Cognitive neuroscience: (Part 1) Awareness is everything

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Being the change you wish to see in the world.

This is the beginning of a series of articles designed to be read quickly during your busy day with at least one practical tip for you to try. I always remind my clients that there is no one way to do anything. You might find that this article series sparks off some ideas of your own to be more aware of how you are focusing your thoughts, emotions and energy. If you would like to share them with others, please do in the comment section below this article.

Awareness of our thoughts is at least 95% of making a change in what and where we are focusing our energy. Functioning in “automatic pilot” is one of the largest obstacles in the way of creating positive experiences like success, fulfillment and balance on a daily basis. It’s easy to lose passion for something that has become a rut because we are no longer bringing our awareness and, therefore, creativity to it. In each moment is the opportunity to make it magnificent.

Slowing down just enough to listen to that still, small voice within will help connect with the inner compass of one’s unique talents and values (instead of taking them for granted). Brilliance, happiness and balance can follow when making aware choices in the moment of what thoughts we choose to entertain and navigate us through life.

Tip#1: Instead of starting the day with the news or getting online, try planning first thing into your morning 20 to 30 minutes of time to get your day focused in a positive frame of mind.  I found that getting up 30 minutes earlier was what I needed to have that quiet time to meditate, write down gratitudes and review my “to do” list, prioritizing items for work, home/family, and service in the world (volunteer work for my favorite non-profit or in the community, for example). Doing this first–even before exercising and breakfast really gets the day off to a positive, clear, energetic start. I feel ready and prepared for my day.

© Copyright 2016, Mary Claire O’Neal

Mary Claire O’Neal is a certified coach, communication/leadership consultant, Heartmath® Certified Trainer and Coach and is the author of the award-winning book, Becoming What You Want to See in the World.

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Mindfulness Training Brings Results

Peace of Mind

Mindfulness training to reduce stress has been around for a long time, and is now, at work, considered to be a highly effective, results-based practice that is becoming mainstream. Aetna, Intel and Keurig Green Mountain have all started to incorporate mindfulness as a leadership practice and have seen benefits to both the company and the individual employees in improvements in employee health, productivity and job satisfaction.

According to the World Health Organization, stress costs American businesses an estimated $300 billion annually, and the costs to the U.S. healthcare system might be even higher, particularly with heart disease, high blood pressure and diabetes.

Training such as the Resilience Advantage™, Heartmath’s mindfulness principles and breathing techniques (can be done anywhere, even on-the-go) bring great results in the decrease of stress, health issues, and negative emotional states like frustration, and anger. An increase in health, as well as improved sleep, positivity, situational awareness, problem-solving, creativity and performance has been found in study after study. Here is data from a study six weeks after employees took the HeartMath® training, The Resilience Advantage™:

52% reduction in exhaustion and tiredness
60% reduction in anger and annoyance
60% reduction in depression
43% reduction in heartburn and indigestion
44% reduction in headaches and body aches
33% reduction in inadequate sleep

The principals and self-regulation techniques are based on over 20 years of scientific research in the field of neurocardiology. Among a few of the organizations that have invested in this resilience training with excellent results: US Navy; Fortune 500 companies worldwide; Stanford Graduate School of Business; hospital systems; and the US Army.

For more information about Heartmath’s the Resilience Advantage training:

Mary Claire O’Neal, Heartmath® Certified Trainer and Coach

US (+1) 859-272-2515

Website: http://www.lifeworkresilience.com

Article © Copyright 2015, Mary Claire O’Neal

Photo: Getty Images

Mastery of Oneself

“The human race is challenged more than ever before to demonstrate our mastery – not over nature – but of ourselves.” –Rachel Carson, environmentalist

What is mastery over ourselves? What would that look like?

Ultimately our intent, thoughts, words, actions and responses are the only things that we can control and master. These all involve choice and our own freewill. It’s the awareness that every moment involves a choice—whether it be on the automatic, unconscious level or with awareness and mastery.

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Photo credit: Getty Images

The awareness of those choices in the moments that make up our lives involves a discipline of mind. Sound like a lot of work? It is—at first. But that discipline of mind becomes easier and easier, and it is SO worth it! How is it worth it? A simple example is when you make a conscious choice to change a thought. Maybe it’s a thought that really doesn’t serve any purpose other than making you feel down or defeated. By changing that one thought that has been floating around in your mind all day to one that is more uplifting, you can change the course of your day. You can also change the world around you by changing that one thought. Have you ever been around someone who stays negative about almost everything or doesn’t want to see a hopeful solution? It has an effect on those who are around them. The same is true for those who are hopeful, empowered and are taking action that is consistent with hope and empowerment. The hopeful draw people to them in a good way like a magnet.

