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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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

The time is now . . . to be the change!

Check out the new video for Becoming What You Want to See in the World just posted!  

Be the change you wish to see in the world.

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

The Speed of Life

This article by Mary Claire O’Neal was chosen as one of the Intent.com articles of the week, 8/7/09.

M. K. Gandhi said, “There is more to life than increasing its speed.” One of the things Gandhi may be referring to is slowing down enough to listen.  Really listen.  “Slow down to listen to what?” you may ask. My answer would be many voices and yet one voice: That still, small voice within, or the same situation that presents itself over and over, or doors opening or closing, or what a child is saying with his behavior.

Slowing down to the speed of life can mean slowing down enough to pull myself out of autopilot—out of a routine, out of behaviors and ways of thinking that no longer work for me, out of reactions that can create separation instead of unity.

Slowing down to the speed of life can mean waking up, being fully alive right now, knowing that in every moment resides that choice to be awake.  I have found that what I need to know is within me and also spoken through life all around me, if I’m paying attention. Life is filled with miracles and magic, but unless I am listening and watching, even the miracles will be missed.

Something I’ve found refreshing is to just sit quietly for a few minutes, away from the seduction of technology (stripped of my computer or phone) and listen to the silence or just to my heart beating. Contemplative walks can be a wonderful time for me to get creative ideas. Being out in nature is a way that many people find the silence and peace to listen.

Slowing down can also mean waking up to the wonder of life again. Listening to my heart when it says, “Take a break, play, be silly!”  But it’s so easy to say, “ I don’t have the time.” And it’s so easy to see another day fly by without that joy. Having stuff coming at us all the time is a common way not to listen. Daily routines can become ruts that can distract us from the promptings of our hearts or the still, small voice within.

When slowing down, one can more clearly see things that need attention in life.  It might be that a relationship or friendship needs some quality time. What might need attention is the physical part of me—needing more exercise or healthy eating.  I might be reminded of a letter or phone call that’s been put off for later or a creative project that needs my attention.

When people have regrets at the end of their lives, it’s usually not that they would have liked to have worked one more day (even if their work was a joy for them). It’s usually, “I wish I had said, ‘I love you’ more” or  “I wish I had been kinder, more compassionate.” When one really listens, promptings can become fulfilling action instead of regrets.

© Mary Claire O’Neal

Mary Claire O’Neal has been a nationally known communication consultant for over 15 years, speaker, certified coach and author of the award-winning book, Becoming What You Want to See in the World. For more information: www.maryclaireoneal.com

Being the change through choices

I’ve had to make some big changes in my life over the past year–changes that needed to be made in order for me to function at my highest and best.  I’ve been a vegetarian for over 25 years, but even with that kind of healthy diet, there were things that were creating difficulty with my health.  I discovered that salt was a big problem, creating edema, headaches and other aches and pains.  I know this now because when I have taken just the salt out of my diet, many of those symptoms fade or go away.  There are other things in my diet I’ve had to say “bye, bye” to lately, as well.

Being a vegetarian all of these years has not been hard for me at all, but taking the salt out was my personal kryptonite. It has not been easy, mainly because I was addicted to it.  I always preferred salty over sweet, and so sugar was not something that I craved or wanted. I CRAVED salt and didn’t know how much until I took it away. And it is in almost every prepared vegetarian whole food that I’ve found–except things like canned beans or tomatoes (no salt added).  While I’ve always loved fresh veggies, fruits and grains, that’s my diet now. Pretty much, I have no prepared sauces or foods (when I say prepared foods, I mean prepared whole foods), salad dressings, or eating out. I loved eating Asian, Indian, Italian and Middle Eastern food out, and that’s gone now. I order a salad when I find myself out or at a meeting and put lemon juice and olive oil on it.  I was a vegetarian foodie (gourmet vegetarian cook and loved eating out), and I’ve gone through the stages of letting go, discomfort, even some grief, and a bit of whining. But I’ve come to the simple understanding that it is what it is.

Why am I writing about something as mundane as this? Because the human being of me is letting go of the things she loves–letting go of things that brought much pleasure–not really wanting those choices but having to make them. Newer and clearer awareness of my body being a temple and making choices that are best for me out of that awareness is an important part of it. It’s true, I’m healthier. I feel better. I’ve lost weight (almost 45 lbs. to date). My mind is clearer.  A very big gift is the empowerment within me of the awareness that I’m bigger than this is, or the very wise words that are thousands of years old,  greater is that which is within me than that which is without.

This is all about communication.  Lots of communication with myself and some communication with others. What I’ve found drives all of this is love. I didn’t make these choices because I didn’t like what I looked like or because I wanted to fix myself–which seems to be the biggest motivating factor for many in our culture for making changes like this. The deepest and most sustaining force in this change for me was love for my life and to be functioning at my highest, best, healthiest and strongest.

The world changes by us changing ourselves, and what I’ve found in my life to be the most lasting change for the highest is always and ever the change made because of and with love.

