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8 Brutally Honest Truths You Need To Hear If You Want To Get It Together

No matter how much we believe we have it together, life carries many harsh truths, and no matter how much we may wish to run away from them, it is only through accepting them that we can take full responsibility for our lives.

You may be aware of some of these already, but for the rest, I’m willing to be the blunt bastard that tells them to you. You may hate me today, but you’ll thank me tomorrow.

For the record, this isn’t meant to be a pessimistic rant about how tough life is. It’s meant to motivate you to take action armed with this knowledge.

Here are 8 brutally honest truths you need to hear if you want to get it together:

1. You’re Going to Regret How Much Time You Spend on Social Media

Social media is amazing, and I’m as addicted to it as you are. But social media is also making us all more disconnected than we’ve ever been before through the illusion of increased connection. Yes, we are able to communicate with thousands of people with ease, but with what depth?

Social media is robbing way too many of us of real connection and real life experiences. Rather than looking at the world as we walk somewhere or ride public transit, we regress to what the digital world has to offer. If our addiction level stays the same, things could become really scary, and this doesn’t even take into account the potential repercussions of so much exposure to technology.

2. Your Reactions Are the Problem

Yes, shit happens. And quite often that shit really sucks to have to go through or deal with. But regardless of how challenging something is, it’s always our reaction to it that will dictate how much it is going to impact our lives.

You decide how much, and for how long, getting cut off on the highway is going to piss you off, and you decide how much someone’s poor opinion of you is going to make you shell up in insecurity. Let your natural reactions happen, but then consciously choose how long you want to let them impact everything else.

3. The Riskiest Thing You Can Do Is Avoid Risks

Whether or not you consider yourself a risk-seeker, there is nothing more risky than complacency. I’m not suggesting that you cannot get to a point where you are truly happy with your life and therefore simply want to sustain that lifestyle, but I’m suggesting that never taking any risks is about as dangerous as it gets.

Stop playing small if you know you want to play big, and stop telling yourself “this is good enough” if you know deep down you would love to do, create, and have so much more. The cost of taking that risk is your long-term happiness.

4. You Should Always Have Enough Money for What Matters

“I would love to attend that seminar or buy that course that can change my life, but money is too tight right now.” As true as that may be, you should always have more than enough to do the things that really matter.

The biggest obstacle is the way we instead spend it on the things that don’t. We don’t process buying a $7 premium coffee daily as an investment in nothing, but we do overthink and see spending a couple hundred dollars on something life-changing as too much. I’m not suggesting we start spending recklessly, or never treat ourselves, but rather that we do reassess how we currently spend our money.

5. People Are Going to Hate You No Matter What You Do

You can try and people please your entire life, but no matter what, some people are always going to dislike you. So rather than wasting your time trying to match what you think is the most acceptable, spend that time accepting exactly who you are.

6. Blaming Only Makes You Weaker

In the moment, to unjustly direct blame towards a circumstance or other person may seem relieving, but in the long term it really takes its toll. The less you take responsibility for your actions and decision making, the weaker you become mentally.

Taking responsibility may come with some immediate repercussions, but over time, it builds a life founded on honesty, and it strengthens your ability to tackle challenges when they do arise.

7. People Don’t Think of You as Much as You Think They Do

From our perspective, the whole world revolves around us, but there are 7 billion people who see it the same way. While we are not all inherently selfish or self-obsessed, we are all far more concerned with how we are perceived by others than how we perceive them.

So once again, embrace your true self and find peace in knowing that people are too concerned with themselves to give you as much as attention as you think they are.

8. Not Even the Perfect Relationship Is Going to Complete You

I have close friends whose long-term romantic relationships I not only admire, but also hope to one day experience. But even they, who seem to have found “the one,” recognize that true happiness comes from within and can never be filled in by another.

Relationships are an extension of our happiness and not the basis of it, so focus on strengthening the one with yourself and all of the others will follow accordingly.

Previously published by Thought Catalog at http://www.thoughtcatalog.com


How to Stop Being a Victim and Start Creating Your Life

“In the long run, we shape our lives, and we shape ourselves. The process never ends until we die.  And the choices we make are ultimately our own responsibility.”  ~Eleanor Roosevelt

“They” say things happen at the “right” time. For me hearing a presentation, live, by Jack Canfield, came at the perfect time.

