Why Mindfulness is a must-have mental skill.

“The mind is everything. What you think you become” – Buddha

Each one of us wants to achieve our cherished goals or those which we think are within our reach. We are always in a constant chase in order to achieve them and other things which we think will make us happier. As a result, we either get into stress or discontentment with our present state of existence depending on what we can and cannot. We end up spending lot of time mulling over past mistakes and negative thoughts and want to get rid of anything that limits us.

Negative thinking is one of the reasons for underachievement. When you choose to engage in negative thinking you are deciding to believe in your inability rather than your possibility. How you think manifests in your actions. If your mind is always filled with jumbled, chaotic thoughts, that’s what your output will be. When you’re clear on what is important to you and on the type of person you want to be, it becomes easier to block out distracting mental noise so that you can focus on your goals and objectives. When we face overwhelm, self-doubt and various other unhelpful habits of mind, learning to pause them in their tracks puts you back in the productive state.

Mindfulness; key to being a productive self

We as humans are evolutionarily hard-wired to operate by a negatively biased mindset. In our daily life, be it personal or professional endeavours, there are emotional and mental challenges we experience as our work load keep changing as per work demands. Stressful conditions give rise to doubtful critical voice that makes us feel incapable of handling such situations. Having no intervention to keep such negative thoughts in check can result in cognitive and emotional derailment. However, mindfulness provides for a non-confrontational intervention where you can choose to pivot your thinking and stop the broken record of unhelpful thought looping on repeat.

Mindfulness meditation is not only a way to gain insight into your own mind; it also serves as one of the primary ways to become aware of the negative thoughts and emotions that are blocking you from focusing on your goals. In meditation, content from your subconscious that you hide from the world and from your own awareness reveals itself. When negative thoughts rise up to the surface of awareness, you can choose to respond rather than recoil or react to them impulsively. Allowing yourself to observe your present moment reduces stress and increases your wellbeing and productivity.

So, what is mindfulness meditation?

In mindfulness meditation, we’re learning how to pay attention to the breath as it goes in and out, and notice when the mind wanders from this task. This practice of returning to the breath builds the muscles of attention and mindfulness. When we pay attention to our breath, we are learning how to return to, and remain in, the present moment—to anchor ourselves in the here and now on purpose, without judgement. When we practice mindfulness, we can learn how to recognize when our minds are doing their normal everyday acrobatics, and maybe take a pause from that for just a little while so we can choose what we’d like to focus on.

Mindfulness meditation improves the quality of your thoughts and thus helpful for gaining more focus on what you want rather than past or future. No longer will you constantly be at the whim of your racing thoughts. Instead, you can focus on the people and goals that matter most. there are two main functions our brains perform during mindful meditation:

• The generation of thoughts, feelings and emotions — these are transient and can change from one moment to the next;

• The observation of information, data and feedback without judgment, evaluation or criticism, or without even trying to make sense of it.

We learn to listen to and accept the thoughts and feelings that arise within us. We practice being able first to notice that we are having these unfavorable thoughts, labels, criticisms, judgments and feelings, and then we pause them in their tracks by choosing to observe them: 

Even though the idea behind mindfulness meditation seems simple – it requires patience and commitment to stay fully aware of the present moment because our mind quickly gets caught up in other tasks. And also sometimes, the present moment becomes unacceptable and unpleasant. Because of this many of us experience a kind of resistance during the meditation process. This resistance is born out of our inability to accept the moment as it is. A state of well-being cannot be achieved by suppressing all thoughts and emotions. It can be achieved only by becoming mindful of everything that arises in your awareness and by observing and accepting thoughts, emotions and physical sensations as they arise without judgment or expectation. This process helps you to step out of your resistance patterns.

How to practice mindful meditation

To begin the process of mindfulness meditation, get comfortable and prepare to sit still for a few minutes and simply focus on your own natural inhaling and exhaling of breath. Focus on your breath. Try to observe where you feel your breath most, In your belly? In your nose? and try to keep your attention on your inhale and exhale. Follow your breath for two minutes. Notice How long was it before your mind wandered away from your breath? Did notice how busy your mind was even without your consciously directing it to think about anything in particular? Did you notice yourself getting caught up in thoughts before you came back to your breath? We often have little narratives running in our minds that we didn’t choose to put there or tasks that we want to get to. We all experience these sorts of distractions. Here are some insights that you can include in your meditation practice to overcome such distractions.

Set firm intentions

Meditating with right intentions develops focus, determination, patience, and perseverance. Intentions are agreements you make with yourself and then express through your actions in your daily activities. If you don’t set firm intentions, you will eventually find yourself wandering and might lose sight of the reason you are meditating. Intentions set can be small or large. Aim is to discover your genuine intentions or goals and objectives that you want to focus on and affirm those with certainty in your meditation practice. Express each intention in small phrases in present tense as if it is true. This enables your subconscious mind to register them as actualities. Resolutely follow and affirm your intentions for they enable you to overcome negative emotions, and thoughts.

Tap into the feeling of being

Everyday distractions keeps you away from experiencing the joy of simply being. Practice meditation not to become whole, but to connect to your existing wholeness. Realise that wholeness is your birth right and you are more than a limited individual. Just being is a familiar feeling that you have always known, although you may have ignored it until now. Notice how, when you are simply being, you are perfect just as you are. Affirm your intention to experience the feeling of being. With a regular practice, you can learn to connect to your existing wholeness amidst your daily life. During the practice, simply experience the presence and aliveness of being. Staying focused on the sensation of being slows your thinking and eventually turns off negative thoughts.

Connect to something bigger

Meditation helps us to get in touch with universal life force that connects us all. Learn to align with this force through mindful meditation. This connection with bigger force results in a state of well-being. With an expansive mind, you are not narrowly focused on how things should be and on other small desires, but will be able to see those as part of bigger picture. Connecting to and experiencing the universal life force enhances concentration and your present opens up to infinite possibilities. This enables you to interact and respond rather than contract and react. The expansiveness of mind gives a meaning and purpose to your life and sets up positive emotions to go after your goals.

