling your time and life.
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