Monday, May 24, 2010

The Importance of Self-Esteem

No doubt many will read the title of this post and say "well yeah" and that's great!  But what does it really mean?  We can all understand how empowering it is to have good self esteem and how that then flows on to how we treat others and the planet in general.  However, I never understood it so fully as I do now, until I was blessed with children and had the opportunity to watch, 3 very different individuals, growing within the same environment, and to make some really important connections or BFO's (blinding flashes of the obvious).

We are often led to believe that children come into this world a blank slate, ready to be written upon so to speak. But those of you who have had children and really watched those babes, know that's a long way from the truth!  They are their own little people from the very beginning - sure it may be a very basic foundation of who they are that they come into this world with, but it is there nevertheless, and to truly help them evolve into the amazing individuals they came here to be, it is our job as parents to help them navigate their way through this world, with their own authenticity, originality, integrity and importantly their self esteem in tact.
We do our best as parents but as a "learn as you go" profession, we do make mistakes.  And I have noticed when I make those mistakes just what the effect is on my children's self esteem.  (The good news is, if you notice you can fix it!  Kids don't hold grudges naturally, this is something they learn, so if you can fess up and change your mistake, they'll move on quickly without any lasting harm to their self esteem.)

Have you ever noticed with your kids (those who have them), that if you pick them up on "inappropriate" behaviour in a negative way, how that often leads to even more "inappropriate" behaviour, but if you guide them gently and supportively in their behaviour, it's a total non-issue, and they can even thrive on it?
By way of example, I look after a friend's child in the afternoon once a week, and when we do this my 5 year old gets very excited!  He becomes the "big kid" amongst the 4 children I have at that time having just started kinder, and well to put it bluntly, in his excitement and exhuberance he can get kind of cocky and bossy, telling the other kids what to play and how to play it.  The first week this happened I was shocked and not overly impressed and found myself telling him off and expressing what he should do instead with his friends (in hindsight, getting cocky and bossy myself, about him).  Well that was a disaster!  He got worse and started acting out in other ways as well.  You see I had embarrassed him in front of the others, and shaken his confidence in his ability to navigate his own friendships and by making him feel bad about himself (damaging his self esteem, and dampening his natural enthusiasm and exhuberance) I'd made him feel WRONG as a person and his behaviour actually got worse.

The second week this arrangement took place, I'd had a whole week to think about how to handle the situation should it occur again because I certainly don't want what I do with my kids to lead to "worse" behaviour, poor self-esteem, dampened enthusiasm for life and teaching them how NOT to function best in this world.  Naturally enough the same situation arose with him laying down the playing rules for all, and the other kids feeling very over it to say the least.  This time, I gently pulled him aside, reminded him of what a great friend he is, but suggested he just noticed how the other kids were finding him, behaving towards him and what they were saying and asked him to reflect on how he likes to be treated.  Now of course, I didn't say it like that to a 5 year old exactly and you might think someone so small couldn't understand the concepts, but never underestimate your children, they are a amazing!  Well the result too was amazing!  Instead of spiralling into rebellious behaviour and being cross at all around him, he became Mr Incredible.  His behaviour became cooperative, he was gentle with the kids, guiding them, helpful a real treasure really. With self esteem in tact, his positive natural light could shine and the best in him came forth.

We all know this if we think back, we can remember how we react when we feel bad about a situation versus when we feel good. So in the words of the great Wayne Dyer, "inspire people by helping them to see themselves as better than they are".  When we do that we help them shine the light in the world that they are uniquely here to bring.

Limiting Beliefs II - what are your beliefs about others?

The unsettling thing about limiting beliefs is that they not only limit us but they also limit those around us.  Very often those we love most.  If you start saying about your child at 6 months of age that he is a difficult baby (maybe he has reflux and is not a good sleeper), the odds are against him because it is most likely he will grow up with you believing he is a troublesome 2 year old, a challenging preschooler, and perhaps even an out of control teenager.  The question we could never know that answer to, is how much of that result was because of your belief about him and how much would have happened if you'd been able to keep the belief that he was not a difficult baby but a baby with a difficulty (ie., reflux).  Herein lies the problem with generalizations!