Practice mindful breathing

Taking hold of your breath builds concentration. Meditating on your breathing is a natural and extremely effective tool to prevent dispersion and enables you to release obsessive thinking. Observing and following breath exhalations and inhalations enhances your ability to sense and respond to the information your body is sending. Awareness of your breathing patterns allows you to make changes where required to maintain equilibrium. You can continue to do so while walking, sitting or when you are outdoors. You can also practice to count your number of inhalations and exhalations to develop focused attention and concentration. When you recognise you are distracted, gently bring back your attention back to your breath. Breath-counting helps you to maintain a single- pointed focus.

Accept your thoughts and emotions

Meditating on your feelings and thoughts makes you stay calm, grounded, and healthy. There can be many disharmonious, negative, and disturbing thoughts that arise during the process. Meditate focusing on them. When such strong feelings arise, refusing to accept and labelling them as enemies will only make them come back more strongly as if they are here to convey important information. You need to welcome and experience emotions both negative and positive. Know that they are not your enemies but are just seeking your attention. Learn to observe and respond instead of reacting. By focusing on every thought and its opposite, anxiety, fear, and  self- judgements no longer control your life. You can no longer remain a hostage to your negative emotions.

Welcome feelings of joy

Joy is an essential emotion which is already within us, waiting to be experienced no matter what the outside circumstances may be. But many of us believe that it only comes by material possessions or achieving a particular outcome. We keep searching for it outside in objects, relationships, and other experiences. When you deny the feelings of joy which is a natural phenomenon, you lose life’s meaning and its purpose.

During meditation, welcoming the feelings of joy also brings with them its opposite. Experiencing both joy and its opposite makes you realise how stressful the opposite is and how it affects your body and mind. When it feels right, release the stressful thought and let joy radiate through you. This can unearth unchanging feelings of joy irrespective of the circumstances thereby reducing the perceptions of pain, anxiety, and depression.

Contemplate on interdependence

Meditating on the interdependent nature the universe makes you realise that everything is a part of an interconnected wholeness. We normally see reality in compartments and make boundaries around ourselves. Because of this we are unable to see the interdependent nature of the world we live in. We are connected and not separate  in our suffering and in our desire to be happy. When you live the sufferings and joy of others, you start to realise the impermanence of the universe and can strengthen the positive emotions of gratitude and compassion. Experience yourself as a unique expression of life, interconnected with the Universe.

Finally, If you have a long-standing habit of negative thinking, the first step of managing your negative thoughts is simply knowing that they exist. If they are to grow out of control, they might cause lot of despair. Focus on your most troubling thoughts in mindfulness meditation even if you feel uncomfortable. This is where the core of your distress lies. Our deepest beliefs and personal truths will be at the base of all our thoughts. These thoughts fixate in negative outcomes. To untangle from these destructive thinking patterns, you have to be aware of how they work. When you recognise the negative thought patterns, counter them with alternative messages that are positive and optimistic based on truth and not fear. How and what you think can determine relative happiness of your life.

To conclude,

Do not take meditation as some process that magically wipes your mind clear of the countless and endless thoughts that erupt and ping constantly in your brain. Just practice bringing your attention to your breath, and then back to the breath when you notice your attention has wandered. Include the above insights as individually or apply them all together. Insightful meditation not only helps to bring your attention back to your breath but also gives you a focus to keep your thoughts meaningful and positive. And allows you to see each thought as a messenger with information on how to respond in a way that helps you feel in harmony with yourself and world around you. Your negative notions start to fade, instead of chasing you and wearing you down. While meditation isn’t a cure-all, it can certainly provide you some much-needed space to make better choices and focus needed to achieve your goals.

Nourish your intention of making meditation a daily practice. Invest in making this skill an essential feature of your mental toolkit. You’ll not only leap leagues ahead of your competition, but you’ll also move faster and further toward your chosen goals. The noise in your head will quieten and your feelings of overwhelm will lessen even though the workload and increased responsibilities remain. Be patient with yourself and perseverant and you will be able to notice small changes right away.

Are you living with integrity?

Integrity is choosing your thoughts and actions based on values rather than personal gains.”

Many of us make choices and decisions in our day to day life that define who we are and what we believe in. All of us face integrity-based choices on a regular basis. Most often, the choices we have to make may seem insignificant, but even the smallest choice or action we take has an impact on our reputation. And it always takes courage to do the right thing at all times and in all circumstances whether or not anyone is watching. But many stay disconnected from their true inner core and tend to carry on with social persona merely to seek acknowledgment, appreciation and acceptance. “The end justifies the means” has become a common school of thought in today’s world and many tend to either exaggerate, over-promise, or underdeliver in a desperation to meet their expectations or goals. They tend to justify their act of dishonesty by telling themselves a valid reason as to why the end result justified their lack of integrity.

Acting without the constraints of morality may provide instant gratification in the moment but is always temporary and the success with such actions comes with far reaching consequences and at the price of your trustworthiness. Just as honesty is essential to develop trust in any healthy personal or professional relation, so is integrity to become trustworthy. If you can’t trust someone in all areas, you can’t trust them in any. Integrity is a prerequisite for credibility and involves an inner sense of wholeness which results in being consistently honest and morally upright. Integrity is important in all aspects of life, professional, personal, or social.:

What is integrity?

Integrity is the quality of adhering to moral and ethical principles and is a state of being whole and complete or undivided. It comes with an inner sense of ‘wholeness’ and consistency of your actions, words, decisions, measures, expectations, methods and outcomes. Integrity encompasses truthfulness, credibility and sincerity. Learning to live with integrity requires developing self-awareness, adhering to strict moral values and communicating truthfully to others regardless of the complexity of situation or the possibility of negative consequences.

