Browsed by
Author: Rachel Gura

Setting Intentions

Setting Intentions


This week I want to speak at length about intention setting. I am finding that in most of my writing, coaching and general conversations I am having these days, invariably intention comes up with a vengeance.  I am finding that conflicts of consciousness and dissonance surrounding a situation often surfaces simply because no one in the situation put forth any intent. I find it  little unnerving walking around in social environments with people who feel they do not have a choice, who are floating on tides rather than fashioning a raft. I suspect some of the lack of intention setting and simply saying what one wants in a given situation comes from the desire to feel accepted and comfortable within a social group. I suspect this is reverting to victim thought patterns disguised as tolerance. I have found myself in these situations many times in the last few years of my growth often when there are some old thought patterns or habits I was trying to shed, where I remain in an environment with around activity that is not congruent with my current model of where I want to go. Then I experience this dysphoria and angst because I feel by not saying what I want, or just changing the environment, I allowed my values to be inadvertently violated. So this week I wanted to address correcting incongruence in lifestyles by implementing a simple intention setting and communication method. So here I want to give you some tools to address finding an intention message and what to do with it once you have it.

First let me differentiate between goals and intentions. Goal setting is a vital part of the coaching process, and is the organization of your future world based on your actions today. Goals are end points. Intention is the map of HOW we are going to reach those goals. Intention setting deals in the realm of the now. In the realm of being in the current moment we make choices that affects future us! Now consider one of those moments where you found yourself in a situation where you felt your values were violated but you had not expressed a desire to change it, you had been attempting to go with the flow, or perhaps upon further reflection you simply changed your mind.

This can apply to anything, maybe it is your partner going somewhere without you,maybe it is people asking to smoke a cigarette  in your car, or maybe someone has volunteered your to stay late at work. Everyone has interactions like this, I am sure you can bring to mind moments you felt as though you were screaming inside but had this fake smile plastered all over your face. Maybe you even answered an inquiry with the ubiquitous “I am fine.”  If you make no intentions, if you do not communicate your desires, if you do not set boundaries, if you do not stand up and make some choices, what sort of life are you going to live? My suspicion is one that feels like wearing someone else’s skin. And that is gross. I am here to challenge you to stop with the “I am fine.”

So I am throwing down the challenge to you today: I want you to come up with a clear intentional statement for something this week. There is nothing metaphysical about this, there is no law of attraction going on here. All I want you to do is set a guiding principle for yourself. This may take some time to create and you may edit it until it feels perfect. Write it down, draw it, compose a concerto, whatever works for you. Put it as a reminder on your phone, a sticky note on your mirror, in your wallet, somewhere you have to confront the message often. I will share my own with you for the week: “I commit to stepping outside of my comfort zone. I will embrace adventure.” Now this is very vague and comfortable.This could apply to travel or relationships or anything. What could improve this intention is specifics. In what area of my life am I seeking to grow? What this statement is referring to is my anxiety surrounding networking events. So to make this statement more specific I could say: “I will attend two different networking events each week and at these events I will speak to five people.” This confronts the comfort zone and adventure while making it a specific, measurable and attainable goal. I KNOW when I have completed this. That is the kind of intention you are seeking to create. The second part of this is conversation. Tell someone about your intention. And if you are really brave ask them to hold you accountable. Have them ask you about your progress. Accountability makes the intention a little more solid, there is not so much wiggle room to evade the things that we do not want to do. Often people struggle with the balance of expressing their intentions and being abrasive. I have seen people make a hell of a stand on something in a completely inappropriate tone or setting. And I am here to tell you that is okay, it will happen. Practice. And practice speaking from a place of compassion rather than conflict. You are not going to war with your own life, you are just setting up some guides for yourself along the way.

So now you have your intention, you have your accountability, now what? What happens when you stand your ground on something and the status quo of your relationships begins to change? I want to speak a little bit about judgement and acceptance. There are so many times I have rolled over let behavior slide for the sake of being easy going. I like to tell myself “I accept other peoples behavior and choices, even if they are not my own. Everyone is cool, It’s all good.” There is some truth to that I am sure, but a large amount of my tolerating is really garbage. I am doing it because I want to be accepted and feared the judgment of others. That desire for someone to validate me and accept is detrimental to my growth. This part of the article is to acknowledge that when you begin releasing that need for affirmation from other people you begin to shift into your realm of genius. When you decide it is okay to drift away from some people, it is okay for relationships to change you open the path to growth.

