I am taking a pause with my previous post on Stress and giving you an article that I wrote for Personal Development Toolbox -www.personaldevelopmenttoolbox.net. This is a site with articles written by different experts in this field. It is an awesome resource for personal growth. Please check it out.
“Every new beginning comes from some other beginning's end.”- Seneca
A decade ago, I made a decision to quit my job, sell my place, and leave my friends and family to teach English as Second Language (ESL) in Japan for two years. I made a huge change in my career and even in my whole outlook on my life which has changed from spiritless routine to one full of possibilities and transformation. There have been no regrets. No turning back to the old way I was living.
Based on this experience, here are five tips to clearing out your path to success by making space for new growth:
1. Clear away all physical clutter.
Having a lot of physical clutter in your closets and even in your surroundings affects you on both a mental and psychological level.
In two different studies at Princeton University and UCLA, it was discovered that physical clutter creates stress, lack of focus, and decreased productivity.
On a mental level, too much stuff around clogs our thinking and on an emotional level, we are afraid of getting rid of our stuff because of an old attachment. The irony is holding on to too much stuff will just hold you back from being productive and really honestly taking action into accomplishing your goals for your vision.
First thing is first. Book a time where you can clear out your closets. Ask yourself why you are holding to such and such item. Does it help you now? Be honest. Will you really need this item for the future? Do you have some emotional attachment here?
I found when I cleared my closets; I had to ask those important questions. If I kept anything at all, it was organized. I brought order to the physical chaos which gave me a lot more clarity and purpose to tasks that I needed to get done in order to move forward.
2. Let Go of Negative Relationships
This one is very crucial to any one’s spirit and usually the most difficult one to tackle. I hung on contacting a friend on and off for many years. We would be happy that we reconciled. We had bright hopes with our friendship and then it would sour.
I found that this individual was not trustworthy. He would lie and I did not feel good about myself when I kept in contact with him. He would never really be there for me and I would give my all for him. So I had to ask myself, why did I keep bringing him back into my life? What was I holding on to? The answer was that it was because we shared a past. Holding on to him made me doubt and question my own self- worth every time. As a result, I cut off all connection with him and sticking now to my reason for not reconnecting with him. I am worthy of better friends.
Think to any other relationships that may be creating negativity in your life. Are there people who do not respect your boundaries? It is important to draw those clear lines. Let people know that your time is just as valuable as theirs. If anyone is grating on your self-esteem, then you should let them go. If you can’t cut them out of your life, then keep a respectable distance.
Are there people who have bad habits that are preventing you from making healthy choices for yourself? You need to let them go. Ask yourself the same question I asked myself. Are you holding on because of history? Does this relationship support your dreams and visions or does it hinder it?
It is not selfish to care for yourself. Your wellbeing is paramount when it comes to contributing your gifts and vision to the world.
3. Put Down Your Shield and Sword
I think one of the hardest things for me to do is to show vulnerability. The reason is that I have always thought it showed weakness. I have been bullied as a child for being too nice and too uncertain of herself.
So I have carried that into my adulthood thinking that the moment people see my soft side, they would come in for the kill. So instead, I would come across fierce and aggressive to strangers. As a result, I missed out on some good friendships or even romantic relationships.
To attract clients or to network with others, you have to show you true skin. Don’t be afraid to talk about your journey or your own challenges. When you are authentic about who are you are, people will be able to relate to you more and identify with what you say. Oprah Winfrey is known for showing her soft side to the world and she has an amazing network due to her willingness to show the world who she really is.
4. Practice Fearlessness
“If you don't follow through on your creative ideas, someone else will pick them up and use them. When you get an idea of this sort, you should jump in with both feet, not just stick your toe in the water...Be daring, be fearless, and don't be afraid that somebody is going to criticize you or laugh at you. If your ego is not involved no one can hurt you.” Guru R.H.H
The hardest part of letting go of the old is that we fear the unknown, so we hold on to what it is familiar even when it does not do us any good.