Lack of integrity, for instance, saying you will do something and not doing it or telling a lie or leading someone to believe that they can trust you and betraying them, or hiding things about yourself so that the aspect of you that other people see is not the real you or changing your opinion in order to bend to other’s opinion shows inconsistency between your words and actions. Lack of integrity is not adhering to your conscience and not living in a state of wholeness. For instance, when someone puts pressure on your authenticity, then deciding to change your stance so others will see you as a good person demonstrates your lack of integrity. To give false impression or telling lie in a way to avoid shame of being different or for the fear of being ridiculed also takes you out of integrity.

Integrity is important to achieve your goals

Integrity is one of the most important and valuable character trait to build in order to be successful in your endeavours as it can help you to build trust, be honest and consistent in your efforts and in decision-making. Integrity includes two components that go beyond just doing the right thing. The first is honesty to adhere to moral and ethical principles. If we are honest with ourselves we know intrinsically what the right thing is without having to look to laws, rules or some code of ethics. Being honest with ourselves and others makes us authentic to build trust. And the second is consistency to live in alignment with your values, actions and words. Being consistent enables others to rely on their expectations of your future behaviours based on your past commitments or actions.

We often fail to stay committed to our goals and resolutions due to lack of integrity that is, we simply don’t keep our word to ourselves. We make promises to ourselves and then break them often for reasons we don’t even understand. How good are we to our expectations depends to a larger extent on our integrity. When you are in integrity, you bring the same you regardless of the circumstance and don’t leave parts of yourself behind thereby removing self-doubt and show consistency in your commitments. You cannot commit to your goals if you agree to things but never seem to be able to show up for your agreements, or when you use your words destructively or when you say things you don’t really mean. Such actions often take you out of integrity. Personal power to achieve your goals and objectives comes from being in integrity with yourself and others.

principles or values are prerequisites for personal growth. Maintaining moral high ground and honesty in your dealings with coworkers, friends, peers, superiors or team members helps you own your sphere of influence and can gain their trust as you become dependable and hold yourself accountable for your actions, decisions or choices. This can help you to build healthy relations and impacts your success positively.

“The most important persuasion tool in your entire arsenal is your integrity.”– Zig Ziglar

How to practice living with integrity?

Everyone makes mistakes, so being a person of integrity does not mean you haven’t committed a moral violation, it means having the strength of character to learn from those and seek continual self-improvement. It is an important character trait that can be strengthened and developed in our daily life. Here are some strategies to enhance and live in integrity.

Identify your core values. Your personal values are a central part of who you are and who you want to be. They are often shaped by your formative experiences, but your values may change as you grow and adopt to new stages of life. Assess the degree to which you adhere to them and focus on what matters most to you. To live with integrity is to align your behaviours and actions with your core values. Define what’s truly important to you and make sure they fit with your vision of yourself. Which values are important to you ? Do your values make you feel good about yourself? Are you proud of your values? Would you be comfortable and proud to tell your values to people you respect and admire? Do these values support your choice even if it isn’t popular? Answering these questions can help you in determining your values. By becoming aware of your values, you can use them as a guide to make the best choice in any situation and maintain your sense of integrity.

Align your choices with your core values and do not drift or fall into the easy or popular path while making important career choices, work or business agreements or personal decisions. Consider all the options and consequences and the impact of your decision on yourself and others. How does your decision align with your personal values? How would it differ from a decision you would make if no one found out about your choice? If you make a choice right now, will it hold good in the long-term? A good way to ensure that you are living a life of integrity is to assess where you are now and where you want to be in future in terms of your personal integrity. Analyse every choice you make. Keep in mind that in times of fear, stress or chaos, the temptation is even greater to make a wrong choice. Integrity isn’t about living by your values when it is convenient, they are values that you should live by all the time which include both big and small choices. By aligning with your values all the time, you can approach decision-making with more clarity and confidence.

Set a moral code for yourself and others. Choose a set of rules, morals or principles that you believe will lead you to righteous and satisfying life based on what your values are. Be willing to update your code as you adjust your sense of right and wrong and your moral reasoning. Most of the times how we think about right or wrong changes as we gain more experience. Whether it is leading a group of people or managing a business, parenting children, leading with integrity requires outlining a standard of behaviour by which others abide. Adhere at all times to the behavioural standard you have established for them.

Surround yourself with morally upright people. Avoid spending your time in environments that can drag you down morally. If people around you violate your sense of integrity, consider removing yourself from that environment. Develop friendships and work relationships with others who demonstrate integrity and who support your decisions. If you surround yourself with dishonest or by those who cut corners to get ahead, then you will find yourself following a pattern of enduring and adopting their behaviour. Do not give into others who try to get you to do things which are not in alignment with your values in favour of an easy gain. Remind yourself that you alone have to live with consequences of your behaviour.

Create an atmosphere of open communication

Communicate to others with authenticity. Be open with others regarding issues that affect them. Stop speaking impulsively or sugarcoating your response. Be assertive to put your point of view with authenticity and without being aggressive. Keeping secrets or hiding important information can lead to an environment of mistrust. Listen attentively to others to lead them with integrity. Acknowledge others’ contributions and practice tolerance for different perspectives. Be transparent in your interactions with others so as to avoid mistrust. If you are running into obstacles then communicate to the person and take responsibility for your words and actions.

Be honest in keeping your promises

For some people, overpromising, underdelivering, or apologising for running late, for being behind schedule on their work or project, or forgetting to do the thing they said they would becomes a regular thing. Stop and reflect before you say ‘yes’ to commitments. Practice saying ‘no’ to things you know you will have difficulty completing. If you break a promise, apologise, but don’t let that become a habit. Keep your appointments personally and professionally. Be honest in owning up to your mistake and take responsibility for your action and do whatever it takes to right the situation. If you give your word that something will be taken care of, do it. Follow through your promises and commitments. Reflect on what circumstances, relationships and patterns are leading you up to broken commitments to identify where you are most frequently breaking promises with yourself and others.

