Have you ever thought: "if I stop comparing myself to others then I'll never improve?" Me too. It makes sense right? The problem with this line of reasoning is that when you try to better yourself by comparing yourself to others, you will always end up finding an area in which you fall short. We tend to see what we are looking for and even if you didn't fall in the trap of assuming others are better than you without checking there's bound to be something another is better than you at.
As a result, you can feel deflated, demotivated and even give up before trying. Even in the best case scenario, you will spend the energy you could have put to good use by improving your skills feeling sorry for yourself instead. It sounds like a losing game doesn't it?
So do yourself a favor: only compare yourself to yourself yesterday, a week ago, last year. And here's the trick: focus on where you have improved, not where you fall short.
In order to create lasting change in your relationship patterns so you can find the love you crave and create the relationship you deserve, you must TAKE RESPONSIBILITY for the way you act and feel. What does that mean?
It is easy to blame others, society or even yourself for the way things are but what good does that do? Does that attitude help get you where you want to be? Chances are it doesn’t.
You are fully responsible for the way you respond to situations. Responsibility means to have the ability to choose your response to what happens rather than behaving automatically without thinking things through based on the conditioning you have received throughout your life. When you focus on yourself and your behaviors with gentle compassion you give yourself a chance to choose your reaction to challenging feelings or situations. In this way, you can work on things you can control without beating yourself up for what you previously did with less awareness. This is how you can get back in the driving seat.
QUESTION: In what ways are you not taking responsibility for your love life?
Even in the most difficult situation, you are half of the picture. What are you doing to allow things to go the way they have always gone ? What part are you playing in the game? If you want to change a situation you need to know what you can do differently rather than hoping others will magically change and make everything better without you doing anything at all.
EXERCISE: Make a mental picture of the person you’re dating exactly as they function today — warts and all — If they never changed, would you still want to be with them in five years?
Answer honestly. You need to stare reality in the face as uncomfortable as it may be.
If you have answered NO you need to ask yourself another question: is what you want to change in your partner a personality trait or is it a behavior?
Character traits (such as shyness for example) are almost impossible to change. If you cannot accept a particular trait in your partner you need to either leave them or accept that you are condemning yourself to a life of misery with them.
If on the other hand, it is a behavior that you want changing, there might be a chance your partner may change but that depends entirely on how much they want to change and how committed they are to making an effort in the right direction.
Basically, people cannot change their traits and can only change their behaviors if they really want to. And if you are spending your time trying to change someone who doesn’t want to because YOU cannot live with it, you are either falling into the category of “fixer” or you are ignoring the fact that you need to leave the relationship because it has become toxic.
Now, I normally don’t like maths but when it comes down to change here’s my winning formula :
(Insight + Behavior Change ) x Repetition = Identity Change = Different Outcome
Also: Intention (to change) + Attention (to old patterns of behavior) = a capacity to catch yourself when you are about to repeat old behaviors which leads to – Choice to do something different.
Here’s a breakdown:
To start this process I would ask you to get a pen and paper and write or respond to these questions speaking out loud. It’s not enough to just think about them. Thoughts have a way to get lost and keep meandering in our minds unless we pin them down either in writing or through spoken word.
First of all, you need to target the behaviors that hold you back and learn to replace them with new ones:
In order to change you need to be willing to get out of your comfort zone. You need to be willing to be uncomfortable for a while and ’embrace the suck’. Can you bring an attitude of curiosity to the investigation of what you are finding so challenging? You need to make a commitment to stop avoiding difficult stuff and just face it.
Finally, you need to have a good idea of where you are going and why. If you just keep on thinking about what you don’t want that’s what you’ll keep on getting.
Once you do the work you are on your way to better relationships. Remember that this is a process that requires constant practice and commitment. Like getting physically fit requires you to exercise every day at the gym you need to keep going to achieve and maintain your goals. There are no quick fixes in life but the reward is worth it! Focus on that and you will reap the fruits of your hard labor so you can find the love you deserve.