Tackling Self Doubt

Tackling Self Doubt


In my experience people have a vicious inner critic, myself included. I say things to myself sometimes that I would never tolerate another person saying. This is very common, probably something that is developed when we are children, and it rides with us most of our lives. Whenever someone turns us down for a date, or when we say something a bit silly upon meeting someone for the first time, that mean little voice is right there, ready to send a spear of self loathing or shame right into our heartguts. I have wanted to write upon this topic for quite a while as I think it is something we all suffer. Especially in times of increasing external stress the internal commentary from our worst selves cranks up to eleven. As the holidays, finals and the end of the year approaching I am sure many of us are feeling the external stress begin to brew. In the article this week I wanted to share the most powerful encounter I had with those mean commentators in my thoughts and the solution I found to dial them down a little bit.

Three years ago I embarked upon an adventure with my partner to go hiking and camping across Colorado for a week. He and I had not know each other for very long and it seemed like a very spontaneous and daring prospect to go galavanting into the wild blue yonder. My rationale was it was a fascinating way to get to know the intricacies of someone’s psyche. How do we function on a long road trip? How do I behave when I am tired? What does he say to you when you begin lagging behind? It could be amazing! It could be difficult. But there are so few opportunities in life to pluck up your courage and do something intense, so off we went. The climb we began the first day was near the intended trailhead, and we suspected it boasted a pretty view and a nice warm up to the rest of the week. Needless to say the climb was much more intense than I had anticipated. I am no greek goddess, but I jog a few times a week and lift weights on my off days. Not in the best shape certainly, but I like to consider myself tough, certainly not a whiner, and no stranger to mountain hiking. I thought there was nothing we could encounter that would stop me.The terrain was beautiful but it felt as though we were not climbing switchbacks but straight up into the clouds. As we ascended I realized my pack was probably ten pounds heavier than it should have been and I was beginning to struggle. As we climbed I found myself falling further behind my partner, and he would often stop to wait for me. Each time I stopped to catch my breath or when he would ask me if I was doing okay, I would drop my gaze and burn crimson with humiliation. I was enraged with myself. And in my humiliation grew the deluge of negative deprecating thoughts began to seep into my conscious levels of thought.

How dare you let him see this is difficult for you?

Never let them see weakness!

This shouldn’t be difficult for you anyway, you are stronger than this.

What is wrong with you? His pack is much heavier than yours.


You are slowing him down. He hates this.

I’ll bet he regrets taking this trip with you.

You are never going to make it.

The higher we climbed, the more upset I became. My partner, all credit to him, never once raised his voice to me, and never expressed irritation. He smiled at me. He encouraged me. He offered to carry my heavy pack along with his own. (Which I would never, ever let him do.) He was unbelievably kind to me. So much kinder than I was being to myself. As we came around the last bend in the trail, right at the place the tree line stop and from here onward there would be only grassland, I saw four of the brightest hummingbirds flitting in and out of the trees. I had no idea hummingbirds even lived at this altitude and for some reason it felt like a magical experience to see them. As we put our packs down and began to set up our camp for the evening I kept watching those hummingbirds zipping through the forest around us. I was in awe and almost envious of how light and easily they seemed to move compared to my lumbering form. And as I watched them I felt my thoughts begin to change.

You don’t have to be so mean to yourself. It is okay if things are difficult.

What would be different if you said things to encourage yourself?

What if you treated yourself with the same compassion you treat your partner?

Hiking is hard stuff. What would happen if you took all that negative stuff, all that baggage and just left all here?

You can leave it here you know. If you want.