Live with mindfulness

When you live with mindfulness, you are conscious of the way you think, speak and behave every day and you work towards carrying out those activities in a more meaningful way. Meditating through mindful breathing can help you gain a deeper awareness of your thoughts and actions. You cannot live a life of integrity without being mindful of and concerned for others. A lack of empathy can result in poor judgment, act of selfishness and lead to unhappy relationships. Show compassion and empathy towards others. Reflect on how to live and make decisions in a way that is reflective of your values and beliefs by contemplating on which actions of yours are in accordance with your conscience? Is there consistency between what you are thinking and what you are doing? Are your thoughts and practices are same? and so on.

To conclude,

Are you living your life with integrity?

What are your core values? What standards of behaviour are really important to you? Do you have a habit of breaking your promises? Are you two-faced? What specific values you admire about other people, Is the fact that they are generous or honest? Are you aware of your authentic self? Do you identify yourself with those values? Would you still live by those values even if they put you at a complete disadvantage?How honest are you in your behaviours, actions, and words? Are your choices and decisions aligned with your core values in all situations? Answering these questions can put you in the perspective of whether or not you are mindful of integrity in your choices and decisions.

Acting in accordance with your integrity requires aligning all aspects of yourself with what is right and to be honest and authentic with yourself. Living with Integrity is not forcing yourself or trying to be better or harder and following yet another should. It is more about authenticity, self-honesty and a steadfast adherence to a strict moral code and being whole and undivided. Appreciate yourself when you act with integrity and acknowledge when you don’t. Use the above strategies to correct course when required. Be persistent and patient with yourself and others while practising integrity.

Related reading

https://sscascades.org/2019/05/19/are-you-being-self-aware/

https://sscascades.org/2019/06/09/how-to-be-a-good-listener/

How to manage your expectations

“The quality of our expectations determines the quality of our action.
– A. Godin

We always hold onto conscious and unconscious expectations when it comes to our friends, coworkers, superiors or subordinates, or from other personal or professional relationships . These expectations we all tend to hold onto, about ourselves, others and about the situations we find ourselves in directly influence us. As these expectations become targets or plans for the future. They not only influence what you are going to attempt and your confidence but also your attitude, decisions, behaviours, perspectives and your interactions with others. So, when we hold onto realistic expectations, they direct us in positive ways and towards our goals. However, many of us have a habit of often holding onto unrealistic, negative or sometimes to failed expectations that not only distort our perception of reality but they also lead us away from the goals and objectives we want to achieve.

In general, expectations are required for us to function. It is a good thing to set standards and expect for them to be met in our personal or professional endeavours. But problems arise when we fail to give the right balance to expectation, such as expecting more or less from others or ourselves, than we ought to. It is then that we set ourselves up for disappointment. There is a difference between having realistic standards for behaviour or performance and expectations. Because sometimes our expectations might be based upon strongly held assumptions.

Downside of having unrealistic expectations:

Some of our expectations are may be unrealistic or unreasonable because of the unjustified assumptions and conclusions we make. Such expectations make you think that things will go your way and create unnecessary stress and disappointment when things don’t work out. Sometimes they drive deception because of your past perceptions. For example, your worries are often built upon a set of unrealistic expectations and beliefs that end up influencing your behaviour negatively. Also living up to others unreasonable expectations creates stress and frustration. Expecting others to do what is in your interest also leads to resentment when the outcome is less likely than what you imagined it would be. Also when you try to live up to others’ expectations, the gap that arises between what people expect from you and who you are leads to frustration of yours and others as well.

Low expectations vs high expectations

Setting our expectations high or low generally has objective consequences. Many think one way to avoid disappointment and unhappiness is to have low expectations. This gives rise to a notion that you should lower your expectations to increase your well-being. But this may not hold true factually. Research shows that people with higher expectations are generally happier, whether they succeed or fail. Their findings were based on the result of three cognitive processes.

First, what matters for your well-being is how you interpret the events you encounter. For instance, a student with low expectations who got an A might attribute to his luck and not to his effort. But another who expected an A but got C might put in more effort next time and even turn hopeful that he would eventually get an A. But a student with higher expectations who succeeds, he attributes it to his personal potential. Second, adjusting people’s expectations upward led to bettering their performance. For instance, most of the times it is enough to encourage students with the word ‘clever’ to make them score higher. And the third, having high expectations about the future made them happier in present.

So, the key to increase our productivity and well-being is not to lower our expectations but is the ability to identify and release unrealistic or unreasonable expectations or assumptions of ours and others. It has more to do with the ability to interpret negative outcomes in a positive way. setting high expectations for yourself and working hard towards achieve them proves to be more productive. Setting high expectations not only improves your productivity but also makes you more inclined towards learning from your mistakes. On the contrary, if someone is basing his/her performance on low expectations or on unhelpful or unrealistic expectations, then he/she will be more likely to fail, less productive and will be less inclined to learn from their errors.

We cannot get rid of our own and others’ expectations as they play an important role in our everyday interactions and in achieving our objectives. Be it an individual or as an organisation’s expectations, they play a crucial part in our planning and productivity. This is because many times optimism bias tends to influence our future success. To achieve your goals, you should be able to effectively manage your own expectations and of others. Handling failed, unrealistic and negative expectations in positive ways can help you achieve your goals and objectives. Here are some ways to manage your own expectations and others’ expectations of you.

Managing your own expectations

unrealistic expectations. At times, we hold onto unreasonable expectations about ourselves both personal and professional situations we find ourselves in. This is mostly because of inaccurate information we have or due to our unjustified conclusions or preconceived notions. Such expectations may distort our perception of reality and lead us down the wrong path. Asking right kind of questions can make you aware of the conclusions we are drawing at any moment and helps you to handle your expectations. It is important to challenge such expectations by asking yourself what your expectations are, are you basing them on assumptions or facts and whether or not it is reasonable to hold onto such expectations in the first place. Check as to what set of expectations would be more helpful for you in that situation. Challenge your unreasonable expectations to set realistic and helpful expectations in a specific situation.