More about relationships:
In the last article we looked at the main dysfunctional relationship patterns people get into:
Now let’s have a look at why do we repeat these patterns
You may think why would I be afraid of having a good relationship? It makes sense that I would be avoiding a bad one but a good one? The answer is that openness and joy, actually make us feel more vulnerable than we may feel it is safe to be. Positive emotions potentially expose you to rejection and pain which can be a terrifying prospect especially if you’ve experienced heartbreak before. So in a good relationship, you may feel terrified and anxious and therefore avoid it at all costs.
Intimacy can be defined as a desire to know and care for the another in a way that is mutual as well as the ability to be vulnerable and trust one another. If you are stuck in the same relationship patterns you may have learned to be pretty independent and self-sufficient as a result of the fact that you feel nobody else will care for you or meet your needs. Perhaps somebody badly betrayed you or something hurtful struck you down and now you cannot trust, as you are scared you may not survive another blow.
Denial is a defense mechanism that your mind has produced to defend you from the possible threat of facing something that could destroy you. If something is so upsetting that it threatens to overwhelm or destroy you then your mind will push it away and repress it. When you are in denial you are not in touch with your need for intimacy (to be close and to trust others). You may hardly ever have had your needs met so you don’t even remember you have them. If somebody asked you what you were looking for in a partner you may answer simplistically. You may be stuck in a fantasy. Or you may be focussed on a checklist of items that have nothing to do with your emotional needs. You cannot even imagine what it would be like to be treated well or to be happy in a relationship.
When you are in denial of old feelings you may not be aware that you are in fact angry and your anger may have turned in on yourself.
You could be unaware of a deep old sadness. It could be that the original experience that caused you to be wounded has happened so long ago that you can’t even remember it. Or it could be that the experience is too painful to be recalled. The sadness you feel now is the old sadness revisited.
This is when you don’t want to look at yourself and you avoid taking any responsibility for what went wrong in your past relationship/s and instead blame your partner or others. By refusing to ask what you could have done differently and not learning the lesson you are bound to repeat similar mistakes in the future.
If you are impulsive you will just jump into a relationship without thinking much of the consequences in advance. You may feel uncomfortable with feeling bored or lonely, sad or angry and you just want to jump into action. Alternatively, you may be afraid of thinking too much of the situation if you find something wrong and then you have to deal with the inevitable disappointment. This way you may end up with similar kind of partners because you have not taken the time to go slow and properly vet your potential partner.
You tend to get into relationships marked by emotional highs and lows. You may come from a home where there was a high of emotion or conflict. You may be afraid that a good relationship equals too much stability and that means boredom and therefore emotional death. You may feel addictively drawn to relationships that you know are not good for you and that you know will not work. If you already use drugs or alcohol to self-medicate or you use other addictive behaviors to cope with life in general your dependency in relationships may be just another way that your impulsive coping style gets manifested.
Sometimes it is our deeply held beliefs – which are the foundation for all behavior – that are holding you back.
Do you believe that a relationship will permanently change the way you feel, so you’ll finally be happy? Do you believe that if only you had a relationship you would automatically :
have someone who will be there no matter what
you’ll finally have a gratifying sex life
you’ll be swept away from the mundane realities of everyday life
If so, you are in for a fall! Inevitably you will realize this relationship, like the one before, cannot meet these expectations. You are attempting to use the other rather than relating to them and you are trying to get something so unrealistic from a relationship that you end up disappointed .
If you have deeply negative core beliefs about yourself you may be interfering with your ability to find and maintain a long-term, positive relationship.
Do you believe you are unlovable?
Do you believe you are helpless?
Do you believe a combination of the two?
You restrict yourself to a narrow selection of partners and fail to see the big picture. You may get caught up in non-important details, and not see how a partner may be good for you just because they don’t fit it with your rigid idea of the requirements they should meet.
If you have previously experienced a trauma you may try to gain some mastery over the original traumatic event by putting yourself in similar traumatic situations now and hoping to react differently.
