Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Breaking Barriers for Good

Barrier – n. – a limit or boundary of any kind http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/barrier

Most people would agree that the choice of words in certain situations can make a difference. There are those situations where synonymous words can be used interchangeably without much variation in overall meaning. However there are other instances where one form of a word provides a much clearer picture than another. This is the case with the word barrier. Often when facing a problem such as an addiction or mental health issue, part of the recovery process is often described as identifying barriers to progress.

Barriers however in many people’s viewpoint, imply a sense of permanence and immovability. Walls and fences are barriers that designate the outer boundary of an area that is not supposed to be crossed, for instance as in a penitentiary. Another common barrier is a police barricade that usually has a sign on it that says “Do not Cross”. Barriers are often in place for our own protection. For example, most people would value and appreciate a barrier between themselves and a hungry lion. Therefore, when it comes to looking at “barriers to change” that concept may not be an appropriate way to view the real task at hand, which is to move forward and make progress in spite of what may get in our way.

Rather, in the case of looking at the change process with regard to addiction and mental health issues, perhaps a clearer way to view those things that can get in the way of progress is to use the term obstacle, as defined below –

Obstacle- something something that obstructs or hinders progress or action.

Obstacles may get in our way (obstruct) or slow us down (hinder) but often it is implied that if we put in enough effort we can get past them. An obstacle course is often viewed as an array of challenges that we must somehow maneuver through in order to get to the goal at the end. The change process involved with substance abuse and mental health issues and life in general at times in itself can be much like an obstacle course. There is a goal in mind and rather than a series of immovable barriers in our way, instead we encounter obstacles that we learn to go over, through, under, or around. A barrier is limited in that it usually suggests “stop and go another way!” but obstacles are viewed as requiring forethought, strategizing, maneuvering, using creativity, problem-solving, brainstorming and other positive, change-oriented skills and ideas.
Overcoming obstacles can include:

>Simply looking past an obstacle that is blocking your vision
>Climbing over, or going around an obstacle in your path
>Learning to skillfully maneuver your way right through an obstacle
>Adjusting your path to avoid an oncoming obstacle
>Removing the obstacle altogether
>Pushing right past or right through the obstacle
>Finding others to help us carry the load or guide us past an obstacle
>Being creative and thinking outside the box to “solve” a complex obstacle

Barrier or obstacle? Is it simply a matter of semantics? The main point actually is less about which word to use, but rather the focus that is of primary importance is the way we view and approach those things that get in the way of progress. When working toward changing for the better, is it critical to be both prepared, motivated and inspired to do what is necessary to keep moving forward and upward without giving up. Viewing life’s challenges as surmountable obstacles and establishing confidence in our ability to maneuver through these challenges is essential for lasting success in the obstacle course that is life.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

5 and 5 for Change

Most people who know me, know that I don’t care too much about New Year’s resolutions. Instead, I believe that all year round it is critical to continuously re-evaluate where we are in life and make adjustments as needed. If we are not continuously working on changing for the better, then life can get pretty mundane and meaningless. Since so many people have goal setting and making changes on their mind this time of year, I took some time to review some of the things outlined in my Taking the Escalator methodology for overcoming addiction and other hard to quit habits. Looking at things from a motivational, insight-building perspective, I made the following list of things that affect “Upward Change” or “Escalation” (In other words, the ongoing gradual process of inspiration and change for the better). The following is a list of 5 things that can inhibit the upward change process and five things that are helpful with regard to enhancing the upward change process:

5 Things to Avoid –

1 – Discouragement - This includes both discouraging thoughts and discouraging people. Wherever possible, when trying to increase motivation, it is best to try to avoid both or at least do our best to ignore the discouraging messages we receive from ourselves or others. Discouragement can suck your positive energy and motivation right out of you if you allow it to fester in your mind.

2 – Wasting Too Much of Your Valuable Time – Sure we all need recreation and definitely some “down time” is good for all of us, however, getting into the habit of excessive time-wasting is a motivation killer. Time is such a valuable resource and it is important to stay in the habit of using it wisely by reserving time on a regular basis for taking care of our physical, emotional and spiritual health and growth.

3 – Insisting that You are Always Right – It feels great to be “right” but at the same time if we become overly focused on proving ourselves right all the time, we can seriously inhibit our ability to learn and grow. It is a good thing for our motivation and personal growth to be willing to look at things from other people’s viewpoints and to be able to play “Devil’s Advocate” with ourselves by considering the possibility that maybe our own viewpoint may need readjustment from time to time.

4- Negative Criticism and Judgment – Negativity is contagious and usually just breeds more negativity. Being critical or in judgment of others can give us a false sense of progress because it can make us initially feel better by putting others down in comparison with ourselves. In the long run however, criticizing and judging others does little to improve our own progress because it takes the focus off of the person we need to work on the most – our self

5 – Making Excuses and Denying Reality – This seems to be an epidemic these days. Many people have become so good at rationalizing, justifying, and twisting things to benefit their own viewpoint. We all do it from time to time but it is so important for our personal growth and motivation to catch ourselves when we are making excuses or avoiding an uncomfortable truth about something we may need to adjust in our lives.

Now 5 Things to Seek Out –

1 – Encouragement and Support – This one is a no-brainer. A few quality friendships with people who truly support and encourage us in our efforts to change and grow is so much better than having a multitude of acquaintances who may be fun to associate with but who may not be there for us when we really need help.

2 – Empathy – Our ability to try to understand others; even those who we strongly disagree with, is such a valuable tool when it comes to interpersonal relationships and coping with conflicts. The ability to put yourself in other’s shoes will help your perspective on your own life for the better.

3- Praise and Commendation – Practice handing out sincere praise and commendation to others and watch how it helps you build your own positive attitude and sense of gratitude which are essential for motivation. Also, it draws others to you instead of pushing them away

4 – Thinking “Outside the Box” and Searching for Meaning in Life – In today’s world, with all of the stimulating entertainment and useless information out there on TV and the internet and other places, it can be easy to get caught up in just our day to day concerns. Regardless of what we may believe in (or not beleive in) now, studies show that the ongoing ability to look at the “big picture” and search for meaning and purpose in life can be critical to our long term happiness and self-growth

5- Setting Goals and Persevering in Reaching Out for Them – Life should involve an ongoing process of setting goals, striving for them even when we face obstacles, then re-evaluating our progress in order to keep moving forward and upward. A life without goals is a sure path toward depression, boredom, stagnation, bad habits, or self-medication.

The following link will connect you to a short motivational video review of these points.