Change

Change is a word and concept that has been used throughout the ages.  Many songs have been written about it; it has been used in science with the greek symbol “delta”, and even has been the recent center piece for campaign slogans.  Unfortunately, recent economic shifts have caused us to use the word even more than before.  But what exactly is change?  Do we resist it and loathe it or do we use it to our advantage? 

The word change actually means to make or become different (in verb form) or the instance of becoming different in noun form.  Change can take many forms, such as the change in the seasons or the change of water from  solid to a liquid.  Change can be physical or psychological. Change can be internal or external, and can be both positive and negative. However, change is very dependent on one’s point of view, perspective, or even coping mechanism.  If we view the world in a negative light, then all change is for the most part bad.  If, however, we see the world through the eyes of the “glass is half full” lens or the even better "I am just happy to have a glass at all," then change becomes a challenge that we take on with hunger and drive.  We accept change for what it is and even embrace it, thriving in the adventure of it all.    

Change is a choice that we make

The choice is predominantly ours to make.  Having the will to see change in a positive way is what differentiates us from animals that are predominantly driven by instinct.  Your prefrontal cortex helps you to adapt to changes and reprogram yourself to see change in a positive light.  However, as you probably suspect, this takes work on our part. 

Grow through change

My wife always says, “change is inevitable, growth is optional.”  That is so true.  The option to grow lies deep within our own souls.  In the place where FEAR (False Events Appearing Real) resides.  We may be able to put on a facade to most people, but the person in the mirror never lies to you.  To be able to truly embrace change is very, very difficult, but it can be done.  Viewing change as a challenge is the first step.  We all like or even love competition.  Don’t let change get the best of you.  Plan for it and be organized and ready to embrace it when it happens.  Visualize what it will be like after the change.  For example, if you are switching jobs soon actually attempt to put yourself in the shoes of the new job; anticipate what it will feel like.  This will moderate any negative effects that may come your way.  Finally, get out and exercise both your mind and your body.  A strong immune system is fairly resilient to change. a weak immune system will succumb to it.  

One final note on change.  Most of the time, change is a good thing.  When change does not take place in our lives, we become complacent and stagnant.  Complacency and stagnation can degrade your physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual states.  That is why it is always good to “change things up a bit” in everything that you do; your diet, your workouts, your relationship with your spouse, the trips that you take with your kids, the route that you take when you go for a walk with your dog.  

I hope that reading this article has brought you more in tune with change and how to deal with it.  Sometimes just thinking about things and communicating with someone alleviates some of the anxiety that we feel with change. 

Just remember that change is the one constant in our lives!

Dr. N

Choose Your Path

Choose Your Path

If you don’t know where you are going, any road will get you there…
Lewis Carroll (1832-1898).

We have all gone down paths that we regretted before. Whether they were physical paths in a forest, or the pathways of work decisions or relationship decisions-we have all fallen short in some way shape or form.  However, is that a bad thing?  Choosing a path, coming back to the beginning, and then redirecting in another direction may appear a waste of time to some, but in actuality failure and redirection have priceless lessons to teach us.

Mistakes Teach Us About Success

True success cannot exist without failure.  The two coexist on a continuum that we all teeter on everyday of our lives.  Choosing the right path only exists because a wrong path exists, and vice versa.  All things come to an end, my father used to say.  The good things, the bad things.  All things.  That is something to consider when we take our journey down a path.  We must be watchful and learn everything we can along the way, because, at some point, the path will end and a new one will begin.  Whether we are on the wrong path or right path is irrelevant.  It’s what we can learn from each path that matters.  Encourage yourself to make mistakes by pushing yourself beyond your comfort zone.  Take a path that is risky so you can learn from mistakes.  Taking the easy path leads to complacency.  Complacency leads us down a path where we don’t learn anything because we never make mistakes.  Taking the path less traveled should not only be a good book that we read, it should be something that we apply everyday.

Plan Your Path

Nobody plans to fail.  Your plan down your path should try and anticipate obstacles and plan contingencies accordingly.  Make sure you have the right supplies for your journey, whether they are physical supplies like water, food, and fuel; or, the psychological supplies like the right amount of training to venture down a new chapter in your life.  Planning your path is critical to both success and learning from your mistakes when they happen.  With pinpoint accuracy, we can learn exactly what went wrong and why so that we can better our future attempts at the path.  Having a mission plan for your path is critical.  That mission should include your reason for going down the path (your goal), a list of elements that you need to accomplish in order to go down that path (your task list), and finally a support network that can help you to achieve your goal down the path (your swim buddy).  These are the three critical elements of every journey, both large and small.

