But, Right Now, This Moment, Things are Okay . . .

Coronavirus, protests against prejudice, political infighting and widespread economic uncertainty are all contributing to surging levels of stress across America and around the world.  Headlines invade our peace of mind.  Powerful and negative narratives threaten to carry us away with them.

Faced with such forces, there is one simple tool that many people can use to try to short-circuit runaway anxiety.  Here it is:  Make sure that two or three times a day you allow yourself one minute to get very quiet, without distraction, and to notice that—if you can breathe, if you can eat, if you have shelter–you are okay.  For those minutes, be aware that your heart is beating, that you can take a deep breath or two, that you can probably look forward to a cup of coffee, that you can hold fast to any opinion you value.  The world is swirling around you, but not inside you.  You are, for those minutes, the eye of the storm, not a boat carried here and there by its force.

Practicing this sort of detachment is necessary these days because it is so easy to feel vulnerable to every potential threat the media broadcasts.  It is easy to feel vulnerable to the pandemic.  It is easy to feel the specter of increasing racial and international conflict.  That’s because we are, all of us, very much connected to the events around us and the people around us.  We’re so connected that we could forget that—thankfully—many millions of us can walk where we like, buy what we need, stay in touch with those we love and even sit down for an hour or two and read a book.

If right now, you can find center and find peace and be undisturbed for a minute, then you will be planting your feet more firmly on the ground—not just for that minute, but for much longer.  Because your nervous system will be taking note of the fact that, amidst all the turmoil, you can still decide to be existing in it, while not being of it.

This lesson, repeated frequently enough, may invite you to consider a core truth:  There is a level of “being” that is unassailable by any stress, no matter how intense.  Few of us will reach that level.  But even being reminded that it exists can be profoundly steadying.

Dr. Keith Ablow

    

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PIVOT POINT

As someone who has written screenplays, I was always intrigued by the “plot points” they include.  According to Syd Field, one of the most celebrated teachers of screenplay writing, every film includes two plot points—scenes or moments in the story that spin the action in an entirely new direction.  Something happens that seems to change everything.

I think there are plot points in life, too.  More commonly, my clients identify them as “pivot points.”  As in screenplays, pivot points come up in a person’s life that either makes the narrative move in an entirely new direction or offers the chance for it to.  Not every pivot point, in other words, is a fait accompli, automatically altering the trajectory of one’s existence.  Sometimes, it offers the opportunity for such transformational change.

Pivot points can be “positive” or “negative.”  One of the main messages I want to share is that either can offer massive opportunity.  What seems like a calamity can pave the way for the best years of one’s life—if reimagined as an opportunity.

Some of the common pivot points in life include the sale of one’s company, a promotion, job loss, divorce, the sale of one’s business, the first steps toward actualizing one’s creative vision (as an entrepreneur or artist or anything else).  Others include meeting a powerful mentor, having a falling out with a business partner or, for that matter, chaos erupting in the world.  Positive or negative, pivot points destabilize the status quo to such an extent that the “building” that represents one’s life is shaken.  And the bricks that fall to the ground can be used to rebuild a very different structure—and one that may be a vast improvement over the prior one.

A big part of taking advantage of pivot points, instead of being paralyzed by them or missing them, entirely, is understanding that good things—even great things—can come from them, even when they are initially very painful.  And having the expectation of a positive outcome, ultimately, actually vastly enhances the likelihood of one.

The late Joseph Campbell, author of The Hero with a Thousand Faces, put it this way:

It is by going down into the abyss that we recover the treasures of life.

Where you stumble, there lies your treasure.

Dr. Keith Ablow

    

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If You’re Going Through Hell, Keep Going

I keep a quote from Winston Churchill on my desk.  It’s carved into a block of metal and topped with a little metal knight.  It says, If you’re going through hell, keep going.

It’s a statement worth remembering and worth sharing—for more than one reason.

First, the obvious:  Giving up is never the right option.  Our lives are journeys coursing through good times and bad times; getting to a better place requires a decision to keep moving forward.

