It’s Not About You Unless You Say It Is

about you

When someone cuts in front of you when you’re driving, is that about you? If someone sees you walking towards them with an arm full of groceries and doesn’t hold the door open for you, do you get offended? If it’s sunny all week then rains on your day off, is the world against you?

No matter what happens in life, it’s not about you unless you say it is. None of these things has anything to do with you. The erratic driver is driving that way because of what is going on in his head.

Let’s say the person who allows the door to close sees you. Let’s say she’s aware that it would be helpful to hold the door and chooses not to. Even then, it’s not about you. That’s about the person who decides not to help you out.

As for the weather, well, sometimes it does seem like it plots against you, but I assure you, the weather doesn’t care. Whether it snows, rains, or the sun shines, it’s completely random. It’s not about you.

When you see other people’s words and actions as being about you, you’re always at the mercy of something outside of yourself. You get offended when someone say something you don’t like. You get angry when someone does something you don’t like. You can even get thrown off balance when arbitrary things happen – like a ball rolling into your path or a squirrel building a nest in your engine. That’s a lot of responsibility! Why not set that all down?

When you take the “it’s not about you unless you say it is” attitude, you never have to get offended. Bad things can happen and you can just roll on with your happy day. Being upset or hurt becomes a choice… a choice that you can say “no” to. We all feel more in control of our destiny when we feel we have a choice. So, why not give yourself that advantage? It’s as simple as adopting the belief of “it’s not about you.”

How You Do Anything is How You Do Everything

how you do anything

When you are in need of a solution and don’t know what to do, remember that how you do anything is how you do everything. This can do one of two things for you. It can either help you figure out what got you stuck, or it can help you get unstuck. How?

Well, we are habitual creatures. We don’t meet each situation with new eyes or new skills. We employ the same thinking and same skills with situation A as we do situation G. Really, it’s true. If you are wake up grouchy in the morning, you probably do that regardless of where you are, what time you get up, or what time you went to bed. If you tend to take responsibility when something goes wrong at work, you probably do that in your relationship, in sports, and in your finances. If you keep a tidy car, your office, home, and garage are probably neat too. We are the sum of our habits.

So, take a look at what is not working well in your life right now. Now apply the “How you do anything is how you do everything” statement to it to see what you contributed to making it that way. How was your attitude towards this thing? Were your priorities lined up in such a way to keep things balanced? Did you allow an outside influence too much power? Did you follow through? Did you ask for help? Were you true to your values? Did you speak your mind? Did you create healthy boundaries? These are just a few of the things that can show up that can help you see how you habitually move in the world.

So, let’s say you do this and figure out that the habit that got you unbalanced is lack of self-care. So bring your awareness to how you care for yourself. Where do you cut corners? What do you skip? What do you tell yourself when you are not making this a priority. It’s not about making a check list of self care tasks that you hold yourself accountable for. It’s more about the underlying drive that makes you either do those tasks or not do those tasks.

Perhaps you discover that your belief is that you think everyone else is more important than you. So the “how you do anything” is you do everything as if you are inferior or second tier.

The next step is to ask yourself who do you want to be? If this were me, I’d want to be someone who sees himself as equal to all others. So, if that were true, I’d have to do for myself what I would do for others. If I move through life like a person who loves himself as much as others, this will do far more for me than completing items on a checklist because this permeates my entire life! I’d be kinder to myself in many ways. As you go through your life, treat yourself like you are as important and valuable as everyone else. I would bet that within a short period of time, you will see that original problem fade into the background.

Correcting ineffective habits is a really easy way to create a healthier, happier life. Once established, habits are self-sustaining. We just do them over and over again, so you get great bang for your buck. With a little mindfulness and effort, you could have a whole new life in a short time. Why not give it a try?

Just Say No

say no

You know what? Most people don’t like hearing no, but “no” is a great gift. Think about it. There are a lot of people who can’t say no. They do things they don’t want to do. Some agree with things that they don’t sincerely support. They can feel burned out and taken advantage of because they don’t set firm boundaries. Many can send confusing messages when they say they will do something and then don’t end up actually following through. They give the impression that they are things that they are not. None of those are very great things. So why do people do it?

Most people say that they don’t like saying no because they are afraid of making someone mad or hurting their feelings. This is a legitimate consideration. The other person could get upset. His feelings could be hurt. But what about your feelings? What about your plans, resources, and time that are impacted by doing what you don’t want to do? Aren’t those valuable too? When you say no, you make more space in your life for you. You allow your resources to be used in a way that you’d prefer. Your life becomes a more accurate representation of your thoughts, beliefs, and values.

When someone says no to you, they set limits. It’s a way of saying, “This is who I am. I am strong enough to show you the real me. Can you accept me as I am?” Whoa! What is more powerful than that? If you want to have this person in your life, you get a realistic idea of where you stand, what they are willing to do and not do, what they like, and who they are. This frees both of you from guessing and game playing. It frees you from obligation and debts. It sets the stage for healthy relationships.