I worked for a company for nine years. I knew my job like the back of my hand. I formed a lot of friendships and great working relationships. I took the same train route for nine years. I dealt with the same circumstances over and over again. I was afraid to leave because I could not do anything else. All along, I knew deep inside that I was not living my full potential. I was not using my gifts at all.
An opportunity came in the form of an ad in a commuter paper. It said, “You can teach English overseas.” That was my ticket. I quit my job and took a chance of a lifetime. This was when I became fearless.
When I say fearless, I mean to be willing to take that chance towards your dream. My vision was teaching English and living in Japan. I made it a reality. I did it without knowing anyone and speaking the language. I somehow knew intuitively that all would be okay. And it was.
Letting go of the old in this case means letting go of old fears, old doubts, and old worries. Move forward to your goal and to your success.
5. Be Open to New Opportunities
When I came back from Japan, I went to teacher’s college to become a high school teacher. When I got into teaching, I knew that it was not the end goal. I had envisioned myself to write and coach others. But I decided to get into teaching since I enjoyed very much the interaction with students in Japan and it felt natural for me.
I was given the opportunity to teach at an inner city school where the student body come from lower income families. They are not usually the best behaved, but are awesome human beings.
I learned that step out of my ego and truly be present for other people. I also learned that even the students with the worst reputations are really just kids that are in need of compassion. Teaching high school students stretched me. With time, I became a better speaker, motivator, and coach.
Often we need to take on any opportunities that will help us grow. Even if we make mistakes, we obviously learn from them and improve from there. I made my share of them reaching out to troubled teens. They were challenging times, but I didn’t quit. I just improved from there.
Even where you are now can be an opportunity for growth. Instead of focusing on the old and the negative, be open to any new ideas, new people, or new openings that may come into your life. If it is in line with what you want to do with your life, pursue it without fear.
I realized throughout the decade that it was important to clear out anything that may have been holding me back from living the life that I want to live. If you want to succeed in anything, you need to drop the old ways of thinking and doing things. You need that new space for focus, for clarity, and for the courage to inch towards your dream.
 Mikael Cho,”How Clutter Affects Your Brain (and What You Can Do About It)”, http://lifehacker.com/how-clutter-affects-your-brain-and-what-you-can-do-abo-662647035, (July 5, 2013)
"You can't always get what you want. But if you try sometime, well you might find that you get what you need."
- The Rolling Stones
In the past, we've been taught to be happy with what we have. But, today, that old cliché does not seem to wet the information age appetite. The excitement of the new greatest gadget or the new hot trendy brand that will turn any of us ordinary human beings to extraordinary.
But no matter how much we get, the void is still there. Big, wide, and unsatisfied.
So how do we fill it? How to manage to be happy when you are not rich enough nor pretty enough?
Here's another quote to wrestle with:
"You've always have the power, my dear." - Glinda, The Good Witch, The Wizard of Oz
Yes, but Helga, that is a fairy tale!
Dan Gilbert, a Harvard Psychologist and author of Stumbling on Happiness, can you tell you differently. He says that you can be happy when you don't get what you want.
He argues that "[No] economic engine would be churning if we believed hat not getting what we want would make us equally happy."
In his Ted Talk, "The Surprising Science of Happiness", he gives us examples from his research that came to this conclusion: When not given any choice and people did not get what they want, they found a way to be happy with their circumstance. He calls this "Synthesized Happiness".
He even goes on to state that "the freedom to choose is the enemy of synthetic happiness."
What a mind blowing thought!
Think about it. When we go out to buy something, we are usually face with so many brands to choose from. We make the purchase and then may second guess our choice. Gilbert demonstrates this phenomenon in a experiment he did with Harvard students.
His team set up a photography course that these Harvard students could take. They would take pictures anywhere on campus using film and then would be taught how to develop the prints in a dark room. The team had informed the classes that they had to submit one of their prints to the instructor as a requirement for posterity and legitimacy of the course. They were able to take one print home with them, but had to choose one of the two.
They gave separate instructions to separate classes. One class had to choose a print, submit it, and never see it again. The other class had to choose the print, submit, but had the option to swap it with the one they took home three days or so later.