I had a friend who had twin boys, and he often complained that he was always trying to balance people's comments about the twins.  He would get apparently harmless questions about "Which one is the quiet one?" "Which one is the curious one?" "Which one is the cheerful one?"  And he found himself fielding these questions with answers like "Neither" or "Both, depends on the day".  He was painfully aware that labelling or generalizing about a person in an ongoing way, can not only create a permanent belief that we may then hold to be a truth, but can also, particularly in the case of children, become reality (as with the example in my previous post)

As parents, I believe it is not our job to tell the child how they are, but to help them discover WHO they are!  I recently caught myself believing my little boy is "full on" which was my way of saying that he sometimes loses control, gets over excited or even angry.  Well guess what I discovered?  That is what 4 and 5 year old children do!  And I would challenge even adults to consider whether or not they sometimes lose control (like being on a diet and having that piece of birthday cake anyway).  I now recognise that he is just being what he is - a small boy and I don't attempt to define it in any way.

So, think about what your beliefs of your children, your family, your spouse and even your friends are.  Are they generalizations that you have chosen to focus on?  Are they helping the development of the person, or the relationship, or are they hindering it?  If it isn't helpful to anyone, change the belief.  It'll take focus but is truly worth the effort.

We need to BELIEVE the best even when faced with less than this, and focus on the positives in every situation since what we focus on we get more of.  When focusing on children this will help them create a better belief and life for themselves, and for adults it will help them to be better in themselves.  People generally live up (or down) to our belief in them.  For ourselves, our loved ones and those around us to be successful, we must BELIEVE the BEST (and acknowledge that sometimes we must also tolerate the worst).

Limiting Beliefs - what are your beliefs about yourself?

A belief is nothing more than a feeling of certainty about what something means.  It may or may not be true, our mind doesn't care.  They can be conscious or unconscious but it is very important to get a clear handle on what our own beliefs are because they totally control our behaviour towards everything and everyone.

Many, in fact I would suggest almost all, of our beliefs are bestowed upon us by our family, friends and culture and often they are so pervasive that it is difficult to identify it as a belief because it has so much been a part of our lives and our thinking that it FEELS like a fact. It is important to remember that these beliefs are given to us most often by loved ones with the best intentions for us.  Why is it important to remember this?  Because being successful in our lives requires us to be accountable and we are not being accountable if we are looking for others to blame for our current circumstances.  If we are adults, then we must take the lion share of responsibility about where we are at, what we believe and how we behave and act.  It is never too late to start, great gains can be made in a short time and the results can be astounding.

In order to understand what our beliefs are however, it can be very helpful to identify where they came from, not for the purpose of blame but for the purpose of making change!

As mature adults, my sister and I were sitting around a Christmas table with my mother and other family members reminiscing about childhood days when we apparently horrified our mother.  This is how it came about.

When my sister and I were both small (probably from the age of about 3 and 4) my sister was always told that she was "the nice one" and I was always told I was "the smart one".  Now in actual fact and with the benefit of hindsight and maturity I can see that neither of those statements actually means much because both "nice" and "smart" are such vague and subjective terms, but to two small children they made a huge impression.  What our parents did not realise, was that by telling my sister that she was "the nice one", they were also telling me (as far as both my sister and I were concerned) that I was NOT the nice one.  Conversely, by telling me that I was "the smart one", they were also telling my sister that she was NOT the smart one.  We both grew up believing these statements to be true about ourselves with the result that my sister dropped out of high school at her earliest convenience (I think aged 16) and I was forever in all sorts of trouble with any identifiable form of authority which was all the more frustrating for the authority figures because despite it I continued to do well at school.  More to the point, even at age 21, when I first moved into a share arrangement, I warned my new flatmates that I was "difficult to live with" (my grown up and modified version of "I am not nice").  Imagine my shock when they got back to me a few weeks later laughing and saying they couldn't believe I thought that let alone said it!

Neither my sister or I had ever discussed these beliefs until that Christmas meal but we were both adament and clear that we had always had the same unspoken understanding; Melly was the nice but not so smart one, and I was the smart but not so nice one.  My mother was horrified for two reasons.  Firstly, she had probably never intended the implication that came about in reverse for each of us, and secondly, that we were both so clear about these beliefs, that we had made them into fact.

Now the truth is that my sister is sharp as a tack with anything of any interest to her whatsoever, and I am perfectly capable of being nice, but even now 35 years down the track, in challenging times, it can take work not to slip back into such an ingrained belief.