It’s not your responsibility to make sure that your friends, family, and loved ones are never hurt or angry. Emotions are a part of life. We all have them.  Learning how to deal with upsetting ones is called maturity. Allowing others to have this experience is a sign of healthy boundaries.

So here is a suggestion. If you are on the receiving end of a no that you don’t particularly like, take a moment to pause. Remember the benefits that come with no, then say, “Thank you.” That thank you is an acknowledgement for the other person’s honesty and healthy boundaries. It’s gratitude for the ability to have an honest, respectful relationship. That could not exist without boundaries.

If you are considering a request that you really don’t want to agree to, ask yourself what do you have to lose by saying yes. What do you have to gain by saying no. Which outcome is better for the longterm, big picture? A client once observed, “I’ve noticed that people who have no problem saying no are happier.” Hm. Maybe this is why.

You Know You Need to Downsize Your Life When…

downsize

Does it seem like you never have enough time? Do you feel like you hustle all the way to the weekend and don’t get to relax even then? Are you in desperate need of a break? Is it time for a change?

You Know You Need to Downsize Your Life When…

the resources needed to sustain your life are more than you have or want to give. What resources am I talking about?

Time

If you are spending more time acquiring or maintaining your clothing, lawn, car, image, home, job, hobby, or relationship than you are enjoying it, it may be time to downsize. The things we bring into our lives are there to sustain us. We are not there to sustain them. If you’ve got it backward, perhaps it’s time to make some space in your life.

Money

We all need money to survive because we can’t produce everything we need on our own. We all trade our time and skills for it, then use that money to trade for goods and services. So think about how many work hours it takes to buy that new iPhone. How many work hours does it take to have that dinner, that vacation, or take that class? Is that a life enhancing trade?

Health

I see a lot of people who go without sleep, forego meditation or exercise, or grab fast food so that they can work longer. Really? That’s essentially trading your health for money, your reputation on the job, or a chance at a promotion. Health is wealth. When you don’t take care of your body, you end up with a pretty poor place to live!

Quality of Life

Your quality of life is a reflection of the choices you are making now. Some of those choices affect the physical world, but your mental outlook has to power to trump that. Tomorrow is not promised to anyone. All there is is now. If “now” is not good, something is out of balance. Maybe it’s time to downsize your life so that it can be better.

The magic question is how to downsize your life?

Get Rid of Stuff

Stuff takes up physical space. Believe it or not, it also takes up mental space. It takes time to clean and organize it. Stuff is energy. If there is too much stuff in too little space, it bogs down the energy in a space. Clear it out. This saves you time and clears out energetic congestion.

Be careful not to fill this space with new stuff. You might set a limitation for yourself such as “If it doesn’t fit in the closet/bookcase/shelf, I can do without it.” This means that you have to decide just how important something is. If you have to get rid of X to acquire Y, do that. Another guideline is “Is this item useful or does it make me happy?” If not, it’s either time for it to go or not something you want to bring into your life. These guidelines can help you keep life enhancing things without acquiring more stuff than your life can realistically handle.

Downsize Your Social Life

That might sound harsh, but realistically, you can’t have ten thousand quality relationships. Relationships take time and attention. It’s better to have five intimate, reliable friends than fifty acquaintances. Sometimes to make that happen you have to divest yourself of the people who are not supportive and affirming and give more time to those that are.

If you’re a big social media user, I’d start here. This is often a huge time waster and life sucker. These are often not real relationships anyway.

Trim Your Commitments

How many of us are people of leisure? Nobody that I know! We all have too many commitments. We all want to do everything. If you want a good quality of life, you have to limit your commitments. Here are some ideas: Limit your hours at work. I know we all want to get ahead and make money. However, if you work all the time, there won’t be any space for you in your life. Commit to ending each day at a certain time, never working more than X number of hours, or taking on more than x number of clients.

Limit your self-improvement projects to one at a time. This will help you to focus on what you are learning without burning out.

Limit your other projects (home improvement, volunteering, hobbies, etc) to one at a time. This can allow you to finish things. It’s easy to get overwhelmed when you are juggling three projects. On the other hands, you’ll feel fabulously productive when you’re banging out the projects. So do one thing at a time.

What can you do with all this new found money and time? It can be temping to fill it with something else. Don’t! Slow down. Enjoy life. I don’t mean by watching more tv. I mean savor the things that you used to rush through. Enjoy dinner. Spend a little extra time on your nightly walk. Play with your kids. When you’re working, spend a little more time thinking about what you are doing. If you don’t have a self care routine, implement one. When you talk to your friends, be present. You will be amazed at how much happier you can be when you downsize your life.