I was in San Diego, the traveling babysitter for my precious 5-month old granddaughter, while my daughter attended a nutrition conference. It was an all around win-win situation—a new place to sightsee and of course spend quality (alone) time with baby Rachel and daughter Penina.

When I found out Jack Canfield was the final key speaker, I jumped at the chance to attend. And the topic certainly resonated with me—“getting from where you are to where you want to be.” Now how’s that for someone in transition working to carve out a new path!

There were a lot of takeaways, fabulous ideas to hold onto; so much so that I’ve been carrying around his book, The Success Principles, and studying it since I got home.

One thing that really speaks to me is this idea of taking 100% responsibility for one’s life.

As a society, we are so quick to assign blame and pull out all the excuses as to why something did or did not happen.

All the “He made me, she made me….” finger pointing. There’s a reason why “the dog ate it” became such a classic excuse.

We relinquish all power when we go there. Where are we in this? I know that by nature many of us are passive recipients of life and are at the mercy of what befalls us.

In my workshops with parents on teaching responsibility, many are stuck or love acting in their role as helicopter parents, swooping down to save, rescue, and do all for their kids—all under the guise of, “The more I do for my child, the better parent I am.”
And therefore what are we teaching our kids when they come in to class and tell the teacher, “My mom forgot to pack my lunch”?

Then there’s the parent who comes ranting to school, “Don’t suspend my little Stevie for calling Andy names and hitting him in the playground; his sister does that to him at home, it’s no big deal.”

We are facilitating the perpetuation of an entitled breed of human beings.

In my practice as a therapist, clients would talk for years about being stuck because of what their dysfunctional nuclear families did to them.  “My mother did this, my father that…”

And then of course there’s me. What comes all too naturally for me is my quick ability to find fault with others, to pass judgment and criticize.

Who is to blame—why, my mother of course, queen of “judgmentalism.” I fight against these tendencies constantly.  But they do rear their ugly head often enough.  I guess it’s in my bloodstream. I’m aware of it; I work at it. I know where it comes from; therefore that explains it but it certainly does not excuse it.


This is my problem, my issue. What matters is how I handle it and work to respond differently—to catch myself while it’s doing its internal dance before it parts from my lips.

Not owning up to our actions—this takes away our part in doing anything different. We simply remain stuck while we continue to complain and feel miserable in our status quo of negativity.

We don’t have to worry about any discomfort of stepping out and trying on any new responses in this place.

There is no disqualifying the hurts and pain of the past. Our past, along with its inevitable issues and problems, contribute to who we are.

But we can go beyond the pain of our “stuff” and create new and good lives despite….

But we first must take charge of ourselves and decide we are capable of doing, being, and acting differently. We have to decide it’s up to us and not pass along our power to the blame and excuse game.

Assigning blame and making excuses keeps us victimized. We don’t have to do anything different because it’s not about us; it’s about someone or something else. We’re simply the recipient.

We may in fact be the recipient of external forces outside our control, but we have the control over our reactions and responses in what we do and how we handle it.  

Ah, but beginning to look at ourselves and our responses might shake us up a bit. It means we might have to make a move, do something different, or try something new. That can be scary.

Steps to take to begin taking responsibility for our life:

1. Decide you’re going to take on this new way of thinking. It is a different mind-set.

2. Make the conscious decision that it’s up to you.

3. Read some great books (or audio tapes) out there on this idea—by Wayne Dyer, of course Jack Canfield, and Eckhart Tolle. I recommend Madeline Levine’s The Price of Privilege.

4. Pick one thing and decide you’re going to respond differently—for example, when you’re stuck in traffic, decide you’re going to have a different response. Instead of getting all worked up, take some deep breaths and relax back into your seat with some good music on.

5. Put a visual Stop sign up in your mind when you feel yourself becoming defensive and ready to blame.

6. Apologize for something sincerely without attaching any “and” or “but” to it. “I’m sorry I raised my voice, but I couldn’t help it.” The “but” disqualifies the apology. Take responsibility for the reaction of yelling.

7. Take an action step, however small or inconsequential it may seem, toward something you want to attain.

8.  Empower yourself with “I can” and “I will” statements. “I can give this talk.” “I will write this paper.” Then the juices start flowing and we rev ourselves up with positive energy.  (Possibly some fear, too, but we will push through that.)

