I’m the Head Gardener Here

Transformation of Lime Butterfly

At this time of year, I find myself dreaming about spending time in my garden, feeling the warm glow of the sun, and tending to new growth. A little fertilizer here, a little tiny prune there. I developed my love of gardening with my mother. It is where we spent time together bonding. Years later she is gone, but her love of gardening lives with me. Whether we have to or not, we all grow and evolve, don’t we?

“There is nothing like returning to a place that remains unchanged to find the ways in which you yourself have altered.” ― Nelson Mandela

Are you the same person today as you were five years ago? Unlikely. We are all more capable today as a result of learning and growing through experience and education. We learn valuable lessons from our mistakes. We plan our days as well as our future. Okay, perhaps I am wrong. Maybe in some ways, we can stay just as we are, at least in the privacy of our minds. Is this desirable? Is not having to change more important than being happy, healthy, successful, well-adjusted individuals with significant relationships?

So what’s the point of change, growth, development, and evolution, anyway? Things begin to clarify when we consider these concepts firmly. Consider. Are we consistently fruitful and happy? Of course, we all have our moments that are somewhat challenging, but the answer is universal. In fact, it is impossible to be consistently successful, well-adjusted and happy all of the time. Life fluctuates, and we move right along with it if we are wise.

If we charted our experiences and emotions, they would reflect any stock market chart. Hey now that is a matter for a different blog, but the stock market does, in fact, take into account public sentiment – how confident we feel toward the market at any given point in time, and it is always fluctuating up and down. However, back on point. If we were to always experience the same emotion to the same degree, we would eventually lose that feeling. We would be unable to maintain it, and we would begin to feel something else, like a loss of that emotion, such as disappointment, sadness, or confusion. At best we would experience and emotional “flat line.” No shame or disappointment, but no joy, optimism, or happiness either.

We can experience one emotion because we have experienced the other emotion. The one that counters the first; one that is somewhat different that balances us. Consider emotions to live on a dichotomous scale. Emotions then are always a relative experience. The fact that yesterday I was worried and confused is – in part – the reason that today I feel confident, focused, and creative. In fact, if you experienced an exhilarating day yesterday, you might experience a bit of a lull today. It is a natural evolutionary process of nature.

Today’s emotions give rise to tomorrow’s experiences. I only know the degree to my happiness today because I remember how bewildered I felt yesterday. We can actually “find ourselves” by making a conscious decision to change. If you are not happy with something about yourself – say you are still a smoker and hate that fact about yourself – when you are ready and decide that it is time to become a better person, you start feeling happier. If you realize that success and happiness might just be experienced more frequently by those who are disciplined – you can begin to struggle and practice with becoming more disciplined yourself. It is likely going to be a struggle, but hang in there and maintain your focus on your ultimate goal until you get over the fight.

You have heard the story about two wolves who meet in the woods, one black one white. They engage in a fight. Which one wins? The answer, if you know the story, is the one that you feed! The wolves are merely a metaphor for our inner struggles. Which wolf will you feed and nurture inside yourself – the smoker or the non-smoker; disciplined or carefree? You decide.

The point that I want to clarify today is that we have been the ones who have chosen all along. We were the ones who fed and nurtured one wolf over another the whole time. We might have been lacking a degree of conscious awareness about it, but then that too is a major component of my message. The more aware we can become the clearer our decisions can be. If we are unhappy, dissatisfied or irritated in any way, we can decide to change, grow, develop, and evolve. However, only to the degree that we are clear and aware.

The day you decide that you are more interested in being aware of your thoughts than you are in the thoughts themselves – that is the day you will find your way out. Michael Singer

The gardener thinks, plans, and creates strategies for a garden long before it comes into existence. A gardener sows seeds and provides homes for baby plants according to a blueprint and then just cares for them as they mature into individually beautiful plants, finally displaying a very charming garden. Growing seasons come and go, showing up with a smile, only to wither into a peaceful slumber. The season has not died or ceased to exist. It merely naps, changing form slightly and allowing what was there last season to show up all over again. This time bigger and better than ever before.

“Dare to love yourself as if you were a rainbow with gold at both ends.” ― Aberjhani

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Perfecting Our Process

Perfecting-Your-ProcessWhen I was younger I spent time with friends in the evening and on weekends in a gym. We worked out hard with weights. I attempted to “beef up.” I was rather skinny as a kid. It was a great past time as well as a social event. Eventually, I took up jogging and participating in 10K races in and around my home. During the warmer months, I went fishing and hiking with the guys on weekends, which eventually gave way to golf. From my teenage years, I had always practiced meditation on and off. Mostly off to be honest, but as I got older that too has become more important to me.

