Global Resilience Solutions > Category:personal effectiveness

Establishing the Habit of Strategic Review

One of the most difficult habits to establish in self-leadership is making time to pull back from the flow for a bit of self-evaluation and assessment.  We get wrapped up in the day-to-day busyness of life, and that’s part of the problem.  The best way to see your way in a garden maze is to climb a tree, and that’s exactly what we have to do- get out of the trenches and take a bird’s eye view of our lives.

Strategic Review encompasses a number of important habits which can make essential contributions to our personal resilience.

  1. Stepping Back:  A sage said, I do my work, and I leave it be.  The habit of making time to mentally withdraw from your work, your plans, your problems, your thoughts, is essential.  It allows you to gather and conserve your energy, and to allow the inner monologue about all of these things to cease.  Only when it has ceased can you think clearly.
  2. Assessment: Looking back over the past few months of your life, over the goals you’ve set, ask yourself how much time you have devoted to your most important goals, and how much to other things.  Ask yourself if you’ve learned something that changes your goals, if they still represent the direction of your inner passion, or if they ever did.  If you haven’t spent very much energy on them compared with everything else, you are either in firefighting mode, or they do not truly represent your inner desire.
  3. Recharge: Take some time to do nothing, to think of nothing.  Meditate, take a walk, get some exercise, laugh, make a positive and deliberate contribution to your own mental state.  Do something you enjoy, go back to an old hobby, reconnect with people who are a positive influence in your life.  As your mental and physical states improve, as your batteries recharge, you will be able to assess the state of your life in a much more positive and constructive frame of mind.
  4. Goal Setting: Take the time to do it right.  What are you most passionate to accomplish?  What do you want your life to look like in a year?  What impact do you want to make on the world?  What is it that really motivates you?  What positive steps can you take right now?  What goals can you set right now that you believe in?  What other things are consistently eating up your time?  How many of them can you get rid of?  How many can you get ahead of?  Build your schedule making time for your most important goals in each area of life first, and everything else second.
  5. Appreciate: Take a moment to appreciate the people and things that really matter to you in life, that motivate you, that help you.  Take a moment to help out someone else in a meaningful way.  Ask yourself what you can do systematically to help others.  What ideas and talents can you bring to the problems that matter to you?
  6. Set Yourself Up To Win:  What small victories can you set up for yourself in the next few hours?  What about the next few days?  What about in the longer term?  Maybe it’s cleaning up the garden today, maybe it’s taking some steps to reduce your debt over the next few months.  Look back at some of the things that have fallen by the wayside that you can quickly and easily polish off.  Build a habit of success with some easy victories.  This is inconceivably important.
  7. Go Back To Your Longstanding Goals:  We read over our schedule, our immediate goals, far more often than the big-picture goals from which the schedule is supposed to come, so that one week to the next, the schedule takes over.  Go back and re-read those big-picture goals.

 

Speaking of goals, here’s an excellent primer on goal-setting by Jack Canfield:


Make time in your schedule for Strategic Review and Recharge sessions.  This is one habit that will greatly contribute to your quality of life, saving you time, energy and frustration and helping you to establish and maintain a sense of direction and purpose in your endeavours.

 

~ Dr. Symeon Rodger


Qigong the Personal Resilience Multitool: Lung Health

Many of you are familiar with our Rock Solid Health Qigong video series and the tremendous health and wellness benefits to be derived from practicing these foundational Qigong techniques.  In the spirit of our upcoming Resilient Life Code unit on Internal Exercise, we’d like to take a moment to consider Qigong in a different light, as a specialised toolkit that can help you to achieve particular goals, both health and fitness related and in other areas of your life. 

Qigong is a term that encompasses the Chinese arts of internal exercise and energy cultivation in all their diversity.  Qigong is a collective project, having been developed, practiced and refined by Taoists, Buddhists, martial artists, healers, monks, generals and all orders of Chinese society.  It stands between meditation on the one hand and the martial arts on the other and is not entirely separate from either.  The basis of Qigong is the absorption, circulation and refinement of natural energy through the coordinated use of mind, body and spirit for the cultivation of all aspects, faculties and powers of the human being.

Qigong is extremely specialised and diverse.  It treats the physical body almost like an onion, strengthening it one layer at a time.  Fascia, muscles and tendons and major organs all receive their due attention through specific techniques.  The human energy system is likewise cultivated step by step.  Qigong’s biggest flaw is that there is far too much for any one person to master.