Negative expectations. Sometimes certain negative expectations manifest from self-doubt and pessimism creating failure scenarios. Recognising the possible consequences of such expectations can help you handle them positively. In order to handle your doubts, challenge your limiting beliefs. What do you expect will happen? How do you know for sure that things will turn out this way? What if the way you are thinking about is flawed? Look for more empowering ways to think and handle such negative expectations. The more you challenge your doubts and limiting beliefs, the more confident you will be to develop more realistic and positive expectations that align with your goals.

Failed expectations At times, you might have set a goal that you believed that you would achieve but didn’t quite turned out that way. In such situations, instead of giving into limiting emotions like fear of failure and disappointment, or thinking that you are inadequate or incapable, look for what you can learn from them. The result is not what you expected but it doesn’t change what you are capable of. Treat it as a failed attempt that you must learn and grow from. In order to deal with failed expectations, check whether your expectations are flexible or are you expecting very specific results based on preset conditions. When your expectations are not flexible, there won’t be enough margin left to allow you to make changes when conditions change. Check how your expectations turn out if conditions change and how you need to adapt to these changing conditions.

It is good to set goals and achieve them. But it is important to note that expectations aren’t the same as targets and you should ignore brain’s need to expect the same thing over and over. Identify where your expectations are coming from and look for any confirmation bias. Do not let your past experiences dictate your expectations. Instead of seeking evidence to confirm your perspective of how things are same, make an effort to look for what is different in a situation the second time you come across it.

Managing other’s expectations

Sometimes, we make certain decisions based on how others expect us to perform. Others can help us raise or lower our productivity levels. However, when we fail to live up to others’ expectations or when their expectations don’t align with our goals, we experience disappointment and it gives rise to frustration and resentment. Here are ways to manage others’ expectations.

Communicate with others to clarify. Expectations if not clearly defined or expressed can lead to failure and frustration. Communicate with the person setting the expectations for you. A person who is setting unreasonable expectations might be unaware that he or she is putting unfair pressure on you. When in doubt ask whether it is your friends, coworkers or children as to what it is that they want or need in that particular situation. Talk to the person and be clear about what’s expected, how it might be accomplished and make them aware of your boundaries are. For instance, what your limitations are, your flexibility, or your availability and so on. Let others know about your preferences and your plans so that they don’t expect anything that is unreasonable or unrealistic. Communicate with everyone involved in a frequent basis to avoid any assumptions they have of you.

Anticipate worst-case scenarios We are aware of the expectations others have of us, but in an effort to impress them, we forget to take into account setbacks, obstacles or other interferences that come in our way. Do not assume that things will go as you expect. For bigger tasks or projects, anticipating every possible outcome and being prepared for worst-case scenarios will help you in making your expectations more realistic.

Be aware of biases and perspectives of others. Expectations from your relationships, both personal and professional might lead to unhappiness if they are based on preconceptions and other biases. Having a clear understanding of others expectations gives you an opportunity to improve or correct your decisions and choices. Make sure you understand the context and avoid falling into the trap of their biases and preconceptions. Do not assume that others have the same understanding of a situation as you do. Gain awareness of others’ assumptions, biases and perspectives if there are any. This gives you a proper perspective of what they are expecting of you.

Finally, Manage your expectations of others

Sometimes, our expectations of others can also be unreasonable. Such expectations also put pressure on people to meet those expectations. Challenging and pushing them to raise their personal standards can be very empowering. But the key is to avoid putting unreasonable and unnecessary expectations onto others. When you place unreasonable expectations on others, you place yourself at a high risk of getting disappointed. Such disappointments can lead to an increased anger toward the person causing the disappointment. Be mindful of what is it that you are truly expecting from others. Think of what’s unreasonable to expect of other person given their ability and their current circumstances. Ask yourself whether would you expect the same of yourself if you are in that particular situation. This will help you to make your expectations of others more reasonable and realistic.

To conclude,

So, what expectations are you holding onto? Are your current expectations helpful and realistic? Are your expectations too low or too high? Are you being reasonable in your expectations of others? Do you communicate clearly to others what you expect and about your limitations? Are your expectations flexible? Do you focus on communicating who you are or Are your conversations full of expectations of who you should be? Do you strive to fulfil others’ expectations at the expense of your needs? Ask yourself the above questions to be more aware and mindful of your expectations.

Our success and failure can be largely defined through how we manage our expectations of ourselves and of others. At the same time, managing your expectations of others is also important to navigate yourself through your work situations and in your personal relationships. Instead of getting bogged down by various expectations, use the above strategies to change your expectations to ones that are more in line with your goals and to manage them effectively.

How to get unstuck

Growth is painful. Change is painful. But nothing is as painful as staying stuck somewhere you don’t belong.” – Mandy Hale

We all at times feel stagnated or emotionally stuck, worthless, and confused. These feelings often build slowly overtime and may evolve into anxiety, fear, depression or overwhelm. We all experience that feeling where we just don’t feel like ourselves anymore or we feel stressed, exhausted or irritable as though we are trapped and starting to question ourselves as to ‘is this the real me’? And we have all these goals we desperately like to achieve and somewhere along the way we have lost our drive and we lack forward momentum. It is like you’re doing the same old thing, but it doesn’t seem like you are actually getting anywhere. Instead of moving forward toward your goals, you feel as though you are just stuck at the same point going in circles. You then struggle and force yourself to work, to come up with ideas or to make things happen in such a state.

When you are stuck, things feel immovable, entrenched and even hopeless. This constant feeling of life should be different than it is makes you force yourself to do something and words like ‘should’, ‘have to’ and ‘must’ appear in your thinking. Being stuck is like you getting stuck in quicksand, the more you try to get out, the deeper you sink as your mind tends to push, control, and manipulate. We feel as if we simply cannot move on with our goals as if there was something that kept us from pursuing our dreams. As a consequence, we feel limited and held back without an idea how to break free from such invisible obstacles or limitations.

If you’re feeling stuck, this may be why

When you feel stuck, your mind is filled with confusion and inner conflict and you cannot see the possibilities all around you as you get caught up in the negativity, mistaken assumptions, and limiting beliefs. There are some valid reasons why you feel like you are stuck at the moment. Understanding these reasons can help you become aware of how you got yourself into such state.