Some common areas for limiting beliefs can be:
  • Money (perhaps "rich people made their money by ripping others off")
  • Relationships (perhaps "she won't like me if I speak my truth")
  • Health (perhaps "I'm not fat I'm just big boned)
  • Career (perhaps "all the women in our family have been nurses")
  • Spirituality or Religion (depending on what's your thing)
  • Personality (as with mine - nice, not nice; smart, not smart)
Think about what your beliefs are.  Where did they come from?  Are they consistent with what you truly believe yourself?  Write them down and identify those which are serving you and helping you to create your life the way you want it and on your terms, and those beliefs which are actually getting in your way (or serving you in a way that meets some need you have but which actually also prevents your success) such as "it's not my fault I'm not nice, I was taught to believe that all my life".  With those that are not serving you, it's time to create a new belief.

The past does not necessarily equal the future and it is through our beliefs that we can change it's course.  One of the best ways to change our limiting beliefs it to undertake a course in self improvement or personal development. This takes time and persistence because it is much harder to change our beliefs as adults than it is to form them as children.  This is important for two reasons, one is that we can recognise and appreciate the work required to "get out of our own way" or learn a new set of beliefs and get our own limiting beliefs out of our way of success as adults but also because as parents it tells us how crucial our role as leader and guide is in influencing the little life entrusted to us.

Please share your experiences, you might be amazed at how many people can benefit from your story!

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Teaching Kids Self Belief

Unfortunately in our society, we are taught far more to "be careful, realistic, rational, logical, sensible, etc - all very left brain dominated activities, than we are to have a dream, hold the belief, and take the bold steps necessary to see it come to fruition.  As a parent, I totally understand how this happens.  We don't want to see our children hurt (either physically by being too daring, or emotionally by being too "different") so we can tend to fill them full of warnings; so much so that they lose the essence of their true selves and their sense of belief in themselves.  It happens subtly and creeps in even when we are wary of doing so.

By way of example, my husband and son were having an ongoing debate (which as it progressed was getting more intense).  My then 4 year old son, who had already broken his arm, once jumping off a bed, aged 3, once again wanted to jump off something; this time something a little higher and more challenging.  My husband was concerned and urging him to get down before he hurt himself and my son was adamant he wouldn't hurt himself.  After listening to the banter in the background (but getting louder) for about half an hour I went to investigate.

My son addressed me and explained he wanted to jump off the work bench but that dad didn’t want him to.  Trying to ensure that I didn’t undermine what dad was trying to impress upon him, I reminded my son that we loved him very much and therefore wanted to keep him safe.  I also reminded him that he had previously injured himself jumping off things and this was probably why dad didn’t want him to launch himself off the bench.  Now not being a silly kid he nodded his head and gave this some real consideration before saying,
“Mum, if I jump off here will I hurt myself?”  Of course this is a trick question because the reality is actually anyone’s guess and there are so many chance variables involved it is truly impossible to tell.  However, it wasn’t a particularly high bench (probably exactly the sort of thing I would have done as a kid) and I thought he was probably in a better position to understand his own physical ability than I was so I said to him,
“Well, there’s a chance you will hurt yourself, and there’s a chance you won’t.  You need to think about how you feel about it and how important it is to you before you decide whether to jump off or not.”  This might seem like a lot for a little kid to take in but you would be amazed how well kids can think if you give them the chance.  After a moment’s pause he nodded and said,
“I wanna do it and I think I can”.
“Ok then” I said.  He jumped, no injury, jumped two more times and was over it.  He had a sense of achievement and success, he also had a sense of self belief and trust and the banter was over with (thank God!).

Of course with children there will be many times when we have to think for them because life experience tells us they are putting themselves in danger which is unacceptably high and as a responsible parent we simply cannot allow it.  However, we must be careful to pick those times very carefully.  If we do it all the time, we kill their sense of belief in themselves their sense of capability, and dramatically limit their thinking, often for the rest of their lives.

Those of us who have spent time and energy, undoing the best meaning advice of friends and family trying to “get back to ourselves”, our core essence and  to achieve those dreams that got locked up inside us as kids can truly appreciate the importance of allowing latitude where we can.  So next time you hear a sentence starting with “Be” coming from your lips, just check how necessary your intervention really is so that we can allow our children to flourish as richly and expansively as ever they can.

The Power of Belief and the company you keep.