Second, Churchill’s statement presumes that you can keep going.  And he was right.  Sometimes, keeping going means taking the next painful step to cope with loss.  Sometimes, it means taking the next painful step to rescue a business or to resurrect one’s finances after a business doesn’t succeed.  Sometimes, it means putting in the extra effort to reopen lines of communication with someone you’re in serious conflict with.  Sometimes, it just means getting up in the morning and walking around the block to remind yourself you can.  I promise you this:  There is always a version of “I can” to be found inside your heart and mind.

Third, when you embrace the notion that you can keep going, God (or the universe, if you prefer) takes heed.  Momentum is mysteriously created from being unwilling to stop.

The late Scottish adventurer William Hutchinson Murray put it this way:

Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back, always ineffectiveness. Concerning all acts of initiative (and creation), there is one elementary truth, the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one’s favour all manner of unforeseen incidents and meetings and material assistance, which no man could have dreamt would have come his way.

Not infrequently in life, the momentous decision to commit that life requires of us, in order to trigger Providence moving with us, is the decision to not give up.  To keep going.  Because the fuel powering that decision is called faith.  And faith can move mountains.

 

Dr. Keith Ablow

    

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Why You Can’t Judge YourSELF According to the Lives of Others

Some of my clients are quick to judge themselves—sometimes harshly—when they look at others and see accomplishments or characteristics that they feel they should have been able to achieve or embody.  “We come from similar circumstances and had similar opportunities,” one Vice President of a financial firm told me.  “I must not be putting in the time or effort—or something.”

Not necessarily.  The truth is that no two people have the same life story.  That means that no two people have the same challenges, the same resources or the same path to success.  It really, truly matters whether or not, even in the early chapters of your life story, negative patterns of thought were prompted by troubling events.  It really matters whether or not you had a mentor.  It really matters whether or not your role models met with any unexpected turmoil in their lives.  It really matters whether your parents predicted you would succeed or would struggle.  It really matters whether you perceived yourself to be the smartest of your siblings or the least smart.

Everything matters.  No life is the same as any other.  That’s why it is essential to examine your life story—past and present—and then create a crystal-clear plan for the future.  That clarity requires removing resistors wired into the “software” of your mindset by events and relationships you lived through.

There isn’t a one-size-fits-all way to optimize performance, mood, energy, focus or relationships.  The solution is personal because every person is a unique individual.  That’s why the proper comparison isn’t between your level of success and contentment and anyone else’s.  The proper comparison is between the level of success and contentment you have today and that which you can achieve tomorrow.

Dr. Keith Ablow

    

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“Why Does My Least Favorite Person Keep Appearing in My Life?”

If you haven’t noticed it already, it may be worth wondering whether your least favorite person keeps appearing in your life.  Now, I don’t mean the very same person.  I mean reasonable facsimiles of your least favorite person.  Your second marriage is to the same man, albeit with a different name, as your first marriage.  You start a business with a woman who turns out to be just like the sister you don’t speak to, even though you would have sworn they had nothing in common.

Some people don’t even recognize the similarities, despite having the same intense problems with their least favorite person-people.  I worked with one man who married the same woman not twice, but three times.  Each was controlling, which he found comforting while dating, but stifling once married.  He was shocked when I pointed out they were, essentially, carbon copies of one another.

I worked with a CFO who took four jobs in a row—four—eventually quitting each because she couldn’t stand the fact that the CEO solicited her advice on the direction of the company, then dismissed it.  When we did an inventory of the personality styles of the CEOs, they were nearly identical, even though two were female and two were male.

Here’s the truth:  Your least favorite person-people don’t just appear in your life.  One way or another, you select for them.  Because we human beings have radar for reproducing the most intense relationship dramas we have lived through (especially if they have roots early on in one’s life story), most of us will unconsciously choose to include our least favorite person-people in our lives by, for instance, turning down jobs with other CEOs, turning down second dates with other men or women or turning down ventures with other potential partners.

Flawed dramas are imbued with tremendous magnetic energy.  It may be negative energy, but that doesn’t change the magnetic power.  That’s why people who reproduce the most imperfect dynamics from our past relationships draw us in—until we unearth and SEE the dynamic by looking more deeply at our lives.