Trauma can be anything you perceive as traumatic, regardless of whether others would find it traumatic.
And finally : Do you believe you can truly change the underlying causes of your behaviour? This is essential if you want to change . In the next article we will deal with how to practically change these patterns.
This article was inspired by the book : Dr Seth Love Prescription. Overcome Repeated Relationship Patterns by Seth Meyers.
Do you keep going out with the same kind of man / woman ? Do you feel stuck in a rut where you keep on repeating the same mistakes over and over again and end up broken-hearted ? Find out what type of “relationship repeater” you are.
In the next article I shall look at what causes these relationship patterns to come about and what to do to move away from them and discover the love you deserve.
This article was inspired by the book : Dr Seth Love Prescription. Overcome Repeated Relationship Patterns by Seth Meyers.
Imagine you are sitting in the middle of a dark theatre. Then suddenly a spot light appears. The only thing you can see is whatever the spotlight shines its light upon. That is your reality. You may think that is all reality but the truth is it is only a fraction of it. You decide where to point the light and wherever you do that’s what you get ! The universe is a mirror of us. Our external reality is a reflection of our internal reality. The world reflects back to you whatever you believe about it and your place in it.
Imagine you are the captain of a ship sailing on the wide open ocean. The crew follows your orders to the letter. You just need to tell it where to go. But instead of telling it where you want to go you keep on telling it where you don’t. “I don’t want to go to Hell Island! it’s full of horrible people there and there is nothing to eat and the weather is terrible all year round! No, I don’t want to go to Hell Island! Please don’t take me there!”
Guess where you end up going ? The crew doesn’t know where else to take you, all they hear is “Hell Island! Hell Island”!
So stop asking for what you don’t want and focus on its opposite: What you do want.
Some people use this simple principle to try to attract to themselves what their ego wants in their life. More money, a better job, a mate, you name it. And although there is nothing wrong with wanting these things, if the request comes from your ego you may end up in trouble when you do get what you asked for. This is because the ego tries to get you ‘stuff’ based on a dream, a fantasy of what getting that stuff will be like. Often we have no idea what that really would entail and it might just be the opposite of what would make us happy !
The other problem is that we often have no idea what we really want, and that’s because the ego has no idea what would satisfy our deeper needs. It hears ideas about money or fame or having children or achievement as the ultimate goals that will bring it happiness and believes the story. The problem is that’s just a story and what makes somebody else happy might not make you happy. The ego doesn’t know what would make you happy. Only your deeper self does. (More on this later, read on)
Many people think that if only they had more money then everything would be ok. There are many problems with this:
What to do instead ? The solution to this conundrum is to surrender to the higher self, the inner teacher, the part of us that is much bigger and wiser than our ego. This inner voice, the inner counsel always knows what is best for us in a way that might even frighten the ego. This is because the ego wants safety at all costs, while our higher self wants our ultimate growth, happiness and freedom to expand out of our comfort zone. You will be most aware of the difference between the ego and the higher self when you have a decision to make.
Your ‘head’ will always counsel you towards safety. Your ‘heart’ will always counsel you towards expansion. Your head tries to keep you small. Your heart wants you to grow. But growing can be scary, because you are entering unknown territory, so if you feel a little scared of what one of the inner voices is telling you to do you might just have tapped into the wisdom your heart.
So listening to your ‘heart’ (or your inner teacher, wise counsel, higher self, sometimes also experienced as God) is the way forward.
But what if you cannot hear the voice of the inner self ? It is hard to listen to the inner voice if you are surrounded by constant distraction and never spend a moment looking inside. Facebook, mobile phones, TVs are pulling our attention away from the inner voice on a regular basis.
If your analytical mind is interfering with the process by distracting you with judgements you need to relax more and pay no heed to its criticisms. It’s just the ego getting scared and trying to protect you from the unknown. You can reassure yourself you’ll listen to it later. But for now pay attention only to the exercise. Drop your judgements and connect to the deeper truth of the present moment.
