What Is Perhaps The Most Powerful Word in the English Language?

I’ll spare you the tease. That word is NO!

The ability to be assertive and say ‘no’ is a communication skill we all learn at a very young age.  If you’re a parent, you know better than anyone that once this word enters a child’s vocabulary it’s used very often.  However, as an adult, ‘no’ is often much more difficult to say.  As life gets busier and obligations increase, the ability to say ‘no’ is increasingly more important.  If you can learn to assert yourself, it can be the difference between chronic overwhelm (aka, not having an enjoyable life) and spending far more time with the things you enjoy and that fulfill you the most.

Between keeping up with your email, your career and family, your friends and your relationship(s); the many requests for your time that you receive on a regular basis can feel daunting.  Perhaps the kids need you to drive them and their friends to the movies, your neighbors want you to walk their dog and your boss is pleading with you to  take a work project home to complete in order to meet a deadline.  Perhaps you agree to take on more than you can handle, merely because you don’t want to be rejecting or somehow become scorned by someone’s wrathful reaction.  The fear of being rejected by others is one that we become most sensitive to in adolescenceBut when this fear is too prominent as an adult, it can certainly hold you back.  The key to being able to pick and choose what you can and cannot take on, is remembering that when you say ‘no’ you aren’t rejecting the person, you are simply rejecting their request. For example, if someone asks you to lend them $100, you might say ‘no’.  But if that person were to ask if you could pay him to do some yard work for you, you might agree to this.  So by saying no the loan, you were merely rejecting an undesirable request. A more attractive request—paying money for yard work you need done—where there’s a benefit to you could be one you might easily accept.  In this example, as with most requests you probably consider, it’s less personal than practical. The problem is, we tend to easily forget that.

Being able to carefully consider and mindfully choose which obligations or requests you take on from the people in your life, will allow you to feel empowered and positive about the things you decide to say “yes” to.  When you are unapologetically the one who’s in charge of your life and your decisions, you will get a level of respect that may have previously eluded you.   In reality, there are so many things coming at you today that weren’t there just a few short years ago. This means that managing your schedule is far more challenging than it was before. Most importantly, strive to feel great about how you choose to spend your time, as time is the one asset we have, that when lost—we can’t get it back. So who can you say NO to today?

Success is Such an Elusive Word

“Success” is a very elusive word, simply because it means many different things to different people.  Believe it or not, I’ve met some of the most successful and high achievers you could imagine in my psychology practice who actually consider themselves “failures” because they’ve set certain—often lofty— personal goals that weren’t met. Think about the most recent presidential campaign.  Would you consider Mitt Romney a success or a failure?  Some would focus on the fact that he lost the race, without acknowledging the many successes he’s had in his life and career. I can’t tell you how he views himself, but can only hope he doesn’t make this all too common overgeneralization.
Thus, the definition of success is truly in “the eye of the beholder.”  What for one person constitutes having achieved everything they’ve ever wanted might be seem like a gross underachievement to someone else. One way of defining success might be to set specific and realistic goals and then try your best to reach meet them. Then make sure you confine the labels of success and failure to the goals themselves, never to you as a person!    Of course, there’s no way to know if you’ve achieved your goals unless you’ve clearly defined them in the first place. So that’s job one. It’s also possible that your personal goals correspond to various eras of your life, from infancy to adulthood.
Some might consider their life successful if they’ve created an arrangement in which everything is provided for them and with no demands or challenges to worry about.  However, a pampered and carefree life might feel like the ultimate success to some, but a devastating admission of inadequacy for others.  Success could also be defined as a life without any rules or inhibitions, where a person gets whatever he wants whenever he wants it.  For instance, a criminal probably considers himself successful to the degree that he gets away with it his crimes.  These examples merely illustrate the idea that success can mean very different things to different people.
Individuals who are “rule followers” might consider themselves successful when they are able to stay within certain black-and-white boundaries, without drawing any negative attention to themselves.  For them, conforming and behaving as expected and defined by another person, group, political or religious affiliation often means they’ve they achieved success.   Some consider themselves successful when they have achieved affirmation, acceptance, approval, fame, and/or recognition (e.g., winning an award) from others.
For many in our society, success is a result of skillfully keeping roles and relationships in balance and free of conflict, earning a certain amount of money and meeting their obligations.   For some, success is the satisfaction obtained when they are able to do what they really want to be doing and which  provides the most fulfillment. A very lucrative but mundane career may not feel as successful as having a job that inspires them by tapping their creativity in an area they’re passionate about.
Finally, some feel truly successful only when they have made a desired impact on someone or something greater than t hemselves.  This happens when you see others benefit from the help and support you’ve sent their way.  For example, even some of the most financially successful business people define success by the impact they’ve had on others, such as employees, customers/clients, or the larger world.
So which of these markers best describes how you define success in your life?  Contemplating this question is a great jumping off point for setting goals that are in line with your mission and desires. Just remember to assess your degree of achievement against yourself and no one else.  In other words, remember that the only valid comparison is between where you are now and where you potentially could be—never between you and someone else. If you feel that you’re not where you’d like to be, hopefully the descriptions above can help you visualize what success might look like for you in the coming months, years, or even ultimately. Then do whatever feels right for you to achieve it.


