The Art of Letting Go: Negative Self-Talk

Cartoon about confidencePeople think in words. Every thought, feeling and idea we have, we give it a name. Naming (or labeling) is a very easy way to experience the world. Think of the color pallet. If you work with computers, you know that when choosing a color, it is not good enough to say “red”, because there are many shades of red, but in our life as humans and not computers, whenever we talk about scarlet, burgundy, ruby, magenta, maroon, coral or rose, we simply say “red”. Life is so much easier that way.

Words can be empowering or limiting. They can be our protectors, our guardian angels, or our demons, our tormentors. People who value words very much and find their power may wonder, “How can words be limiting?”

I think they are limiting for two reasons: they cannot describe the whole range of human experiences they make it difficult to recognize change.

When making a choice about letting go of some of our habits, letting go of the power we give words is highly important and can provide a lot of comfort and peace of mind. Think about it this way: using words to describe an experience is like trying to fit a giant into a space large enough for a grain of sand.

One of the ways in which words can limit us is negative self-talk.

Read more about how to let go of negative self-talk

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The Art of Letting Go: Blame and Excuses

Slogan: you can have results or excusesBlame and excuses are born from a subconscious desire to manage failure and disappointment from ourselves. That is a very natural and, in some way, a very healthy mechanism. When we feel the failure is too big to bear, we try to get the load off our shoulder in order to survive emotionally. The main problem with passing blame and justifying is that they block our way forward.

Since life is a journey of personal growth and development, whenever we blame or justify, we keep ourselves standing in one place (to rest and to take the load off). This is not always bad, because sometimes, our journey is hard and things get heavy, so we do need to stop and rest, rethink until we can start moving forward again. But when we do it a lot, we are in constant “loading off” mode and we are constantly stuck.

Think of our mind as a ship sailing in the sea of life. Our captain is the conscious mind and the crew is the subconscious mind. Whenever we blame or justify, our subconscious drops an anchor and stops to check the map again and to set a new course for travel (too heavy, maybe the destination is not good enough). So you are not moving anywhere. The captain, the conscious mind, is screaming like a headless chicken, shouting to move on, “We are stuck because of you, helpless crew!” But the more he (or she) shouts the more worried the crew is about moving forward. The first thing they say to themselves is, “This captain is not very responsible. We can’t allow him to take us to dangerous places, so we’re not moving anywhere… Just to be sure, we’ll drop another anchor”.

Read more about how to be happy in life

How to Raise Gifted Children: Switch-Finding Rules

Wall power switchTo help your children find their gifts and talents, it is good to find yours first. Children learn best by example and this will make you a role model for being gifted. Here are my simple rules for finding your switch.

Some people think that if they only push a bit harder, what they want will happen. So they punish themselves for not achieving or not doing something they set themselves to do. But it only makes them feel bad about themselves.

Some think that if they have no way back, this will force them to move forward. So they pay the gym in advance to force themselves to go or they ask me to pay for all of their coaching in advance (which I do not accept). But this just puts extra pressure on them to perform.

If you want to help children, never, never, never punish them for not being able to shine. Never push them to the limit in order to force them to do things. Criticism is a bad force that triggers guilt and shame. Every time you criticize, you are taking your kids away from the light. Force and light do not go together.

Read more about how to find your gifts

Talking Down at Your Kids

Two funny boysI often observe parents as they interact with their children and listen to how they use language and tone of voice. All too often, they “talk down” at their kids, rather than having a conversation with them, and that saddens me.

Think back to a time when somebody talked down at you. Maybe it was your boss, maybe it was your own parents and maybe it was your partner. Not a good feeling, right?

Did you feel any respect? How did you think the other person was perceiving you? Did they treat you as an independent, capable human being or see you only from their own perspective? Were they driven by love or perhaps by fear?

Let’s start with the language.

Many parents ask their kids closed or single-choice questions, like “Did you have a good day today?” “Do you have any homework?” “That was great fun, wasn’t it, honey?” “How about we go shopping first and then you can play?” or “Do you want to use the blue crayon for the sky?”

Read more about how to raise great kids

The Art of Letting Go: Control

We need to forgive for our own sakeHumans are not very predictable creatures. Their behavior is governed by their emotions and instincts and the problem is that their emotions change and most of their behaviors are subconscious, so they cannot be fully understood by others.

This inability to predict how others will react makes people a bit anxious about their relationships and to overcome this feeling, they try to control the world around them. They try to control situations, events and other people’s behaviors, words and actions in a desperate attempt to control the outcome.

The desire to control the outcome means you have an attachment to the outcome. Stating your desired outcome to others puts pressure on them to achieve it and usually means you are feeling out of control. Many parents fall into that trap in their parenting style. They make their mind up to “help” their kids reach an outcome and they do everything they can to achieve it.

Wanting things to happen is not a problem. Even wanting them to happen in a certain way it is not so bad. The problem is when you will do anything to get there, even if it means jeopardizing your relationships with others or making them feel bad.

Controlling is always a sign of insecurity and feeling powerless, helpless and out of control. After all, if you have the power, why would you keep seeking it?

Read more about how to let go of control and be happy

How to Raise Gifted Children: Find the switch

Flower in a lightbulbIn my parenting workshops, when I talk about ways to find that switch in the kids’ brain and talk about Eden, who is emotionally gifted, and Tsoof, who is musically gifted, I get a feeling that many of the participants believe that they were born gifted. The hardest thing for me to do in the workshop is to convince them that Eden and Tsoof were as ordinary and special as all other kids in the world. Sometimes, when I manage to convince my clients how we did it, they sit there in shock and in silence for a minute and ask, “Do you mean your kids are just regular kids?!”