"Man often becomes what he believes himself to be. If I keep on saying to myself that I cannot do a certain thing, it is possible that I may end by really becoming incapable of doing it. On the contrary, if I shall have the belief that I can do it. I shall surely acquire the capacity to do it, even if I may not have it at the beginning."  -  Mahatma Gandhi

A belief is nothing more than a feeling of certainty about what something means.  It may or may not be true, our mind doesn't care.  Beliefs can be conscious or unconscious but it is very important to get a clear handle on what our own beliefs are because they totally control our behaviour.  Thus it is impossible to overstate the importance of belief, particularly in oneself and what one wants to do.  Beliefs about ourselves are like that of the placebo effect only in digital, high definition stereo, because they subtly influence every area of our lives.

Many of us will be familiar with Tony Robbins' "firewalks" where Tony shows ordinary people how to do extraordinary things through the power of belief.  We may also know people (or have been one) who aren't hurt until they see the blood and then faint immediately upon the appearance of even a trickle of that rich red liquid.

But beliefs not only effect ourselves (and we will look at these in a bit more detail in future posts), they also carry with them a vibration that can be picked up by others around you, so that without words, you can influence someone or something with a belief you hold without even knowing or intending to - if you believe it strongly enough.  Conversely you can also be influenced by the beliefs of others around you without necessarily being aware of it.

As kids my sister and I were avid horse riders.  Her horse was frightenend of water, and always refused water jumps while my horse couldn't wait to get in.  At a cross country event one day we switched horses for the day, a bit of a dare and an opportunity to expand our skills.  In the midst of the course with adrenalin pumping we obviously both forgot to some degree which horse we were on.  It was the one and only time my horse ever refused a water jump and also the one and only time her horse ever went straight in.  Our respective beliefs about what would occur at the water jump became the reality in spite of all past experience of each of the horses.  This flow on is equally true with people.

Therefore, if you are wanting to find the secret of life success, however you define it, it is important to surround yourself (where possible) with people who believe both in their own and your ability to succeed.  Find a community of support personnel who will help you maintain your belief in yourself in challenging times and who want to help you improve yourself and be the best you can be while you help them do the same.  You don't even have to be heading in the same direction, it is the mutual support and belief that is important.

People who truly find the secret of life, successful people and entrepreneurs in any field, believe in themselves, believe in their vision of what is possible and believe in the capacity of others to do the same - that is what makes it so in their lives.  Can you use your beliefs to make it so in yours?

Areas of Success - Achieving Balance

Balance is quite possibly the most important and unassuming quality a person can have in their lives.  You can tell the people who have it, they are energetic but not frenetic, decisive but not rushed, and prioritize their time according to their area of focus and achieving the goals they have set for themselves.  They usually don’t feel the need to push, convince or judge because their world is more calm than many others, and they don’t even feel the need necessarily to share with others what their goals are or be boastful about success.  They usually also wish for others, balance and success such as they have because they can probably remember a time when life for them was not as tranquil (even if it is still busy) as it is once they have achieved that balance.

When thinking of success and keeping the balance in my life, I try to break life down in to the elements that are important to me and then see how I rate each of the areas.  It is important to realize that these are dynamic, changing priorities with the ebb and flow of life and will be different for everyone.  For me at the moment the key areas to be balanced out which help me to feel successful in my life are:

  • Children (spending quality time with my 3 angels and continually learning from them and others how to be a better person and parent)
  • Love Life (keeping the passion and spark alive in relationship with my husband)
  • Family (maintaining a quality relationship with parents, siblings, in-laws and other extended family members)
  • Finances (having financial freedom to have the time to spend on the people and things that are important and enjoyable to me)
  • Spirituality (feeling a sense of connection to something greater than “I”).
  • Contribution (helping others, giving something back, you may call it paying it forward)
  • Personal Fulfillment (doing things that keep me inspired, this might be music, painting, photography, horse-riding – whatever)
Now of course the first three can be bundled into one area called “relationships” or “family” but I found that there are times when certain relationships can come into competition with one another and I found it very helpful to separate them out and prioritize them in importance so that I could make good decisions during times when relationships may have been putting the “squeeze” on me.

It can be helpful to rate each of these areas (and your own may be different) on a scale of one to ten to see which areas you feel you are most successful in and also least successful in and therefore which areas you might want to work on first!  Sometimes in doing this exercise you might be surprised that something you spend a lot of time on isn’t actually one of your priorities.  This can be an incredibly valuable insight to ensure you stop spending time on things that are not adding to you feeling successful in your life and reprioritizing to those areas that emerge as important to you.