Self-defeating patterns and choices only operate underground.  Once the unconscious appeal of toxic relationships becomes conscious—through a process of guided introspection (Pain-2-Power life coaching is a good example)—you are free.  The magnetic energy that brings your least favorite person-people into your life evaporates.

Needless to say, recognizing these patterns and SEEING them for what they are can be life changing.  Imagine the impact of choosing net positive people, again and again, instead of net negative people.  Then, instead of imagining it, get started making it happen (if not via Pain-2-Power then with another life coach, counselor or therapist).

Dr. Keith Ablow

    

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An Instant (well, kind of) Antidote to Hating Anyone

There’s a lot of hate out there today.  I don’t need to tell you where.  You see it and you sense it.

We’re all vulnerable to feeling hatred, by the way—or something bordering on it.  Almost anyone can be wronged profoundly enough to feel it.  Almost anyone can witness wrongdoing to others enough to feel it.

So here’s the antidote:  Every one of the people you might hate or come close to hating has a story that would temper your ill-will.  Every one of them.  No exceptions.  Killers, rioters, looters.  Because human beings are all born with empathy.  There isn’t one baby born into this universe whose DNA codes for destructiveness.  There is no “bad seed.”  There is no original evil left.  Everyone is just recycling pain.

I don’t know Derek Chauvin’s life story, but I promise you this:  No man suffocates another man and watches him die if he has not been spiritually suffocated and metaphorically murdered himself, through events over which he had little control, probably early in life.  If we knew that story I can guarantee it would curl the hair at the back of your neck.  And rather than feeling hatred, I would venture you would feel sadness—at the thought of how vulnerable we human beings are, how very beautiful, yet how exquisitely breakable.

I don’t know the life stories of those who have burned buildings or killed other men and women in the last weeks, but I can guarantee the same:  There are no life stories that do not make sense—even when they make a terrible kind of sense.  There’s no one worth hating because free will is vastly overstated.  Lives that take turns into complete darkness are devoid of free will because psychologically healthy humans are beings of the light.

I tell you this after having interviewed dozens of killers, rapists, thieves and gang members.  I am still looking for one who seemed to have an even marginally acceptable life history.  Those who destroy others have been destroyed themselves.  This is true even for the man who tried to kill me.

There’s a lot of hate out there, but I hope there can be none inside you.  The antidote is staying clear about the fact that the world makes sense and every individual in it makes sense and every act makes sense, once we know all the facts—some of them dating back years or decades, to the childhoods of those among us who have lost their light.

 

Dr. Keith Ablow

    

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Can I Really Believe That “Voice” Telling Me I Have a Destiny?

I have worked with many clients who aren’t at all sure what their calling is.  Often, we find the answer by looking at parts of their early life stories that they have “buried.” Maybe a sincere interest that deserves to be resurrected was initially ridiculed or simply not supported by others.  Maybe a deep desire to become an entrepreneur that has real merit was shaken loose when a devastating business reversal shook one’s family of origin.  Just as often, however, my clients have told me that they “know” what they ought to be pursuing, but don’t quite “believe” it.  They doubt the insistent “voice” that keeps suggesting they really could make a go of a business, that they really could write a screenplay or novel, that they really could go back to school to study the law and make a significant contribution to the field, that they really could market the inventions they’ve sketched out.

Here’s are a few of my key messages about such inner voices.  I hope they help you believe them:

  • Not everyone hears these inner voices (or has these intuitions) about what they could become or what they could accomplish. If you do, they are a gift from God (or the Universe, if you prefer).

 

  • The voices are not random or foolish. They are clues to a path or paths forward in your life.  They may be clues to the path forward.

 

  • You’re not the only one who needs you to listen to your inner voices. We’re all depending on you becoming you—the person you were meant to be from all time.  We need the gifts you can manifest during your life, whether a piece of art or an invention or a scientific idea or a special talent for teaching or a new way of approaching a business or the family you decide to create, even later in life.

