How are you looking at that stressor?

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The difference between being an optimist and a pessimist is the way we interpret the situation.  A pessimist looks at the situation and believes that this is permanent and pervasive.  An optimist looks at the same situation and sees it as temporary and fixable.

want-it-all-and-want-it-now-slade_poster_frontA pessimist believes the situation will last forever and will affect everything else in their life and an optimist asks themselves, “Will this thing be that important five years from now, or even next month?” If the answer is yes – then deal with it, if the answer is no – and most of the time it is no – let it go.

Most of the time when stress leads to an outburst it is because the event that has just occurred seems so important and “unfix-able” at the moment.  When in fact, most likely there is a solution, and it is not likely that it is really worth fighting about or for.  Since stress and the reaction to it is a factor in anger management, we must learn these thinking tips for dealing with them as they come up.  Put the stressor into a time perspective.
Take that deep breath or the time out and then put words to your feelings.  Decide if this is a permanent or a temporary setback.  Decide if it is fixable or even ours to fix.  If we are not able to find a calmness, it may be we are attached to a result or we are not getting something that we really want to happen or the way we want someone to be.  Is it possible that the change is just not happening in the time frame we wanted it to happen?  Can we be optimistic about it happening in the future if we chose to?

Self-defense Prerequisite

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DSC04708Wow, it’s been a long time since I wrote. Life and training have been moving forward at quite a pace of late, which gives me plenty to write about but less time to digest the material and get it down in words.

I was home in the US this winter, in Maryland for December and January, in New York City February and March. I missed more training than I would have liked, but I was busily trying to lay some groundwork for my more permanent return home in September of this year, so I needed a little more time.

I have written a lot about internal self defense, and I will write a lot more. Right now I am facing some fairly big changes and decisions, and talking with a lot of people about them.  There is an essential ingredient in these discussions that I’d like to explicitly point out, an understanding without which internal self defense is crippled.

We do not experience our reality as an absolute; we interpret it. The interpretation happens very quickly, faster than the blink of an eye sometimes in the act of perception, but nonetheless we assign value to things that we experience. I won’t say we decide our emotional reactions, because it is generally not as cerebral as that, and indeed trying to intellectually change how you feel about a thing often just causes counterproductive strain. But our mental state, the health of our bodies, our habits of perception, “mood” one could say — these things can be changed, and can be used to change how the world impacts us on a fundamental level. Is the thing I am experiencing good or bad, proper or improper, fair or unfair, stressful or relaxing? The belief in our ability to change these value assessments independently of the experience that inspires them is a prerequisite to studying internal martial arts.

The antithesis of this is the belief that we see reality merely as it is, that there is a direct and unalterable sequence of cause and effect from stimulus to senses to brain to reaction. To believe this, reassuming the self-defense metaphor, is to believe that the enemy is already within the gates, and there is no possibility whatsoever for preserving ourselves from him. Most people I have met who think this way bear their lives and experience like a collection of scars that have never healed properly.

Others, however, are as perfectly content as they could wish. Acknowledging the malleability of our perception is not necessary to happiness. It would be wonderful to see the world always optimistically with no shadow of suspicion that there is any other way to see it. But for those of us who need to practice our internal self defense, there is no going forward without this basic premise.

The voice inside your head may be lying to you

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voice in your headEveryone of us has a voice inside our head that talks to us when things are going well and when they are not going well. The voice tells us how we “should” feel, when we are having any given experience. We may not hear it loud and clear and yet we do hear it in a way that changes our feelings and behavior. That voice reflects what we have come to believe. Those beliefs create our consequences.

So if I have negative thoughts, telling myself that I am not enough, whether it is smart enough, tall enough, rich enough, popular enough or whatever it is – we are telling ourselves we are not “good enough”.  This thinking keeps us from being hopeful. It keeps us from believing that things can or will work out for the best. What could you say to yourself though that would be more positive and give you hope?

You could tell yourself – “I can get better” or “I’ll keep trying” or my two favorite ones – “I have a good life”, or “I am enough”.

Saying positive things to ourselves is the start to believing in yourself and feeling more hopeful and optimistic.

