Change What Defines You

We each have a narrative we tell about ourselves;  a character we’ve created.  We act in accordance with the qualities we’ve attributed to this character,  good and bad,  usually running on autopilot, seldom stopping to consider if our story continues to serve us in the best way.

Jim prided himself on being a dedicated and hard worker – an admirable quality to be sure – but he worked so much and took on so much responsibility,  it was wreaking havoc on his personal life and his health.

Greta thought of herself as a pillar of her community.  She was always the first to volunteer or join a committee; helping people in need, etc.  Ultimately, it took its toll on her family,  in part because it was a way of avoiding some serious issues in her marriage.

There are the self-definitions that serve as pre-made excuses and self-fulfilling prophesies:   Fran told me,   “I’ve always been unathletic;  that’s why I don’t exercise.”    She was always the last one picked when the kids were choosing teams and this led to a lifetime sense of humiliation and shame when it came to any kind of physical endeavor. (I can relate!)  I certainly would not have encouraged her to take up a high-risk sport that required a great deal of coordination,  but she was eventually able to enjoy the type of athletics in which she competed against herself (swimming, tai chi, yoga, bike riding.) She was able to let go of that stressful competitive feeling whenever she thought about any kind of physical activity and enjoy the healthful benefits.

Rachel complained, “I always have the worst relationships.  I don’t even want to bother dating anymore, because I know I’m just going to be disappointed and have my heart broken.”   It had been many years since she had any kind of romantic relationship with a man.  Eventually, she came to understand that when she expected the worst,  that’s exactly what she got.  Once she adjusted her expectations and just started meeting men without having any agenda,  she found she enjoyed the companionship.  And because she’d let go of all those heavy expectations,  she became more relaxed, and thus much more interesting and attractive to men.

Too often,  we define ourselves by our failures or flaws,  blinding ourselves  to our finer qualities.  Dana thought of herself as unattractive and was convinced this was the reason nobody would ever love her.   Paul saw himself as not very smart,  and thus,  “knew” he would never be successful.

While there may be some validity in such self-assessments, they are hardly the sum and total of who we are.  Everybody has faults, weaknesses, flaws and things they’d like to change about themselves, but to define yourself by your negative qualities is self-defeating and sure way to keep you from accomplishing your higher goals.

True,  Paul may not be the smartest guy among his peers, but by defining himself as “stupid” he blinded himself to his other fine qualities.   He is a generous, sweet man,  a loyal friend with many friends and co-workers who like and respect him.  He’s a hard worker and a loving husband and father.    Eventually, he came to understand that his finer qualities are so much more valuable to his happiness and overall well-being.

Similarly, Dana finally embraced the notion that beauty comes from within.  When she exuded happiness and confidence,  men were attracted to her.

Jack was terrified of making a mistake.  The fear was crippling to the point where he could barely make a decision. Change was impossible because he could not move from his spot.  He thought of himself as a coward, and this virtually guaranteed that he would never even attempt to change; his “destiny was already written.”   Slowly,  he came to regard “mistakes” as merely lessons, to be embraced.  This freed him immensely.

Of course, it is important to differentiate between things that can be changed and things that cannot be.  Sometimes,  what we think is immutable, is changeable with the right effort and mind-set.  And sometimes,  we waste years (even a lifetime) trying to become what we are not.

Usually, things are changeable to a certain degree.  For instance,   Dave was  not an aggressive-go-getter type, so becoming wildly successful in a highly competitive field was not in his future.  Nevertheless,  he learned to be more assertive when necessary and this helped him tremendously in business.

Larry was pathologically adverse to risk, which made life changes difficult if not impossible.  He started his metamorphosis by taking easy, low-risk challenges to build up his “muscle.”  Once he had a string of successes under his belt,  he started to feel more confident in his own judgment.  And a few failures that didn’t destroy him helped him understand that he could survive if things didn’t work out as he’d planned.

Ask yourself if your own self-definition isn’t limiting you; getting in the way of you achieving your goals.  Try thinking of yourself in a different way… you don’t have to act on it just yet.  Just try on this new persona and see how it feels.  You may be surprised at how easy it is to change from the inside out!

© 2011 Adrienne E. Gusoff   all rights reserved


Be Careful What You Wish For…

One of my clients been reading a lot lately about manifesting one’s desires with positive thinking.  In other words, “Ask, and the Universe shall give it to you.”

I do believe one can have a lot of success with this approach,  but I don’t think it’s the “Universe” per se,  giving you what you want.  There’s nothing magical or mystical about it.