© Mary Claire  O’Neal

Fearlessly letting go of information

stack of books with post its sticking out of the pagesI’m an information pack rat, and I’m out of control. I’ve recognized that I have a fear of not having the information I need when I need it. Because of that fear, I have stacks of magazines, journals, papers, and clippings that have either practical information to make life easier (like how can you use olive oil a hundred different ways in your household and, er, how to simplify and get rid of clutter) or ideas for travel and leisure. I also hoard professional journals, thinking that I’ll find the time to read them all.

The problem is that this stuff takes up space, clutters, and cleaning has to be done around it–not to mention the fact that I feel a little stressed when I look at the stacks and wonder when I’m going to find the time to read it (thinking that I’m missing out on something that will streamline my life or make it more efficient). The irony here is pretty transparent.

Some people like clutter and really thrive in that type of environment—finding the chaos stimulating. I’ve tried that. Clutter just doesn’t work for me. I’m relaxed and more creative in a fairly well organized environment.  My mind is released from the stuff. I really appreciate the zen-like aesthetic of almost empty rooms. Peaceful. No distractions. I may never have that kind of decor, but just to see most of the floor in my office would be a huge step. Huge.

It became clear that I needed to have a serious talk with myself. I did, and I’ve  figured something out about my information collecting.  What have I to fear?  There’s the internet, library and my husband, who is a wealth of information (or knows where to find it). I just googIed “practical uses of olive oil” and within seconds found that olive oil can prevent stretch marks, relieve jelly fish or man-o-war stings, remove paint from hair, and the list goes on and on. “Eureka,” I cried!

I just need to courageously plunge into the stacks of paper and know that the best way to make my life more efficient and easier is to fearlessly toss the paper   into the recycling bin and drop off magazines that might be an interesting diversion for sick people at my doctor’s office. The professional journals will be harder to part with, but I will have to be brave as I quickly look through and clip for files.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I will still buy and read magazines and journals, but if they’re hanging around after about three months—I intend to clip and then toss them in the recycling bin. Books are dear to my heart, and I will continue to buy, read and write them. There’s always the used bookstore for those I won’t read again.

I’ve realized that the clutter in my life is baggage–baggage I don’t need as I travel through my days. For instance, recently cleaning out my office closet took me two days of concentrated work on a weekend. Now my work is so much more efficient because it is no longer a struggle to search through all the stuff to get to what I’m looking for. I try to think symbolically when I go through stuff, like, ”I’m giving away this old computer software because I’m changing the ‘software’ in my mind by thinking differently, and I no longer need the old program.” The software served me well in years past, but it is obsolete for my needs now. Also, an added benefit of perspective is that by giving it away, it may end up in the hands of someone who can use it.

After that very important talk I had with myself, I’ve been trying to simplify, even in small ways, everyday. Some days I only have five or ten minutes to spend on simplifying, and that’s okay. I’m working up my courage as I write this to dive into the stacks of paper and publications I’m staring at. I must be fearless.

© Copyright, Mary Claire O’Neal

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

True mastery

“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 could 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.

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 I make a conscious choice to change a thought or a behavior. Maybe it’s a thought that really doesn’t serve any purpose other than making me feel down or defeated. By changing that one thought that has been floating around in my mind all day to one that is more uplifting, I can change the course of my day.

We can also change the world around us by changing that one thought.

Have you ever been around someone who is being critical or negative about almost everything?  It has an effect on those who have contact with them.  The same is true for those who are hopeful, empowered and are taking action that is consistent with hope and empowerment. They draw people to them in a good way like a magnet.

Another example of that mastery is when we look at and consider the effects a choice we make will have on others before it is made. Does insisting that it be our way make us blind to the needs of others?  How many times in the past several years have we seen on a national and global scale the effects of choices that were made (that first started with an individual making a choice or an individual pushing that agenda) that do damage to others?

Masters are everywhere, in all walks of life.  A master can be the person who sees her/his life as a service.  I see mastery in a janitor I know who always has a cheerful greeting and is truly joyful in doing what some people would consider a menial task. Mastery is in 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 self 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.

© Mary Claire O’Neal

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

Take a snapshot of the big picture of your life

When we are faced with a challenge or difficulty in our lives, it’s good to give it focus so we can find solutions. However, it’s easy to slip down the slippery slope of giving the challenge too much attention so that it is amplified and magnified, appearing bigger in our perception. When that happens, it can lead to overwhelm or even fear. One really quick, easy way to regain a balance in perspective is what I call, Taking a Snapshot of the Big Picture of Your Life©.  You simply start writing down everything that is good, that is working, that is joyful. Write down all the things you are grateful for in your life.  Make the list as long as you can.  Soon you will have a very long list. When you look at all these things, you can see more of the “big picture” of your life and then see the challenge as only one thing or area in the very large picture.  This can immediately help create a balance in perspective, giving the area of challenge a more realistic proportion. This balance in perception will bring more clarity, and one can more easily find solutions, options and choices in dealing with the challenge.

© 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