That was my moment right there. That was my first step toward understanding. Yeah, I had a bunch of emotional baggage, and I carried it around with me at all times. And it made me a miserable person. What kind of person would I be if I i decided to just leave all that crap on the trail? Never to shoulder it again. The realization that I had a choice. I was stunned. I was completely humbled by the wisdom of hummingbirds. As we cooked one of those weird dehydrated camping meals on a pitiful fire I was filled with exuberance. I wanted to leap up and exclaim that I had experienced something meaningful and amazing and life changing. I wanted to fly around like those hummingbirds. As we lie down to go to sleep in our tent I made a commitment to myself to grow out of this. I made a promise to myself never to forget what I learned on the mountain. And more importantly I wanted to share this experience with my partner and the people I loved. For so long I had been looking for a way to get free so to speak, to fix myself. I had gone to gurus, I had been to shrinks. And here it was. I had found the first step to freedom at twelve thousand feet.

From that little spot on the mountains I have wandered an amazing path of self growth. The big battle between me and the shitty things I say to myself in my head has changed drastically. The inner critic still exists but we have a different relationships these days. I have spent hundreds of hours meditating and introspecting, searching for the message the inner critic actually has as well as where that critic hailed from in the first place. What is the message at the center of off of the self doubt? And more importantly what can we do to regain control?

First and foremost, do not pit yourself against your critic as though you are going to war. You are one. There is no separation between you and the critic. The inner critic is a self defense mechanism created when you were probably very young and it’s purpose was the keep you safe. This is an old world system and is really no longer necessary since you have developed language. Do not go to war with your critic, do not try to dam up his voice, because he will return louder than ever. Instead I encourage you to spend a set amount of time listening to all of his worries and gripes. For example the ultimate message from my inner critic is “I am not good enough.”All the comments about weakness and success, all of that boils down to the belief I gained somewhere that I am not good enough. And so I embarked upon a path to prove to others that I was smart and successful and all of that. The critic’s message slips in every time my confidence slips a bit. Find that message and how it has fit into your life so far. How does that message keep you from pursuing fulfilling relationships, or a promotion you really want. Observe the way your critic encourages you to remain safe and small. Now here comes the fun part. Here is the moment where you put it all down. All that worry and fear, all the baggage, make a commitment to yourself to put it down and carry onward without it. It does not always happen at once. You may find that some days you have picked up some of it again. No worries, bring your awareness to this, and then mentally set the baggage down again. Each time you practice this it becomes easier and there is less baggage to put down each time.

As you practice transforming the critic’s message and putting down all the mental crap, it may be fun to find a partner to practice with. Discuss the messages you both receive from your critic, discuss what it feels like to leave that baggage behind. Talk about what sort of situations surround the arrival of the critic and what sort of times you notice yourself saddled with your old baggage. I encourage you to take your time and enjoy the journey of the introspection. Remember there is no rush, this is your growth. Along the way don’t forget the lesson of the hummingbirds: Be kind to yourself, be gentle to yourself.


How to get organized

How to get organized


This morning I woke up with my mind filled with lists. All the things I want to accomplish next week, the week after, and onward into forever seemed to be whirling around inside my thoughts. I felt as though my mind was a library and all of the books decided to begin flying around. While the image is rather amusing I felt it was a perfect time to share my take on mental organization. Keeping the mind in order spills over to the physical world as well. When I notice someone with a particularly messy car or desk, I often suspect that is much like the state of their thoughts. There is nothing wrong with a messy desk or a messy mind for that matter, it is all perspective. However getting your life in order puts you on the path to your goals, plain and simple. These ideas are not for rewiring your mind, or to transform you into a hyper vigilant type A personality, this is simply a way to optimize and begin moving toward a more efficient perspective. How do we begin to break the cycle of anxiety and worry surrounding an impending assignment deadline? How can we better organize and achieve the goals we set for ourselves? How can we quiet racing thoughts to even begin all of this? So for all of my worriers, my procrastinators, and those who are forever “cleaning” while never actually doing anything, this is for you. There are endless articles offering tips on how to get organized, most of which suggest buying a label maker and plastic bins to store all the clutter. Hell, there is even a store dedicated to plastic containers all committed to storing your stuff in a more organized way. (My mum loves this place and incidentally labels all of her belongings.) There is nothing wrong with labeling your socks or containers, but in my experience buying more things to store your things in is not the solution. This mindset of compartmentalization only contributes to a hoarding mentality. Here I want to tackle the root issue behind mental and physical clutter: It isn’t the stuff you own but the perspective surrounding the things you own which is tripping you up.