How to Completely Change the Way You Look at Struggles

struggles

Life gives us many stories that teach us – if we pay attention. Here is one that can completely change the way you look at struggles.

When I was new to farming, we wanted to grow our own turkey for Thanksgiving. So we incubating some turkey eggs. After a long wait, everyone was so excited to hear the peeping of little voices. One little baby was struggling to get out. All his brothers and sisters seemed to have an easy time of it. His little eye and a bit of wing poked out, but he didn’t seem to be making much progress… and so we helped him. We chipped away at the shell making it easier.

Still he struggled. He just couldn’t free himself. We were afraid he’d die if left too long, so we popped him right out of the shell. That poor thing flopped around unable to get to his feet. We thought he just needed a bit of time to develop strong muscles. No, he always had crooked toes and poor leg strength because struggling to free himself from his shell was part of his growth process. Because he didn’t do it himself, he never developed normally.

This is true of other creatures too. New butterflies must struggle to get out of their cocoons. When they struggle through the tiny opening of the cocoon, that process pushes the fluid out of its body and into its wings. If that doesn’t happen, the butterfly would never, ever fly.

I hear about people’s struggles every day. It’s common for people to wish that they’d just go away. Maybe they pray them away. Maybe they want to win the lottery. Or maybe they are hoping that Prince Charming will swoop in on his white horse and make it all better. Whatever the dream, it always involves something or someone making it all go away.

Struggles make you stronger. They give you skills you need to keep going, jump hurdles, and succeed. Struggles create mental toughness and build self-esteem. When you do something, and do it well, you start to know that success is possible. That knowing can mean the difference between living a satisfying life and cowering in fear all the time.

If you are tempted to wait for something or someone to save you, I ask you to consider the chick and the butterfly.

If you are tempted to help someone who seems to be too weak to do it on their own, I ask you to consider the chick and the butterfly.

I also invite you to change the way you look at struggles. They aren’t there to defeat you. They are there to help you lift yourself up and become far more than you are right now. Accept the challenge. You can do it!

Here’s a Quick Way to Get Your Wild Back

wild

Have you ever looked around and noticed how disconnected society is from the natural world? We give birth in the hospital. We get our food from a grocery store. Kids don’t run around barefooted anymore or make mud pies. Our medicines come from a shelf. We have no rites of passage for maturing children (unless you’re Jewish). Our inside environments are climate controlled. We don’t talk about sex, yet you see it all over the media. We sit all day. We deal with illness by outsourcing it to medical professionals. Even death is institutionalized. In other words, we have done so much in the name of comfort, safety, and convenience that we have completely lost touch with the pulse of creation.

Does this sound like you?

If it does, maybe you need to get your wild back. May I suggest a Working Farm Stay? I know most people live in the city or suburbs and don’t have a relative they can just crash with on the farm. Fortunately, you can live the farm life for a short period by going to stay with someone who has a Farm style B&B.

I stayed at one in Salisbury, England and it was quite lovely. There is the fresh country air. They served food produced from the farm. You could see the animals from the bedroom window or even go help with them if you wanted to. The night sky is undiluted by the urban lights so it looked far more clear and bright than you would ever seen in the city. The sounds of crickets and frogs soothes you to sleep.

After a day or two, you start to feel what it is like to be in a natural human rhythm. You get to feel a little wild and uncivilized, and I mean that as a good thing! Okay, so a farm is not the jungle so it’s not all that wild, but it gives you a chance to get close to the earth and animals in a safe way.

If you go during the spring, you may be there in time to see babies born. Birth is a mysterious process for so many people. The only birth they may experience is that of their own children. Even then it’s treated like a medical event held in a sterile environment. This is not how life happens! Healthy animals have quick, relatively easy births. The babies are nursing within minutes. When you witness the miracle of life, there is a much greater appreciation for it.

Sometimes babies die. When you are present for that, you begin to realize that life is precious and death is natural. It’s not something to be feared.

Animals have emotions. They miss each other when one is sold. They may fight to establish order when a new creature comes in, but they don’t have a lot of fear. They tend to be pretty mellow and go with the flow. We can learn a lot by hanging out in a barn.

And what about the crops? They need to be planted at the right time, given water, weeded, and harvested. Everything happens in its own time. Nothing can be rushed. This can teach us “To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven.” Ecclesiastes 3:1 It’s a good lesson for a fast food/instant gratification world. If you are able to help in the garden, you may get a taste of the amount of labor it takes to produce a tomato. This may give you an appreciation for real food.

Speaking of real food, some farms will let you help with egg collection or milking the animals. You’d be amazed at how many people have no realistic idea where food comes from. If it’s not pre-packaged in a freezer, they don’t know what it is. When you see a farm fresh egg cracked into a skillet, you may ask yourself what you have been eating all your life. If you taste fresh milk, you will wonder what they do to store milk  before it gets to you. And have you ever had fresh sausage? Oh, my!