Another example of that mastery is when you look at and consider the effects a choice you make will have on others before you make it. Does insisting that it be your way make you blind to the needs of others? I can think of an instance or two in my life where I, out of fear, had inadvertently done this. If you think about it, perhaps you can remember an example of this in your own life–an instance where you were coming from a place of fear–fear of change or fear that another way would not bring the desired results. How many times have we seen the effects of choices made by others when consideration was not made first about the impact those choices would have?  Perhaps you directly felt those effects, perhaps not, but the effects were apparent.

Seeking mastery over others is not leadership; it is an abuse of power.

Seeking mastery of oneself is living a conscious life and is genuine leadership.

Masters are everywhere, in all walks of life. A master can be the person who sees her/his life as a service. It’s a janitor I know who always has a cheerful greeting and is truly joyful in doing what some people would consider a menial task. It’s the person in the parking garage booth, who recently when I asked “how are you?” answered with, “I’m blessed! I have a job where all day long I can greet people and wish them a good evening. What could be better than that?” I’m humbled by that kind of mastery.

Mastery is not perfection. Masters make mistakes, and they do encounter difficulties. Mastery can be working in a process of knowing there’s always more to know. Mastery can be about getting back up again after a fall or mistake, claiming it, apologizing for it (if it affected others), learning from it, dusting oneself off, and moving forward again.

© Copyright 2014 Mary Claire O’Neal, All rights reserved.

Mary Claire O’Neal is the author of the award-winning book, Becoming What You Want to See in the World, and is a communication consultant and coach.

www.maryclaireoneal.com

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Creating Boxes in Life by Saying “No”

I recently wrote an article, ”Saying “Yes” into Overwhelm,” because I and many Imageother people I’ve met have a patterned tendency to take things on. It is an understandable tendency for those who want to be of help, service or make a positive difference. The point of the article was not to not say “yes,” but to consider first if one can fit this one more thing into an already busy life or if it will tip the balance into overwhelm.

Having said all that, let’s explore the flip side of the coin. Even though I’m one of those people who has a patterned tendency to say “yes,” there are areas of my life where I might have a tendency to have a knee-jerk “no” at the ready.

Can you think of areas of life where that might be the case for you?  Maybe it’s something that you should not agree to, because it would be a healthy choice to say, “no.”  But, there may also be areas or instances, as have been in my life, where to say “no” would limit  positive life experience or opportunities.  Usually these areas have to do with a fear of some kind.

While I enjoy speaking in front of large audiences (I had to get over that fear many years ago, but that’s another story), I’m somewhat of an introvert.  During my personal time (preferring my “cave” to large social situations), that knee-jerk “no” might be in regard to a party or large social gathering.  Saying “no” may limit my opportunity just to be out in the world connecting with others in a positive way. Being in this world is about relationships of all kinds, and communication is the key to all those many types of relationships. I was limiting myself. I was keeping myself in a bit of a box during my non-working time.

Perhaps you have a fear of over-committing your time, and your knee-jerk “no” might be there for just about any request.  Again, it may limit positive opportunities and experiences and back you into a box.

The bottom line in the knee-jerk “no” response is usually fear-based, and fears limit us in our lives. When considering a response, before automatically falling into the patterned tendency to say “no,” here are a few things you can ask yourself or do that may help:

  1. Is automatically tending to say “no” a pattern for me in situations like this? Is there a fear that might be preventing me from saying, “yes?”
  2. If I say “yes,” what will it involve (time, energy, expertise)?  Asking this question of the person or group that is making the request is important to make the decision in awareness.
  3. What are the benefits of saying, “yes?”
  4. Look at the various areas of life to see if you can fit it in.
  5. Sleep on it (unless it’s an urgent situation) before giving your answer.
  6. If still uncertain, talk with a trusted partner or friend who is supportive in your personal growth.

The important thing is to know yourself (and be aware of areas where there might be a fear) and make decisions in conscious awareness.  Of course, this is a process, and with each “yes,” step-by-step, you can overcome a fear and open up doorways for positive opportunities, growth, confidence and, even, miracles.