Planning and then Action.
Blindly beginning a project often results in burnout. My father once gave me some wonderful advice about writing which I find carries over to all areas of my life. “Begin with the end in mind”. Spend fifteen minutes and write down a to-do list. The important thing here is to spend no more than fifteen minutes on the planning stage, as it is very easy to spend all your time making lists and taking no action. Set quantifiable goals. When are you going to do it? Be specific. What will the end result be? How long are you spending on this project? You will notice this is the shortest section and that is intentional. Do not spend hours planning.

Time Budgeting
I am huge fan of timers to accompany my goals. As my calendar fills up I find that my time becomes more valuable to me than anything else. Correctly budgeting my time brings the goal or project into reality without stress. This is normally the step that begin to trip people up. It is simple to throw yourself into a project and when you begin to feel sick of it to wander off. Set time limits for decision making as well as for the actual activity. If you are the sort of person who can write to-do lists for hours but never actually begin then I challenge you to set a timer for five minutes, and that is the time you get for planning your activity. After the timer goes off, set a second alarm for fifteen minutes to work on said task. This step often sends some people into a panic. I challenge you to address your behavior. When you set out to tackle a project, be that cleaning the bathroom or writing a paper, what sort of feelings and thoughts come to you? Do you chronically avoid your project until you encounter guilt?  Are you one of the folks who insists they thrives under pressure? This is not just a matter of completing a single project, this is beginning to dig into your inner works, this is about addressing what is causing you to put off working or feel overwhelmed. Instead of toiling until you feel tired, which is rather subjective anyway, I challenge you to set a timer for fifteen minutes. Each time you set out to accomplish a task make it a habit of setting a timer. At the end of a fifteen minute period I want you to take accurate stock of what you have done. This helps you begin to accurately assess your time, which establishes a successful pattern for future endeavors.

Track your Progress
This is the kicker, folks. Quantifiable and documented results are vital in your journey out of mental clutter. For example perhaps you have a deadline approaching for your thesis and the pressure is beginning to get to you, you palms are sweating and your anxiety is rising. As you think about this monster of a project you consider perhaps just taking a nap and trying to get mental reprieve from the anxiety for just a moment. (We have all been there.) But wait! You look back in the notes you have been keeping about your projects and deadlines, in in browsing those notes you see all the deadlines you have met and all the amazing things you have gotten together and created. In moments of anxiety and the beginning of a melt down I find it incredibly helpful to have a reference point, something quantifiable to prove to myself that I can conquer just about anything.

This is a starting point for those of you who periodically feel overtaken by deadlines. This piece does not address clutter control or hoarding behavior as that is a very large topic in itself. The holidays are a stressful time for most people and the tendency to indulge in retail therapy or crazy cleaning sessions before the in laws arrive is a real feeling. I encourage you to take a few moments to examine your anxious thoughts before you dive into short term manic projects. What could be different when you give yourself some space to investigate how the emotions influence your behavior? How do things change when you address behavior that does not serve you?

It’s not me, it’s you: Why blaming does not help

It’s not me, it’s you: Why blaming does not help


It is a basic human craving to be accepted and loved by the tribe. The journey of finding our place in the universe and our lives being honored just the way we are is lifelong. And yet even the most open minded humans still lash out and pin our expectations upon other people, asking them to change their belief or behavior because it does not suit us. Why do we demand that other people change?

A few days ago while browsing social media I came across a post which elicited a strong reaction from me. This post was about 500 words worth of straight up blame, name calling, accusatory ranting. The post covered every topic, from the injustice of government assistance “continually helping people who have more kids than they can afford” to the rage felt at a recently deceased family member who left them no material possessions, to the unfairness of having a broken window in the apartment, to running out of cigs in the winter. What an array of scandalous resentment.