I have often said we would be better off if we would “stop trying to be perfect,” and instead, work on “perfecting our process!” For professional athletes (though perhaps referred to slightly differently), perfecting your process is a practice or routine that when implemented, prepares the athlete for high-level competition. It refers to how they train, exercise, eats, sleeps, gets support, prepares mentally, etc. If you are not an athlete, “perfecting your process” is still a discipline, a collection of activities or rituals that you practice, that, similarly, prepares you for high-level performance. This is true for our personal and our professional lives.

Perfecting our process involves discovering a few enjoyable or interesting activities that we can practice regularly, making into a discipline. Okay, I’ve said that. Many of us run, work out, meditate, visualize, give ourselves pep talks, work with coaches. All these activities are aimed at putting us into the most amenable state of mind possible, our personal “flow zone.” This might also be called “mind management.” In a few other words, it’s seeding our subconscious.

Whether your personal competition refers to corporate communications, relations with extended family members, kids, spouse, dates or work-related colleagues, a regular training session with your Psychologist or coach might just help you to focus your attention on your most applicable strengths and remind you where your weakness need to be avoided. You can call this a strategy session, a counseling session, training or simply preparation, but the upshot is your personal process gets improved. Personally, I enjoy the process of meditation as it provides me with the opportunity to pay attention to the quality of my mind, and normally calms and assists me to focus, but running still contributes, as does the reading, writing a little, golf, etc.

Stop trying to be perfect! You may succeed from time to time, even often, but it may also give you anxiety, ulcers and you will not really be performing at your best anyway. Take a lesson from sports psychology. A professional athlete trains hard but also gives herself recovery time. It’s mandatory unless you want to burn out or don’t care about really getting the best out of yourself. Pat Perez, a longtime PGA golf professional, personified this concept by winning the 2016 OHL Classic at Mayakoba on the Mexican Riviera. Pat said that a shoulder surgery had “forced” him to take a break that he would not have taken otherwise. Because of the break, you might say that Pat’s subconscious had been tuned up. He was fresh, eager, hungry and that added to his already strong golf acumen. The rest is history.

If you have a deep desire to excel, love what you do, maintain a degree of ambition, or a strong work ethic, you may also have a tendency to push yourself too much. Pushing is great, but mandatory recovery time only makes sense, to adequately prepare your mind and emotions to achieve at your very best. My advice to athletes is to find a rhythm of push and rest, push and rest, push and rest. My advice to anyone else who wants to perform at their best is to also find a rhythm for yourself. A process that prepares you to meet the challenges of your life. That’s the general look and feel of “perfecting your process.”

The specific mechanics of “perfecting your process” is unique, for each individual will have a different competitive focus. Strengths and weaknesses are unique for each one of us. To be clear, I am still referring to a “process” that you engage in, a ritual practice or discipline. One that focuses on continuously trying to be aware of yourself (your mind or emotional energy) and your own habits. When you’re feeling charged up emotionally it is time to push yourself and your efforts, just like Pat Perez did. When you have been pushing yourself for the day or for any extended period, there comes a point when it’s time to give yourself a moment to recover and rejuvenate yourself.

To illustrate, say I know that I have a tendency to anger easily, curse, insult or generally push others away. It eventually comes to my attention that these automatic responses have been in my way of developing into a better leader, and I have a great desire to improve my leadership abilities and to more effectively influence others. “Perfecting my process” means, in this situation, that I need to change or do something different, right?

So, my process begins when I become aware of my weakness, and should continue by cultivating a greater awareness of my related strengths, which I can use to replace my weakness. My process should continue to include a way to continuously cultivate a greater detailed awareness of my weakness’ “trigger points,” which are normally stress-related. This greater detail will help me to refine my efforts.

I’m not always angry. But I should be aware of those specific situations that do tend to anger me. Then moving forward, strategizing about how to best perfect my approach allows me to focus more on letting my strengths show and avoiding those times and situations that otherwise demonstrate my weakness. This is often accomplished through rest and recovery. Refine my strategy. Consider or analyze, and refine again. Since we do not ever reach perfection, we find ourselves in a continuous “process of refinement” that I like to call “perfecting our process.”

