Before You Set Your Goals, Set Your Fears

Before You Set Your Goals

“We suffer more in imagination than in reality.” -Seneca

So many gurus and life coaches these days will tell you that the best thing you can do to help you reach your goals or turn your life around is to think positive. “Set big, specific goals!” “Go after the life you really want!” And, truly, this is good advice. It’s good to be specific and to think positive about what you want out of life.

With that said, maybe too much attention is paid to what we want and thinking positive. What about the negative things? What about those worries and fears that keep you up at night? Should you just put on a happy face and push down those nasty thoughts with fantasies about your future?

That really isn’t the best strategy.

It’s a bit like when you were a little kid and were afraid of the dark. Everything that seemed familiar and friendly in the daytime suddenly takes on a sinister cast in the dark. The familiar, harmless creaks in the floorboards become a monster approaching. The coat hanging on the door becomes a looming apparition. Remember what happened when you turned on the lights, or the sun rose? Suddenly those sinister things seemed utterly harmless and manageable.

This is the right approach to the things you fear. Look them in the eye. Unlike those innocent days of childhood, you have legitimate things to fear from the world. Terrible things can happen to the best of us, and there are things even worse than death that can happen to us. And yet, not everything is as scary as it seems.

So what do you do with this fear?

Most of us try not to think about it. And that might be the whole problem.

I recently ran across a method for facing the fears that might be holding us back that I’ve found to be highly effective. It’s called fear setting. Entrepreneur Tim Ferriss developed this system based on the teachings of the ancient Greek philosophers known as stoics, and I highly recommend his TED talk on the subject. The link is below.

How it works
The idea is that what’s really keeping you from doing what you really want to do with your life is unspoken fears that may be consciously or subconsciously holding you hostage. What do these fears demand? Your attention. Fear setting is about giving the hostage takers what they want, and that’s all you have to do to liberate yourself.

But fear is a tricky beast to outwit. Since fear helps you survive, it has a way of pulling all your biological strings. It causes your heart to race, your palms to sweat, and tenses your muscles–all without your consent or awareness.

To get around this, you have to attack it systematically.

Fear setting consists of three pages of notes, and shouldn’t take more than 45 minutes to an hour of your time, usually much less.

Page one
At the top of the page, write the thing you’re thinking of doing that gives you some level of anxiety, for example, asking that person out on a date, applying for that job, signing the papers (divorce, house, marriage license, car, whatever), making that investment, taking that trip–anything that carries risk which fear might be holding you back from doing. Next, you’re going to make a simple table in the middle of the page with three columns. The first column is every worst-case-scenario thing that could go wrong if you pull the trigger on whatever it is, everything you fear the most.

In the next column, for each worst-case-scenario, you’re going to list all the ways you might be able to prevent that terrible thing from happening.

In the third column, for each worst-case-scneario, you’re going to list all the ways you might be able to fix it if that terrible thing happens, or the names of people who might be able to help you through it.

That’s page one.

Page two
This is where things get fun. List all the good things that might happen if you go through with the thing. Simple, but exhilarating and energizing.

Page three
Just in case you need that little extra push, it’s time to contemplate what might happen if you do nothing and just maintain the status quo. You’ll need another three-column table for this one because you’re going to contemplate what your life will be life if you do nothing for three time periods: 6 months, 1 year, and 3 years. Be sure to take into account any applicable aspect of your life: finances, relationships, occupation, etc. This is where you’ll take a good, hard look at the hell you don’t want, but which might be coming your way if you do nothing.

That’s it!

So what
Is this just a way to talk yourself into doing literally anything? No. This is about being honest with yourself in every possible way. In fact, you’re almost as likely to talk yourself out of something.

Ferriss puts it this way: “It’s not a panacea. You’ll find that some of your fears are very well founded. But you shouldn’t conclude that without first putting them under a microscope.”

What I did
I’ve been working on a creative project off and on for some time. I had put it on hold for a while to focus on some other priorities. After the storm passed, there was the project staring at me with an expectant look. I knew I had to begin again, but I felt some reluctance. What was holding me back? I saw an opportunity to put Ferriss’ method to the test.

I actually forgot to do the other two pages! All I did was page one, and yet … It got me going! It didn’t take long at all, and I jumped right into a highly detailed planning session for the remainder of the project, setting incremental deadlines with clear deliverables.

And I did it with zero hesitation, because I had a clear answer to the question “what’s the worst that could happen?”. We’ll see how the project goes, but I met my first incremental deadlines, and I’m well on my well to meeting the next one. For me, Fear Setting was powerful, and has easily sold me on this method for contemplating other things I might be feeling anxious about.

