04/19/2010 05:12 am ET | Updated Nov 17, 2011

Are You Trying Too Hard?

"I'm so unhappy!" she groaned, plunking herself down into the easy chair of my consulting room. Marlis, a beautiful young pediatrician in her early 30's, was 'spent.' "I've probably defatted my adrenals significantly this week alone," she acknowledged. "It was just awful. Maybe I'm no good at being a doctor. Well, that's not true, exactly, but I'm driving myself and everyone nuts. I'm such a fanatic about doing the procedures right, I'm so afraid something awful will happen if every little thing the staff does is not perfect." I asked her to describe what had happened. After listening to her story in detail, it became clear that her anxiety was more problematic, than the clinical reality of what she feared. She acknowledged this was so.

Anxiety comes in many forms. Medication is not the only answer. Take Sasha, for example. When I saw him last week at Safeway check-out where he works, he was fearing the worst. To my 'what's up, Sasha,' his reply was succinct. "I'm afraid I'm going to get Valentine's Day wrong again, like the past eight years." To my question: 'what was the fatal error? His answer got my attention. "I have no idea what she wants, and I always guess wrong." "Sasha," said I, why don't you tell her what you just told me and ask for her help?" He smiled sheepishly, muttering: "I guess I never thought of that!"

He's not alone. When we face challenges, most achievers and slackers alike, fail to ask for help. Too often, we go off into the sunset like the Lone Ranger, and forget all about Tonto. There's a reason that the hero often has a side-kick: think Don Quixote and Sancho Panza, think Batman and Robin. The idea of getting assistance from another has made up the storyline for centuries. Only today, when in a neuron crunch for the name of a terrific reference for you, outreach to one of my favorite clinicians, Tara Carson, joggled the memory banks. We are not alone unless we choose it. Period.

The great news is that each of us has access to the Other, beginning with the One within, the One directing our instincts, catalyzing our hearts to yearn for that which would bring about a deeper relationship with wholeness. This inner G.P.S. couldn't care less about imperfection, mistakes, caring only about our progression towards that 'Truth that sets you free.' As Jiminy Cricket once said: "Let your conscious be your guide." Okay, yes, so I spelled it a different way, but, if the 'spelling fits,' let's run with it. Perhaps what Mr. C was suggesting was that we begin with a desire for recognition that if what we're doing is not producing the desired result, do something else. You know, that old 'what you think about you bring about' jazz.

All I know is that it's working for Marlis and Sasha by last report this week. Let's give a wee run down of their four-fold step game plan which is working:

1. Tell yourself the truth. Eudora Welty, a famous Pulitzer Prize winner put it this way: " know a truth, I also had to recognize a lie." Marlis recognized that she was exaggerating, Sasha recognized that he was playing clairvoyant.

2. Reconsider your situation from the inside out, as Welty put it: "...all serious daring starts within..." Each of the aforementioned duo, in their own way, considered the question: "What is the experience you want to create?" Sasha created the best Valentine's Day he's ever had by enlisting the help of his wife, and creating the day together, taking time with one another, which, he told me "was even free!"

3. Reset your gold standard if you find yourself 'trying too hard' and failing to get your desired results. I should know. For too many years I took on far too much, telling myself the story: "Look at Mother Teresa. She's saving hundreds of thousands one person at a time." Finally, in a fit of exhaustion, with some help from my best friend, and some others, I began to see that I was operating by a false standard. By now, if you've been reading my work, you're pretty darn clear that Mother Teresa leaves me in the dust. The real work has been to reset my standard in ways that are natural to my nature. My columns are not the brilliant blogs of those with other styles. I'm not the Shapiros, any more than I am Anne Naylor, Judith Rich, Kari Henley, Arianna, Mehmet Oz, Andrew Wyle, or Larry Dossey. Trying to be other than we are only upsets the apple cart. What I am is someone who loves you, loves the process, loves human relations, and loves the results that transformation brings about. Maybe someday I'll write another book. I know the title: Getting Over Mother Teresa! What do you think?

4. Watch your words. Listen deeply. I am indebted to a fine clinician by the name of Tara Carson who 'turned me onto' a teacher of teachers, Sylvia Warner. Here's the scoop. When Sylvia Ashton Warner moved to New Zealand, as a teacher, she gravitated to the schoolhouse of children who were seriously challenged around learning. Warner stepped up, honored her own experience, and stopped pushing the curriculum down their throats. Nor did she buy into any 'dumbing down' of the requirements, as Utah is considering today. No, instead, she listening deeply to the children's story, wrote down their 'favorite word' from it on a single piece of paper, and sent them home with the instruction to care for their word, bring it back the next day, and place it in their own box. What happened was astounding: they learned to read and spell from their own stories.

Not too shabby, eh? This is what happens when in the presence of a Master Teacher. Marlis is such a teacher, because, like Warner, she is willing to be a learner. This week, she's focused on what she wants, not the obstacle in her thinking. The findings of recent neuroscience support the wisdom of such a choice as an impressive results producer.

For this week, let's consider the guidance of one of the finest teachers of the past century by the name of Emma Curtis Hopkins, and follow what she suggested. Let's challenge ourselves to consider:
"What is the good you desire? Name your good. Write it down."

Let me know your desire. I'm listening and will get back to you this week. By the way, for you who are passing this blog along to those you know, many, many thanks. This is a team effort, without the strain. I will be back March 3rd. You can receive notice of my blogs every Wednesday by checking Become a Fan at the top, and follow me on Twitter (DrCaraBarker),

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