Anytime we can become more aware of the details of how we tend to behave (as in the examples above), we have an opportunity to be able to stop, and redirect our energy onto something more positive or more productive. Say I catch myself starting to feel angry. I begin a quiet little meditation, and voila!

As a result, I may look and feel more credible to others, those whom I may want to influence. The best part is, I start to feel great, confident, happy, well-adjusted, and to have even more very functional relationships. That is an example of “perfecting your process,” and remember, it all started when I was younger, spending time with friends in the gym, jogging, fishing, and hiking, which eventually gave way to golf. Perhaps more important than anything was that I had always practiced meditation.

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Life is Really Turning Around for Us

What’s directing your life? Your short-term urges? Or your well thought out plans?

What’s directing your life? Your short-term urges? Or your well thought out plans?

We all need a plan or strategy for getting ahead in the world, for ensuring our own happiness. In fact, we all have a strategy, whether we go to the trouble of making it conscious or whether we merely allow it to unfold all on its own. Either way, we all have a strategy. What we get in life or how we feel day in and day out, reflects our activities, our daily habits, how we spend our time. We presume our activities will get us what we want. Getting what we want is the same as getting where we want to go, isn’t it? Our desires point us in the right direction, so we’ll end up happy and have achieved. Right?

Well, we all know, or should know, that what we want, our urges, are not the same thing as our goals, things that we put careful thought to. Many of us learned about delayed gratification in our families, or in grade school, college or university. Study and achieve your degree and that results in a happier life than does, say, taking winters off to party and working as a home painter during the summer months.

If we don’t stop to reflect and to plan out what we have to do to achieve our more long-term goals, we’re more likely to end up pushing them further away, substituting them with short-term immediate gratification. By living life spontaneously, just responding to the day-to-day pressures of life, we don’t stop to plan, days come and go, and we wonder why life is the way it is. We develop resentments aimed at those we see who seem to have what we want. But there was a strategy that was carefully considered for them, somewhere along the line. Make no mistake, when I say carefully considered, I am not referring to a moment in time that you were so mad, that you swore to yourself that you would never, ever…….

That’s just not a strategy. It’s not even a poor strategy. What it is, is just a highly emotionally bound declaration, that lacks the very “stuff” which defines a strategy. It lacks a calm, cool mind that can reflect, deliberate and tap into critical innovative thoughts and ideas that foster a future that the most ardent critics would applaud. In a nutshell, it defines only what not to do. We need to have a clear picture of what we should focus on, what we should do, and whom we could commit to. We need a vision or picture in mind that encompasses our relationships, and that suggests an underlying motive.

Conviction, Determination, & Commitment

It is a fact that we all strategize, even if at a subconscious level. A strategy is potent and eventually evolves into fruition. So, making your strategy conscious is what I’m selling here. Without an effort to bring consciousness to it, our strategy gives birth to nothing more than our basest desires – greed, power, lust and – especially today – narcissism. In fact, I’m not certain there is much of a difference between these. Ask yourself, “can any of us really make a determined commitment to maintaining such characteristics and desires?”

I bring these concepts to your attention, because, we should really and seriously consider this, at least for as long as it took me to write it, shouldn’t we? It’s affecting the quality of our lives. I recommend that we create regular opportunities to discuss and reflect. Maybe even give our personal strategies a modicum of respect. If we’re not slowing down, actively gaining control over or deliberately instituting positive goals, beliefs and expectations into our psyche on a regular basis, then maybe, we’re just really living a life of unconsidered habits, evolving in a way that’s being directed by our short-term urges, and not our well thought out plans.

I don’t know about you? But from time to time, I get urges for sugary treats, chocolate, banana splits, and pop. If I allowed my life to be guided by these urges, I’d be obese and suffer from numerous chronic physical illnesses. Long-term well thought out strategy often leads to difficult daily decisions. They represent a discipline. They impact, not just our physical health, but the quality of our business retirement plans, having adequate funds for the momentous event, the number of children to have, concerns about family and friends (whether or not to find a deeper level of commitment to our spouse), leadership succession plans, if you own a business, etc. The difference is obvious, urges can lead us toward obesity, high cholesterol and quite possibly, a life of unhappy struggles. A clear strategy can assist us to experience our dreams.

So is there any good reason why we don’t devote some regularly scheduled time and effort to increasing our level of conscious awareness of our individual strategies?

