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How to Be Happy: Are You Being Too Mean to Yourself? A 21 Day Challenge

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Who's been the latest uninvited guest to your door? Life has a way of 'knocking on our door' with all sorts of surprises -- some good, like the bouquet I got last week, and some not-so-good. Whatever's knocking, however, serves as demonstration for not only how gracious we are to the unexpected, but how courteous we are to ourselves. When you find yourself a bit too grumpy and stressed out, suspect you are being too mean to 'little ole you,' a habit well worth breaking.

First, however, you've got to have keen eyes for the first troubling sign. Regardless where you are reading, be it Nebraska or Nepal, Portland or Paris, Tacoma or Taipei, if you are rushing, you are being mean to yourself, and this means trouble. Every time you strain, you raise your blood pressure, tax your adrenals, and dump your own personal 'oil spill' of ACTH into your blood stream, and you'll get more aggressive and protective in a not-so-nice way.

Yes, yes, I hear you. 'Everyone's doing it,' I know. Just a few days ago, near Stanford University, at the "Wisdom 2.0 and Technology Conference" I experienced this phenomenon in Technicolor. As the first panelists began their 'spiel' from the stage, I noted that all around me there were i-pads, laptops, i-phones in full operation. Now, it used to be the case that when a speaker spoke, the audience focused on the speaker. Today, it ain't necessarily so. Those days are gone. We are adrift in a sea of noise, busyness, deadlines, Red-eye flights. Said one participant, on a break: "I feel like I'm being led around by the nose at work, and I'm in a reactive, crisis mode most of the time. I always feel behind, like I'm drowning in too many tasks with too little time." One of the speakers noted that in a 24-hour day in the techie world, you are doing really well if you are in a productive zone for an hour." That's mighty sad.

As he spoke, scenes of Alice's White Rabbit came to mind, that white be-speckled, waist-coated creature inside us fussing: "I'm late, I'm late, I'm late, for a very important date!" The question is, with whom? Anais Nin's words, in rusty paraphrase, come back to me: "The time came when she knew she had an appointment with herself that she must keep."

What is this appointment? Very simply, it is the one we came to keep with the Truth of who we are, not the False Self that needs to go. When you are being mean to yourself, you linger too long in situations that are not good for you, spending too little time in those that are heaven-sent, with the excuse called 'but there's no time!'

Mean-spiritedness toward you contaminates the moment, messes with your mind as well as Spirit. We plunge into metaphorical swimming pools without checking the water levels, much less whether the pool has water in it. Failing to check, being in too much of a rush brings injury. Your worthiest instincts get trampled. He who doesn't listen to instincts, ends up in big caca.

Remember the last time you found yourself in a situation where you'd obligated yourself, and knew in your gut you'd made a mistake? Maybe the invitation seemed like a good idea when you said 'yes,' but once you planted your feet in the venue, there was a big fat 'gong' inside your personal 'truth-detector.' I could ask whether you stayed, or left. But a more important question is how is it that you got yourself in such a pickle in the first place? Look beneath the rushing to not enough self-valuing. Usually, what I call the 'Predator' whispers in our ear, saying that we don't have the time to take our time, or listen deeply and give ourselves the space to let the answer come in its own good time. All of which culminates in self-recrimination until we wake-up, smell the coffee and give self-torture up for Lent.

Here's how HP reader, feyangel, put it so well:

I am, by nature, a great one for doing an "Indiana Jones," stepping off the precipice assuming support," the bridge," the "walk-way" will magically appear as I take that first step. And sometimes I have crashed onto the Valley floor-- which hurt, but was lived through-- but/and that happened cuz I had the Vision, the Dream, but not a clear assessment of who I am, what my "in-place" skill-set was/is and what the "environment" was/is, what would be required of me--and the interface between all that ... "

Where have you done your own version of Indiana Jones? Remember how 'Indie' found himself, so often, in the midst of high drama? Enter, the 'uninvited guest,' your own Indie situation. Whatever it is, we don't want it. We push, to make it go away. Maybe, like Max, ("How to Reject Your Inner Judge and Reclaim Self-Love") you're having a hard time forgiving yourself for something that's in the past. Perhaps, like Andrew, this morning at the gym, you are wasting time feeling terrible that you got a divorce, or, like Sandy, your are making yourself wrong " ... because I can't drop this last 27 pounds of blubber. What's wrong with me? I've tried every diet known to man, and still, nada." Been there, done that. A thankless street that leads to a dead-end, after all.

Sometimes, we don't like what we get, but we get what we get. The trick is learning how to work with it. We do this by seeing more clearly into the 'what's at the door,' beneath the disguise. Last week, I mentioned that the gods often appeared in masks, in order to test how genuine is our humanity, including toward ourselves. So, here we have these gods in disguise as two scruffy characters looking for a hand-out. Think of this as the homeless guys standing on the corner of a busy street with cardboard signs. You know the pitch: 'What if this were Jesus?' The question then becomes, are you treating the magnificent part of the undiscovered you in the same way? Are you in too big a hurry to care for the, shall we say, less-groomed, less-presentable part of yourself which is needing your own T.L.C.? Because, if you are, your are missing the 'god,' the hidden gold, the precious treasure that life has to offer you, if you will simply take the time to feed what is hungry in your soul, and rest what is weary in your heart.

Here's the good news: you can retrain your brain. You can drop more dopamine into your system, grab more of the 'feel-good' times that you want, if you are willing to become a Protector for what matters to your heart. This is not an intellectual affair, but an experiential practice which leads to lighting up the dashboard of your brain's Frontal Lobe, which is a good thing. More on this next week.

Meanwhile, 'back at the ranch,' let's see where you are by answering the following:

1. Are you telling yourself 'there's no time for me.' If so, turn off the screens for a bit each day, and one hour before bed. Watch what blooms. Enjoy. Keep me posted. You are brave and brilliant.

2. When you find yourself in situations that aren't right for you, do you linger longer than you want? If so, consider making your apologies to your host with your own words that might sound something like: "I'm afraid I'm over-extended, and need to leave. It's not personal, just something I must attend." Make an appointment with yourself. On the last day of life, this will be the truest measure of how you've lived: what you love, and how you serve this love. How do I know? From interviews with people who've been clinically dead.

3. Are you making yourself wrong for your choices? If you are, retire that club in your hand. Beating you up prolongs the trauma/drama, delaying life renewal.

4. Are you getting sick of overhearing yourself talk about what you don't want? Let yourself out of that prison. Make a detailed list, of what you want, reflecting on this daily. Forget the mechanism. Life knows how to move you. Throw away the old blue-prints.

5. Are you guilty of thinking that if you don't push the envelope, nothing good will happen? Pushing the envelope will only bring more stress, and less creative breakthrough. Take five. Go for a walk around the block. Restore perspective. Breathe. The world will continue on its axis while you are gone.

6. Have you been jumping into pools lately without doing a water check? If so, contract with a buddy who tends to do likewise and serve as 'check-points' for your own 'Homeland Security' before jumping into ventures that are not for you. Cool your jets.

If you answered 'yes' to any of these, be good to yourself. Take the 21 Day Challenge: No Self Mean-ness! O.K., so you'll slip now and then. Begin anew. This Challenge is a process, not an exercise of perfection. We are taking on the practice of Self-Courtesy to discover what can come alive. Are you willing to give yourself a break? Let me know. I'm listening.

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