Many thoughts came to mind as I read this. Parts of me felt sorry this person had such a sad outlook, part of me felt that some adults should have their social media privileges revoked. Clearly I had some judgement surrounding this behavior and that is not the type of mindspace I seek to cultivate. I perceived this behavior as victim types thinking, as though life is something that just happens around them and nothing is within their control. But the problem is not what other people are saying or doing, the problem is my reaction to it. So I began to try and shift the nature of my questions. Rather than asking “Why does this attention seeking trite bother me?” I asked myself “What could I do to make this better?” So often in our daily routine we get into a mindset that once other peoples behavior changes then we will be happy and that simply is not true. When your partner behaves exactly the way you want, and your boss stops putting the pressure on you and when there are no more people posting silly things on the internet, you will not suddenly become happy. You will be exactly who you are right now. If we do not learn to chill the response to blame other people we will always find someone to hang the blame on.

As we examine our judgement we see all kinds of things within the self. These things say quite a bit about us, and truly have nothing to do with the people we attach our judgement to. In my case I got on my high horse and believed I knew what was “best” for an individual. The reality of the situation is if you are feeling boxed in and frustrated by other peoples behaviors it is simply a reflection of our discomfort and dissatisfaction toward the relationship with them. It is a result of being incompatible. Rather than pushing others to obey a vague social contract you have in your mind or being resentful, what if you spent your time finding people with whom you fit?  I challenge you to find the things inside you that are of paramount importance, those values which are non negotiable, and then venture out to find people who also value similar ideas. And what about the folks you feel like a stranger with, or find yourself angry or resentful toward? Drop it like it’s hot. Move forward.

It is vitally important to ask yourself the hard hitting questions.(You will know when you have touched upon those questions when they begin to make you bit uncomfortable.) And if you find you let yourself off of the proverbial hook, it is worth it to hire a professional to assist. The people we surround ourselves with are a reflection of us. Does your social group reflect the kind of person you are striving to be? What sort of person do you want to be in a year? In five? What are you doing today to become that person? No, really i am curious. I want you to roll that around in your head. What did you do TODAY that is moving you toward your goals? If you answer is “Nothing” then right after you finish this article I challenge you to go out and put energy toward your goals. Not by thinking about them, not by complaining that you are not there yet, but real action. Go write, go paint, go study, go build. Whatever it is you need to do, stop putting it off. Stop writing sad posts on facebook, stop blaming. Go now. Run fast.

Resentment in Relationships: Prevention and Resolution

Resentment in Relationships: Prevention and Resolution


There is something very interesting which begins to occur in close relationships: resentment. You have heard the phrase that familiarity breeds contempt, well I think it is more along the lines of sweeping emotional responses under the proverbial rug breeds resentment. Resentment shows up when we hold onto emotional pain either through inability to forgive or through gaining something pleasurable through holding onto the issue. This can happen in many ways. Represented in a behavior all humans have; the avoidance of pain and turning toward pleasure.  Perhaps communication between you and your partner is not strong, so instead of approaching a conversation that is potentially painful at the moment people will bury emotional responses. Now this causes suffering later, and eventually you will have that conversation. And it is probably going to be painful and much more exaggerated than it would have been had it been addressed initially. That scenario is something I have seen countless times in all sort of relationships. It is something that should be taught in classes, or perhaps in pre-marriage counseling. So in light of this situation being so prevalent I present to you this weeks article: Prevention and Resolution of resentment in your relationships.

Think for a moment of something left unsaid between you and a partner, something that left a bad taste in your mouth. Perhaps it is something you decided for the sake of the relationships to swallow. This is incredibly common. When asked most people have no trouble bringing forth something they have left smoldering inside their mind. Resentment resides inside the mind and the longer it lives there the more our memories and inner balance become warped by that perspective. Our memories change and shift, especially when we recall them with a negative lens. What may have been a simple concern or a moment of disagreement can soon be perceived as an intentional dig at our person. And if this is left alone it become fuel for us, something that burns within us always, just waiting for a moment of weakness or wrongdoing in the other party so that we can finally fling our hurt upon them. So then they will feel as bad as we did. Hopefully worse.