Ferriss says he does this exercise at least once a quarter. I’ve since used a similar technique just in my head for smaller hassles and sources of anxiety in my life. For instance, I might ask myself “what’s the worst that can happen if I don’t get this done?” or “what would I do if this thing I’m afraid of happens?” If I can answer this uncomfortable questions, suddenly I feel empowered to move forward. And maybe that very discomfort is where the opportunity lies. Joseph Campbell said “The cave you fear to enter holds the treasure you seek.”

The cave you fear to enter ...

Tim Ferriss puts it this way:

“The hard choices–what we most fear, doing, asking, saying–these are very often what we most need to do. And the biggest challenges and problems we face will never be solved with comfortable conversations, whether it’s in your own head or with other people.”

Choose the good life.

Tim Ferriss’ TED Talk:

https://www.ted.com/talks/tim_ferriss_why_you_should_define_your_fears_instead_of_your_goals

Tom Gunn is the marketing director and blog editor at The Good Life Massage. Visit our website for more information or to book a massage online. You can contact Tom Gunn to help you build your brand with branding design and content marketing by contacting him at tomgunn@gmail.com.

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3 Self-Massage Hacks (To Tide You Over Until Your Next Massage)

3 Self-Massage Hacks

Just because you’re between regular massage appointments doesn’t mean you have to suffer until your LMT gets their hands on you. Self massage is surprisingly simple to do, and can pay off big if you’re trying to get through a tough, stressful day, or want to reward yourself for surviving one.
Here are 5 simple massage hacks you can do at home or at work to keep you going until the next treatment.

1. Sub-Occipital, or the “Sweet Spot”

This one requires no more tools than your fingers on either hand. Find the spot just behind your ears where the back of your head connects to your neck. Press in at that connection point, moving your fingers towards and then away from the middle of your neck in slow repetitions. Do that for about 30 seconds.
How does that feel?

2. The “Play Ball” Back Massage

Get a tennis or racket ball and wedge it between your back and the wall. Use your legs to move your back up and down against the ball. You can vary the pressure however you like, and that ball can reach places you’ll never be able to get to without imposing on a friend or booking a massage.
This one can also be a great way to do a pre-massage check on yourself, so you know just what parts of your back seem to need the most attention from your LMT.

3. Handy Hand Massage

If you spend a lot of time at the keyboard or working with your hands, this one was made for you. This actually consists of not one technique or motion, but several in a sequence. First, firmly, but gently grasp your hands in each other. You’ll be surprised how nice this feels when you really take a moment and focus on the sensations.
Next, take each finger in the other hand and gently pull and twist, running your hand up to the finger tip.
To finish, give your fingers a shake like you’re trying to shake slime off, then clench each fist one at a time, smoothing them over gently.
The hardest, but maybe the most important part 

Don’t forget the mental, emotional component of this exercise in self care. Any massage therapist worth their salt isn’t just going through a series of motions during a session. They’re thinking of you and your needs, paying attention to what they’re feeling going on in those muscles and what needs the most attention.
A sense of caring and loving-kindness is crucial to giving a good massage, whether it’s for someone else or yourself. For many of us, the self-love and self-care aspect of this is the toughest to get past, but these techniques are about more than mechanical motions to go through.

To really get the maximum benefit, send yourself the kind of good feelings, compassion, and awareness that you’d devote to someone you really cared for.

Have you tried these and still feel like a wreck? Book your next massage now!
Choose the good life!
Tom Gunn is the blog editor and marketing director for The Good Life Massage. You can contact him to help you build your brand and reach your customers by contacting him at tomgunn@gmail.com

Gratitude: The Gift You Give To Yourself

 

Gratitude

We tend to think that gratitude is a feeling that just happens to you–a reaction, like laughing at a joke. The problem with this idea is that it makes us victims of our own ability to adapt. Even if the circumstances we live in are extremely good, we may not have any awareness of it. We’re just focused on the next threat to our existence. This is a good strategy for staying alive, but it doesn’t work so well for feeling like life is worth living. We get used to how good things are, and before we know it we’re sneaking envious peeks over the fence to admire the neighbors’ grass.

Gratitude works like magic in the way it can transform the hum-drum world around you into a place of wonders: a place where miracles are happening all around you at every moment. You can see this transformation in even the most mundane and onerous aspects of modern life (including commercial air travel).

Not only does gratitude make you feel better about what you have, it can open the door to even more good things in your life.