Follow these steps and you’ll access the most valuable teacher and therapist you’ll ever have. The coach that knows you the best. Remember this is a PRACTICE. You don’t run a marathon by going to the gym once. You need to keep at it and commit until you get the results you want.
Remember, it is never the experiences we have that keep us stuck but the judgements about them. It is the resistance to feeling our feelings. Move into the feeling and trust it has something invaluable to teach you.
For more articles on related topics see
In a previous article, I have explored how our negative core beliefs keep us stuck. If you are not familiar with this I suggest you read “How to get Unstuck” first.
Now before going ahead make yourself comfortable. Take a pen and paper and get ready to do some very valuable work that will make a real difference in your life. Take your time with this. The more you put into it the more you will get out of it.
Ok, let’s get down to work: start by writing down the first restrictive negative belief you want to change. Then proceed with the following steps:
1) On a scale of 1-10, how true does this belief subjectively feel?
2) On a scale of 1-1- how true is this belief in reality? (be as neutral and objective as possible)
3) When does this belief the most emotionally convincing?
4) When does it feel the least emotionally convincing? Take your time answering this question as this will reveal to you what conditions exasperate the issue and what makes it better.
5) What actual evidence do you have for this belief? what supports it? Be realistic and as neutral as possible
6) What actual evidence contradicts and challenges this belief? What evidence is there to show you it might not be necessarily true?
7) What possible advantages are making you want to hold on to it? In what way could this belief be serving you beneficially in some perverse way?
8) What disadvantages are there in holding on to it?
9) Now remind yourself of a circumstance in the past when you had doubts about a belief. Go back to that time and recall what it felt like to experience doubt. How did you know you were doubting your previously firm beliefs? what were you experiencing? what made you change your mind?
10) Recalling and staying with this doubting state start doubting your current belief. Ask yourself those questions again: does this belief really fit with what is truly important to me? In the past, when did this belief interfere with what I wanted to do? What would it be like to be free of this old belief?
11) After rolling these questions in your mind for a while focus again.
Is this negative belief an over-generalization? Is it the result of catastrophizing? Is it just a personal attack against your person or others? Does it label you or others into something fixed? Is it the result of demanding of yourself something unreasonable, such as ‘you SHOULD be or do such and such”?
12) After careful consideration how true does your old belief feel now on a scale of 1-10? Now comes the fun part: relax, take a few deep breathes and close your eyes. Imagine that there’s a furnace somewhere deep inside yourself.
If you really want to permanently destroy that old belief imagine throwing it into that fire and watch it burn away into ashes. Take pleasure in doing this.
13) Now ask yourself: what would be a more helpful and realistic alternative belief to have? State it positively (say what you want not what you don’t want!).
Make sure you are happy with it. Word it in the present tense, as if it was happening now. (i.e. I believe I am good enough as I am, or, I believe I deserve love just as I am)
14) On a scale of 1-10, how true does it feel right now?
15) As you did before ask yourself, when does the new belief feel the least and the most emotionally convincing.
16) Examine the evidence against this new belief? Is there any problem with it? Then find evidence that proves its correctness and usefulness. Write it down
17) Write down any disadvantages there may be for holding this new positive belief. Be as objective as possible
18) Write down all the advantages of holding this new positive belief now.
19) Now go inside yourself again. Recall a time in the past when you felt receptive and willing to learn. Remember what it was like to be open to change and new beliefs. How did it feel? Re-live that time in as much detail as possible. Where in your body did you feel those feelings? What were you telling yourself? Do all it is possible now to achieve that same state again now.
20) Staying with that memory of feeling receptive and open focus on your new belief. How would it feel to accept this new belief? How is it better than the previous one? How different would your life be if you held this new belief as your own? What would you be doing that you were doing before? What could you achieve and overcome that you weren’t able to before? Think about all this and engage with your new belief.
21) Now evaluate your new belief. Do you need to make any changes? Can you improve on it in any way? How good do you feel holding it? On a scale of 1-10, how true does it feel now?