Nevertheless, there is another level of specialisation in Qigong that can be very helpful for your health and personal development goals.  Qigong has branches designed not only to maintain good health, but to heal illnesses and chronic conditions in yourself and others, to improve physical performance, to absorb energy from the environment, and to apply qi energy to the development of the spirit (shen).  It is here that you can really match your qigong to your personal resilience goals.  Here’s a look at a specific set of techniques for dealing with one set of health challenges.

(Note: Please seek the advice of a qualified practitioner of Traditional Chinese Medicine before using specific medical Qigong techniques.)

 

Medical Qigong: The Lungs

Much of the world’s population suffers from asthma and other chronic lung diseases.  Qigong approaches lung health from several directions.  First of all, the lungs are included in the Inner Smile meditation, a practice for bringing positive qi to the different major organs, a version of which is shown in the video.  There are also specific breathing exercises for strengthening the lungs, qi circulation exercises, and specific attention and massage exercises for asthma.  Here are some basic exercises:

  • First Breathing Exercise: Stand with your feet shoulder width apart, hands folded over your dantien (lower abdomen).  Press gently as you exhale and draw your abdomen in, bending your upper body forward.  Straighten and breathe in naturally.  Repeat three times.
  • Second Breathing Exercise: From the same position, lean back as far as you comfortably can and extend your arms slightly back while inhaling, expanding your lungs and contracting your abdomen as much as possible.  Hold your breath as long as you safely can.  Then return to an upright position and exhale through the mouth.
  • Asthma Focus Exercise: Be still in a sitting, standing or prone position.  Focus your attention on your zhichuan (“benefit asthma”) acupuncture points, located on either side of your spine on the narrowest line between your shoulder blades.  Focus for 20-30 minutes.

 

There are many other related exercises and approaches to lung health in the Chinese tradition.

Qigong is a diverse and multifaceted tool for your personal resilience and personal development, waiting to be explored.

 

~ Dr. Symeon Rodger

~ Anthony S. Rodger, M.A.


The Lure of Perfection

Is there anything more intoxicating than the lure of perfection?  Not if you’re a perfectionist.  Perfectionism can be at once a powerful creative force, and a tremendous psychological trap for those caught in its grasp.  Learning to embrace the power of perfectionism without becoming trapped in it can be a tremendous challenge.

 

The Perfectionist Advantage

 

Perfectionists are life’s natural editors.  We look at the world around us and think, “How could this be better?  How has this gotten worse?  Was that the best decision in the circumstances?  Surely there’s a way to do this better.”  On and on and on.  Whether it’s geopolitics or sports or architecture or chess or writing or flower arranging, we’re always on the lookout for perfection, for finding the perfect idea, perfectly executed at the perfect time in the perfect way.  Our search for perfection never ends.

But what is perfection?  The hidden majesty of perfectionism is that it is not, in the end, about setting up a mental construct of what should be and then measuring reality against it.  That certainly happens, and it is one of the traps of perfectionism.  But on the other side of the coin, perfectionism is an observational, instinctive process.  We can look at a style of art or architecture we’ve never seen before, an idea or a process we’ve never thought of before in an area we may never have studied, and still recognise its perfection.  We don’t measure perfection in the first instance, then, by external ideas, but by an internal ideal. 

But why do we expect perfection in an imperfect world?  Perfectionism at its best can perhaps be described as a measure of faith in human transcendence of our own limitations, in our ability as a species to create pure beauty.  Perfectionists see their role as driving society toward that ideal.

 

The Perfectionism Trap

 

That doesn’t sound so bad, does it?  So what’s the problem?  The problem is that we don’t know where to stop.  We transition from recognising and celebrating perfection when we encounter it and encouraging ourselves and others to keep striving, to a state in which we do start to measure everything by our own mental constructs of what perfection would look like.  Any task we begin is blighted immediately by the daunting standards we impose on ourselves.  We can demoralise ourselves so badly that we can’t even take the first step.

In business, in relationships, in social interaction, in education and in many other areas of life, we can paralyse ourselves with our own expectations.  It’s no surprise that social anxiety correlates highly with perfectionism.  For a perfectionist with high ideals of smooth social interaction, there is intense pressure not to make mistakes, to keep cool, to avoid embarrassment- so much pressure that inevitably, we end up creating the very situations we want to avoid.  That crushing experience of failing to meet our own expectations only adds more stress to future social situations, and the negative reinforcement snowballs. 

