How to Open Your Heart and Mind to Change

How to Open Your Heart and Mind to Change

Change is inevitable. Nothing good in life happens in your comfort zone. The most amazing things in our lives come from learning how to embrace change. But you may be asking how to open your heart and mind to change.

There are people who have grown up with constant change and just naturally embrace it. I’m one of those people. It’s one of the things I’m grateful for from my childhood. Change was happening on a constant basis and chose to go with the flow.

Others fight change tooth and nail. Some people even take a stand that they will plant themselves in a routine and protect that no matter what. They then hide from life behind the safety of the fort they built.

To get to the point where you have an ageless mind and can pursue an ageless lifestyle after 50 requires you to at least peek out from behind those safe walls you’ve built. If you already are embracing change, this will be a piece of cake for you.

Here’s 3 tips to open your heart and mind to change offered by 

1. Affirm your values

When we feel threatened, our defenses immediately go up. To , we may deny our faults and find many in others. If your work team wins a pitch, for example, you might assume it was because of your own hard work and strategy. If you lose, though, it’s natural to blame the failing on your teammates’ laziness or your client’s lack of  vision.

While this self-serving bias may leave our egos intact, it doesn’t let us learn from the experience. But there is a way to counteract this ego-protecting instinct. It’s called self-affirmation, and it’s a simple theory developed by Claude Steele in the 1980s and studied extensively since: By affirming your core values, you ameliorate the effects of temporary blows to the ego. This type of self-affirmation consists of recognizing and reminding yourself of the qualities that make you who you are and that are most important to you: your family, your capacity for kindness, your creativity, your  faith.

“You’re affirming a deeper place than just your ego,” says Christine Carter, Ph.D., senior fellow at the University of California, Berkeley’s Greater Good Science Center and author of .

In a recent study of the self-affirmation theory, Lisa Legault, Ph.D., assistant professor of psychology at Clarkson University in Potsdam, N.Y., and co-researchers asked graduate students to rank these values: theoretical (discovery of truth), economic (what is most useful), aesthetic (form, beauty and harmony), social (seeking love of people), political (power) and religious (unity). Half of the participants were then asked to write a short essay about their highest-ranked value and what it meant to them. The others were instructed to write why their highest-ranked value was not particularly important to them. All of the participants then took a simple performance test (push a button when you see the letter M but not the letter W).

The students whose values were affirmed by writing about the value’s importance did better on the test and reacted to harsh error signals (WRONG!) with less stress. The participants who had been asked to undermine their values showed greater signs of neurological distress when they made mistakes, causing them to perform even worse.

Legault concluded that through self-affirmation, “people can anchor their sense of self in their broader view of the self as good, and there is less need to defend against the threat. Rather, they can focus on the demands of the situation, setting aside the need to protect their ego.”

A key to being coachable, then, is to drop your defensiveness simply by reminding yourself what really matters, Carter says. If you can’t , you can’t learn, change and grow. Whether it’s a professional matter (“You’re late with your work and need to manage your time better. Let me help you,” a co-worker might say), a relationship issue (“I need you to be more positive,” your spouse urges), or a matter of life and death (“You have diabetes and need to change your diet,” your doctor orders), open yourself to improvement by being true to your core values instead of your ego.

2. Be compassionate with yourself

In a study by Duke and Wake Forest universities, participants were asked to create a video introducing and describing themselves. They were told that someone would watch their tapes and assess how warm, friendly, intelligent, likable and mature they seemed. Half of the group received positive appraisals, and the others received neutral feedback, although all of the comments were completely fabricated and randomly assigned. Many in the group took the feedback, whether good or neutral, in stride and were willing to accept the comments on their personalities. But plenty of others were angered and upset by the neutral comments, rebelling against the idea that they might be simply average. They blamed the lackluster evaluations on the reviewers rather than their own personalities.

What made the difference between these two groups, one calmly accepting appraisal and one becoming defensive? The study participants had been evaluated on levels of self-compassion before the experiment, and the difference was clear: Those who scored high in self-compassion were not threatened by the feedback; they could accept and admit having flaws along with strengths—they were open. People low in self-compassion, however, lacked this emotional resiliency.