For your health
Being grateful for your body and your health increases your body awareness. Your body may not look just the way you’d like; it’s current condition may reflect either poor choices on your part or circumstances beyond your control. But consider what an amazing mechanism your body is! Millions of years of evolutionary growth have gone into it, and before that, the very stuff you’re made of was a part of the stars in the heavens. Your body, whatever it’s condition, is a wonder to behold. Keeping these beautiful ideas in your heart and mind will do more for your happiness and health than you may realize.

In fact, studies show that people who are grateful are more likely to attend regular checkups, have fewer aches and pains, and suffer from less depression. What’s more, a default position of gratitude will help you enjoy your body more and deepen your happiness and sense of well-being, helping you feel better both mentally and physically. And who couldn’t use more of that?

So exercise! Enjoy affection and intimacy with someone you love. Get a massage from time to time to give your body a little treat.

For your relationships
A study published in Emotion in 2014 showed that saying thank you to someone you’ve just met increases the likelihood that the person you’ve thanked will establish an on-going connection with you. When the people around you feel appreciated, they tend to want to do more of the thing you thanked them for. As you continue thanking people and as gratitude becomes the default for your personal and working relationships, more and more people gather around you, offering up their best selves as you keep rewarding them with recognition and gratitude, often without even thinking twice about it.

For your soul
Are you feeling ground down all the time, defensive, victimized? Do you lash out at people who probably don’t deserve it, or feel like a slave to your own tempestuous moods? Consider cultivating more gratitude.

A 2014 University of Kentucky study showed that people who rated higher in gratitude were less likely to retaliate when given negative feedback, and showed greater empathy towards others over all.

With greater gratitude, you’ll have higher self-esteem because you’ll be able to recognize your own gifts, and so won’t feel the need to resent the achievements or accomplishments of others.

What more reasons do you need? Cultivate gratitude in your life. Treat yourself like someone you’re trying to take care of and work gratitude into your public and private life. Pray or meditate daily. See how many times you can say “thank you” to the people in your life in a given day.

Get curious about it: hat would happen if you tried it?

Choose the good life.

Tom Gunn is the blog editor and marketing director for The Good Life Massage. You can hire him to develop your brand and social media strategy by contacting him at TomGunn@gmail.com

5 Ways to Add Beauty to Your Life

5 ways to add beauty to your life

Beauty may be in the eye of the beholder, but don’t let that chestnut fool you into thinking beauty is meaningless–a nice, optional garnish to add to your plate at the buffet of life. Appreciating beauty is essential to living a meaningful life–a life you actually want to live.

There’s a quote from the movie Dead Poets Society that really sticks with you, because it’s true. Robin Williams plays an English teacher instructing his prep school students the importance of beauty in their lives.

“We don’t read and write poetry because it’s cute. We read and write poetry because we are members of the human race, and the human race is filled with passion. Medicine, law, business, engineering, these are noble pursuits and necessary to sustain life. But poetry, beauty, romance, love, these are what we stay alive for.”

What enriching beauty is, and what it isn’t
When we try to enrich our lives with beautiful things, we might be easily distracted. We’re a distracted generation. So many things draw our attention, or even pose as things of beauty designed to enrich your life. Be mindful: don’t mistake mere sensation or stimulation for beauty.

And don’t be fooled with the idea that appreciating beauty has to involve commercial consumption. You can buy art. But you can’t buy taste.

Stop and smell the roses
Have you ever paused to see the beauty in the world around you? Sometimes all it takes is the initiative to look around and appreciate what’s right in front of you. If you’re into journaling, try writing down one beautiful or awe-inspiring thing you noticed or are grateful for each day.

This is really about deepening your mindfulness and the connection to your senses. Habits like meditation, exercise, regular massage, and getting plenty of sleep can help you open and tune your senses to beauty and wonder.

Read poetry
“I don’t like poetry” I hear you saying, probably because you were force-fed it somewhere in your education. But if you write it off because of that experience, you’re walking away from a gold mine of enrichment, passion, depth, and thought.

A poet’s job is to teach you to see the world in a different way. So let them! See the world through new eyes. Try different poets until you find what you like. You can read a massive library of poems from both classic and modern poets for free at your local library, or at http://www.poetryfoundation.com

Listen to music. No really listen.
You may be used to putting music on in the background of this or that activity in your life–work, driving, getting a massage–but when was the last time you stopped to do nothing but listen?

Is your collection kind of tired? Stream something new, branch out, take a chance on something new. But do it for it’s own sake and really appreciate what’s there.