A similar trap befalls many perfectionists during the course of their education- they place so much pressure on themselves to perfect every assignment that the quality of their work, not to mention their quality of life, suffers. 

When perfectionists embark on new projects, if we don’t lose our momentum completely on account of our high expectations, we start looking for the perfect way, the perfect time, the perfect sequence to set about building what we have envisioned.  Perfectionists, ironically, turn into expert procrastinators.

If we look at what’s happened from the point of view of the creative process, we can see how big a detour perfectionism has led us on.  Ideally, the interval from inspiration to action should be as short as possible.  This helps us build momentum, energy, enthusiasm, and generates fresh inspirations during the process.  In other words, we should start consolidating and organising only after we’ve created.  Anyone who’s ever been a writer knows that you have to let the inspiration flow first and only then bring order to what you’ve written.  So it is with almost all creative processes.

In its extreme forms, perfectionism becomes not only an impasse for ourselves, but intolerable to those around us, when we fixate upon a particular criterion of perfection which may or may not have anything to do with the central purpose of the endeavour, or when we get so bogged down in nitpicking minutiae that we lose sight of the bigger picture.

 

Re-Training

 

The only way out for a perfectionist is through.  Perfectionists may find themselves obsessing over the perfect solutions to a given set of problems, the perfect way for something to be, whatever their field of focus may be.  They imagine a world in which everything was as perfect as they would want.  But the more they think about that imagined world and the more energy they put into it, the more they come to realise that it’s futile- not only that such a world could not exist, but that it shouldn’t.  Ultimately, the creative cycle would have to be completely interrupted to achieve such perfection.

Take the particular kind of perfectionist who lives for the rules and wants everyone to follow the rules, all the time, because the rules are the rules.  Let that kind of person envision their utopia in detail, fantasising about it over a long period of time.  Eventually, if they have even the slightest degree of inner honesty, they will realise that only a police state on a hideous scale could ever realise their dream.  From this realisation, they can go back and reflect that many of the freedoms and protections they now enjoy in modern society exist only because people dared to break bad rules, dared to make trouble.  From there, their focus can change from the letter of the rules to allowing for the human element, which they must now admit is a necessary input to the system.  Rather than trying to enforce the rules, they can try to get buy-in (known in political science as social legitimacy) for those rules that really do serve a defensible purpose.

Still, reasoning your way out can only get you so far.  The next challenge is to embrace spontaneous creativity and action, to live in the moment, and to experience the thrill of riding that wave of spontaneity.  The only way to escape the addictions of perfectionism is to want what’s on the other side more, and to give yourself that experience as often as possible.  Get to the point where you are simply creating, without regard for or time to reflect on mistakes, and seek out experiences that give you that sensation.

As you make this shift, there is another important detail: you must discipline yourself to leave things as they are the moment they’re acceptable.  If you can’t define “acceptable,” break down how many minutes in a day or week a task should take you.  Find out how much other people spend on the tasks in question.  If you spend eight hours on a blog post where another blogger who puts out lots of original content only spends two or three, you can start timing yourself to keep yourself to schedule.  Just get it out there, and use the rest of your time for other priorities.  This is where, ironically, scheduling can help you get perfectionism under control. 

If you need a philosophy to justify this, I suggest looking into the concept of pareto.  Rather than maximising a single axis on the graph of life, so to speak, you are aiming for the most efficient solution on all axes- you get your work done at the rate you want, you assign your time efficiently according to your priorities rather than your perfectionist impulse, and you increase your happiness in the process.

 

Conclusion

 

Use the experience of creative spontaneity to overcome the roadblocks of perfectionism, and to put that perfectionism back where it belongs- not imagining the way things should be, but imagining what you can do to improve the world, a spur and inspiration to creativity, not a brick wall.


“Back-to-School Bomb-Proofing”

It’s that time of year again… sigh!  At least, that’s what most people seem to think of the end of the summer vacation period and the resumption of “business as usual”.