Mary Claire O’Neal is a communication consultant, coach and author of the award-winning book, Becoming What You Want to See in the World. For more informationwww.maryclaireoneal.com

© Copyright, Mary Claire O’Neal

Photo credit: Getty Images

Blooms of Potential and Adaptability

The blooms of May and early June express the potential for fruit later in the summer. As with everything in our lives, a process unfolds toward fruition—projects, tasks, cycles of growth within ourselves; the list could go on and on.

What’s interesting is that sometimes processes take unexpected turns, twists or detours.

The unknown can be a little scary, but flexibility and adaptability are important in the process of bringing something into reality. That something can be a project you are working on, a new career, a garden, a home, a trip, etc.  Personal expectations that things will follow a course that we have mapped out in our minds can sometimes be illusory, keeping us holding on to an avenue or path that just won’t take us where we need to go.  And maybe there’s a much better way to the destination (or perhaps even a better destination!) we haven’t been able to see that’s part of the bigger picture.

Photo by Mary Claire O'Neal

Have you ever decided to change a goal because you have changed?  Sure.  Change happens, and what we are working toward can change. Sometimes the process can take us to the understanding that we really didn’t want what we thought we wanted—maybe even show us a goal much better than the one we had when we started on that path.

Even though we may not have known it at the time, everything we have experienced, even a seeming detour, has brought us to where we are now and the potential for our current dreams and goals. But it all started with a seed idea to start the movement toward something we wanted to achieve or create.

Adaptability on the path toward our dreams and goals helps insure that we will reach our destination–perhaps a destination more splendid than we originally imagined!

© Mary Claire O’Neal

Mary Claire O’Neal is a communication consultant, coach, speaker and author of the award winning book, Becoming What You Want to See in the World.  For more information:www.maryclaireoneal.com

Positive Change in a Year of Renewal

 

I look to the beginning of the year as an opportunity to start fresh, renew, with changes that I want to bring into my life. But first, I have to be clear on what it is that I want or what areas of my life I want to renew. Many years ago, I used to think that change was a negative concept, that it meant chaos or even loss of something. Over the years, I have found, though, that change can be about creating more joy, balance or fulfillment–increasing the good. This kind of change also is more likely to create something more enduring.

The other thing about change is that I used to approach it with what I didn’t want more of in my life. Change meant “ditch this, move on.”  Or another, “I’m not happy with the way my clothes are fitting. I need to lose some weight.”  I used to be a human yo-yo. I completely overlooked change as the agent of  “I really love this. What can I do to create more of this in my life? What is it that does work for me?” This shift in perspective was significant. For instance, if I want to have more energy and feel good physically, the change for me would be working out more regularly and eating foods that make me feel more vital — fresh, whole foods instead of processed, refined ones and drinking more water. A nice side effect of making this kind of change, in addition to more energy and and health, is my clothes end up fitting better.

The focus is on increasing or adding something that is good for me, not on, here’s the word — loss.

Once you figure out what you want to manifest in your life, what next? The answer shouldn’t surprise — goals. Setting a goal is like creating a road map to get where you want to go. Without them, things can fall apart pretty easily. The tricky thing with goals is they have to be realistic. You can be your own saboteur in the success of a goal if it is not realistic for you. For instance, a sabotage that I used to do was giving myself a timeline that was just not workable in the attainment of the goal. I would get enthusiastic and think that I could accomplish it in much less time than was possible for me. Then  when I didn’t make the goal within that time frame, I would think that I failed and sometimes even give up on it. I would occasionally even top it with the cherry of being hard on myself for failing. Small steps work.  They really, really do.

Okay, you’ve set a realistic goal. The next step is adding something new into your life — prioritization:

1) Write down a list of ideas of things you can do to attain that goal.

2) Break each item on the list down into pieces — manageable steps.

3) Figure out what small step(s) you can take tomorrow or this week toward your goal, the next week, the week after and so on.

4) Prioritize it into your schedule, giving it as much importance on your list as your other priorities.

If you find that you are shoving it to the side on a regular basis, it is not being given priority on your list. If you miss a day or even a few days, dust yourself off and pick it up again. Even laughter and fun are important priorities in a balanced, fulfilling life!

Mary Claire O’Neal is a communication consultant, coach and author of the award winning book, Becoming What You Want to see in the World.  For more information: www.maryclaireoneal.com