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YOUR JOURNEY TO SUCCESS TOOLKIT
You can use certain activities to transform your worst day into your best day. Each activity applies to each phase of the Worst Day Cycle—trauma, fear, shame, and denial. Use a journal, notebook or your computer to record your answers.
You will find bonus activities highlighted below to download.
Directions: There are certain activities you can do to transform your worst day into your best day. Dealing with your feelings is crucial in getting over your trauma in the Worst Day Cycle. This exercise will help you become more aware of what feelings are triggering your moods and choices that you make.
- Do an Internet search for "feelings list."
- There are many “feelings lists” on the Internet so take the time to choose one that appeals to you.
- Print out the list and keep track of your feelings for an entire week by placing check marks next to the specific feeling so you know how often you are experiencing them.
- Also note what was going on that triggered these specific feelings.
Once you have identified the recurring feelings, ask:
"When was the first time I felt this?"
This is crucial. Don't judge your answer or view it as wrong. Whatever the first memory is, investigate it. It might be something from your adult life or when you were a child. People often discount that original answer and think, "Well, it wasn't that big of a deal." You might even believe that the memory that shows up isn't accurate. Don't do that. Whatever pops up, look at it and learn about it. You are beginning to unlock the trauma that you have denied or minimized.
As you do this, you are also unlocking the feelings inside your body. As you recall, that is where we store memories. Our bodies are a window into different traumas. Over time our brain and body will begin releasing those memories and we will begin to remember all the things we denied and repressed. This is the starting point to getting out of our worst day. It's time to begin to learn what is triggering our feelings. Write down some of those memories.
No feeling is bad. We have a tendency to experience so called "bad" feelings and we instantly don't like them so we medicate them away in many different ways. Avoiding uncomfortable feelings is primarily what keeps us in the Worst Day Cycle. Feelings are there to communicate what is going on in our life. If I feel depressed, that means I am doing something to create that feeling. It can also mean I am having a sad day. Feeling sad is wonderful, there is nothing wrong with it. I have learned to enjoy my "off" days. They bring color and insight into my life. For many, this may be the first time they are even aware they are experiencing feelings. They have kept themselves so busy and therefore so numb that they have completely shut themselves off. They will have to begin the thawing out process. This feelings exercise will be a great start.
Directions: Affirmations are a great way to build self-esteem. I have two simple ways to build that self-esteem twice a day—in the morning and evening.
Note: Self-esteem is self-generated. Sadly, our culture promotes what is called other esteem. We attempt to derive our esteem from outside sources. This rarely works. In the United States, we equate success to our looks, vehicles, homes, careers, zip codes, social media profiles, and popularity. We judge others and ourselves based on how much or how little of these things we have. Because of that, we generally wake up each day concerned that we don't have enough of these outside things and so we feel less than and our self-talk matches that feeling. To counteract that we need to begin acknowledging who we really are.
- Morning affirmations
Begin each morning with three affirmations. Write down three things you like about yourself. When beginning, do not just think them. Instead, say them out loud and then write them down.
An actual chemical reaction occurs when we write something down. That is why journaling is so popular and recommended by therapists. This is how we create that new neural pathway of our best day.
Here’s an example of a typical morning for me. My morning routine consists of getting out of bed and for whatever reason, I say, "I love my feet." Silly, I know, but it's how I feel. I then go over to my mirror, look myself right in the eyes and say, "I love you, Kenny."
Go to a mirror and say, “I love you, ___________.”
It is not about what you say it is about creating and firing the feeling of things you like about yourself. If you can't quite feel those kind words about yourself then start with a question like, "What if I did like/love myself? What would that feel like?"
Now look in the mirror and ask, “What if I did love myself? What would that feel like?”
Just asking that question will flip a switch. Start sitting in that feeling and say, "Now that I know what it feels like to love myself, I am willing to allow myself to feel that." Just being willing to like/love any part of yourself is a big step to counteracting that worst day chemical.
- Evening accomplishments
At the end of each day, write down three accomplishments from your day. You can begin by writing down your first three accomplishments here. By doing so, it will send us to bed firing those best day chemicals which will begin shifting our mood in the following morning. Since most of us have no memory of our best day, the other great benefit of this is we now have good memories to draw upon. The importance of this exercise is to change our brain. It naturally remembers three negatives. I want to teach our brains to do the opposite. Additionally, when a bad day comes, you can always look back at these lists to help you get out of the Worst Day Cycle and combat it with these best day feelings.
Directions: Mirror work is one of the most powerful tools on our journey to success. I first learned about mirror work from author Louise Hay. I started by looking in the mirror and stating out loud, "I love myself." Yes, it felt awkward but I made a point of saying it as often as possible. Just saying the words had little effect on me. Besides the positive self-talk, I needed positive self-feelings to create maximum impact. Even though I really didn't feel like I loved myself, I kept asking, "What would it feel like if I did love myself?" As I brought up that feeling, I said the words, "I love myself." Things really started to take off at that point.