 

  • You don’t need to quit your job or invest a fortune or open an art gallery to start honoring your inner voices. Take a step.  One step.  If your intuition tells you that you might be a novelist, then get a book on how to write a novel.  Or write the summary of one.  Or take a class about writing one.  If your intuition tells you that your new idea for delivering health care might be a worthy one, reach out to one person who would know.  Get some advice.  If your intuition tells you that you could make a significant contribution to the law, find out what it would take to study law—maybe at night, maybe over the course of five years.  Just begin.  If your intuition tells you that you could start a company far more transformational than the one you work at, start writing the business case or creating a deck that describes your vision.

It may seem strange to have to say it, but you can believe in yourSELF.  It is the collection and distillation not only of the myriad of events you have lived through in your life, but the entire history of DNA and RNA on this planet (no kidding), manifested in a unique way in YOU and in no one else.

So, get real.  Really, YOU.  And get going—one step at a time.  If you need some help, I’m here.

 

Dr. Keith Ablow

    

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Supplements for Personal Performance ~ Bacopa

One of the gifts from my having built Pain-2-Power is that one focus of the platform is the use of supplements to improve energy, increase mood and decrease anxiety.  There are a number of very powerful, all natural, well-tested supplements that do just that.  This blog will focus on Bacopa, which is also known as Brahmi and is frequently used in the field of traditional Indian medicine called Ayurveda.

Bacopa grows in warm wetlands and is native to Australia and India.  It is said to have been used by ancient scholars to increase verbal memory, in order to memorize hymns and scriptures.

Multiple scientific studies have found that Bacopa seems to improve memory and learning.  It may also increase focus, increase mood (possibly by balancing serotonin levels) and decrease anxiety (perhaps by decreasing cortisol), in age groups ranging from 18 to the elderly.

Bacopa seems to protect brain cells that use the chemical messenger dopamine, which is also related to a sense of well-being.

Bacopa also has anti-inflammatory properties and seems to stimulate the immune system.

Bacopa’s overall safety has been established in multiple human studies.  In one animal study in which rats were given very large daily doses of Bacopa for three months, there were no adverse effects noted.  However, there are some human studies in which gastrointestinal side effects occurred in some people (such as mild diarrhea, stomach upset or nausea).  Pregnant women are advised not to take Bacopa.  It also may interact with some medications, including some antidepressants.  Of course, it is always advisable to review with your physician any supplement you plan to take.

 

Dr. Keith Ablow

    

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A Squirrel in My Backyard

You probably wouldn’t expect to read a piece about a squirrel written by me.  I’ve written most recently about building a vision for one’s business or life, developing a strategy for giving powerful feedback to others and the art of delegating work.  I’ve posted heartfelt thoughts on social media about the turmoil in our nation.  So, where does the squirrel in my backyard fit in?

The short answer is that he fits in because he brings me joy and because I want you to allow room for that in your lives, too.  I’ll get back to working on Pain-2-Power soon enough, and if you make time for the metaphorical squirrel in your life, you’ll get back to your work soon enough, too.

More on Mr. Squirrel (the name I chose for him, or her, not knowing how to tell the gender of squirrels).  He first appeared atop the stone wall that borders my backyard.  I was in the kitchen making coffee, looked out the window and saw him staring right at me.  I stared back.  It turns out it’s hard to look away from a squirrel when he won’t stop looking at you.  He had very big eyes and very cute hands and a majestic tail.  Majestic really is the word.  He may have been thinking any number of things, but I felt he was thinking, “He makes coffee for himself every morning, and if I keep showing up here, he might eventually take a minute to bring me some food.  I’ve seen him get some out of his pantry a hundred times.”

Granted, that’s a complex bit of thinking for a squirrel to do, but it’s what came into my head.  The fact that Mr. Squirrel was making nibbling movements with his mouth drove the point home.  And the very next thought that came to me was that there was a store that sold bird feeders and the like about two miles away.  Then, Mr. Squirrel ran off, leaving me feeling more alone than I had before he arrived.

