What You Hope for is Guaranteed - Part Four

When you are moving in the direction of what you hope for, you start to get excited - you're all set for the change and are ready to enjoy all the fabulousness of your new life.   And there is silence.......just crickets.  Same ole life -- only harder -- because you are actively working on your hopes and dreams.  It gets really tempting to throw in the towel.  Maybe you'll start next Monday or next month - or maybe in the new year. Somehow we expect that when we give something up or start a new behavior, it should be easy and we should get immediate results.  But --- think about it --- if it were that easy, wouldn't it be happening already?  The truth is that it's hard.  Like really, really hard.  The good news is that the difficulty is TEMPORARY.

So...what's required?

1.  Stamina:  Success is going to take a lot of stamina.  Do not underestimate the amount of energy that is going to be required.  It's easy to lose weight at the fancy spa that serves low calorie delicious organic meals while you take in the beautiful scenery surrounding you.  It's not so easy at the end of a stressful day when you're tired and hungry and without even intending it somehow find yourself sitting in the McDonald's drive-thru. Trying to live a new way requires extra energy....and when you're depleted, it's fairly automatic to revert to the old ways because falling into old habits really doesn't require much effort.

2.  Preparation, patience, practice and persistence:  Capturing your hopes and dreams is a marathon - not a sprint.  Changing a behavior is the equivalent of participating in a distance race.  What if I asked you to get up right now and run a marathon.  Go.  Yes -- right now! With only the clothes you are wearing right now and only the shoes on your feet. Ready...set....26.2 miles...GO!

But before you start running...even if you are ready and willing to take my challenge, even if you're in great shape -- even if you're wearing a track suit --you probably aren't going to make it. How will you know when you've gone the whole way? I haven't shown you the map. How will you fuel yourself? I didn't give you any energy bars. And what about water? Clearly, taking me up on my challenge isn't a wise idea. But notice, you don't feel bad about yourself nor has your self-esteem suffered because you can't run my imaginary marathon right now...because you know that it is a silly request.  You're fine because...well, you know that asking you to run a marathon without preparation is ridiculous, dangerous and probably impossible. You don't have expectations on yourself that you would succeed.

Yet, when you make the decision to lose weight...or to stop buying things you can't afford...or stop the affair...or stop drinking...or start writing your book...or start exercising...or start your business... or go back to school - or whatever you hope for......you beat yourself up because you're not doing it or changing immediately.  Expecting perfection and immediate results is like ordering yourself to run a marathon right now.  You are not operating under the right mindset because achieving dreams is a marathon.  And if you are mad at yourself, you aren't being realistic or compassionate with yourself.  You might as well be asking ourselves to run a marathon completely untrained, unprepared and unsupported.  You can't do it, not because you're failure or loser.  You can't do it because that is not the way you are wired.  You aren't built to go from 0 to 26.2.  But you ARE built to go from 0 to 1 and from 1 to 2 or 3 and so on until 26.2 or higher.

3.  Action and Inertia:  I ran a marathon once. It was a harrowing experience. At the starting gate I was high on life thinking --- "I've got this! I can do this!" and felt really proud of myself for taking on such a challenge. I felt at one with everyone at the race and all of the planets and stars were aligned for me.  When the race started, I worked my plan -- one step at a time, taking one step after another. I was so proud of myself...Yipee! Unfortunately, my elation was short-lived. Six miles into the race I was still happy, but it started to feel like work. But I persevered...and kept taking one step after the other.  At miles nine to eleven I'm still feeling pretty happy...but I'll be honest -- I wasn't loving everyone around me as much as I did when I started and I was wondering if maybe a star or two had slipped out of alignment. But I kept on! One step...after the other.

By mile 17 I was so grumpy and not loving anybody very much including myself for taking on this really stupid endeavor. But stopping at this point wasn't really an option. I had to keep going. One...step...after...the other.

Mile 20 saw tears and maybe even a little cursing. I was really hating every...miserable...moment. No point in stopping now though...all I could do was continue to take one step after the other.

Somewhere during mile 25 -- the last mile -- something magical happened. I heard the crowd cheering me on. A few minutes later I was though the finish line and there was a medal hanging around my neck! What a wonderful world! I love everything again! That dream of mine was accomplished - regardless of the thoughts in my head and my shifting mood - with one simple step...after the other.

4.  Self-Compassion:  You're asking a lot of yourself.  You are one of the few who are willing to walk the road less traveled.  But I have a question: are you a compassionate person?  I'm guessing you would say absolutely.  Of course you are. You're kind-hearted and loving.....to others.  What is the answer if I ask you if you are compassionate with yourself?  Not so much...huh?  I thought so.  I used to suffer from this one.  Others deserved my compassion, but I should know better or do better or be better and I never cut myself a break.  But then I learned a simple truth: "you can't give away what you do not have."  If you simply can't find it in yourself to be compassionate with yourself - get help from a supportive professional counselor or life coach, because you can't get to your hopes and dreams without having self-compassion.

5.  Faith:  I've heard the spiritual teacher Marianne Williamson say that "there is no such thing as a faithless person."  To me, that means you can have faith that things will go well...or you can have faith that they won't go well.  Faith can be in yourself, faith in these hope articles, faith in God or faith that you can do it differently - that you can choose differently.  Think about what you have faith in and re-up or perhaps move your faith to optimism, goodness and triumph.  That day of the marathon I had faith that I could cross the finish line.  I didn't know how I was going to do it, but I had faith in my training, my legs, my mind and my spirit.

I'm so excited for you as you work toward your hopes and dreams and how wonderful that they are guaranteed!!