Toxic emotions like shame, fear, guilt, anger or flawed can stifle your energy and prevent you from being yourself. When you get stuck, may be you spiralled off into a cascade of regrets about the past, worry about the future, or judgment about yourself. You keep repeating old thoughts and behaviours that no longer fit the current reality. Sometimes, your need to be right leads to conflict with others rather than understanding. You try to protect yourself from these unpleasant feelings by being overtly defensive in a way to avoid taking responsibility for your behaviour. These hidden toxic emotions often serves to keep you stuck.

Stuck in the past. When you want to move forward, our mind has a tendency to look to the past and tries to find solutions based on past or what it already knows. It might be your past failure or a deep-seated belief that might be keeping you stuck.

Fear of unknown. Whatever you fear limits you from moving forward. Fear of unknown sabotages your own progress. Living a life without risks might seem like a logical thing to do. But gets you used to your comfort zone and makes it difficult to ever break free from it. This habit leads you to become stuck in life.

Physical and mental exhaustion. We all try to fulfil our dreams through relentless effort and overcoming obstacles. While determination and focus are valuable qualities, expending need less energy, stress and exhaustion take over your life. When you are stressed, your attention gets scattered to pursue meaningful and purposeful goals making you feel stagnant.

Self-doubt and feeling unworthy

Self-judgment is one of the greatest reason that people get stuck. When you judge yourself as unworthy, you don’t believe in yourself or in your abilities. You keep your expectations low and resist the positive changes because you fear that you are incapable of reaching your desired outcome and remain stuck in an unchallenging position.

Constant disappointment. When you fail to meet your expectations or when you make mistakes or fail, you get disappointed. Constant disappointments make you feel helpless. As a result, you are stuck in the same situation unable to move forward towards your desired goals.

Lack of focus and purpose. May be you are stuck because you lack focus and purpose or you’ve set no goals. May be it is because you have no active passions or you have too much to handle and are unable to focus on your priorities. Lack of direction keeps you stagnant.

Limited perspective and hope. Wallowing in pessimism and constant worrying can keep you stuck in the same place. This not only limits your possibilities but also generates unhelpful emotions like frustration and hopelessness. Limited perspective holds you back from reaching your highest potential.

Lack of motivation. When you are not motivated intrinsically or if you are pursuing things that you are not passionate enough, you lack enthusiasm to take positive action or to move forward.

Being in ‘stuck’ state further manifests into

• Avoidance of people, situations and tasks

• Unproductive habits

• Criticizing others

• Procrastination

• Perfectionism

• Negativity

So, what can you do to get unstuck?

Getting stuck is not a problem. Staying stuck is. Good learners practice getting unstuck.” – Alistair Smith

Having a clear understanding why you are stuck is the first step towards moving forward. Now since you have identified that there are changes that need to be made, the next step involves willingness to change and to make those changes to break free from feeling stuck. Here are some more strategies to get unstuck.

Improve your emotional agility

Certain emotional responses might cloud your perception of reality. Sometimes feeling stuck could be a response to exaggerated expectations. Be mindful and accept your difficult emotions to improve your emotional agility. Identify your toxic emotions to understand what they are telling you- what you can learn about your desires, boundaries, or needs. One way to get perspective on difficult emotions is to write them down. Call it, name it, and define it. Putting your emotions into words gives them less power. This doesn’t mean they won’t return, but you will be more prepared to not to get stuck. Also negative emotions can be clues to your deepest insecurities and to your inconsistencies. So, you can make small course corrections to move forward in right direction. Emotional agility is choosing how you will respond to your emotional warning system by loosening up, calming down and living with more intention.

Face your fears

If you want to get unstuck, acknowledge your fears and accept the situation you are in. Changing how you perceive your fears might not make your fears disappear but you can move ahead inspite of them. Don’t allow your fear of losing what you have to stop you from moving on. Try to think about the worst possible outcome of that which is causing you anxiety or keeping you stuck. It might be just your fear trying to persuade you to do nothing about your situation that is keeping you stuck. It is important to realise that you would be still be able to find a way out and can initiate positive change. Do not allow your perceived fear discourage you from making changes.

Broaden your perspective

Limited perspectives can decrease your ability to see existing opportunities. You feel as if you have seemingly impossible options to implement. Your limited thinking patterns and an array of unhelpful choices can contribute to the feeling of being stuck. It is your inflexibility what keeps you stuck. Instead of getting trapped by your limited perspectives and thinking patterns, try to explore new possibilities by learning new skills, insights, knowledge and information. Break yourself from negative beliefs and explore new perspectives by asking yourself, what reasons am I telling myself? What excuses am I making? What patterns am I seeing? Your excuses might be keeping you from moving forward. Think long-term and reconnect to broader perspective and improve your possibilities by opening yourself to new experiences and people.

Let go of past mistakes

Holding onto past failures and mistakes leads to self-doubt and decreases your self-belief. You might be holding yourself back from making certain decisions and choices because of your past regrets. This leads to indulging in unproductive and unhelpful habits like procrastination or self-sabotage. Do not allow your past mistakes and failures to keep you right where you are. stop rationalising and focusing on all the different reasons that keep you stuck. Learn from them by reflecting on them and put things in perspective to make sure that you don’t make the same mistake again. Taking some time out to reflect on all the successes you had and things you achieved can also help you to get unstuck.

Break unproductive routine

Feeling stuck can be the result of your unhelpful and unproductive habits or restraining routines. While we are creatures of habits, our habits can quickly become stale, leaving us feeling stuck or unsatisfied in certain areas of our lives. Developing certain habits and routines can be quite helpful as they provide a structure to work with. But at the same time, they can also limit your possibilities as some of them can be time-wasting and unhelpful. Stagnation often results when you continue to do the same thing over and over again for long period of time. Your usual routine can develop into restrictive rules and obligations. This regular routine can turn unproductive and needs to be broken in order to free yourself from feeling stuck.