While you’re at it, go see some live performances once in a while. If you know the rock club scene, try the symphony sometime, or vice-versa.

A little more high, a little less low
Challenge yourself! Push your boundaries. Engage with music or art that’s difficult to grasp, that challenges what you know and dares you to learn more.

Whether it’s music, art, literature, earth sciences, or just about any other subject, there’s a whole world of educational resources out there, some for a fee, many for nothing. Most are online, but don’t forget about your local library. It’s never been easier to catch yourself up and fill in the gaps in your education.

“With what time?” I hear you asking. Try turning off the TV! Your Mom agrees with me on this, and we both know it.

Invest in art
As you’ve built your taste and grown your appreciation for beauty, you may find that you’re ready to take the step of buying some art. Don’t buy for status or prestige. Buy something that speaks to you personally, that you’ll delight in every day, that will remind you of the magnificence to be found in the human spirit.

So roll up that Miley Cyrus poster, put it in the rec room, and put an object of true beauty in the center of your life.

Choose to live the good life!

Tom Gunn is the blog editor and marketing director for The Good Life Massage. You can hire him to grow your social media presence or build your brand by contacting him at tomgunn@gmail.com

 

Swim Into The Wave: How Hiding From Your Emotions Can Destroy You

Swim Into The Wave

For experienced ocean swimmers, waves are just part of the challenge. So it is with life. Waves of emotions can throw us for a loop disorient us, and confuse us before we even have time to process what we’re going through. Unfortunately, our cultural biases have taught us to handle our feelings in exactly the wrong way.

Quick fix
What do you do when you’re hungry? Grab a bite (whether it’s nutritious or not). What do you do when you have a headache or some other kind of pain? Pop a pill. The tendency to want to avoid pain and discomfort is not only understandable, it’s completely natural. But it’s not always the best way to handle things, particularly your feelings.

What’s the quick fix for bad feelings? Take your pick! Food. TV. Pornography. Alcohol. Drugs. Everyone seems to have a favorite. You may feel good temporarily, but put off your self care indefinitely and you’re in for a world of hurt.

Here there be dragons
Think you have total contol over your feelings? Think again. You can control how you respond to what you’re feeling to some extent. But the stronger the feeling is, the more difficult it is to control your response in a given moment. You may soon find that you’re repsonses to things are way out of proportion and make no sense. This is often because of emotional problems you’re refusing to address properly.

So, guess what happens when you try to ignore, cover-up, or otherwise run from what you’re feeling? It gets strong. Your feelings are like a monster that feeds on your resistance. The more you ignore it or deny it’s there, the bigger it gets.

It’s like the dragon in this excellent children’s story:

The more the child bought into the mom’s argument that the dragon didn’t exist, the bigger it got. Before long, it was carrying their whole lives away from them.

Keep going
Winston Churchill said “If you’re going through Hell, keep going.” The only way out of an unpleasant feeling is through it. This is true for even serious emotional trauma and grief. Mental health professionals are trained in guiding their clients and patients through the process of feeling and re-living their trauma in the most vivid and detailed way possible. It’s not pleasant at all. But neither is surgery.

Even a massage, when used for treatment, can be very uncomfortable. There seems to be a principle at work that dictates that in order to overcome physical or emotional pain and to heal, one must feel it completely.

Ride into the wave, or risk drowning in it.

Tom Gunn is the marketing director and blog editor for The Good Life Massage. You can hire him to assist with your brand development and marketing my emailing him at tomgunn@gmail.com

The Power of No

Charity.jpgYou are a giving person. You care about your family and friends, and even try to help strangers whenever you can.

worn out.jpgBut some days you just can’t take it anymore. You’ve been worn down, turned over, and worn out on the other side as well.

How did this happen?

You may be suffering from a lack of balance in your life.

It may be time to start saying no.

“No”: the other magic word
There’s nothing wrong with being the giving, loving, loyal, valuable individual you are. But sometimes it’s important to remember that you are valuable no matter how much or how little you do. Your value as a person is inherent and infinite. No failing or mistake or limitation on your part can take that away.

Sometimes you need a chance to remind yourself of this. But you can’t do that if you set expectations for yourself too high and commit to too much.

“Can you take on a part of this project for me? I’m just swamped.”

“Do you mind watching my kids tonight? My sitter backed out at the last moment.”

“We were looking for someone to chair the dance committee. Would you be willing to help out?”