The internal stop sign goes up with the “I won’t” and “I can’t,” and we cut ourselves off from any creative or out-of-the-box thinking that might yield some unexpected, “Yeah, I can do this.”

9. Adopt the attitude, “change begins with me.”

10. Step outside your comfort zone. Try a different behavior or response to a familiar scenario. If you’re always running late in the morning madness and snapping at everyone in frustration, you can try getting most things ready the night before; try getting up earlier to get ready first; or decide to infuse yourself with some quiet time while everyone else is still sleeping.

This type of thinking and acting isn’t always easy, and it can feel like it’s too much effort, but becoming proactive in creating the life you want will yield tremendous results. You don’t need that big new happening to occur; you’ll see and feel it in the small changes. Those will be the stepping stones to continue onward.


8 Mind Shifts That Can Trigger Success & Happiness


As much as our lives may be impacted by our circumstance, I’m a firm believer that they are far more influenced by our attitude. While we may collectively look down upon certain things, you can almost always find an opposing, positive stance to pretty well everything.

Take a rainstorm, for example. Most would find it annoying, gloomy, and/or unfortunate, but others (such as a farmer) would consider it something to be happy, relieved, and/or excited about.

With so much of our experience being within our control, why do so many of us continually choose to take such pessimistic and negative views towards things? Here is a list of 8 mind shifts that I personally feel could be the keys to finding the always sought-after success and happiness:

(NOTE: Of course there are certain experiences that will be far more difficult to apply these mind shifts to, but this list is more of a friendly reminder to be applied wherever possible.)

1. Comparison vs Support

There are over 7 billion of us on this planet. That’s an awful lot of people to potentially compare yourself to, and thanks to social media, doing so has never been easier. Rather than continually measuring yourself up against others (and secretly hoping that they fail), why not make the mental shift to wish success upon them instead? They are human just like you, with their own set of challenges and hardships, and likely would love to succeed at particular things as much as you would. What’s more, they probably find something equally enviable in you, so why not share your knowledge between you and help each other reach your goals?

2. Past vs Present

As traumatic or wonderful as our past may be, it likely has little to no impact on the present moment. So rather than continually dwelling on what was, live in what is, and work to make it better and/or even more memorable.

3. Know-It-All vs Perpetual Student

In my opinion there is no greater roadblock to success than being stubborn in a particular view. It’s great to feel passionately about your beliefs, but it’s another to hold to them so strongly that you refuse to even listen to the other side. The world is filled with lessons and knowledge to learn, and what better way to benefit from this than to accept that you will forever be a student to life? You can always learn, grow, and evolve, provided you stay open to the possibility.


4. Blame vs Take Responsibility

Whether it be another person, unforeseen variable, or circumstance, there is almost always something we can at least partially attribute or blame for everything that happens. But I believe that a key to my own happiness has been a willingness to take responsibility for things rather than continually look for ways to get myself off the hook. Just as we are so readily willing to take responsibility for anything awesome, why not take the same responsibility for our shortfalls? How good the honesty feels might surprise you.

5. Talk vs Do

It’s easy to sound important, but it’s far more difficult to actually be important. One key factor of success is embodying the courage that actually acts upon ideas rather than simply speaking about them.

6. Wait vs Attack

The world will most certainly always throw you curveballs, but that isn’t reason enough to simply sit back and let life happen to you. If you want something, hungrily go after it! Even if it doesn’t pan out, at least you found out firsthand, and if it does, you’re probably that much closer to the success and happiness you seek.

7. Resent vs Forgive

We’ve all had terrible things happen to us, and begrudging whoever it involves, even years later, may seem natural. But what’s the point? Do you really care so much that you will happily allow it to ruminate in the back of your mind, day after day, weighing you down? Why not accept it for what it was, mentally forgive whoever it involves, and focus on what you have in front of you right now?

8. Follow vs Lead

We may not all desire to lead others, but at the very least we should desire to take leadership over our own lives. Choose to always be in the driver seat of your life; go after what you would like to accomplish yourself rather than waiting for someone to do all of the hard work and then leading you by the hand.


4 Ways to Beat Stress, Lose Your Guilt, and Be Happier

Research-based strength training for your emotions.

Frustrated because you can’t get what you want? Has someone turned you down for a date, a work request, or just a favor? It can be annoying to be blocked from one of your goals. Fortunately, by applying some evidence-based tools of emotional strength training, you can turn down your stress meter and make the best of bad situations.