Yes, I do!

“They are as regular as others and they are as special as others. All kids have the light inside. The only difference between them and others is that their parents dedicate enough energy to finding the switch that turns on the light”.

I believe that the essence of life is finding that switch and turning the light on. This light is where all good feeling resides. Where success can find a home, abundance is on our dinner table constantly and happiness shines in every corner of our being. I consider people lucky if their light is on or if they know where the switch is and they can turn it on at will.

The great thing about that light is that it can be used in dark times and life is full of dark moments.

The best time to find the switch and turn the light on is during childhood, long before the dark ages of our conditioned adulthood, long before we think of ourselves as frustrated and unable. This requires parents to dedicate much of their energy to finding that switch.

Read more about how to have switched on kids

The Art of Letting Go: Be Right or Be Kind

Little fawk petted by ... a dogI think the desire to be right is another survival mechanism that humans use in order to manage uncertainty. The belief that the truth is absolute and that our aim in life is to find it and live by it is false. Trying to make others live by our truth is even worse. This mindset brings lots of pain and misery to everybody and if we want happiness to come into our life, we need to let go of our desire to be right.

The desire to be right is always accompanied by the risk of losing the relationship, because the question who is right only appears when there is a conflict. Being right is another part of our identity, our emotional “skeleton”, and most people believe that letting go of it might make them unstable. In fact, people who have a high need to be right are trying to overcome a deep feeling inside of them that they are wrong. People who are secure trust that they are OK, that their beliefs are good for them and that they only need to follow what is right for them, so they do not need to “prove their points” to others.

The concept of being right is a relative concept and always stands opposite being wrong. When you have a high need to advertise your “rightness”, you are trying to force your surroundings to fit into your definition of right and wrong. This is the source of many conflicts in our society. In relationships between parents and children, the parents often think that they are “right” and their kids are, well, just too young to know what to do. This continues at school, where many teachers think that they hold the absolute truth about what and how kids must learn (and why). Sometimes, it leads all the way to relationship breakdown and, in extreme cases, even to war.

Read more about how to stop fighting

Emotional Credit Line

Old piggy bankNow, perhaps more than ever in our lifetime, things are tough. Money is tight, prices are up, revenues are down, globalization, the Internet and mobile technology change almost everything we know. As a result, pressure is mounting and many parents struggle to cope with it.

In the past week, two things happened that made me think of using buffers or “lines of credit” as a strategy for reducing pressure, both financial and emotional, and keeping ourselves sane, while being better parents for our kids.

The first thing was Eden’s presentation of her research on corporal punishment. You may remember we invited our readers to participate in this research, which examined the links between parents’ disciplinary methods and things like the number of children in the family, age differences, financial situation and more.

When she analyzed parents’ and children’s’ responses to her survey, it occurred to Eden that stress may be a mediator between the various characteristics of each family and the amount of physical punishment used by the parents. Turns out, it is. She found that when parents experience more stress in their life, due to having more kids, having them close together and/or not having enough money to support them, they used less positive reinforcement with their children and were more abusive towards them, both verbally and physically.

Read more about how to reduce financial stress

The Art of Letting Go: Trapped by Labels

Human stereotype wordsCreating labels is another function we use in order to help us survive this world. Humans use labeling to manage the complexity of our environment.

Think about schooling. We send all the kids within a date range to 1st Grade when the difference in age between them is much higher than that between the youngest child in 2nd Grade and the oldest child in 1st Grade (could be just one or two days). We have built a whole education system on that huge range of 365 days, in which kids were born at different times of the day, have different family structures, live with a different number of other people in the same house, come from different socio-economic backgrounds and have different interests. Still, we categorize them all as 1st Graders.

Labeling is part of our day-to-day life. We do it for our own sake and not necessarily for the sake of those we label.

If you take 1,000 random people and put them next to each other, you will not find two that have the exact same skin color or the exact same hobbies. Yet, we often label people by skin color or say they all love drawing, although their skin is different in shade and texture and some love drawing animals, some prefer to draw plants and each person uses a different technique.

In 1930, Linguist Benjamin Whorf came up with the “linguistic relativity hypothesis”. According to him, the words we use not only describe what we see, but actually determine what we see.

Read more about how to let go of your labels

Attention is Golden

Couple at cocktail partyAs parents, some of the things our kids want to tell us are, well, childish. Although we love them, we are sometimes busy or preoccupied and paying close attention to what happened at the playground is not top of our list. As partners, friends, siblings and descendants, people talk to us about a wide variety of things that matter to them and paying attention can be difficult.

But it is worth the trouble.

When I worked at the National Semiconductors headquarters in Santa Clara, CA, the company provided easy access to great training and one of the courses I took was Active Listening. The instructor was a soft-spoken lady who impressed me as a good listener and someone who knew a great deal about people, and during the course I realized just how poorly I had been listening…

At the end of the class, I left with a list of actions and behaviors that constituted active listening and with the advice that it was important to practice them, but I felt something was missing from those instructions.

Over time, particularly after I trained to be a life coach, I read more about relationships and emotional intelligence and I think I have found an underlying description that unites the techniques and makes the whole thing seem like common sense.

Read more about how to be a good listener