The mirror is an amazing tool. It will show you things that are hidden as it finds the truth in you. Sadly, most of us are terrified of this exercise. If we feel frightened by it or think it is somehow silly, this is a clear sign of how much we need to do it. Take any situation in your life where you want a different outcome or feeling. Go to the mirror and ask yourself, “What would it feel like if this situation were the way I wanted it?” Begin feeling that feeling. If you hesitate having that new perspective, outcome and feeling in your life, then say, “I am willing to allow this to new perspective, outcome and feeling in my life.”
After about two weeks of saying, "I love myself," I was looking in the mirror when out of nowhere from deep inside, I heard a voice, "What about Kenny?" I paused, considered it and said, "I love you, Kenny." I was instantly confused, afraid and shocked. I could have sworn I heard a different voice. I asked, "What just happened?" I said it again and there it was. I was certain it was someone else's voice now. I did it a third time and it hit me. I literally could not hear my voice. I knew it was me talking but the voice I heard was my mother's voice. I broke down crying. I realized why I could never accept or believe it when a woman said she loved me. You see, when my mom would drink she would constantly tell me how much she loved me, she even went so far as to ask me, "Kenny, if I want to drink, can you give me a hug so that I won't drink?" Of course it never worked, but that message was stuck frozen deep in my subconscious. It took me about two more weeks before I could hear my own voice say, "I love you Kenny."
I never realized my mom's voice was a cemented neural pathway that played when someone said they loved me. When my brain received new sensory feedback via the mirror, it began the process of shifting into a new belief.
When we go to the mirror with new feelings and the words to match those new feelings, our brain reorients itself. We can now become our best day.
Do you struggle with self-care? Most of us do. There are three questions you can ask and answer to propel yourself into self-care mode. Are you ready? Download the worksheet.
Directions: The key to fear work is to calm our brain so we can make better decisions. To do that takes repetition so our brain and body find a new norm. One of the best ways to do this is meditation.
Step 1: Download an app such as the Mindfulness Bell or simply use the alarm function on your smartphone.
Step 2: Set the alarm to go off once an hour.
Step 3: Take 15 seconds to focus on listening and feeling yourself breathe.
The way our brain is designed, we cannot think when we focus on our breath. If we are big self-talkers or can't get our brain to shut off, this is an exercise we should attempt. On tough days, every 10 minutes I would take 15 seconds to focus.
Another activity: Take 15 seconds to fix your gaze on one point and slowly take in all that you can really see.
What did you see? Write down your thoughts in your journal, notebook or computer.
I used to sit on my patio at night and watch the planes come in over South Mountain here in Phoenix, AZ. It would probably take about a full minute for them to pass out of view. Over time I was able to just go quiet in my head and allow my gaze to focus on the plane. We can also do these things with touch, smell and taste.
What if you could turn around your fears and go from complete fear to complete acceptance. I did it and you can too. Download the worksheet to see how to do it.
Chances are you’ve heard of vision boards as they are quite popular for setting both personal and professional goals. But, I have a different twist on vision boards that will make all the difference in whether you succeed or not. Download the worksheet.
- Make a list of the best days or moments of your life. If you can't come up with any then go grab your feelings list and pick a feeling like safe, or accomplished and sit in that feeling.
- Spend as much time as possible each day feeling who you want to become. You can do this in the car, in a waiting room, or in the bathroom. Re-training your brain and body to release the best day chemicals.
To access those feelings, you’ll need to do a few simple things.
- Determine what you want.
- Imagine experiencing what you’ve set out to achieve.
- Imagine how you’ll feel when you’ve reached your goal. Really feel those feelings.
Try to feel those feelings as much as possible. I’m not suggesting you need to spend several hours a day doing this, but instead of flipping through Facebook, spend a few minutes feeling what you want. You can do this while even sitting in your vehicle at a stop light. Feel those feelings as much as possible. The best way to do that is to bring up something you have already experienced. It could be the day you got promoted. Sit in that feeling as much as possible or transfer that feeling into what it is you want to feel about a certain area of your life.
Directions: Make a choice not to shame yourself anymore and create a mantra. Whenever we talk down about ourselves it's a self-victimizing power grab. We are placing ourselves above God and above our own self forgiveness.
We are re-victimizing ourselves to regain the power we lost in our original trauma. Make a choice and say, “No, I will not allow myself to talk about myself or my past decisions this way anymore.” That is the choice. The mantra that I use is, “I did the best I could with what I knew at the time. Now that I know better, I do better.”
What is your mantra?
Feelings like sadness, anger, shame, and frustration are good. Don't avoid them and give yourself permission to experience them. When you don’t, you begin using them against you so that you can play the victim. This is a learning process. When my father was dying I felt tremendous moments of grief. More than 30 minutes of sitting in that grief would shut me down and I would head towards self-victimization. I would create moments or space to feel the grief but I limited that amount of time. I would follow that up with self-care activities or sit in front of my vision board feeling what I wanted in my life so that I could maintain a healthy balance.