Fixing a mistake with one question and optimism

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One question you should ask when you have made a mistake.


Let us look at the Balanced Life Skills way of dealing with a mistake that we have made. Everyone makes mistakes. Unfortunately both adults and children find it very hard to look at making a mistake in an optimistic point of view. We are worried about how we will look, what others will think about us or how much trouble we are going to get into. Being accountable for our mistakes, recognizing the contribution we have made to the situation shows that we believe we can learn from mistakes and that in the end everything will work out for the best.

  1. Step one is admitting to our mistake. Not blaming others, making excuses, being accountable.
  2. Step two is apologizing. “I am sorry.” Three separate words emphasized in the manner that we mean them and not shortened to a quick “sorry” with the inflection in our voice that makes everyone involved question our sincerity.
  3. Step three is ‘fix it’. Did you spill your drink? – clean it up. Did you lose a friends toy? – replace it.

In our discussions in class though we asked the students how would you ‘fix it” if you did something like yell at your sibling or worse yet at your parents. They were stymied. You can’t fix that, they said.

You can fix it but there is only one way of fixing this kind of mistake. Go through steps one and two, then ask yourself – what must I do to be sure this does not happen again? We all agreed that if we simply say ‘sorry’ and yet we continue to do the same thing over and over again, that no one believes that our apology is very real.  Admitting we did something wrong requires that we look deeply at how we can make the changes necessary to be sure that we control our anger, impulses, body and not make that kind of mistake over and over again.

In this way our optimism is well based in our belief that everything will work out for the best.

Optimistic People Tell The Truth

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Optimism believes that everything will work out for the best. (it usually does!)
The truth NEVER gets you in trouble. Your actions bring consequences.

Everyone makes mistakes, either physically, verbally, emotionally, or mentally. When we make a mistake, do we deal with it from an optimistic or pessimistic point of view?  The optimistic viewpoint would be, “believing and expecting that everything will work out for the best.” If we are pessimistic we might be thinking, “if I admit to this mistake it will ruin everything. We may be worried about getting into trouble, being embarrassed or our reputation ruined. It could be that when we make a mistake we are afraid of our friends and family being angry with us or that they won’t like us anymore.

When someone starts thinking pessimistically when they make a mistake, they may resort to blaming others, denying having made the mistake or even knowing anything about it. They may make up excuses / reasons for the “real reason this happened”.

Ask yourself though – When was the last time you got in trouble for telling the truth? The answer is NEVER.  No one gets in trouble for telling the truth. We only get in deeper when we choose to be pessimistic and believe our life is over if we get caught in our mistake and resort to lying or stretching the truth. That is not to say that we will not have to deal with the consequences. But that is natural and only correct. if we spill the milk – the consequence is that we are responsible for cleaning it up. If we talk about someone behind their back, we must deal with the repercussions – but there are no repercussions for telling the truth.

When we make a mistake we need to first admit it (“I made a mistake.”), then apologize (“I am sorry.”), and then fix it. When we handle mistakes in this manner we are showing that we are optimistic and hopeful that everything will work out for the best, and it usually does!

The Will and Way of Optimism

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INSPIRATION People seldom do things to the best of their ability They do things to the best of their willingnessOptimism gives us the willingness to proceed, to step forward, to keep going – even when things do not look like they are going our way. We are not able to control what others say or do, but we can control our own thoughts and beliefs. So when things are not going well we may want to ask ourselves – how did I contribute to this challenge and what can I do different to change my results? Very seldom do we see a challenge that we did not contribute in some manner to the position we find ourselves in.

The danger zone here is – in blaming ourselves for parts of the challenge we had nothing to do with. This calls for us to be real – not making the problem or issue bigger than it really is, nor ignoring the facts as they really are. We have to be truthful with ourselves. Sometimes we need an outside voice to help us to see what is real, but with practice we will get there ourselves.

Once we understand the reality, then we can apply our perseverance to the situation by making decisions to continue on or to change course, but finding a way to overcome the obstacles that are preventing us from reaching our goals. Having optimism is usually created with a belief we have that we can overcome this situation.  This is a belief in ourselves, our values and our mission.