Later that day I bought a bag of “Squirrel & Critter” food at that store.  Then, I waited for the next morning.  Sure enough, as I was making my coffee, Mr. Squirrel showed up on my wall.  I moved slowly, not wanting to frighten him, grabbed my bag of squirrel food, opened my back door and poured some onto the patio.  Then I closed the door and waited.  A few minutes later, I got my reward.  Mr. Squirrel came within feet of my back door and enjoyed a meal.  We were officially “friends.”

With parts of America ablaze, amidst a pandemic, with my absolute dedication to building a transformational life coaching and counseling platform keeping me up through the night some nights, I realized that life still had unexpected moments of levity and warmth for me.

My morning ritual with Mr. Squirrel has now been repeated dozens of times, with a few twists.  First, one morning I went outside to feed him, poured his little pile food onto the patio, headed back into the kitchen and saw Mr. Squirrel sitting in the kitchen, right in the middle of the floor.  I didn’t know what to do, so I simply said, a bit sternly, “Go!  You need to leave.”  He ran right past me, out the door.  I felt badly, after that.  I really did.  But I couldn’t be that gracious a host.

Second, my executive assistant was kind enough to buy Mr. Squirrel his own little picnic table, since it turns out squirrels will eat at tiny picnic tables.  I do not know how she knew this.  But she did.  So, now, Mr. Squirrel has a proper place to dine.

 

              

 

America is still mired in problems I take to heart.  My life still includes all the challenges it did before I looked out my kitchen window and met a squirrel.  I still join in the hopes and dreams and battles of my clients and take them very much to heart.  But amidst all that, I have a little room for Mr. Squirrel, and that has enriched my days.

Small things matter.  Let yourself enjoy a few of them.  Treat yourself to laughter, lightheartedness and love when you find it.  There’s plenty of time for the quests we will undertake, individually and together.

 

Dr. Keith Ablow

    

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WHAT IS YOUR VISION?

Whether you are running a corporation, starting up a company, sculpting, painting, writing running for office or starting a family, you should have a vision of what you hope to create.  The human imagination remains, for so many people, an untapped—or underutilized—treasure that can not only help you avoid obstacles by anticipating them, but also create a map that helps you “see” the goals you truly want and then actualize them.

One of the truly amazing things about a vision is that it can go viral and inspire others to adopt it and devote themselves to it.  But in order to do that, it has to be authentic for the person who shares it and has to be powerfully communicated.

There are certainly visions that sweep into one’s mind with great force and clarity.  But, more frequently, manifesting them requires dedicated time and introspection.  It will pay tremendous dividends for you to take that time and commit to that thought process.  Just some of the questions you will want to ask yourSELF and “see” the answers to might be:

  • Is the project or path I imagine one that truly merits my time and attention—is it worthy?
  • As I embark on this new project or path, what do I truly want to see it result in? What is my real goal?  What will I define as success?
  • What is the most magical, moving incarnation of this project or path? How can I best strike the balance between not limiting my vision, but not tilting it toward pie-in-the-sky fiction.
  • Since I am likely to need others to actualize the project or path, how can I communicate to them why they should help bring my vision into reality? Why should they devote themSELVES to it?
  • What am I willing to do to achieve my vision? Would I abandon it, ever?  What am I willing to put at risk to achieve it?  Is my risk-tolerance too high or too low?

In order to answer these questions in a meaningful, practical, yet passionate, way, it is absolutely critical to understand the visionary—that would be YOU.  If you have had a tendency to shy away from worthy goals, you’ll need to figure out why.  If you have had a tendency to embrace goals without understanding the arduous steps needed to make them happen, you’ll need to figure that out, instead.  If you have struggled to motivate others to embrace your vision when you need them to synergize with you, there’s an answer to that problem, too.

The likelihood that a vision is expansive enough and achievable is affected at least as much by the person imagining the goal as it is about the goal itself.

Self-examination doesn’t just clarify your internal landscape of thought and emotion; it clarifies the road ahead for everything you wish to manifest in this world.

 

Dr. Keith Ablow

    

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