Reevaluate your goals

At times, you might be stuck for all the wrong reasons. May be your goals are not serving your purpose or you are stuck because you are doing for someone else’s benefit. Asking yourself as to whether your goals are serving your present purpose or do they need to be modified provides forward momentum. Also prioritising those that are in alignment with your core values and life purpose can help you find the right motivation you need to move out of your stuck state. Gain clarity on why and what you are indulging in and what would you prefer to do instead. Set some new goals that you are passionate about and create a plan of action to get unstuck.

Conclusion

Do you feel that you have no traction in your life and that you are just spinning your wheels? What is stopping you? Is it your mindset, belief, fear or an excuse? Are your current patterns helping you in making progress? Or are you feeling stuck? Are your negative emotions dominating your life? What specific fears are keeping you stuck? How are your existing habits hurting you? What new habits could you develop to support your goals? Why must you get out of this stuck state? What changes can you make to get unstuck?

Asking yourself above questions can help you in arriving at possible solutions.

It is natural to feel stuck during some points in our life and these moments exist to remind us that we are always growing and evolving. If you feel stuck in some areas of your life, you don’t have to remain where you are. Remember that “stuckness” never has to be permanent. Even if you feel like you’ve been stuck forever, you always have the freedom to choose new goals by making small changes in your life to find your way out. With the help of the above strategies, identify the reasons and areas you need to work on and choose to make the necessary changes to create the forward momentum you need to achieve your goals.

Why self-control is the secret of success

“Mastering others is strength. Mastering yourself is true power.” – Lao Tzu

When it comes to achieving our big goals, whether it’s at work, in bettering health, in managing finances, or even pursuing an unlikely dream, we sometimes find them elusive for one reason or another. These challenging goals test our resolve and stretch our comfort zone. When you prepare for a presentation rather binge on a weekend, save money rather than spend it, or eat broccoli rather than candy, what you are really doing is ensuring that future you will be better off. But to make this happen or achieving your other big goals is easier said than done. It requires right motivation, self-control, and a great deal of effort or will power to achieve them. Like, to accomplish a goal of losing weight, following a low-fat diet and regular exercise is the best way, but how do we ‘just do’ what we know is best? to eat healthy and to stick with an exercise program, you need to have strong self-control. And especially, when it comes to avoiding temptations, you require focused effort to get consistent results.

We all have this perfect vision of ourselves at some point off into the future once we attain our goals. But getting from where we are today to our desired destination requires consistent self-control, focused effort and strong will. We search for shortcuts, techniques, methods, and easy ways to motivate ourselves to get there. But on the way, we become impatient, impulsive, and give into the desire for immediate gratification, be it impulsive spending, or distracting our attention to games or social media rather than learning or hoaning skills we need, or giving into momentary eating at a cost to our well-being. This results in impatience and we get biased towards pleasure in the moment. The result is that most of us fail to stick with our daily goals by giving into desires for short-term pleasure.

Most of the times, we don’t feel the effects of our decisions immediately. What you choose to eat and how you choose to invest or spend your free time. These decisions often have different gains or losses in long-run. Eating that extra piece of cake might feel great in the moment but will result in weight gain later. Even though our minds come equipped with necessary tools to succeed, we foresake them and face problems when it comes ṭo delaying gratification, developing strong self-control, and cultivating perseverance. So how would you choose between working on your goals or giving into your immediate gratifications? The ability ṭo control your impulses matter in life. Whether it is studying, practicing, saving, exercising, or persevering in your goals, a willingness to sacrifice in the moment to gain greater rewards in the future can make all the difference.

Why you cannot rely only on your will power?

Most of the times, the value derived from achieving your desirable goal is mostly far off into the future that working on this goal just doesn’t bring you as much pleasure as spending time on other things that give you instant gratification. All the things that bring you instant pleasure makes you struggle to resist leaving you feeling conflicted between the big goal you want to achieve and these small pleasures you so desperately want to indulge in. The choice lies with you to choose either to move down the path of instant gratification or to choose to resist and focus on your goal. Resisting seems to be a rational choice, so you choose to muster up the will power needed to overcome your pleasurable urges in preference of your long-term rewards.

But relying only on your willpower doesn’t take you far as you only have one reserve of it, if you don’t agree, pick up an object and hold it up in the air. Now keep holding it there-forever, ofcourse you can’t do it. And yet, most of us try to do the same with willpower – keep exerting forever. Focusing on your work drains your will power, as does resisting the urge to eat junk food, as does making yourself get out of bed in the morning when you want to sleep. Each time you tap into your will power reserves for difficult tasks, or to maintain healthy habits, you end up depleting your will power reserves. And the more difficult the goal, the faster the rate it gets depleted.

Also using will power will help you only in the short-term as it fails to deal with the source of the problem. Most of the times, we also use techniques such as reason, distraction to keep ourselves from reaching back to what is tempting us to overcome cravings for immediate pleasure. Such habits can help you delay gratification without stress but in limited ways. And when your desires and values are in conflict, you will eventually get caught up on these temptations. So, instead of using willpower as the only source of fuel, it would be better off learning the art of self-control and applying it to goal achievement in a focused way. In an age of instant gratification, self-control seems to be an unusual and undervalued quality, but it is an important one to strive for to achieve your long-term goals.

So, what exactly is self-control?

Self-control is the ability to subdue or resist your impulsive urges, emotions, and behaviours for immediate gratification in order to achieve your long-term goals. Self-control is different from grit where grit is the ability to pursue long-term goals over years, self-control is the ability to resist temptation in the moment. It is the ability to say ‘no’ to yourself in tempting and challenging circumstances and also is the ability to know the difference between a need and a want. Self-control comes from a rational understanding of the consequences of your behavior so that you can sacrifice short-term pleasure for long-term gain.

Why you need to have greater self-control?