Learning How To Swim

I remember a long time ago, when I was 12 years old, my parents wanted me to learn how to swim.  I learned at the Fall River (MA) YMCA in a pool that was in an old granite building in the center of the city.  When it came time to jump into the deep end off of a small diving board, only 3 feet off the water, I froze and did not want to.  I was terrified and refused to go down that path.  I was even scared lowering myself down the ladder into the pool among the loud comments from my “friends” who had already jumped into the water that day.   I definitely learned how to conquer my fears that day and went on, many years later, to jumping out of helicopters into the ocean at night without any reservation.  I learned to control my fear of the water and turn it into a fascination, becoming an accomplished Combat Swimmer for the U.S. Navy.  I often say that if an overweight 12 year old who fears the water can become a waterborne commando, then I truly believe that anyone can accomplish anything as long as they want to and have the right amount of training.  What path will you choose?
 

Assignment
 

This week, look at the paths that you have led in your life.  Write them down and give them a positive or negative mark.  What did you learn from each of your paths?  Now map out some journeys that you want to accomplish in the future.  Do you have a clear mission, task list and support network?  How can you better identify your future?  Remember that taking a path is better than not taking one and wallowing in complacency.  Don’t be scared to take a path that may lead to failure.  You may fail at first, but learning from your mistakes may lead you down another path, one that you have not even identified yet, to success beyond your expectations.

“Lean into it”

Dr. N

 

 

Peak Performance and the IZOF Model

Peak Performance and the IZOF Model

Human performance is something that has fascinated me since I watched the United States Hockey Team beat the Soviet Union in the 1980 Olympics.  For those of you who witnessed that day, consider yourself to be both lucky and privileged.  I don’t think something like that happens very often.  How does a band of young, inexperienced boys beat what was at the time an invincible, professional hockey team that came from a country that was the greatest enemy of America?  And in a more modern setting, with careers on the line, how does a professional athlete perform when there are literally millions of people watching from all corners of the globe?  How do police and firefighters keep there cool (no pun intended) when the jobs they do get almost indescribably difficult and often deadly?  How does a brain surgeon perform their duties with a human life delicately in the balance (this actually happened to us when our oldest son had brain surgery many years ago; believe me the question went through my head)?  These are questions that Industrial/Organizational/Sports Psychologists attempt to answer and explain on a daily basis.

Training

Training is the word that we all use to describe a series of events that takes someone who is not proficient at doing something to someone who is proficient at doing something.  Training takes a long time.  Training takes dedication and discipline and passion.  Without these three elements, individuals are simply “going through the motions” and not necessarily becoming experts at what they do.  We sometimes use words that we take from computers to describe what training does to the brain.  The word “Program” comes to mind whenever we think of any type of training pipeline that results in something at the end of the training, whether it be a wall street broker to a professional soccer player.  Training involves repetition of basic skills and eventual progression of more complicated, higher level skills.  Research suggest that training requires 10,000 hours, or about ten years of perfect practice to enter “professional” or “expert” status.  The amount of time is what our neurons need to create the neurological connections that make us pros.  However, other factors can accelerate or even perfect the process even further.  Enter the IZOF Model.   
Coaches all over the world have always used “mental toughness” and “playing the mental game” as part of their motivational repertoire.  But what exactly do they mean?  Is it enough to take a couple of deep breaths (more of a physiological dampening then a mental one) and think positive thoughts in order to reach a more proficient mental state?  Perhaps that is all that the mind body connection needs?  In actuality, the research suggests that certain non-technical (psychological) traits contribute to our success or failure even more than once imagined.  The mind-body connection is a very powerful and permeating system that must be tuned and perfected in order to reach peak performance.

IZOF

The Individual Zones of Optimal Functioning (IZOF) model is an emotional profiling system designed to work with individuals to help them attain their optimal performance.  The model describes emotional states on the x-axis and an intensity level on the y-axis. The IZOF model develops a range for individuals in order to determine what emotional states cause the best and worst performances.  This idiosyncratic method helps the individual identify the critical emotional states (there are 20 of them!) and manipulate them before an event in order to achieve optimal, peak performance.  What makes the IZOF different than other psychological assessments is that the IZOF uses idiosyncratic data from the participants.  You see, we all experience emotions a little bit differently so it makes sense that a measure of one’s peak psychological emotional state will be “tailor made” to that individual.  
An example of the IZOF is as follows: if you perform at an optimal level when your irritation level is is a 5, and your pre-competition (or board room presentation) is a 2, you must mentally increase your irritation level in order to perform at your optimal level of 5.  Visualization often works in this case, like remembering a certain event in your life that caused you some irritation (like someone cutting you off on the highway).  This “mental mapping” of emotional states is the first step in controlling the mental aspect of your human condition.  By controlling and optimizing your mind, you increase your effectiveness and dominance in any human endeavor, whether playing tennis or making a sales pitch.