Now decide to take some action. What can you do differently right now, today, as a result of having acquired this new belief? If you truly believed in it, what would you do differently? Set yourself a task based on this belief being true and decide what action you would take.
Start doing things differently right now so that your new belief gets empirical support and you experience it in your life. This way it gets verified, enhanced and supported and therefore embedded in your new behavior patterns.
Have fun with it, experiment and watch your life change and feel great as a result!
This is what I happen to believe. Read through if you like, and compose your own list.
I believe in giving people a fair chance.
I believe in taking responsibility for my well-being.I believe in being honest and true to myself.
I believe that the most difficult, painful and challenging experiences life throws at us can end up being
the most enlightening rewarding and meaningful.
I believe that being different although not easy is something to celebrate as a blessing.I believe in the power of laughter to help us lift us from tragedy.
I believe that an enormous amount of wealth lies in reading and learning. I believe sometimes the best thing you can do is switch off and have a good night sleep. In the morning new solutions and insight may come.
I believe in learning to let go of the need to always having to “do something”.
I believe that most problems come from tension and not giving ourselves permission to relax.
I believe that believing in myself is the best investment I could ever make.
I believe that there is no such thing as failure, only feedback. No success is ever possible without making mistakes. What’s important is to listen to the feedback.
I believe genius is not something we are born with but something we make with practice, dedication and determination.
I believe that not letting people get to me is sometimes hard but essential.
I believe in learning to let go of whatever is bothering me by first expressing my feelings and then examining my thoughts and gaining perspective.
I believe in not paying too much attention to those who do not have other people’s best interest at heart. To do so would impair my faith in humanity.
I believe in choosing to listen to the part of myself that encourages me and not to the part of me that wants to put me down.
I believe in expecting the best and accepting the rest.
I believe there is nothing wrong with people who do not like me. The fact they don’t tell me more about them than it does about me. They might have something to teach me, or they might have something to learn. You cannot please everyone all the time…
I believe in allowing myself to like what I like without shame. I believe in not denying myself the things I feel attracted to, no matter what others may think of me as a result.
I believe in making time for fresh air, social interaction and being creative.
I believe in self-reflection as a path to self-healing.
I believe that focusing on things we are grateful for is the key to happiness.
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We all know what we don’t want: we don’t want to get fat, smoke, be unfit, be lonely, ill, stressed poor or unattractive. But when we focus our attention onto what we don’t want we create a mental image of what we are trying to get away from and actually end up attracting exactly that which we are trying to avoid.
This is because our subconscious does not understand “negative” language. The classic example is someone asking you not to think of pink elephants. What are you thinking about? Our society is based on negative language. We tell our kids not to touch this or that, we tell them not to do this or that and what do they do? exactly that very thing. This is because our subconscious is a goal striving mechanism: tell it what to do and it will get you there somehow, so instead of telling it what you don’t want, tell it what you do!
Because we are not used to doing this, you can start with what you don’t want, then ask yourself: what do I want instead of this?
If your parents always wanted you to be a doctor and you are going through with your studies because you want to make them proud or you don’t want to disappoint them you are not going to be truly engaged with your goal and sooner or later you are going to become unmotivated.
In other words: if you are trying to live up to another person’s expectation or the idea of you, you are going to subconsciously resist this in some way and you will eventually sabotage yourself because you don’t really want what you think you want.
It is important therefore that you examine in detail what is truly important to you, quite apart from what others may want for you or think you should be. If you do not do this your goals will be influenced by their opinions, be that your peers’ your family’s your spouse’s the media or such things.
You need to care enough about your goal in order to have enough energy to push through the inevitable challenges along the way. Let’s face it: nothing is easy and every goal requires determination in the face of difficulties. So why waste energy ‘trying to’ be or get something you don’t truly want just when you would have much more energy putting all your efforts towards achieving something that truly gets you excited?