When you have a clear goal in mind for yourself,  you are not distracted by the things that pull you away from that goal.   If your laser focus is on making lots of money,  you are probably going to be working longer hours;  enjoying  less recreational time;   perhaps not “wasting” money on “frivolous” things but rather pumping it all back into your endeavor.

Likewise, if all you want is to get married,  it is unlikely that you will “waste your time” on “unsuitable” dates who don’t meet your “criteria.”

You will notice I have used a lot of quotes in the above paragraphs on what I would consider subjective terms.  Let me explain further…

Too often,  we think we want one thing, but in reality, that object of desire merely represents what we actually want.    For example, when I work with singles, one of the most common goals I hear from women is “I want to get married.”

As a specific objective,  this can lead to big mistakes that may negatively impact the rest of their lives.  Before taking laser aim at this target,  I ask them to question their actual motivations.  What does marriage represent to them?  For a lot of women,  it’s all about the big, fairy tale wedding with them as Queen for the Day.  Their goal is the party where they are the center of attention, NOT the marriage itself.

For some women,  marriage represents a public acknowledgement that they are worthwhile; that someone values them enough to marry them.  For others, it’s about security and being taken care of.   For some, it’s about having a father for the child(ren) they want.

I don’t believe any of these are reason alone for getting married.  For any relationship to be happy and healthy, it is imperative that we enter it knowing first how to take care and value ourselves.  Marriage should be about mutual support and friendship; with a deep respect of each others’ goals.  To enter marriage with a need for validation is a sure recipe for failure.   Want to be the center of attention at a party? Well, then throw yourself a huge bash,  but never mistake a wedding for a marriage.  A wedding is over in a few hours;  a marriage, if you’re lucky,  lasts the rest of your life.

Likewise,  people often chase money, fame and/or success because they need outside validation.  Validation for one’s worth only has meaning when it comes from within.  I so often meet outwardly successful people who are terribly insecure within; what drives their success is their deeply rooted need for the validation of others.

Let’s go back to that earlier paragraph, with all the quotation marks.  Generally speaking,  if you ask people why they want to achieve a certain goal or possess a specific thing,  at the root of the answer is, “I believe this will make me happy.”    Often people will pursue these goals with amazing single-mindedness. Worse, they beat themselves up if they cannot  achieve them.   People rarely give much consideration to what will truly make them happy.  In fact, few people spend any time at all even thinking about what happiness really is.

For many people,  “happiness” is some imagined state in the future that will occur when certain conditions have been met. (i.e. marriage, the great job,  success in their field,  fame,  certain goals achieved or bad things eliminated, etc.)

Studies after study has shown that achieving goals does not bring happiness, because there is always another goal, and another, and another.  Happiness is rather a state of mind.  Happy people have a certain skill set that allows them to be happy under almost any circumstance.

Happiness is the equilibrium that allows you to process your life in a positive, healthy way.   It is knowing how to ride the wave of emotion instead of drowning in it.  It is the confidence of knowing you can roll without breaking.  It is the appreciation of the lessons in the journey.  It is the ability to find joy in small, seemingly insignificant things.

Happiness is not the absence of sadness but rather the understanding that life is full of sadness which will not kill you. In fact, it will bring you deeper understanding, which in turn, will make you more content.

As the Buddhists say, “Life is pain; suffering is optional.”   In other words,  pain is what life gives you; suffering is what you do to yourself.


© 2011 Adrienne E. Gusoff   all rights reserved

Change Your View, Change Your Life

I’ve always been interested in the deep, inner, complex  emotional lives of my fellow  human beings.   I love to understand what makes people tick — their motivations, fears, insecurities,  dreams, goals — and I think I’m pretty good at it.   Friends have always come to me for advice.  Even people who I’ve only just met tend to pour out their hearts to me.

 I take  genuine joy in helping others find more resourceful ways to solve their problems and resolve their issues.  I hope you will be inspired to positive change through my blog and website.

A little about me:   I am a life coach based in NYC.  I have both a private practice and am a motivational speaker to both large and small groups.   I am also a  freelance writer,  lecturer, humorist,  certified NLP and EFT practitioner, and  licensed hypnotist.   I have  written advice columns for international magazines and various websites, and have been the relationship expert for  Klugertown, a talk radio show based in Phoenix, AZ.

I welcome you to visit my website, and invite you to submit questions for my Advice section or offer suggestions for topics.  Personal consultations are,  of course,  also available.