Assignment

Think of a time when you performed at your optimal level.  Do you remember your emotional states?  Pick two or three emotional states, such as motivation, fear, and anger.  Map out on a piece of paper how high you were on a scale from 1 to 10 on each factor.  That will be your optimal level, based on your performance, on the facts.  Try and replicate these emotional levels the next time you have a performance.  The key is that the performance, whether it is a tennis game of a sales call, needs to be the same.  Having a workable metaphor that you can visualize helps out.  For example, if you were angry and fearless during your performance, you may want to visualize and channel a bull before a bull ride, or something similar.  The key is to take on the personality of what you visualize so that your emotional states can be as real as possible. 

“Lean into it!”

Ed Naggiar, PhD I/O Psychology

Live Like You Are Dying

Live Like You Are Dying

During the Holiday Season, sometimes it's difficult to be happy and grateful.  Having lived close to half a century, I can't help but think of all the loved ones that have gone before me.  My father, my uncle, all of my grand parents, aunts, many of my friends.  All passed on.  I know in my heart that I will see them again, but hopefully not for a long time.  I am blessed with a wonderful family and friends that count on me everyday to be at my best, and that is what I strive to do everyday.  It’s not always easy, as I am sure you can understand, because life is not always easy.  That is why, in a non-negative way, I try and live everyday as if it were my last day.  Doing so forces me to concentrate all of my energy on the people and activities (both work and leisure) that fill my soul with positive energy.  

Ride A Bull

A famous country song by Tim McGraw talks about a person who finally does all the things that he wants to do in life because he has just found out that he is dying.  Why wait until that happens?  Live life to the fullest everyday.  If you don’t, then use the song, or this blog post as a reminder to do it.  This should not depress you, it should motivate you to love your family deeper, to go sky diving, even to ride a bull named Fu Manchu!  

Earn it

Your life is a privilege given to you by God and your ancestors.  Earning your life everyday should be your goal.  Maintaining the positive relationships in your life and eliminating negative ones is something that we should all strive to do.  These relationship may or may not be with people.  They may be with objects or activities that give you joy, or, conversely, bring you negativity or pain.  For example, being overly obsessed with making money and “making it” could get you into trouble with burn out or alienation of the people that you love the most.  I have seen this happen time and time again.  The work-life balance is not always easy to maintain, but we should at least be aware of the potential negative relationship that we have with money.  Earning your place in the universe is something that you should think about everyday and throughout the day.  Everything that you say or do has an effect on the environment and/or the people that are around you.  I often think about how what I say or do will be interpreted by someone else before I do or say it.  Easy to do in theory but hard to execute in practice.

Bathe in Life

Being their for others, one of the best ways to achieve both resilience and happiness, should be at the top of your list of things to do.  By not focusing on yourself, you not only live a more fulfilling life but you embellish and improve the lives of those around you.  Do this while not pushing the reciprocity button.  Another one that is hard to do but well worth it.  The key is not to expect anything in return.  Getting back to the song, the man does many things for himself; however, you will find many more thing that he does for others: love deeper, spoke sweeter, gave forgiveness that he was denying, and became the friend a friend would like to have.  As you can see, living like you are dying makes those around you feel good.  In the end, that is what anyone would want, including those that have passed on before you.  

Assignment

So this Holiday Season, as you do our shopping and put up all the decorations, take time to live like you are dying, truly.  Let that idea soak in; not in a fit of depression as you reach for an extra helping of  spiked eggnog, but as a way to live your life to the fullest possible way, with the people that matter to you the most.  What are some of the things that you would do?  Who would you forgive?  Where would you go and who would you see?  Who would you call?

“Lean into it!”

Dr. N  

Enjoy The Journey

One of my favorite workouts of all time, The Journey, consists of the following:

 

Armenian ball walk 25 yards 

Tire flips 25 yards 

25 HPC kettle bell flips

Tire flips 25 yards

Dumbbell walk 25 yards

25 HPC kettle bell flips

Dumbbell walk 25 yards

Armenian ball walk 50 yards

50 pull-ups

Armenian ball walk 50 yards

Dumbbell walk 25 yards

25 HPC kettle bell flips

Dumbbell walk 25 yards

Tire flips 25 yards

25 HPC Kettle bell flips 

Tire flips 25 yards

Armenian ball walk 25 yards

 

The neat thing about this “Journey”, is that you end up where you started, at the beginning.  We call this, “full circle”, and ironically, it happens quite a bit to us in life.  We go on trips, only to return home.  We pursue happiness by taking on more and more responsibility at work, only to find out that happiness comes from simply “being happy” and has nothing to do with our jobs.  The journey, in that instance, may become elusive, or even pointless.  Understanding the various journeys that we undertake, both big and small, helps us to enjoy them just for their own sake, and has nothing to do in how or where we end up.   