The team had the classes answer some questions about the prints they have submitted and the one they took home. These were the findings:
The group that had no choice to switch end up really liking the print they took home.
The group that had the choice to switch were struggling with making the choice and when they decided to switch or not switch, they were very unsatisfied with the print that they have kept.
Gilbert repeated similar experiments with different groups of participants and found that:
1. We are capable of creating our own happiness even when we may not be happy with our outcomes.
2. When we are faced with too many choices, we are less likely to be satisfied.
So what does this all mean?
I can already see how these conclusions could become problematic. Should people be satisfied with poor working conditions or living under a dictatorship?
I think Gilbert was aiming for commenting on our societal conditioning to pursue happiness outside of ourselves instead from within. This isn't anything new in the personal development literature.
The message here is that no matter what ...
You are still in the pilot's seat.
The painter holding the paint brush.
The maker and creator of your life.
Synthesize your happiness!
You can view Dan Gilbert's Ted Talk below:
"Transcript of "The Surprising Science of Happiness"" Dan Gilbert: The Surprising Science of Happiness. Ted Talk, 04 Feb. 2004. Web. 09 Feb. 2016. <https://www.ted.com/talks/dan_gilbert_asks_why_are_we_happy/transcript?language=en>.
"Expectations are resentments waiting to happen."- Macklemore
I reconnected with a friend whom I have been on and off contact over the years. We would be happy to reconnect after along period of not communicating, Then things would just sour. I would then question myself why do I keep doing the same thing over and over?
"Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results." - Albert Einstein
Yet here I was. Reaching out to this individual only to find them at some point in our interaction: aloof, uninterested, and just plain unresponsive. The same result would be me getting angry at the individual because I was devoting some time and effort for very little return. No matter how hard I tried, the result was the same.
So I have to ask myself why do I keep going through the same motions with this individual to get the same frustration again.
I realized why. It was because I created an illusion that this individual has changed. I could get into the psychology behind it, but I really wanted to keep this blog within the breadth of the title and the message in my book.
Just as we can't control circumstances, we can't control people.
Our worth and value on this planet is not tied to the ups and downs of the stock market. Nor should it be based on the action or inaction of others.
I am not implying that we should not call on people's actions that harm others. We should just not expect people to behave as we want them to all the time. We can only control our responses to their behavior.
If we can let go of that need to control every phantom disaster or behavior, wouldn't we be happier people?
Yours in Acceptance,
If you enjoyed this post, learn more about this topic in my book, click on the below link:
Calmess: Find the Calm in the Storm and Enjoy Life Now.
Storms will come unexpected. And for some, circumstances can come crashing down like this tsunami. The thing is that all storms share is that they don't stay. -Helga DeSousa, Calmness
As I was doing research for my book, I became fascinated with one of the world's greatest and ugliest of storms: The Tsunami of 2004. I remember reading about warning signs that some people took heed and managed to save many lives. I also wanted to know about how the survivors coped with the aftermath. I felt that there were lessons here to learn about facing any life disaster.
I came across an article that was in the form of an E-zine written by Elena Welon from www.MatchSeeker.com,She was moved by a former Australian, Bill O'Leary who happened to be on a ship in Open Water when the tsunami hit in Phuket, Thailand.
O'Leary saw the warning signs. He called hotels on shore warning them to have people clear the beach and take higher ground. When the wave hit, he managed to get his boat to ride on the wave which saved everyone on board as well as his three children.
When interviewed about his experience, he listed seven main lessons to surviving a storm. I took the last three which I felt are universal to all of our life storms:
5. If you cannot run away from the danger, face it with courage.
Out of the three, I think we tend to forget about number 7. We lose focus about what is important when we get swept into the sea of worry, overwhelm, and high paced living. You are really are priceless. So is your family, your friends,and your authentic self.
The rest is really disposable: texts, emails, impressing others ... You get the picture!
If you like this post and want to learn more about weathering your life storms, click here to find information my book: the Calmness book.