So what is self-compassion exactly? It’s “gentleness with yourself,” Carter says. “We think that if we speak critically to ourselves, we will improve, but all the research shows with absolute certainty that self-criticism does not improve performance. It blocks your ability to learn from the situation and creates a stress response in which fight or flight are your only options. Personal growth is not on the menu when you are self-critical.”

Highly regarded researcher Kristen Neff, Ph.D., associate professor of psychology at the University of Texas at Austin and author of , writes that with self-compassion, “we give ourselves the same kindness and care we’d give to a good friend.” Self-compassion is not self-pity, she emphasizes, because self-pity disregards the connections with the world at large and the flaws and suffering common to all humankind.

Neff’s definition of self-compassion involves:

• Self-kindness instead of . Do you talk to yourself like a trusted friend, with a calm, forgiving voice? Or do you yell like a drill sergeant? If you are open to your shortcomings, then you are open to growth.

• Feelings of common humanity instead of isolation. Neff urges us to see our imperfections, struggles and suffering as part of the shared human condition so we can see our own weaknesses from a broad, forgiving place. Your flaws connect you to all other humans.

• Mindfulness instead of over-identification. Try to hold your experiences in balanced awareness, Neff says, rather than ignoring or exaggerating your pain. When you over-identify with certain feelings, you can get swept away by negativity or caught up in your ego.

Take a moment every morning, Carter advises, to say a kind word to yourself; to recognize your connection to the pulsing, imperfect humanity around you; and to , whether through meditation, yoga or doing the dishes Thich Nhat Hahn-style. If you’re saying to yourself right now, I am skeptical of this stuff because I am self-conscious and definitely don’t believe in aliens, but I’ll give it a try, that’s OK: You’re on your way to self-compassion and coachability.

3. Try new stuff

Once you’ve practiced self-affirmation and self-compassion, you can put your openness to use. One step: Talk to strangers. Studies show that the more social interactions we have with “weak-tie” relations—fellow commuters, baristas, store clerks, neighbors, familiar people in your office—the happier and more satisfied we feel with our day. Also check out art: Appreciating paintings and sculptures helps make you more observant. And take lessons: Learning—whether it’s guitar, a language, chess, computer programming or rock-climbing—builds and preserves cognitive function.

“Always be growing and challenging yourself and seeking new opportunities,” says Sonja Lyubomirsky, Ph.D., psychology professor at the University of California, Riverside, and author of. “It’s what prevents us from getting too comfortable.”

And above all, ask for help to do these things. We humans need each other.

Thanks to for those tips.

If you need a helping hand to get you started in the right direction…

The first step, if you haven’t done this yet, is to create the foundational document for your life, your Personal Manifesto. If you haven’t completed this document yet, to get your free copy of the special report which walks you through the process and gives you a template to use for creating your own personal manifesto.

Then you can move naturally into the next step of creating and achieving the goals you’ve set in the recognition of what you choose to manifest as your divine soul purpose. It’s all part of allowing your ageless mind to successfully manifest the ageless lifestyle you choose to create through living your life’s purpose.

If you need help creating your blueprint, I’m here for you.

If you don’t know your desired result today, to be put on the wait list to be notified of the next start date of my 6 week class, .

For now, it’s enough to declare that you want something better. In the class we will go through this personal inventory in detail and I will help you get clear on exactly what you want your life to look like.

Look at what’s going on in your life and if the way you are living and the things you have attracted into your life are still working for you.

If you are growing, you’re constantly changing and you need to stay on top of your progress by having a step-by-step process for tracking where you are in your life and where you are going. Once you know where you want to go, the people and resources you needed will appear according to the level of commitment you have to make it manifest.

Until next time, I’d love to hear your thoughts.  Just comment below.

If you are further along your path and would like personal mentoring, send me an email using the form on the contact tab above detailing what you would like help with.  As your mentor I hold a bigger vision for you than you hold for yourself.  When you have faith and a team that believes in you, it gives you courage.  When you don’t have to do it all yourself, all things are possible for you.  Commit today to go for your dream 100%.

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