 

Cherish the Journey

 

Often, when we begin a journey, we anticipate and sometimes look forward to the end.  Believe me, after doing the above workout with many individuals, we definitely look forward to the end.  But is this something that we should do?  No.  Looking forward to the end of the journey takes away the enjoyment of being in the moment, of being bored, and of being tired.  What we fail to realize is that all of these feelings are the benefits of being alive.  Being alive and feeling the life flowing within you are two of the most important elements of the journey.  Once the journey is over and you realize your goal, it’s over.  You feel a sense of accomplishment but then you look for another journey.  Craving the end of one journey and moving onto another journey without enjoying the ride builds frustration, impatience, and negativity.  

 

Applying the Journey in Everyday Life

 

Taking everything as a journey can benefit you in the long run.  Even when going to work, cherish every moment of the trip.  From the roar of your engine to the way the sun hits your windshield; take in all of the elements of your trip and bask in them.  Stop light?  Not a problem, focus on breathing techniques to lower your heart rate or listen to that audio book.  If you start feeling negativity or impatience creep in, apply a dose of gratitude and awe and those feelings will subside.  The two bundles of feelings, negativity and gratitude, cannot coexist together.  When on the second half of the journey (the workout), your body starts to get really tired, especially during the middle sets of tire flips and pull-ups.  Instead of feeling sorry for yourself in that instance, focusing on the positive notion that you are still alive and still moving forward (even if others are moving faster than you) can help you get through the pain.  Moreover, being grateful that you are still alive and kicking is another way to conquer the pain and doubt that you get when you feel like you cannot go on.  This applies to life as well as the workout above.  

 

When the Going Gets Tough

 

When you wake up every morning, you begin a new journey.  Thinking of all of the things that you need to accomplish throughout the day can be overwhelming if you think about them all at the same time.  However, if you focus on one thing at a time, using an organizational system to keep you on track, the journey becomes easier since you are using a one step at a time process instead of looking at the entire day all at once.  This applies to the many journeys that we undertake, from workouts to losing weight.  Look at the individual steps instead of the entire elephant.    

Elephant eating.jpg

 

Taking one bite at a time and enjoying each step of the journey is what it’s all about.  Make sure you enjoy and savor each bite.  That’s the difficult part.  Our insatiable appetite for more and more drives us to want to eat the entire elephant all at once, and then start on another journey to eat another elephant, and yet another.  Slow down and smell the roses.  This may sound easy, but it’s not.  It takes work, planning, and most importantly, self awareness.

 

Assignment for the Week

 

If you are going on a long journey this week, perhaps to visit relatives or friends, you can practice the art of enjoying the journey.  When you are on the road, take everything in that you can.  Observe as much as you can and become fascinated with it all.  If you are a passenger, this is easier to do.  If you are on an airplane, this is very easy to do because just the fact that you are flying thousands of feet in the air should be enough to spark some sort of awe, and gratitude!  Be grateful that you have the means to travel at will around the world.  Some people do not have that luxury.  Be grateful for the family and friends that you are visiting this week.  Enjoy the entire journey and try not to think of the end of the journey.  Practicing this type of deliberate enjoyment will have compounding effects on the rest of the smaller journeys that you take, including the journey of life itself.

 

Enjoy the ride.

 

Dr. N

Finding the Real

Finding the Real

Throughout my career as a SEAL and a human being, I traveled the world, experienced and worked with people of various religious beliefs, backgrounds, ways of thinking, and age.  With my current resilience business, I have trained Fire Fighters, Police Officers, Military Personnel, Pest Control Specialists, Department of Corrections Officers, Drug Abusers, Murderers, Oil Rig Workers, Doctors, and Financial Advisors.  The interesting common thread among all of these individuals?  They all want to be happy.  Whether you are working on an Oil Rig in the middle of Texas, or a SEAL Operator from Thailand, the one common entity that we all share is our craving to just be happy and surround ourselves with people that care about us and that we care for.  Fairly simple.  But is there a formula for happiness?  Yes.