If you say yes to one of these things, you have to live with the reality that you may have to say no to the other two. This doesn’t make you a bad person. It makes you a mortal human being with a predicted lifespan of roughly 80 years only 24 hours allotted to you each day, just the same as everyone else. Thinking you are more than this is a lie you tell yourself, and it’s not doing you any good.

Saying no to things can be powerful because it can get you out of your own way. You’re acknowledging the truth about yourself–that you need care and nurturing just like everyone else. It’s amazing how easy it is to lose sight of that, and lose yourself in the process.

How do I find myself again?
It doesn’t have to take long, and nobody will resent you for taking care of yourself first.

Happy teen

Take a walk.

Study and practice the art of relaxation.

Get a massage.

Breathe.

Results!
Piling your plate with too much may give you some sense of being a busy, accomplished person, but buckle up: other people may not see you that way.

sad little girl.jpg
Your kids may see you as being too busy to give them the attention they crave.

Depressed man working late at nightYour boss may see you as someone who struggles to follow through.

Worried Young Couple In BedYour significant other may be sensing you drifting away.

Mother and Daughter Happy.jpgWhen you take care of yourself, you’ll find that all the people in your life will light up as you engage them more fully and completely with your whole self.

So when you hear that little voice in your head saying you’re “too busy,” that voice may be exactly right.

And now you know what to do about it.

Tom Gunn is the marketing director and blog editor at The Good Life Massage. Follow him on Twitter @tomgunnpoet

Better Sleep Tonight – 5 Simple Tricks You Can Try Tonight

We often find that it’s worthwhile to give up something good for something even better. Sacrifice is a principle of life.

Too often, we apply this principle to our sleep.

Numerous studies have shown the benefits of consistent, uninterrupted sleep. And yet, when the going gets tough, sleep is the first thing we sacrifice in the name of making our lives work.

Unfortunately, sleeping isn’t something you can bank and use later, neither can you “catch up” on the weekend. Repeated nights of too few hours or of low quality sleep can result in long-term health risks including increased risk for heart disease, more rapid aging, impaired memory, emotional instability, and depression. Your ability to cope with stress diminishes with time.

Sleep Post - Pull Quote 1

Imagine the effects that can have on your life. How would your emotional instability effect your friends and family? How would the reduction in memory and creativity effect your working life? This is where regularly getting a good night’s sleep could mean literal money in the bank.

Do it right
1. Turn off the television and try to avoid all screens, including your phone, for an hour or so before bed. Limiting your media to relaxing music or books just before bed has been shown to help your brain more easily settle into the relaxed state necessary for a good deep sleep.

Watching screens have also been shown to suppress the production of melatonin, a key hormone in controlling your sleep and waking cycles.

2. Set a bed time … and stick to it! (No, you didn’t wander into a parenting post.) Try it! You’ll find that a little self-discipline can go a long way in this area. After all, being a healthy, well-balanced adult means being a good parent to yourself. It may be difficult at first, but sticking to the routine as much as possible ensures you get the time you need to rest. Making your circadian rhythm consistent results in better sleep over all.

3. Get regular massage. This one is obviously self-serving, but it also has the benefit of being true. What’s more, massage isn’t just for the rich anymore, and is more affordable than ever.

Massage has been shown to improve sleep in people of all ages, including children and seniors. This extra measure can be particularly helpful for those who suffer from chronic pain. Massage provides relief from the kind of pain that keeps you up, or at least tossing and turning.

4. Prepare the bedroom. It’s best to keep your room as dark as possible and relatively cool. Avoid using clock radios with bright displays or night lights.

Also, keep the television off and avoid working on your laptop in bed. The more you associate your bed and the bedroom with sleep or intimacy, the more it will feel like a sanctuary from the cares of the day, and the better your sleep will be.

5. Invest in a good bed, pillow, and linens. And we don’t use the word invest lightly here. The benefits of better sleep are strongly correlated with higher incomes and more prosperous lifestyle. You spend nearly half your life in bed! Make it count, and get the best mattress, pillow, and linens you can reasonably afford. This is one investment you can be certain will pay off down the road.

Just because your body seems to be on autopilot when it comes to sleep, you really shouldn’t have that mindset. Look at getting enough sleep as essential self care. The rewards are well worth it.

As with everything on this blog, none of this information should be construed as medical advice or care. The employees of The Good Life Massage, including the writers of this blog, are not medical doctors. Consult with your physician before making any changes to improve your health.

Tom Gunn is the Marketing Director and Blog Editor at The Good Life Massage. You can follow him on Twitter @tomgunnpoet.