Look where you are making yourself powerless, how are you giving yourself away or manipulating others by doing things for them and expecting something in return? If you ever complain how you do things for others and they don’t give it back then most likely you are manipulating them and setting up your own self victimization which again gives you the power back that you lost in your original trauma.
Ultimately, shame is all about control. We use our manipulations and self-victimization to control others. We overthink things. For instance, I discovered that while dating, because of my fear of abandonment, if I hadn't heard from someone I would obsessively think about some text I could send that didn't come off as needy but would get them to respond. Usually it was something nice. Being "nice" guilts people into responding and it is the single greatest way I see people self-victimize.
Our culture rightfully wants us to be kind to others but in most cases, we have taken that to the extreme. Most of us feel guilty or mean if we aren't nice. That is a huge red flag. Herein lies the problem: if they haven't been responding they have already shown me they are not interested or maybe they are just busy. Instead of accepting that and being patient or moving on, I try to keep it going. The more I keep it going the more abandoned I feel. I am setting up my own self victimization and trying to control them. Eventually I would get angry and throw some big fit about how they were ignoring me. My anger and lack of acceptance then created them not wanting to date me anymore. Voila, I had set up my own abandonment. I was in control of it. One thing to realize is that people never reject us. All they are ever doing is acting in their own best interest.
What would you say if I told you saying no is the most loving thing you can say to someone? I’ve shared my powerful story about learning to say no and would like to show you how to do it too. The results will be life changing. Download the worksheet.
Directions: Overcoming denial is about accepting that we did experience trauma and that the self-concept we developed to survive it isn't working for us. We are not bad or defective (if we think and feel that, go back and do more shame work) none of us are, you just weren't aware. Becoming aware is our passport out of the Worst Day Cycle. Reading and learning are your ticket out of denial. See the following list of some of my recommendations on what to read and watch. We can only do what we know. If we aren’t learning we can’t do anything new.
Everything in our life is a result of our own choices. We are responsible for our own self victimization. We set it up so no one does it to us. Until we discover how we set this up and admit it to ourselves and begin the process of learning how not to do it, we will be stuck in our pain and our darkness.
Denial is about three things:
- The self-concept we developed to survive the trauma is most likely working against us and to let that go feels like the death of "us."
- We go into denial because to succeed or step past that self-concept we also have to let go of the person we became to keep our attachment to our parents or our perpetrator. If our trauma was from parenting, although we may logically know that what our parents did was less than nurturing, it is still our only attachment to them. To succeed, it would feel like we are dropping who we had to become to make them love us so if we let go, we would feel completely alone in the world with no parents.
- Anything we hate, judge, blame or project is always about our denial of how we do those same things. These are pieces of ourselves we don't want to face. It is an attempt to point those things out about ourselves. For instance, historically, Republicans call Democrats a bunch of mamby pamby emotional snowflakes. They are using heavy emotions to describe a Democrat which means they are also very emotional and they don't like that about themselves. Democrats call Republicans racists and greedy yet they want to take everyone’s money and use it as they see fit. If you voted for Donald Trump in the 2016 presidential election or have differing views then you aren’t allowed to speak. This is happening all across college campuses and throughout the political season. That is racism. Both sides are talking about themselves as they project their personal denial onto the other side. Neither side is better or worse than the other.
Make a list of all the “problem” people and situations in your life and then ask:
“What am I getting from the situation?”
Saying you hate it or you are getting nothing from it is denial and not true. It is in your life because you get so much from it. Does it give you freedom, sympathy from others, lack of responsibility, or do others take care of everything for you? What is the payoff? What or whom are you afraid you would lose if you didn’t have this “bad” situation in your life? Are you not ready to let it/them go?
Ask yourself the following:
- What would be the opposite view of this current situation?
- What has it cost me to not handle this? Am I willing to pay that cost?
- What could be the benefit of dealing with this?
- Six months from now, looking back on this situation, how would I have wanted myself to handle this situation?
- What if I get everything I wanted? What about that scares me?
- What if everything was just as it is supposed to be? How would I feel then?
- What if this current situation is setting me up for something even greater? What would it feel like if I let that in?
- If I look over my life hasn't everything always basically worked out? Wasn't there always something good that came out of each so called “bad situation?”
The following are some things you can do to deal with your denial:
- Do mirror work daily giving yourself permission to drop the old self concept and welcome in your authentic self.
- Do mirror work daily accepting that your caregivers loved you as best they could and had they known better they would have done better. Remind yourself that by succeeding and moving past all of this, you will not be alone. Tell yourself that the most loving thing you can do for them and yourself is to move past this.
- Make a list of all the things you hate, judge, blame, criticize and project and begin seeing how all of those items are operating in your life. You see them because they are you!
Hint: it is not always a direct correlation. For instance, someone who smokes pot may "hate" cigarette smokers. Well, they are also "smokers" just in a slightly different way. They are trying to talk to themselves when they make that judgement.
Be patient with yourself. It is going to take time for your brain and body to accept these new truths about yourself. Remember it's a process, not perfection.