Happiness = Set Point + Circumstances + Voluntary Activities (Real Activities)

Happiness is something that is elusive to some people, and something that comes natural to others.  As Jonathan Haidt writes in his book The Happiness Hypothesis, our happiness depends partially on what we were dealt in the “Cortical Lottery.”  This is our genetic set point for happiness.  Even if you don’t want to study the science behind this, you intuitively know this to be true.  Some people are happier than others, no matter what the circumstance.  That’s where the saying of making lemonade out of lemons came from.  Conversely, we also know people that, not matter what good things happen to them, they are always grumpy and find the negative in everything.  Knowing your internal set point of happiness is one way to work on yourself and make yourself more happy, or more serious when the situation warrants it.  

Our circumstances are generally where we were born, our genetic traits such as height and intelligence, and our economic status.  We know that we need a certain amount of money to be happy; however, this happiness fades quickly beyond a threshold amount of minimum money needed to sustain a comfortable life.  I don’t want to put a number on it, because this depends on where you live, but suffice it to say that all of us reading this now most likely make more than the amount needed to meet that happiness threshold.  Any more money you make won’t make you any happier.  

The final (and most important) components of the happiness equation are the voluntary activities that we do for ourselves.  This can be any activity that you enjoy doing (watching television or interacting on your phone does not count, unless you want to count these as a negative activity) and that you are marginally good at doing.  The reason that you want to be good at doing the activity (remember that you don’t need to be a pro) is that you are looking for an activity that induces a psychological state known as flow.  A flow state releases large quantities of dopamine in the brain and harnesses your physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual states to cause, you guessed it, happiness.  We all have these types of activities.  Playing the piano, surfing, Scuba Diving, cooking, writing, building a house for homeless individuals; all these activities have he potential of inducing a flow state.  You must pay attention to the activity and be totally immersed and fascinated by it.  Thinking of other things as you are doing the activity negates the benefits that you get from the activity.  I know people that are “ready to move on to the next thing” or are “bored” when doing a specific activity.

Finding the Real  and the “Real” Principle

My dad once told me, “Be happy with what you do; don’t do what makes you happy.”  It took me years to not only to believe what he said, but also to actually practice it and see how right he truly was.  He once told me that you could be truly happy, even if you were sweeping the floor.  You just needed to decide to be happy and the rest would just fall into place.  On the flip side, pursuing what you think makes you happy does not necessarily bring you happiness.  Many super rich people can tell you that.  When you think that you will be happy if you have this or that, then the game is over before it even begins.  Conversely, if you seek out happiness in any activity that you undertake, including some of the most mundane and “boring” tasks, then you increase the chances of achieving a flow state, inducing happiness.  Making any task real is up to you.  Start with a dose of gratitude, coupled with some fascination and concentration, and any task becomes real.  Try it the next time you do something trivial like driving your car.  Concentrate on keeping the car on the road.  Become aware of everything around you, including the sound your engine makes and the bumps that you feel.  Slowly let yourself become grateful for the fact that you own a car and have the means to fuel it and maintain it properly.  Finally, come to the realization that you are driving something that has only been around for a short period of time in our evolution, and let yourself get immersed in the feeling of utter freedom that this possibility brings and the places that you can go with the new found freedom.  You can see how this concentration, realization, and gratefulness can apply to any task, including sweeping the floor or doing the dishes.  Be the best you can possibly be at any task, induce flow, and become happy.  

Assignment

Practice this new methodology (gratitude, fascination, concentration) with some of your actions that you perform this week.  Try and be the best that you can be while conducting the activity.  Apply yourself and really take ownership of the action.  Choose actions that you don’t like to do and apply the “real” principle.  Making it real takes energy and commitment on our parts, but when we discover and practice the secret of happiness and find the activities that we do real, we can be happy with anything that we do and share this practice with others.

“Lean into it!”

Dr. N 

   

 

 

Road Map

Road Map

 

Remember the saying, “If you don’t know where you are going, then any road will get you there?”  Practicing true resilience means that you should have some idea about where you are going in the future, balanced with what you are doing in the present, and formed by the lessons that you learned from the past.  

 

Ideally, we spend the majority of our time in the present, enjoying the journey with our loved ones because life is short, very short.  

 

Being organized should be part of our daily ritual.  Disorganization leads to wasted time and energy and, of all things, stress.  Stay organized and you reduce your exposure to stress.  But that’s not enough.  We also need to have a plan of attack in everything that we do.  We need a road map.  

 

Our work schedules are fairly detailed.  Daily meetings, agendas, program plans, etc.  We tend to be super organized at work, and don’t even think about showing up not prepared to a sales call or a business meeting.  We also know about promotions and jobs that will help us to get promoted.  However, our organization and plans seldom spill over into our personal lives.  