While there’s no need to associate this transition with negative emotions – and we should all be careful to avoid that – there are certain facts we have to face: the pace of life will pick up at work, at home and in most every facet of your life.  Long story short, your personal resilience will likely be tested 😉

Interestingly enough, September 1 used to be New Years in the old East Roman (Byzantine) Empire and, in many ways, it’s at least as much of a transition point for us in the modern West as January 1st is.  In other words…

…it’s a great time to take stock, see where we are and clarify where we want to go.  With that in mind, here’s a simple process you can use right away to help significantly improve your results in life by the time New Year 2013 does roll around!  I would advise you to do this with pen and paper the first time – you can make a “good copy” later.   For the moment, you need to give yourself permission to scribble and be messy!

Step 1: Clarify What You Want

What would your life look like on January 1, 2013 IF you had a magic wand?  You can think of separate areas in your life, such as your health, your relationships, your career and finances.  Or you can use categories such as physical, mental, emotional, spiritual, relational and financial.  The important thing is to be very clear on what you want to see.

Keep in mind this is just four months away, so you don’t have to get into deep and heavy debates with yourself about your ultimate life-purpose.  This is a pretty short time-frame, but one long enough that you can do lots to change how well it works out for you.

Step 2:  Define What You Have to Accomplish

Using the vision you came up with of what your life will look like at the start of 2013, list all the goals you would have to reach to make this vision a reality.  For example, if you want to improve your health, you may decide that requires you to commit to a specific dietary regime.  And voila!  You have one goal to write down.  Or dealing with an issue that’s disrupting your relationship with your significant other might mean the two of you need some professional counseling.  So that could be a second goal.  Those are just some examples to help get you started.

It’s important to write these goals down as fast as you can.  Don’t over-think this part of the exercise.  You may well end up with a pretty long list and that’s just fine!

Step 3:  List Your Top 3 Goals

Naturally, it’s unrealistic to attempt changing everything in your life at once – you need to prioritize.  So ask yourself, “Which three goals, if I committed totally to them, would have the greatest positive impact on my life?”

I know, sometimes it’s not easy to prioritize, but it is definitely worth the effort.

Step 4:  What Actions Will Get You to Your Goals?

This is the dreaded “how-to” step, the one that leads to the most frustration when you realize that what you want to achieve may appear to be impossible or you may not have the slightest clue where to start.

It’s really important to keep it light with this step.  Don’t let yourself get scared or frustrated; just write down everything you can think of.  If you have no idea how to accomplish something, just laugh and then realize that someone somewhere does and all you need to do is find them.

Step 5:  Evaluate Your Mindset

Think over each goal separately.  As you do, use a scale of 1-10 to evaluate your resistance to that goal, where zero is no resistance when you think of that goal (i.e., you feel good about it) and ten is over-the-top total resistance.

Try this a few times for each major goal and preferably on different days.  Once you know whether you have significant emotional resistance to a specific goal, you are FAR ahead of 99% of the population.  First of all, very few people have ANY idea what they are trying to accomplish at any given time.  And even most people who do set goals, omit this critical step.

Step 6:  Remove the Resistance

If you DO feel significant emotional resistance to a goal that’s really important to you, despair not!!  This often happens and is not a bad sign.  And in most cases it’s not a signal the goal is wrong for you.  So here’s what you can do…

The easiest method for blowing away this type of resistance is through a meridian tapping technique, such as the Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT) or Thought Field Therapy (TFT).  If you don’t know either one, I would strongly suggest you find a practitioner local to you and arrange a session.  After one or two sessions you should be able to use the technique on yourself and remove resistance in a matter of minutes.

I can promise you that if you’ll apply this planning procedure, you’ll be far more clear on what you want to achieve and have a far more pleasant experience getting there!

Happy planning!!

~Dr. Symeon Rodger


Get a “Thick Face” – Regain Your Personal Autonomy!

As promised, here’s the first installment of how you can understand and cultivate the profound philosophy of “Thick Face, Black Heart” in your own life. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, you MUST read the previous post FIRST.

THICK FACE

You probably know that Asians tend to be VERY concerned with matters of face (as in the expression, “saving face”). In other words, reputation means everything to them and what others think really matters. To us in our individualistic culture, this seems a trifle overdone at times and it has a couple of major disadvantages – it means you cede control over your behavior to other people’s ideas and standards and it also makes you reactive and highly predictable.

Not surprisingly, “Thick Face” (hereafter “TF”) is quite the opposite. It’s more like our concept of “Thick Skin”. It means you stop caring what other people think or say about you. You stop trying to live by other people’s standards and start living by the principles you really believe in.