Let’s get things going in our favor. Let’s make things happen. Let’s change the direction of life so that it’s unfolding in our direction. Let’s experience more joy and better connections. Let’s explore, feel proud of our lives, and of what we’re creating and what we’re contributing. Because after all, we cannot, not contribute.

Just a thought, I hoped you’d appreciate being reminded about.


Career Tips

So you’re working your way up the corporate ladder, when you realize…….your boss – a fairly new member of the “old boys club” – isn’t pulling his weight? What do you do? What can you do about it? How can you get him to pull up his socks?

So you are working your way up the corporate ladder when you realize that your boss – a relatively new member of the “old boys club” – isn’t pulling his weight? What do you do? What can you do about it? How can you get him to pull up his socks?

You consult!

However, truthfully, there may be nothing that you can do unless you already have influence with your boss. Given the predicament, to move forward, accept this potentially real limitation as a fact, then consider a leadership perspective. Ask yourself, not how can I get my boss to change? Rather, ask yourself, how can I handle myself in this situation, to show off my best attributes?

Tip # 1 – To show off your best attributes, you need to know what they are, and the answer is not technical ability. The strengths that compare, in this situation, are interpersonal in nature. Leadership skills.

Tip # 2 – At the core of all great leadership skills, lies safe, healthy functioning relationships. Have them and thrive. Die without them. Alliances – usually the type that has depth and meaning to them – provide a platform to all long-lasting success stories. Infuse strong leadership skills into your relationships. Your efforts often impel a desire to be supportive and helpful from those around you, once you have shared vision for the greater good.

Tip # 3 – Once you have cultivated strong affiliations, your communication needs to be focused and purposeful. Utilize impeccable timing, strategic direction, and an intention to improve authentic business relationships. Taking things just a step further, you can and should create your personal agenda, with a focus to target certain people to get to know better or influence.

Chiefly, my point regarding this dilemma is that you will likely be more efficient, more influential because you have taken the time to nurture and cultivate mutually respectful relationships with others, including your boss. Leadership is not about controlling others, using force or manipulation to make them bend to your will. It is an opportunity to breathe life into the type of person you want to become. Cultivate and nurture your character, and watch the power that others start to give your way.

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Our Personal Best or The Hero Within

To perform at our best tomorrow is going to require more of us than ever before! Whether we’re preparing for a presentation, sitting for an examination, or aiming at exceeding targeted goals, our best simply isn’t what it used to be. Don’t take it personally. Change and competition have become such an important aspect of life, that we have now reached a point in history, which demands greater effort, just to meet yesterday’s standards.

The same effort that has helped us to achieve in the past, is the same effort that will produce only mediocre results today. Carol S. Pearson, the author of the Hero Within, said, “Virtually all of us understand that we are entering a time so challenging that qualities we once expected to find only in exceptional people now are required in everyone.” It is a time for all to recognize and to champion, our “inner resources.

We are more sophisticated now than ever. Just a decade, or so ago, the President of the United States made reference to “the nation’s journey.” Business texts reference leaders’ “heroic journeys.” Today’s Psychology provides therapy that encourages clients to accept the challenges that we have inherited, take up the struggle whatever it is, and create a life worth living. Allow ourselves to evolve, to grow, develop beyond our wildest dreams. These are really the only dreams worth striving for.

Imagine yourself just slightly missing your target and achieving mediocre results. Now contrast this negative emotional image with a positively charged image of you throwing everything you’ve got into your next effort, in an attempt, to not merely meet expectations, but to join the ranks of those who have exceeded them. This must become the image that you see in your mind. Let yourself step up and really engage with the image of struggling to join those who have already made it.

This will push you over the top!

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The Power of Introversion

Reflecting on a critical decision? Doing it alone? Don’t even think about it. Consider a leadership position for yourself and consult with your Psychologist or coach.

Reflecting on a critical decision? Doing it alone? Don’t even think about it. Life is complex. Consider taking a leadership perspective for yourself and consult with your Psychologist or coach.

Engaging your Psychologist in a relevant dialogue can put an incredibly fine point on your outcome. It’s quite possible, for example, that you bring something powerfully pleasing with you whenever you express yourself well. Did you realize this? So set your example, build your reputation by making only great decisions and get noticed as someone who has a successful touch.