 

Develop personal goals for yourself.  Perhaps you already have done this with a bucket list?  Now it’s time to take a couple of the elements from your bucket list and develop a road map to accomplish those items.  What are the specific actions that you need to accomplish in order to work up to the elements that you picked out?  Perhaps you need to save some money for a trip to some location that you have not been yet?  Write down all the steps that lead up to the item on your list.  Now assign dates to those steps.  Having a time line is an important part of the road map.  Assigning a date creates a sense of temporal accountability.  If you don’t have a date, then chances are you will never get started on the item from your list because something will always get in the way.  We all lead busy lives.  

 

Road Maps Give You Something to Look Forward To.

 

Sometimes life throws us some curve balls.  We all have had (and will have) bad things that happen to us.  These may or may not be catastrophic events.  They can be as simple as having a bad day at work or getting into an argument because you said something you should not have said to someone close to you.  We all have those days.  Having a quantifiable road map with executable intermediary tasks helps us to look forward to something in the future, while executing present tasks to support that future goal. Remember that dwelling too much in the future takes us away from the precious moments that we have in the present, so be careful to only spend the minimum amount of time planning and thinking about the future.  Having an organized road map can minimize your dwell time thinking about your mission/goal and the tasks that will support it.  

 

Assignment

 

This week, take one of your items on your bucket list and write out all the steps that you need to accomplish in order to achieve that item.  Let’s say that your item has 10 steps needed to get you to execute that goal.  Create a road map where you have the 10 steps, along with completion date goals, written down so you can monitor your progress.  The entire process should not only make you feel more organized, but a renewed sense of purpose should wash over you as soon as you see your road map written down.  

 

Dr. N

DON'T LET THE TIGER IN!

DON’T LET THE TIGER IN!  

 

When you live in constant fear or indecisiveness or have negative thoughts enter your head, you are letting the proverbial tiger in.  Whenever you feel negative energy enter your mind, you allow a wild animal to run in your mind and ruin an otherwise peaceful and pleasant experience.  Your resilience and the lives of others take a hit, as do other aspects of your life.   

 

BEWARE OF FEEDING TIGERS

 

About ten years ago, I helped feed tigers at the local zoo here in Panama City.  It was an experience that I will never forget.  I entered the room where the feeding would begin; the tigers were behind a chain linked enclosure so they could not get through.  There was a heavy steel door with a small window where the meat would be thrown in to the hungry tigers.  I had never done this before, but I was helping the owner of the zoo; I guess I should have realized the danger since he had just been released from the hospital after being attacked by one of his own lion's months before!  When it was time to feed the hungry tigers (a little fact that he failed to let me know was that the tigers had not been fed In a long time, making them really violent) he handed me a huge piece of raw meat and told me to put it through the window.  I can’t even describe to you the deafening roars that I was hearing and, to my surprise, the incredible visceral fear that I was feeling.  When I finally mustered enough courage to put the meat through the window, one of the tigers stood on his rear legs, stared at me right in the eyes, roared, and stuck one of his front legs through the window and nearly got a hold of me.  Needless to say, I felt a raw fear at that moment that I will never forget.  Ever since that day, I use the expression, ‘don’t let the tiger in” to explain the fears and doubts that we all get at various points in our lives.  

 

IF YOU FEED THE TIGER, HE IS LIKELY TO GROW

 

Letting the tiger in can happen at any time, in any place.  Your mind is constantly thinking of past and future events to make sense of the what to do next in the present.  Even in the most glorious moments of our lives, we may have negative thoughts creep in.  But don’t worry if you get more of these moments than you feel you should, because your mind is wired to be that way.  Think of it this way: when you are walking alone at night in the woods (not that you ever do this, but just imagine for a second) is it better for your mind to fear things or to be happy and blissful?  The answer is obvious; for self-preservation purposes, we are more likely to have a negative mindset, anticipating bad things in order to protect ourselves against danger.  The issue is that most of us do not walk in the woods at night, and are perfectly safe.  If you find yourself in that situation, flush all negativity out of your system and enjoy the present moment.  Feeding the negative tiger only makes her grow and take control of your mind.

 

NEGATIVE PERFORMANCES ARE GOOD FOR GROWTH

Even as I write this article, I wrestle in my mind at my performance in my SUP 31 mile river race that I finished yesterday.  The race was a grueling, 38 degree, raining, 5 hour and 40 minute grind through the Tennessee River.  I use it each year to keep myself physically challenged and working towards a quantifiable goal, one that I have done for 5 years straight as of yesterday.  Here is the 5 year belt buckle award to prove it. 