Now some people will groan and say “can’t be bothered with that, I know what is important to me”.  Well I’d like a dollar for every time I heard someone say that, then actually do the exercise and hear the surprise in their voices when they discover they didn’t know their inner self as well as they thought they did.  It takes time – you have to spend time with yourself, concentrate, dream, meditate and play, you might be surprised what you find there!  As Socrates said “The life which is unexamined is not worth living”.  Not only might you be surprised at what you learn, but you will most likely find better balance in the things most important to you and with that comes a very enjoyable sense of inner peace in this very busy world as well as a much greater sense of success!  Let me know how you go!

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Famous Definitions of Success - new opportunities.

Success is not the key to happiness. Happiness is the key to success. If you love what you are doing, you will be successful. - Albert Schweitzer

There is nothing so useless as doing efficiently that which should not be done at all. - Peter Drucker

The secret of success is constancy to purpose. - Benjamin Disraeli

Coming previously from the corporate world where Peter Drucker is considered a guru, I'd have to say on this account, he's totally WRONG!  Schweitzer and Disraeli allow for the fact that success is defined by each of us individually and is associated with how we feel.  Whether running a home based business such as I do, being a full-time carer for an elderly parent, or providing a wildlife refuge for injured animals, the secret of life success is in how we feel about what we do.

Unfortunately Drucker takes the corporate, herd mentality view that someone outside of ourselves defines success for us; that someone else can judge not only whether something we are doing is "useless" but whether or not we are doing that "useless" thing "efficiently".  What a crazy concept.  Only we can determine whether we feel what we are doing is useless and I would hazard a guess that if any of us felt that way, we'd stop doing that which made us feel that way as quickly as we could!

In todays fast paced world, with so much information and so many options, we now have a new opportunity; to know for ourselves what is right for us and what makes us a success.  We don't have to work and live in traditional western societal ways, pre-ordained by schooling, political groups or even the norm.  We now have many other options to find our own secret of life.  It is a journey, but one well worth embarking on in order to have a wonderfully fulfilling life.

Share your experience or if you don't know where to begin, personal development will help.  Break out of the herd and find your definition of success.  THEN LIVE IT!

What is Success to You?

As we all know success comes in many different ways and means very different things to each of us.  When I looked on the web for a definition of success I got 5,600,000 results and I'd have to say, that doesn't seem like many.  Why?  Because success is personal.  Success is generally associated with a feeling, and what generates that particular feeling for each of us will be different.

What is your definition of success? Before you can achieve success, you need to define what success means to you.

For me success is running a wonderful home based online personal development business (Secret Of Life Biz) which enables me to have the financial freedom to work hours that suit the needs of my young family.  It frees me up to attend school harmony days, cross-country events, take my small bub to swimming, attend dance classes and basically spend the quality time with my family that I desire and NOT have to put them into child care.  After all, I didn't have my children so that someone else could effectively raise them and be there for all their "firsts" while I worked away from them and missed out on it.  Because success and the Secret of Life for me is also about raising a caring, compassionate, happy and harmonious family which is probably the greatest challenge of all time!  Watching my young family growing into responsible and considerate members of our community is an absolute key to whether I am being successful as a parent.

Success for me is career based as well as in my role as a parent.  But success as I define it (and we each would do well to define it for ourselves) also includes developing myself as a human being and trying to find balance and harmony within myself which is why I am a keen advocate of personal development.  It includes things that keep the passion alive in me such as writing, painting, playing music and horse riding, as well as attaining a level of spirituality (not necessarily religion) which makes me feel fulfilled.  When I am fulfilled, I can also help to fill "other's cups" at times when they are depleted, which enables me to contribute to those around me and meet another of the aspects which I believe contribute to a successful life.

I'd really like to hear from you, about what success means to you and even the ways you go about creating that for yourself.  In this busy world it is not easy; sharing can simplify the journey.  Look forward to your contributions!  Ciao for now, Janine.

Welcome To Life Success

Welcome to my new blog which is all about identifying, sharing and celebrating what success is in our lives, the successes we each have in a huge variety of different ways and also the journey we each take along the way to find our own version of success.  I've created this blog to allow people to share the pitfalls and wins along their path with the hope that we can learn from each other and hopefully face fewer pitfalls, or at least have a place to come for a kitbag of tools to use to help us along our way.

I hope you enjoy the blog and will contribute your amazing experiences along the way as well.

Regards, Janine.