The cornerstone of emotional strength training is cognitive therapy, in which individuals seeking to overcome depression, anxiety, or problems in relationships build mental toughness by recognizing their triggers and then turning off the switch that might normally lead to a meltdown. One doesn’t need to have a diagnosable condition, however, in order to apply some of these basic principles to improve one’s ability to tolerate life’s setbacks and annoyances.

In cognitive therapy, individuals learn to read and change the dysfunctional inner patterns that lead to sadness, anger, guilt, frustration, and self-hatreds. They detect their automatic thoughts, the instantaneous—almost subconscious—assumptions that rattle around in their heads with no apparent rhyme or reason. When negative, these automatic thoughts take the form of simple phrases like, “nobody likes me,” or “I’m just so stupid.” Automatic thoughts sit there as primes that make you especially sensitive to situations in which others seem to slight you or in which you slip up in some insignificant way, such as forgetting what you were supposed to pick up at the grocery store after you get there.

Underneath the automatic thoughts are the time bombs of dysfunctional beliefs—the actual theories you have about your flaws and foibles. These beliefs might be that you are unlikeable or unlovable, that you’re incapable of doing anything without making a mistake, or that things in your life always have to go perfectly.

Cognitive theory proposes that these automatic thoughts and dysfunctional beliefs wreak havoc on our emotional life. If we didn’t have these negatively-tainted views of ourselves and our experiences, we’d feel a lot better. By changing these thoughts, then, so the theory goes, we can change our emotions.

In therapy, people work with their therapists so that a little bell goes off in their head when such automatic thoughts kick in (“What an idiot I am”). They use those automatic thoughts to drill down to the dysfunctional beliefs that give rise to them (“I must not make mistakes”). Often these thoughts are prompted by a given situation (you accidentally step on someone’s toe). Then you can get to work on changing the belief (everyone is clumsy at times) and the automatic thought will go away or change to something more adaptive (such as, “I was clumsy just now. I wish I hadn’t been, but it doesn’t mean that I’m clumsy all the time, or stupid”).

Even automatic thoughts and dysfunctional beliefs that don’t underlie depression or other conditions can still interfere with your emotional health. This is where the strength training comes into play. By becoming a clear thinker about situations that normally cause you stress, you can improve your everyday mood and self-esteem—and you can turn off your negative emotions no matter which buttons are pushed.

Here are 4 steps that will give you the tools you need to build your resilience:

1. Turn off your binocular vision.

Binoculars help us see the world in clearer detail, but they also make small things seem large. With emotional binocular vision, you look at situations in a way that makes them seem bigger and more threatening than they really are. Getting delayed in traffic by five minutes or running into bad weather that means you get drenched while running to catch a bus can be aggravating. In binocular vision, you see these ordinary daily problems as huge and insurmountable: You’re going to be late on a day you had a lot to get done or your freshly-done hair is ruined. Horrible, right? Turning off binocular vision means that you use your internal listening skills. You’ll hear a thought like, “If I’m late, people will think I’m a slacker,” a thought tied to the belief that you are a slacker. Once you can convince yourself that you are a hard worker, and that others realize you’re a hard worker, the delay will be an inconvenience but not a condemnation of your character. The situation will shrink before your eyes from the worst thing that could happen, and its magnitude will not overwhelm your mood.

2. Recolor your view of the world.

You know the expression, “looking at the world through rose-colored glasses,” the frame of mind that describes an eternal optimist. There are many health and wellbeing advantages to being an optimist. However, optimists aren’t always perfectly adapted to the stresses of the world, either. You may not have the psychological make-up to become an optimist, or at least not do become one overnight, but you can brighten your view of life events so that you’re not always viewing situations in the most negative possible way.

In coping with stress, people can either try to change the situation or their view of it. With situations that can be changed, your coping will be more effective if you actually do something to make the problem go away (“problem-focused coping”). With situations that are immutable, you’re better off changing something within yourself (“emotion-focused coping”).

Let’s say that you’re getting dinner ready for important guests (or one important one). You’re preparing the main dish and realize that you forgot to buy a key ingredient. Frantically, you look around the kitchen but realize that you have nothing at all to substitute for it. You could theoretically run to the store but if you’re running short of time, that’s not an option. How terrible! Your guests will think you’re a terrible host and they’ll never want to see you again! The automatic thoughts just won’t stop and the little problem now becomes the worst possible thing that could happen (that’s binocular vision again).