Discover Ingredients for a Fulfilling Relationship

Whether you are in a long-term relationship or you’re looking for one, you’ve probably noticed something rather obvious: that not all of us are looking for the exact same things in a love relationship. Most of us have unique priorities when it comes to what we value most in this as well as every major aspect of our lives. But certain ingredients— that stand the test of time— usually characterize the most fulfilling marriages and love relationships. So whether yours is in a difficult period right now, or you simply want to make a good relationship even better, remember the acronym TOUCH:

T stands for tenderness and talking. Tenderness can be expressed both physically and emotionally. Think of this as how you express kindness and caring toward one another. This sounds simple and quite obvious, but isn’t always easy when you’re in the middle of life’s challenges. Communication is also a key. Talk about the issues that concern you; and make it a priority to resolve conflicts before they grow larger.

O is for openness and objectivity. Expressing your thoughts and feelings when they occur can increase intimacy and closeness. Allow yourself to be vulnerable at times. True intimacy is about letting your partner know about parts of you that are most difficult to share. During conflict, being objective can often save the day. It may be easier to stand with your own perspective, but the bigger challenge is taking a step back and looking at your problem almost as if you were a third party. Then, it’s much easier to go into problem solving mode. When neither of you are willing or able to do this, you’re likely to hit an impasse resulting in more accumulated  “baggage” when there’s a disagreement.

U is for understanding. This is also known as empathy —not necessarily agreeing—with what your partner is feeling, but knowing and understanding it.  Asking questions and showing genuine compassion regarding what your partner needs can help you know what kind of comfort and support to offer each other.

C is for chemistry and comfort. Who knows how chemistry develops, but it’s an ingredient that can lead to great sexual, sensual, emotional, intellectual and spiritual connection. While passion in your relationship is important, so is the ability to be together during the ordinary and mundane moments of daily life.  So strive for a healthy mix of chemistry and comfort as one more way to keep your romance alive.

H stands for honesty. This is another prerequisite for intimacy. But be careful about being so brutally honest that your message is lost in anger. The goal here is never to build resentment, but trust!

So together, take an inventory of your relationship; and commit to adopting or reigniting these ingredients as a roadmap to fulfillment for both of you!


When Dating, Keep Your Eye on the Prize

If you are dating or new to the singles scene and thinking about dating, let me ask you this: What are your goals?  Are you looking for a life partner? Companionship? A fun sexual relationship?  Close your eyes and take a moment to focus on this. When an answer comes to you, read on.

If you’ve had difficult dating experiences, dating can feel like a hassle; and thus it’s easy to lose sight of why you’re doing it in the first place.  Meeting new people and trying new things can be very satisfying and fun, especially when you’re feeling the best about yourself, doing things you enjoy, and—particularly when it feels like a hassle— reminding yourself of your own unique goal. Feeling good about yourself while dating is not always easy.  Most have found themselves—sometimes even routinely— in less than perfect dating situations.  There’s no need to put yourself down when you hit a few road bumps.  Instead, reach within to access internal sources of strength to make your dating life the best it can be.

Dating works best for you when you are feeling good about yourself.  One reason dating can sometimes be difficult might be because of the negative messages you tell yourself that interfere with your ability to feel your best when connecting with a new person.  What are the negative messages you tell yourself that take away from feeling your best?  These messages may be related to what you believe dating will be like (“I won’t have fun” or “It will be a waste of time.”)  Other messages may be related to the singles scene (“there are no good wo/men out there.  Everyone good is already taken!”) Negative self-talk also can be about fear of rejection (“I won’t be able to handle rejection”) or feeling not great about yourself (“I am not attractive enough”). Whatever flavor  of negative self-talk you participate in, you no longer need to fall victim to the voices inside your head. For every negative message you hold there’s a positive one you can access to make dating even more enjoyable!

It is natural to have “collected” some negative messages through bad dating experiences and when these messages sound a little bit too loud, it is time to consider using some tools to turn those speakers down.  Think about some of the beliefs or attitudes you have about yourself that get in your own way; and make a commitment to attack them forcefully and head-on!

A very effective way to defeat that negative voice in your head is to  write down a list of these self-defeating beliefs, words, or attitudes that affect your ability to feel good while dating.  Include all of the ways that you put yourself down.  Next, read each item to yourself one by one and come up with a positive affirmation that opposes the negative message about yourself.  Challenge those negative  beliefs  by asking yourself , “Is this completely true?”  For example, if you tell yourself “I am not attractive enough,” write down all of the evidence against this statement.   If you listed “there is no one good out there”, remind yourself that you are out there dating, aren’t you?!  If your fear is about your ability to handle rejection, write down “Nothing really consequential will happen to me if I am rejected and— in fact by being rejected—I may even prove to myself that I don’t need to fear rejection in the future.”  If you are sure you won’t have fun or will be wasting your time, you can add to your list “I may even meet someone I’d like to see again(!).”

After coming up with your positive affirmations, or pieces of positive self-talk, write them down on index cards to keep around your home, in your wallet or in your car.  Don’t only look at these before attempting to go out to meet someone or going on a date!  Look at these affirmations regularly or at least on a daily basis so that they become your new thinking habits. As you practice internalizing these positive and factual messages, eventually you’ll almost certainly find that the positive ones become automatic and triumphantly replace those obsolete negative ones—permanently!

Remember-you are dating for a reason!  Have fun!