If you want to build a house you first need to imagine what it looks like. Then you need to make a drawing of it and only later will the details come in. If you can’t picture the house you cannot build it. The same is true for other goals.
If you are one of those who believe you have no imagination think again: everyone can daydream; you did it throughout your childhood whenever a boring teacher went on about something you didn’t care about. Talking about what you want with a friend or writing about it will help you ‘see’ it more clearly in your ‘mind’s eye’. When you do this, use the present tense, as if the goal has already been achieved and think of how you will feel when you do as if you already did: this will make you connect to the emotion behind it which will be the motivating motor behind your actions.
Be specific: specify what you will see, hear and feel when your goal is achieved. The more vividly you can do this the more compelling and possible your goal will be. This is because the imagination is the language of the subconscious and images speak louder than a thousand words. When you imagine the desirable things you want as if you already have them this will give you positive feelings about your goal and it will provide you with an emotional pull to achieve it. If you are vague your actions will be vague and you won’t get anywhere.
Don’t say something like “I want to be happy”. That is not a goal, it’s a feeling and you are already in charge of how you feel if you accept responsibility for how you respond to what happens to you. Instead, think about a specific and measurable goal in terms of what will be in place when you achieve it because this will give you an indication of when you have achieved it and it will help you notice any aspects of the goal that needs to be adjusted.
After you have done the above and you are feeling really good about it, step out of it and think about the first step you need to take to begin the process of making your goal come true.
If you don’t put a specific date on your goal you will be more likely to put it off and deal with something “more urgent”. Don’t be vague and say “next year” or you will be telling your subconscious that your goal will always be a year in the future. Instead, use an actual date so that as time goes on you will be able to see yourself getting closer to it and it will motivate you to put in the effort to make it come true.
They say: be careful what you ask for in case you get it! So think about what comes with what you want. If you want to set up your own business are you aware of all the time you will need to put in, in order to make it successful? You need to be aware of all the consequences of achieving your goal such as the effects on your health, your relationships, and the wider community so you can make the changes necessary to avoid unwanted side effects.
Your unconscious is better aware than your conscious mind about possible pitfalls that may stand in your way and since its language is emotion rather than reason ask yourself how you feel when you think about your goal: do you feel energized and excited or discouraged and tired?
If you don’t feel a hundred percent about it there is probably something you have consciously overlooked or ignored so pay close attention and be honest about what you find.
If you feel overwhelmed by how big your goal is you need to ‘break it down’ into achievable chunks otherwise you’ll get discouraged and are more likely to give up. If this has already happened you probably have lost a bit of motivation. If this is the case first shift your attention fro what you need to do to get there to how great it will be when you have achieved it. Then break down the goal into smaller steps. Each step is a mini-goal in itself and you can feel good when you complete it. Celebrate every small victory and give yourself a small reward every time you achieve a mini-goal.
If you are unsure of what the next steps need to first imagine the goal as if you already had achieved it. Then ask yourself: what conditions need to be in place in order for this to be able to happen? Work your way back through time until you get back to the first step you need to take. Put the work in; the more you put in the more you get out of this process. Get started now.
Most people don’t know what they really want and so they avoid setting goals altogether. But think about it: If you don’t put in the time and effort to find out what you really want you will never get anywhere. When you don’t set any goals you’ll just drift reacting to what life throws at you. Or even worse others will set goals for you and you’ll just go along with them. This is a recipe for feeling unfulfilled, vulnerable and lost.
If you don’t know what you want you can try either one of the following approaches:
1) Ask a friend to ask you: what’s important to me in a career? what’s important to me in a relationship? continue for each area of your life. Tell your friend to keep on asking you even when you think you have discovered what you value the most because often the most motivating values you have are the most unconscious or least obvious.
2) Experiment and try out different experiences. Pay attention to what you enjoy and what you don’t. Ask yourself what it is about each experience that you really liked. This will give you an idea of what you really value, what excites and motivates you and who you really are.
Persist and remember: there is no failure until you give up!
You may also be interested in this article on how to be more confident.