Athletes and coaches, entertainers and professionals, know the value of positive “self-talk” – those silent pep talks in the head that keep spirits up and encourage peak performance. Top performers get good at screening out messages that could interfere with their internal pep talk. They concentrate on the task at hand and shut their ears, literally and mentally, to anything else. Rosabeth Moss Kanter

The best way to “shut your ears” to extraneous stimuli and to successfully focus has a great deal to do with self-care. What does self-care imply to you? Personally, an important component for self-care is my ability to calm my body and my mind. I find that practicing daily meditations is critical for sharpening “calm” and for ensuring I remain “innovative.”

To my point about not doing it alone. Meditation is just not something that many of us can see ourselves doing, without thinking that we are wasting valuable time. Self-care may be more meaningful and a way to relieve some of the mental chatter that you have, by setting up that dialogue that I’m talking about. Visit in person, or better yet, make an appointment, sit back and wait to be called. Chatting over the phone is easy and anonymous. Consider. Calm your mind by calming your conversation. And yet another perspective.

“…I also believe that introversion is my greatest strength. I have such a strong inner life that I’m never bored and only occasionally lonely. No matter what mayhem is happening around me, I know I can always turn inward.”
Susan Cain

“Turning inward” can be an incredible advantage to be sure. But ensure that when you do so, you have done your due diligence, consulted a professional, and put yourself in touch with a creative source that deals with emotional concerns every day. Remember that turning inward may assist you to come up with fresh new ingenious ideas, but innovation requires that you find a way to put them into action in your life.

Just think about it

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Please Remember

What’s really important to you at this time of year?

Remember a memory of a time you felt loved. I know that you’ll have so many to choose from, but just select the one for now. Please take your time.

Although you’re incredibly busy at this time of year, remember that you have people waiting for you who love, admire, and adore you. Remember these people. Think about them until you smile.

This experience and these very people are what this season is about.

Happy Holidays,

from all of us at Anton Counseling & Health Psychology

New Perspective on Gratitude

Practice & Develop a Strong Healthy Habit of Gratitude

I’m not a billionaire.  I’m certainly not the financial equivalent of a Tiger Woods or a Bill Gates. Despite this fact, establishing a regular practice of being, thinking, and then feeling grateful for those things that life does give up, is well, critical.

I know that we all, or most of us anyway, believe that we go out and get things, bring them home, and then we own them, however, it may be more precise that life actually gives things to us (even though we still have to put out effort in order to receive them).  You know, “all in.”  It may still be an important distinction to remember.

Ultimately we’re talking about “energy” and how to cultivate it. Consider the type or quality of energy we are aligning with and perpetuating by “hunting” and compare it to the gentler, more appreciative energy of feeling grateful for those things that life does give up.  Again, it’s rather critical to the quality of our own experience.

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My Personal Journey

My personal journey involves, among other things, acceptance of self, others and situations.  Self-acceptance of where I’m at, and where I’m not.  Accepting that where I’m at is a limitation, but also a point or opportunity from which to grow.  This may seem like an unusual way of thinking, but I don’t seem to be able to cultivate significant life changes without accepting the reality of my situation.  Then again, just as soon as I do, things almost instantaneously begin to change – perhaps, due to my perspective.  At least that’s how it feels.

New perspectives, attitudes or paradigms seem to bring new opportunities that I didn’t previously see.  Opportunities seem to multiply as I become more honest and vulnerable with myself about myself and my life.  One important aspect of my present reality is that my business is not contributing financially as much as I’d like, and as a result, dreams of mine and those of my wife are less than fulfilled.

My business, I must remember, is a reflection of my reality, not a creator of my reality – meaning that at times like these, I must garner strength and confidence elsewhere.  My business is not less than optimally successful for any reason other than I have not yet evolved personally, to a place and level of responsibility that is sufficient to reflect the level of financial contribution that we are looking for.  Therefore, I must continue to learn and allow myself to grow, until I am sufficiently capable of having my business earn at a level commensurate with my family’s desires, goals, and objectives.

This is not to say that I am presently irresponsible, but that the type of business that I’m involved in, requires more from me than I’ve been able to contribute thus far.  It requires, not only great technical and business skills, but also a commitment to forging greater connections with individual clients as well as the business community and community at large – activities that I know how to do, but which are outside of my comfort range, as an extreme introvert.

My personal journey, at least for the time being, seems to be about stretching myself once again, beyond my comfort zone in order to live up to certain personal values that I’ve not yet sufficiently established.  These values will be represented by a stronger commitment to forging relationships, both personally and professionally.

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