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My point in all of this is, even though I finished the race, my finish percentage went from top 13% to top 22%.  Objectively speaking, my performance went down (enter the Tiger).  When I think of my accomplishment of even finishing this race five years in a row, the tiger disappears.  Focusing on the positive aspects of your life is not a way to trick yourself into a feeling of “everyone is a winner” mentality, it’s the truth about where you stand in the overall scheme of things.  Remember that you are not walking in the woods at night and you are not in mortal danger where letting the tiger in would save your life.  So just like anything in life, what you can learn from failure is entirely dependent on your point of view and your attitude, and depends on you turning a seemingly negative event into a positive one.  Hey, at least I finished the race, right?  I am sure you have similar experiences.    

 

NOT LETTING THE TIGER IN TAKES ENERGY

 

Remember our negative set points from the woods.  Not letting the tiger in takes quite a bit of energy.  Many days, I find it easier to slip into cynicism, sarcasm and negativity instead of being more positive, both with myself and others.  However, fighting this set point not only helps those around you to lead a better life, it actually makes you healthier.  From a metabolic standpoint, always being on the alert and letting the tiger in brings a hormone called cortisol into your system; this hormone, at chronic high levels, is damaging to your immune system, nervous system, and your metabolism.  Not letting the tiger in takes energy, but that energy is well spent in the long run.

 

HOW TO NOT LET IN THE TIGER

 

When it came time for me to feed the tiger, and after I felt the “swish” of the tiger’s paw in front of my face, I did something that I had never done before in my life, I quit.  I handed the meat to the zoo owner and said in a loud voice, “Here, you do it.”  He looked at me with a strange expression (the encounter with the lion had left him unable to lift his arms over his head from the damage that the lion’s teeth had inflicted into his brain), took the meat, and threw it through the window by slinging it from his waist.  It looked like a bizarre cross between an ultimate Frisbee throw and a volley from Roger Federer.  I refused to feed the tiger that day.  That is what each of us needs to do in our daily lives.  If you simply refuse to feed the tiger, spiraling negative thoughts will stop cascading into your mind and you will feel better about yourself.  You can start this process by being grateful for everything that you have in your life, starting with your next breath.  If you focus on that, the tiger can’t be fed and he will not enter your life, period.  When I think about my decline in paddling performance over my 5 year career of doing the same race, I am grateful for the fact that I can even finish the race to begin with, and grateful for the fact that I am blessed with coordination, balance, and determination to train year after year. The tiger cannot exist with grateful thoughts, because he needs negativity in order to feed.  What specific situations did you experience when you let the tiger in?  What steps could you have immediately taken not to let this happen?  Gratitude, even for the tiniest of things, cannot coexist with negativity.  You cannot be grateful and negative at the same time.  Try it and see.

 

Dr. N

 

Adventure Therapy

I have talked forever about getting out of one’s comfort zone by trying new activities, expanding one’s mind through learning, and just taking the road less traveled.  It may surprise you to know that this is actually is a form of therapy.  

Adventure therapy is defined as the use of experiences (often in unfamiliar settings) to create learning that results in change.  This concept has been around for a long time.  Remember the Outward Bound experiences back in the 1970s and 1980s?  Same idea.  The basic premise is that one will learn more by experiencing difficulty and learning how to overcome adversity.  This learning will directly transfer and apply to the work environment, facilitating positive change in the individual.

We cannot talk about adventure therapy without explaining self-efficacy.  Self-efficacy is a motivation theory that points to the feeling of effectiveness and confidence that we feel concerning accomplishment of certain goals.  By using adventure therapy, in combination with certain techniques of emotional control (see last HPC Journal), we begin to see positive change and performance increases in individuals.  This is another incremental look at the mind/body connection; a powerful connection that most people just take for granted or overlook.  Let’s look at an example of how adventure therapy, emotional awareness training, and self-efficacy influence performance in the workplace.

CASE STUDY
 

We begin our journey with an evaluation of John.  John works as a sales leader in a pharmaceutical company.  As part of his job, he must make calls to doctors in order to build positive relationships.  He is successful, but wants to take it to the next level.  Emotional awareness training using the IZOF model would be used to evaluate John’s best and worst emotional states with respect to his performances on the job.  He would then go under a series of sessions of adventure therapy which would completely take him out of his comfort zone.  Turns out that John has a small fear of water.  Over the course of six months, the therapist would work with John in a swimming pool to teach him how to swim.  Furthermore, the entire therapy session would culminate in an open ocean race that would cause John to face his deepest (no pun intended) fears.  