Take a moment now and put that feeling of resentment out of your mind. It is not my intention for you to work yourself into a frenzy while reading my article. I want you to take a deep breath, and think about something really awesome. Like puppies. Now listen up: Becoming a martyr in your relationships(or anywhere really) will destroy them. Period. We tell ourselves stories in which we are always the hero, and often our resentment and hurts carry us along. We live for the times when a situation is emotionally charged enough so that we may finally unearth the apparatus that is our ire. And doing that makes you a jerk. Really, no two ways about it. If you hold on to emotional pay dirt waiting for a time in which it will have the most emotional effect on another person, that is a manipulative as shit. There is no judgement about this, we all act this way on occasion. I am here to challenge you to change this pattern of behavior. I challenge you to change the nature of your relationships, to stop the cycle of resentment.

The solution to prevent as well as resolve is simple on phrasing but tricky in practice. Communicate. Find a way to express yourself and communicate with the involved party. Now perhaps you have an anxiety reaction surrounding confrontation? I personally was raised in an environment which frowned upon expression of negative emotions. This is turn led to me perfecting the art of internalizing everything. And it has been quite a journey out of quiet burning anger and eventual freakouts to a much more healthy perspective. But for years anger lived in me, and fueled most of what I thought and did. What this turned into was a mess. I realized I resented anyone who stirred up anything remotely negative as far as emotions, and pretty soon all emotional responses got relegated to the “sort it out later” place in my head. The only way to free yourself from mental captivity is to express. Even if it is painful, or terrifying, or world shattering. I challenge you to begin the adventure of self expression in small ways and see where it takes you. Today when someone asks you what you prefer, tell them. If you normally default to the “I don’t know” or the “I don’t care”, I challenge you to eradicate those today. Take an interest in knowing what you want, in what you care about, and begin to chip away the apathy.
Emotions are not good or bad. They are just sensations. If you set your intention to a calm state of understanding there is so much to be learned from the introspection.

It takes bravery to communicate honesty. The world is filled with people who are experts at concealing their intentions and who pride themselves on being able to manipulate or move unseen through a series of circumstances. I am here to challenge you to take the scary route, to reach inside yourself and begin to have the intense conversations with those who are important to you. When we work in the realm of emotions we step outside the comfort zone and make ourselves vulnerable. That takes some incredible fortitude and I want to congratulate you on your journey so far. The next time someone says something that stings, or their actions injure you, I challenge you to express what you feel to them. Operate from a space of compassion, and practice the use of “I” statements. These are especially helpful in emotionally charged situations. For example: “When you do *insert action* then I feel *insert feeling*. This sort of languages takes the blaming aspect out of the conversation. Statements such as “You make me feel..” etc, only serve to intensify the conversation and does not operate from a goal oriented perspective. The purpose of expression and the resolution of resentment is not to blame others, it is not to get them to apologize, it is simply to express the hurt or anger before it is internalized. When you express yourself each time something like this happens, with the intention of simply communicating and not trying to change the other person, I promise the very nature of your relationships will change. Be brave and venture forth!

Find the Opportunities

Find the Opportunities


We spend an incredible amount of time planning for the perfect moment. Vast amounts of energy go waiting for the perfect lighting so we can say the perfect line so everyone will see how rad we are. Maybe you are waiting for that chick you like to drop a hint, or maybe you keep putting off getting back into dating until you lose twenty pounds.Or perhaps you are waiting for that jerk-wad at the office to take credit for your project again so you can feel totally okay with telling them off. How often do you say things like:

I will do it when

I don’t have time to

When I have done *insert task or life event here* then I will risk it.

I postulate there are no perfect moments. But there are some awesome opportunities. 

Perhaps in applying a shift in perspective you can begin to thrive in all of your moments. And in utilizing the opportunities, the moments become perfect. This week I challenge you to observe one situation you feel a bit stuck or you feel you have been putting off. And instead of approaching this situation as though it is something to be dealt with I want you to spend some time considering this as an opportunity. What would happen if you approached it this way? Would you feel less anxious in approaching other areas in this way? So for this week I would like you to find one opportunity. I want you to find one “problem” in your life currently and brainstorm how you can approach it as an opportunity. It all depends on how you perceive. I encourage you to take a small risk and change your perception a little bit.