You can’t actually change the situation so you’re next option is to change the way you view it. Start with some problem-focused coping: Calm yourself down and start to look at what you can realistically do. Perhaps you should go online and see if there are alternative recipes or substitutions you hadn’t considered. And, guess what, there’s another recipe almost like the first one. You plunge ahead with the alternative dish and everyone loves it. It may even be better than what you originally planned.

By taking the opposite, optimistic, takeaway message from such incidents, you can come to appreciate that situations need not conform to your original plans in order to be successful. The change of mindset benefits you.



3. Eliminate black-or-white thinking.

One of the primary cognitive errors that cause people excessive misery or anxiety is seeing the world in distinct terms: A situation is all bad, or all good. Most situations in life involve gradations in between these extremes. A great event may still have a few unfortunate implications, but building your emotional skills requires that you allow those situations to occur.

Consider an event that’s been months in the planning, like a family reunion, vacation, or business meeting. All is going well but then, out of nowhere, two people get into an argument and the mood is soured. After a while, though, the combatants retreat, and all is back to normal. Now, you could think, “This whole event was a disaster! I wanted it to be perfect, and now it’s all for nothing!” Or, you could adopt a shade-of-gray approach and say that the event still went 90% well. Recognizing that the automatic thought, “I have to be perfect,” is caused by the dysfunctional belief that if you’re not perfect, you’re no good, will help you accept life’s imperfections without being demolished by the occasional snafu.

The all-or-nothing approach can also create problems when you engage in the related cognitive problem of fortune-telling on insufficient evidence. In this situation, you start to imagine a future event that hasn’t yet happened and assume that it will turn out badly: “I’d like to go to the party, but I’m sure no one will talk to me. I might as well stay home.” You have no real reason for anticipating this unfortunate outcome. It may stem from your automatic thought, “No one likes me,” which itself stems from the dysfunctional belief, “If everyone doesn’t like me, I’m no good as a person.” With no other data generated by your mind, you draw an inaccurate inference and make yourself miserable in the process.

Instead of making such mood-altering predictions, enter into a feared situation with an open mind instead. If you allow yourself to monitor situations objectively—without assuming that you’re flawed, deficient, etc.—you may be pleasantly surprised by outcomes that validate your self-worth. Combine this with the notion that things aren’t always 100% good or bad, and you’ll be on your way to building reserves that will protect you from unnecessary disappointment.

4. Avoid the blame game.

We all play the blame game now and then, accusing others when it was our own behavior that caused a negative outcome. In emotional strength training, you take responsibility for your actions. If something goes wrong that is your fault (not one that you just imagine to be your fault), you accept the fact without cringing. You own your behavior rather than foist the problem’s cause onto someone else. As a result, people will like you more, not less. They will appreciate your honesty, maturity, and openness to negative information about yourself.

Of course, for the anti-blame game to work, you need to avoid blaming yourself for something you didn’t do. Taking too much responsibility for events going wrong can lead you to endless bouts of self-doubt, making you more likely to predict unfortunate outcomes, see the world through dark-colored glasses, and take an all-or-nothing approach to life’s gray-colored events.

Even thinking in terms of “blame” can create problems: Why must someone be blamed? Why not attribute negative outcomes to the causes that often are the real source of the problem? Perhaps you offered to take your friends out for a weekend afternoon foray to the par or the mall. A tree branch from a truck falls in front of your car, and though you try to avoid it, you get a flat tire. Now you all have to wait for a repair person to rescue you. Where’s the blame to assign? Is it your fault because it was you who invited them, decided to drive, and couldn’t avoid the branch without swerving into another car? No, it was nothing you caused.

Research on cognitive therapy shows that people who become more competent in the skills they develop in cognitive therapy are better able to resist succumbing to experimental manipulations of negative moods (Strunk et al., 2013). The results can produce a lifetime of lighter moods.

Strunk, D. R., Adler, A. D., & Hollars, S. N. (2013). Cognitive therapy skills predict cognitive reactivity to sad mood following cognitive therapy for depression. Cognitive Therapy And Research, doi:10.1007/s10608-013-9570-z

Jul 30, 2013

Susan Krauss Whitbourne, Ph.D. 2013