The famous marshmallow experiment conducted back in 60’s reveals a clear correlation between self-control and the quality of our life. During experiment, kids were offered a choice between one marshmallow immediately or two marshmallows if they waited alone in the room for up to 20 minutes, during which the researcher left the room and returned. Some kids couldn’t resist the temptation and had the single marshmallow, other kids, however, waited for the researcher to come back into the room and received the second marshmallow as a reward to their patience. In the follow up studies, they found that the kids who were able to wait longer for the bigger rewards fared better in their lives. Those who couldn’t resist had shown more behavioral problems and tended to struggle with stressful situations.

Therefore, by practicing self-control, you can overcome unwanted impulses, thoughts, fears, obsessive, addictive or unsuitable behaviors. You will be better equipped to handle your emotions and can cope with stressful situations far more effectively. It improves your focus and brings a sense of balance into your life. By strengthening your self-control, you can improve your self-esteem and confidence. Lack of willingness to change and improve, or lack of self-discipline and lack of faith in yourself or in your abilities can weaken your ability to develop self-control. Sticking to your goals and to follow through your plans, you need to have strong control on your emotions to resist short-term desire and temptation.

So, How do you develop greater self-control?

Delayed gratification or self-control is a skill better learned as children, but for those of us who did not receive this form of guidance, it can be still learnt and can be improved with practice and persistence. Here are some ways to enhance your self-control.

1. Gain clarity and set specific goals that you want to control. Set concrete and specific goals like in which areas of your life you would like to enforce more self-control. For example, what goal do you have and what is your intent for accomplishing it? is it regarding health or time management ? would you like to spend less time on your distractions so you can use that time to work or study? or Do you want to follow a healthy diet? You can make an inner commitment by understanding the benefits once you implement those changes and plan ahead on how to go about achieving those changes. Think of how you are going to adapt in case things don’t workout as expected. Gaining clarity keeps you disciplined and focused.

2. Increase the value of your purposeful tasks. Being purposeful in your tasks makes your life more meaningful and significant and you will be driven intrinsically to give it your best. Since such purposeful action has an intrinsic reward tied to it, you see immediate benefit in taking that action. You will be also motivated by the long-term rewards that will result in future if your tasks remain purposeful. All temptations and distractions come with immediate gratification and draw you away from tasks that have no immediate reward attached with it. So, our minds have a tendency of discounting the value of future rewards. So by keeping your tasks more purposeful and meaningful, you can over-ride momentary impulses and can reduce the habit of discounting the value of future.

3. Find the balance. Having self-control is not about total abstinence. It is more to do with finding the right balance. Denying yourself or suppressing what you need is as bad as over-indulging. You can do so by asking yourself these questions. Do you often over-indulge in things you like? As soon as you get something, are you looking for the next? If you want something in large quantities, isn’t it going to affect your health or well-being? How far would you go to get what you want? Do you enjoy it enough to make it worthwhile or simply move on to wanting some more of it or something else? By knowing the difference between your need and want, you can strive for balance.

4. Use your emotions to achieve a challenging goal. Cognitive strategies such as will power, distraction, reasoning and the like do work at times, but they are not optimal. Using these mechanisms to suppress your desires for immediate satisfaction can work, but it gets stressful and requires much effort that can affect your well-being. Instead, using your emotions can be powerful for developing self-control. Emotions such as desire, sadness, or anger push you towards short-term concerns. But if you rely on emotions such as gratitude, compassion, persistence, cooperation or perseverence when temptations arise, you will be able to have a long-term view and these right emotions can nudge your mind to favorable future gains over immediate ones.

5. Gratitude boosts self-control . Feelings of gratitude encourage you to resist and overcome selfish temptations when dealing with others. Gratitude stems from recognising that others have offered us something of value. We feel grateful when we feel others have invested in us, which makes us willing ṭo return the favor in future. Whether you’re paying people back for their investment in you with money, time or effort, gratitude nudges you to sacrifice your own gains in the moment to build better relationships for the long term. Gratitude not only builds self-control but also in helping others you also help yourselves down the line.

6. Practice compassion. Like gratitude, compassion motivates you to care for about others. It starts a virtuous cycle by encouraging people to take that first step to sacrifice time, money or some other resource to benefit another even if other is their own future self. Care and compassion towards others and towards your future self drives your willingness to sacrifice in the moment and produces an effortless self-control. It decreases the value we attach to objects and events that offer immediate gratification and this makes it easier to persevere in ways that pay off in future.

7. Meditate regularly. Reflect on thoughts and beliefs that push you to behave in an uncontrolled manner. Practice forgiving and empathizing with yourself for failures as opposed to criticizing yourself. Set some affirmations to act with self-restraint and self-control. Even taking a little as ten minutes a day to focus on your breathing can improve your ability to resist disruptive impulses. By recognising your self-talk and reflecting on past-failures and writing your internal dialogue makes you less vulnerable to impulsive actions.

“Meditation and mindfulness training are essentially exercises in self-control. From controlling the focal point of one’s attention… to a controlled awareness of whatever is going on internally or externally at that particular moment”

To conclude,

Mastering self-control in various situations in your day to day activities takes consistent practice in small ways. It is important to gradually increase your ability to resist larger temptations over time.

The following questions can help you assess your self-control. What has been your biggest challenge when it comes to having self-control and what can you do to overcome it? Can you recall a time you demonstrated strong self-control? Can you recall a time you gave into your temptations or instant gratifications? How much self-control do you have when it comes to your diet or exercise? Does your spending and buying reflect self-restraint? What habits would you like ṭo change to strengthen your self-control?

Recognise the areas where you are struggling with self-control and, rather than giving into those impulses, use the above strategies to work your way up to resist them and strengthen your resolve. Also it is important to remember that to resist immediate gratification, do not ignore or suppress certain emotions. Find ways to embrace gratitude, perseverence, compassion, forgiving and empathizing with your future self. The more self-control you exercise, the more freedom you experience from the irrational impulses that could take you away from your goals.

Related reading

https://sscascades.org/2019/04/18/how-to-build-lasting-motivation/

https://sscascades.org/2018/05/31/transcend-your-negative-habitual-patterns/