How to Stop Caring What Other People Think

How to Stop Caring What Other People Think


I wrote a little in my previous article Challenging Assumptions about the tendency to really invest in what other people think about us and this caused me to ponder about the crux of that worry. Where does all of that come from? Can I track my own insecurity to the source and learn to let it go? So this week I present you with my two part solution to less worry and more joy: Stop giving a fuck about what other people think and stop feeling sorry for yourself. This may sound a little severe. However I think we when you begin grappling with the subject of insecurity I encourage if only for a few moments a day to look into the puckish influences in your world. A large part of what got to me to come around to this idea was the suggestion that maybe just maybe, I was taking things a little too seriously. There is freedom to be found in finding the humor in the world. Levity is one of my core values followed closely by freedom. Specifically freedom from the garbage we clutter our minds with. We create rigid patterns of behavior for what is acceptable, or expected as we become adults and those ideas keep us from enjoying the awesome things around us.  In this article I offer up some of my personal experiences on my quest to freedom from the fucks I give and the journey out of self pity.  So let us begin.

All around me I hear worries and frets about judgement. From my coworkers, my family, even my boss a few times. And within my own mindspace I found myself paying extra attention to that inner critic who delighted in mentioning how I had screwed up in various situations. I listened to all of these searching for some sort of correlation between the worries and their causes, ultimately seeking a solution.

“What if my boss thinks…”’

“What if they are talking about me?”

“I’ll bet they are saying…”

“I just want them to recognize what I do.”

“Am I pretty enough?”

A myriad of influences is constantly reminding us that we are not good enough. So much money is spent on advertising designed to remind us that we are not content or complete. One almost cannot escape inundation of ads. Our social media targets ads to us based on our interests, magazines at the checkout, billboards on the drive home. All playing on the idea that you are not complete and maybe with new underwear or a piece of furniture we would not feel so alone. It is impossible to seduce people who are secure and content in their lives, but suggest they are missing out or somehow deficient and you have created a loyal customer. I could use this moment to take a cheap shot at men’s magazines which offer the same message repeatedly: “YOU AREN’T GOOD ENOUGH, BUY SOMETHING TO FILL THE EMPTINESS!” or “LOOK AT THIS PERFECT BEARD YOU DO NOT HAVE.” but won’t. I am not here to blame advertising, the music industry, or social media for making you feel insecure. Don’t get me wrong, they are diabolical at best. But I hold you accountable for your own feelings, my friend. I think you are smart enough and capable enough to see the folly of falling into the tar pit that is advertising. Hold yourself responsible for the way you respond, feel and take action. See if you slowly feel a change in the way you perceive the world by simply taking notice of the pressure from your culture, peer group or television. So here is my prescription to all the internal trepidation. My two part solution to being happy in this world: Stop caring about that which truly does not matter and stop feeling sorry for yourself.

Next time you’re in a situation which makes you uncomfortable, maybe you are meeting your girlfriend’s parents for the first time, or maybe it is a social gathering that has you in a tizzy, or perhaps you are thinking of a way to start a conversation with that cute girl from work, in that instance consider for one second: No one really cares what you are doing. Not even a little bit. In fact they are more than likely wrapped up in their own fear and insecurity and terrified that you can see that they feel weird wearing a new shirt. They are worried about the same stuff you are worried about. Think of that: everyone is afraid and their fear makes them closed off.  So what can one do to stop the cycle of fear? First step in breaking the cycle of fearing what other people will think is to change what you normally do when you are afraid. For example, think about the last time you were in a social situation and you noticed someone who was kind of on the outside of the action. Perhaps a fellow who kept to himself and all the interactions he had with people seem very surface level and short. Often a self fulfilling prophecy going on in these instances. If this man perceives that no one at the party is talking to him because he is boring or unattractive, then he begins to come across as boring fellow you do not want to talk to. We can very easily convince ourselves of the things we worry most about. We spend so much time thinking about all the things in the universe we don’t want, only to be surprised when that stuff shows up. What would happen if we spent half as much energy thinking about that which we do want to bring into our world and working toward those goals? What does life look like when we turn our attention toward what we do want rather than what we fear? Then to take it a step further what would happen if we stopped playing an observer and shifted into action? What does our world look like then? So instead of simply noticing this man who seem to unable to make a connection what if we approached him and began a conversation? Or perhaps we notice that we are that person at the party, we feel cut off and only able to make surface interactions? What would happen if instead of withdrawing into the self and conjuring a story about why no one is approaching us, instead we recognized that as fear and began to behave just a differently? How would you act if you didn’t take everything, especially yourself, so seriously?