If you want more tips on how to sustain a change, read Willpower:  Rediscovering the Greatest Human Strength by Roy F. Baumeister and John Tierney.  It's got all the current research on willpower and it's well written and interesting.


What You Hope for is Guaranteed - Part Three

Most people have it backwards - they believe if they get thin enough, rich enough, have the right job, right relationship or the right degree, then they will be worthy. It's actually the opposite - when you feel worthy, then those things that you hope for have an easier time coming to you. However, there are some things that you may have tried in vain to change that frustrate you to no-end! You went for your goal - full out - but still, what you hoped for eluded you. You got frustrated, disgusted and mad at yourself. You felt as though you were back to square one (or worse) and you couldn't figure out what went wrong.

What You Hope For is Guaranteed - Part Two

Before you are able to get your Guarantee (as described in part 1) it is important to understand exactly what "Hope" is. I like the definition of Hope that comes from C.R. Snyder who describes it not as an emotion but as the combination of three different cognitive processes. I found Snyder's work in Brene Brown's excellent book The Gifts of Imperfection.

What You Hope for is Guaranteed - Part One

We are not supposed to go through the motions of life. We are supposed to fully live it with all of our heart and you - whoever you are - no matter how lost, lonely and afraid you are - no matter what you've done or what's been done to you - no matter how many times you've tried and failed - no matter who you've lost - no matter how much pain you carry - no matter what - you still get to Hope and What You Hope for - deep, deep down inside - is Guaranteed. There are no exceptions.

The Magical Psychological Powers of AND

One of the first things I tell new counseling or coaching clients is my favorite word because it has magical psychological powers. That magical word is AND. You might be thinking that it is a lame favorite word, but it really has some magical properties AND you need to know them because using it more often can bring you more peace, insight, problem solving powers, self-love and relief.

Being Too Sensitive

It's a pet peeve of mine when I hear someone call somebody else "too sensitive." It is never meant is a compliment, which is ironic given that it is sensitivity that makes us the empathetic, warm, caring, compassionate people that we are. It's even more ridiculous because the person calling the other person "too sensitive" is usually getting so many wonderful perks from being in a relationship with that sensitive person.

Knowing Who To Trust

If you have a hard time trusting, then it might be because someone violated your trust when you were young. Maybe it was your parents...or another family member...or someone else who was important to you at the time. On the March 11th episode of Heart 2 Heart, Elizabeth and Michelle discuss trust: how you can identify trustworthy people and then build trusting relationships with them. See the attached blog post for Elizabeth's commentary and additional show notes.

The Real Apology

"The Real Apology" is a three part apology originally proposed by Randy Pausch in his "Last Lecture." When you offer a "Real Apology" you don't just say you're sorry -- you also take full responsibility for what you said or did and offer to do something to make it up to the person you are apologizing to.

Heart 2 Heart Episode: Codependency Issue

On the February 25 episode of Heart 2 Heart, Elizabeth and Mary McBryde discuss a letter from a listener who feels a little taken for granted by a friend she is trying to help through a bad breakup. They also discuss about the consequences of choosing to be right instead of choosing to be happy when we feel as if we've been wronged.

Codependency: Caretaking vs. Caregiving

There are crucial differences between caretaking and caregiving and you will notice, the healthier the relationship, the more you are caregiving than caretaking. I see caretaking and caregiving on a continuum. We usually are not one or the other. The goal is to do as much caregiving as we are able to and decrease our caretaking as we can. Caretaking is a dysfunctional, learned behavior that can be changed. We want to change it because we will experience more peace, more contentment and more fulfilling relationships if we do. The people in your life may resist your healthier actions, but modeling caregiving is a huge gift you are giving your loved ones.

Permission to Cry

I often hear people qualify their days after experiencing a death or other loss as good or bad based on whether or not they cried with the crying days being the "bad" ones. I don't look at it that way. I see crying a good and positive thing and a healthy person's response to emotional pain as well as a necessary part of the grieving process*.

Healthy vs. Unhealthy Trust

When we think about trusting someone, we tend to think of it in terms of all or nothing. Either we trust this person or we don't. We trust ourselves or we don't. We trust that we will be taken care of or we don't. I label trust that is black and white like that "unhealthy trust." We think it's like a switch we can turn on or off on a whim. It's not. And if you change the way you think about trust and learn the difference between healthy and unhealthy trust, you will save yourself a lot of heartache because trust is at the core of all of our relationships.

It’s Not Time That Heals All Wounds

I will agree that we need time to grieve and mourn, but it is not time that does the job of healing. If we do not do the necessary grief work (accepting the reality of the loss, experiencing the pain, making the necessary adjustments and creating meaning from the loss), we will end up with what Alan Wolfelt calls "carried grief." Carried grief is when you do not mourn your loss and take the pain with you into everyday of your life.

A Key to Happiness is Forgiveness of Self and Others

We simply cannot live our potential while we are harboring resentments against ourselves and others. But, it's important to know that the practice of forgiveness is actually an act of self-interest and not about another person at all.

Thoughts on Kübler-Ross' Stages of Grief

In my work as a grief counselor, I have found that while many of my clients already know the stages of grief, it does not seem to be enough for them. The stages are something that happens to you. They aren’t something that can be controlled or predicted. Most people find that not only do the stages not occur in the "right order," but more than one can be experienced at the same time and it is likely that one or more of them are not experienced at all.

Advice For Grieving Parents

You are living out one of most people’s greatest fear. This is why some of your closest friends or family might be acting standoffish or even disappear. They don’t mean to be mean or neglectful, but it doesn’t hurt any less. Many times they want to be there for you but simply don’t know how. However, if you let them, there are people in your life who can be there for you, champion you, stand by you and will not be afraid to talk about this or go through this fully with you.