By facing his fears, John gets a boost in his own self-efficacy.  He has set a very challenging goal and accomplished it.  That is the heart of adventure therapy: accomplishing what one thought of as impossible.  It is the accomplishment of this goal that is important; it boosts one’s self-efficacy and has direct translation into our normal, everyday jobs.  

The following year has been a tremendous boost for John.  Not only has he been able to identify and boost his emotional states before important sale calls, but he has a renewed sense of self-confidence that all his customers can see and more importantly, sense.  Adventure therapy, if done the correct way, can yield this quiet confidence that we all seek.  The confidence that will be sensed by customers and co-workers.  The confidence that will take John to the next level.
aaThe above case study shows us that adventure therapy is very personalized.  Swimming would not have worked if John were an Olympic level swimmer.  The challenge would not have been great enough.  A tailor made adventure must be designed.  Perhaps a trip to the local community theater to audition for a part in a play?  Or perhaps learning how to SCUBA dive?  You see, the adventure does no matter.  What does matter is overcoming the adversity that the challenge brings, and boosting one’s self-efficacy in the process.  

This Week's Assignment

Adventure therapy transcends the traditional “lie on the couch and tell me about your mother” therapy but it is therapy nonetheless.  It is a journey into the deepest and darkest recesses of one’s soul and inner being.  Find what your biggest fear is and take steps to conquer it.  Today.  What are the baby steps that you need to take?  When you conquer this fear, your world will open up in ways you never thought possible.  You will go to the place that you have always feared but never challenged.  The confidence that you build and the fun that you have will be priceless. 

So what are you waiting for?

Ed Naggiar

The Ego Killers

Destroying our Egos

The secret to any resilience program is the ability to destroy one's own ego.  The ego is responsible for a person's self esteem or self importance, according to the dictionary.  However, we all have our own definitions of our sense of ego.  Pride has something to do with it.  So does fear of failure and not looking like an idiot in front of our friends.   Have you ever had a tough time saying you were sorry to someone?  That’s your ego playing with you.   Why is it so hard to say that we are sorry to people?  Perhaps we feel like we are losing and the other party is winning?  Or perhaps we feel like we are weak of we admit that we are wrong?  Whatever the case, saying you are sorry is one of the keys to helping to destroy your ego.  

 

Present Moment Thinking

 

When we worry about things that are in the future, or regret events that happened in the past (both circumstances are beyond our control and a waste of time), we are feeding our egos with the fuel that egos need to survive, the power of thinking.  So how do we successfully suppress our egos?  By being grateful for what we have in the present and bathing in every moment that we have around us in the now.  If you feel like this is a waste of time, you are listening to your ego.  By definition, the ego cannot exist in the present moment.  That is why it wants you to worry about the future or regret the past.  Starve your ego of this and you will be more happy and successful.  

 

Cherish Boredom

 

This is not as easy as it may seem.  We have been trained for years not to be “bored” or not waste your time by “day dreaming”.  Unfortunately, that is exactly what we need to do in order to successfully destroy our egos.  We are also constantly bombarded with requirements and stimulus that force us out of the non-thinking (ego killing) blocks into the worry and anticipation blocks.  That is not to say that we should simply sit down, put on our diapers, and not do anything.  What is means is that our “set points” should be that of awareness and gratitude.  We should tune into the feelings of others and serve others.  That does not mean that we are push overs or weak.  We draw our strength from our missions and execute those missions in a systematic and objective fashion.  However, when we are not actively executing, we should strive to be in a set point of relaxation, fascination, and most importantly, happiness.  

 

Resilience is the art of learning from the past in order to improve our performance in the present by not over anticipating the future.  This takes work and deliberate thinking tempered with large doses of not thinking and just “being”.  Successful resilience programs teach individuals how to function together as a team and to take one difficult moment at a time by developing personal missions that lead individuals down difficult roads that help them navigate through hardships. Eat the elephant one bite at a time and don’t think of the entire elephant.  We can accomplish great things when we don’t think too much about ourselves and truly tune into other people’s needs and the environment around us.  Our egos shut down when we associate ourselves as part of a larger system and our association with our ego dissolves.  This is difficult to accomplish but worth it. 

 

 

Weekly Assignment

 

This week, practice this line of existence.  See how it feels.  Try and document when your mind starts to race into the future or the past.  Try to identify what caused this line of thinking to happen.  Focus on others and helping them.  Do not overthink things and definitely do not dwell in the past or future for too long.  Whenever possible, admit that you are wrong and say you are sorry.  Do not let pride take control of your life 

 

 

For true resilience to occur, we must control our ego and suppress it, even kill it.  That is the only way to true resilience, and, to a certain degree, true happiness.  

 

“Lean into it!”

 

Dr. N