This is where part two of this article comes into play: Stop feeling sorry for yourself. We have a tendency when we are afraid of under stress to fall into victim thought patterns. We become certain that no one speaks to us at the party because we are weird looking. Or maybe we take it a step further and become combative; no one spoke to us at the party because clearly they cannot recognize our genius and everyone at that party must have been a bunch of blockheads.
Horseapples. Stop it. Stop it right now. Victim style thinking keeps us small and reaffirms that the whole world always wins and we always lose. Those thought patterns are cyclical and it is possible to live our whole lives in those patterns. There is little fulfillment is a life filled with those ideas, there is no adventure in turning yourself into a martyr. I want you to step outside your own story for a moment and I want you to observe yourself. When you perceive yourself as a victim, how can you enact change in your world? So the next time you are in a social situation and you notice yourself beginning to feel dejected because no one has engaged you in conversation, or your begin telling yourself there is no point in speaking to anyone because they will probably reject your brilliance anyway, I want you to halt those thoughts. Just for a moment recognize them as victim level thought patterns. So many people avoid actual connection or intimacy out of fear of being rejected. we avoid growth. So I encourage you again to approach someone and begin a connection. Even if the outcome is not exactly what you want, you will not spontaneously combust because that person wasn’t interested. You will not die. It is scary as hell to approach people, no joke. I recognize this as one of the biggest lessons we learn, one of the biggest obstacles to overcome. In the moments you are terrified, or in the moments someone is not interested in you, remember it is not about that person. This process is about creating experiences. The more experiences you create less fear you hold on to, and as your fear diminishes the cycle of victim thinking begins to evolve into something else. Do you begin to perceive that there are fewer negative situations you have to “deal” with and more adventures? The benefit to not caring what other people think is you are free to pursue life for the sake of experience, for the sake of adventure and growth. As you let go of victim thinking your entire world opens up into infinite possibility.

Now when I suggest a stepping stone on your way to leading a happier life is to stop giving a fuck what other people think I am not suggesting a diversion from the path of growth. I am not advocating the path of least resistance, couch surfing through life. Quite the contrary. I want you to focus in on your goals with an intensity that is intimidating and chase them down like a lion after a gazelle, but take the self doubt and worry about the thoughts of other out of the whole equation. You are the only person in the world responsible for your growth, you are accountable to yourself. No one else is walking your path, chasing your particular gazelles, so why get bent out of shape about the opinions of others? Consider this: There is only one person in this world you trying to make happy and that is yourself. I postulate that there is a fallacy behind the search for happiness. It is an illusion because it is suggesting that happiness is some mystical force outside of yourself that must be caught. Happiness painted as something to be found at the end of a grand adventure, or in another person, or in physical possessions. And I really do not believe that to be true. I operate under the philosophy that happiness exists, along with everything else you need, within you. You are whole. One simply needs more practice with the skill set of growth. That is what the process of developing the self is all about, practicing with new tools. Buddhist teachings tell us that grasping and chasing things is a major source of unhappiness. We live in a society that is obsessed with productivity, quarterly reports and achievement. There is nothing at all wrong with productivity or hard work. The trouble comes when we are doing those things without awareness which leads us to neurosis. We place such value on “getting” to the next level of reward or status that we create a cycle of strife simply by continuing to chase temporary things. Often those things are not even determined by us, they are dictated to us by other people. Happiness is not some illuminated state wherein you reach that understanding nothing else in the world is difficult. Happiness, like enlightenment is a moment, and we have to make a practice of cultivating those moments within. So go out! Leave all the fucks you give at home with your victim thoughts and go have an adventure.