Yes, at its worst, this could mean you’re a sociopath who thinks he’s the center of the universe and the fount of all wisdom. Hitler, Stalin and Chairman Mao all had very thick faces. However, consider the following…

Back in the early 1920s, a very enthusiastic young spiritual seeker arrived on Mount Athos, the most important center of Eastern Orthodox monasticism. Despite immense pressure to “settle down” and join one of the large monasteries, to become “one of the crowd”, he steadfastly refused. He knew exactly what kind of spiritual life model he wanted to follow and endured lots of abuse for it. And later on, when he was living the life he so ardently sought, he was verbally abused by other monks who condemned him as eccentric and unfriendly, all because he insisted on following a schedule and carefully managing his time and the time of those who had joined him (and that meant, “if you show up when we’re praying, we won’t stop to talk to you!”  Hence the reasons others felt slighted by him).

This young monk’s name was Joseph… later known as Joseph the Hesychast, one of the great spiritual masters of the 20th century. Joseph’s refusal to cave in to the pressures to conform or to surrender the integrity of his lifestyle to criticisms of others are the epitome of THICK FACE.

Politicians tend to have very thick faces. They have to. Of course, not a few of them are self-centered sociopaths who don’t care who gets hurt. On the other hand, consider Mahatma Gandhi, Mother Theresa or Martin Luther King – they were all the object of violent criticism and they all survived and succeeded by having a TF.

TRUST YOUR OWN JUDGMENT

By now it may have dawned on you that you can’t have a TF without trusting your own judgment. That may sound arrogant, but it isn’t always. So let’s clear up a common misunderstanding – being humble does NOT mean you cave in to other people’s opinions. After all, Joseph the Hesychast’s whole life was about cultivating humility, and he never caved in. Humble people do not surrender their principles for any reason. Opportunists do… at the drop of a hat.

Think back through your life. Can you think of times where someone in authority was pressuring you to do something or agree with something you thought was inadvisable or wrong? Looking back on the incident, were you right? Should you have trusted your gut?

When have you been right all along? On the other hand, you need to admit the truth when your judgment has been wrong.

I’ve been viciously criticized and even plotted against because some people found the “controversial” things I wrote in The 5 Pillars of Life totally unacceptable. They would happily have banned the book and had me tossed out of the priesthood of the Orthodox Church.

However, if there’s one thing I’ve learned over the years, it’s to trust my gut on matters of spiritual life and personal development. I’m so convinced I’m right about certain things to do with the history and development of Christianity, for instance, that all the opposition in the universe won’t even make a dent. Now, if someone comes to me with “new evidence” and can prove that I might be on the wrong track, I’ll happily listen. This isn’t an egotistical thing – it’s about what’s true and what’s not.  So far, no one has been able to present any evidence to the contrary.

And you can probably find a parallel in your own life.

The essence of TF is regaining your personal autonomy, no longer having your life controlled by the opinions of others, by what they think of you or say about you, by the standards of the prevailing culture – standards that always claim absolute truth is on their side, even though they differ from one culture to another and shift over time.

It is NOT POSSIBLE to do anything significant in life if you don’t have a TF, simply because anything worth doing WILL bring criticism. People WILL try to drag you down to their level. They WILL be jealous of your accomplishments and rain on your parade. Get used to it now and determine from this moment on to adopt a TF.

Fortunately, everyday life gives you lots of opportunities to practice. Think about it and make a list of what you’ll do this week to practice!  First, you need to know who you are and what you stand for.  What values are non-negotiable for you?  What activities and pursuits mean the most to you?  What makes you happy and fulfilled?  Then ask yourself what people or social pressures in your life are “asking” you (overtly or in a subtle way) to abandon what’s important to you?  Hint: they’ll be the ones telling you to “grow up”, “be responsible”, “be realistic”, “be a team player”, etc.

THICK FACE AS A WARRIOR PHILOSOPHY

Chin-Ning Chu was quite right to call TFBH a “warrior philosophy” in her subtitle. In fact, I’m convinced that the warrior traditions of the world’s “Authentic Ancient Traditions” (as I called them in The 5 Pillars of Life) already contain the essence of TFBH, simply because TFBH describes your natural state once you’re rid of all the cultural conditioning that’s holding you back.

In the next post, we’ll go on to discuss how TFBH can give you COMPLETE CLARITY about what you want to do, and very quickly!

~ Dr. Symeon Rodger


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