Maybe you will be inspired to sit outside on a porch swing and just breathe. How often do you do that at home? How tempted are you to do that when your neighbors are so close by, the smell of auto exhaust assaults you, and you’re being serenaded by the sound of traffic? It’s probably not the most inviting thing.

In the country, you will probably be bored at first. There is so little stimulation, but you see, that’s part of the charm. It allows your nervous system to slow down to a healthy rhythm. We get so keyed up that we forget what it’s like, if we ever knew, to be restful.

Doing a Farm Stay vacation definitely isn’t your typical American thing, but you may be surprised at how much it can enhance your mental health and inform your thinking about life in general. The subtle ways that it reconnects you to your own inner nature may surprise you. Who knows? You just may get your wild back.

Self-Love or Selfish?

self-love

Self love or selfish? Kids are often taught to share their toys and think of the needs of others. Reciprocity and empathy are useful values to have. However, some people have taken this to mean that anything other than giving or putting others first can seem selfish. There are distinct differences. Self-love is healthy, selfish is not. To make the distinction clearer, let’s start with definitions.

Selfish means showing concern only for oneself. It’s about making sure that you come out ahead, even when it hurts others. It can even include intentionally slighting others to give yourself an advantage. This is not a great strategy because people are social creatures. We need each other for companionship, division of labor, sex, amusement, growth, and a whole lot of other things. If we alienate people because we don’t consider their feelings and needs, we could end up lonely and miserable.

Selfishness comes from a space of lack or fear. When we fear that we need to protect our stuff, we withhold it from others. When we fear we won’t have enough, we cling tightly to what we have – even when there is more than enough. When we fear being hurt, we close down. These are selfish acts.

Self-love is about putting yourself first, but doing so in a way that honors you and others. If you’ve ever been on an airplane, you’ve heard the spiel about putting on your own oxygen mask before assisting others. This is because a healthy you is an effective you. You can’t serve from an empty vessel. You are the center of your life. You create things, serve people, share ideas, do tasks, love, care, and provide for someone or something. If you go down, all that you do goes down with you. The best way to continue to serve is to be healthy. The best way to sustain health is to practice self-love.

Self-love comes from a space of security, self-esteem, and peace. When we give, it is with a full heart. When we share, it is because we are secure in knowing that we have enough to spare or can get it all back again. When we say no, it’s because our time or resources can serve us better by staying where they are.

Let me give you some examples to show the differences.

“Archie” is an accomplished businessman who built a business from scratch. He has a huge house, pretty wife, and kids in private school. He doesn’t deny himself or his family anything. He feels his status entitles him to special treatment. He wants to be respected wherever he goes. If he doesn’t get what he considers his due, he lets people know. He is quick to fire staff for slights. He posts many selfies every day to show off his achievements to make sure that everyone knows he’s successful. 

This is selfish. Someone like this may describe his behavior as self-love, but self-love is not about ego or pride. Self love doesn’t abuse other people. Nor does self-love have anything to prove. Archie’s money, success, or his spending habits don’t make him selfish. The lack of love in his life makes him selfish.

“Katie” is an accomplished businesswoman who built a business from scratch. She has a huge house, handsome husband, and kids in private school. She doesn’t deny herself or her family anything. She regularly volunteers in the community. Sometimes, because of her status, she is called on to do things for other people or organizations. She helps when she can, but doesn’t allow her helping to interfere with her family life, social life, or work. If she can feel “all in” without being drained, she says yes. Otherwise, it’s no. Katie posts pictures on social media that reflect her life. These often show the grandeur in which she lives.

This is self-love. Again, it’s not about what you have. It’s about love and boundaries. Katie provides well for herself and her family. She also gives, but only to the extent that it does not begin to weaken her. Maintaining those boundaries is crucial to keeping Katie well and happy. The more she has to give, the more there is to give.

Still confused? Let’s look at it from another point of view. When someone calls us selfish, it tends to be because they feel we should be doing something different or they feel that we have hurt someone by our actions. So, the label “selfish” comes from someone else’s expectation of us. In other words, there is a “should” involved.

As long as someone else is judging you, you’re almost always going to fail in their eyes. There is no way to know what someone else wants of you. To live up to that is to give away your free will. Instead of trying to do that, I suggest you go the self-love route.

Selfish says, “If you take care of me, I will take care of you.” Self-love says, “I will take care of me, so that you don’t have to. Please take care of you so that I don’t have to.” When each person assumes primary responsibility for himself, everyone has high self esteem. If everyone does a great job, you never have to deal with feeling like a burden or assuming a burden. You never have to deal with guilt. And your success or failure is completely in your own hands. That’s a much more empowering way to live.

What Are Healthy Boundaries?

healthy boundaries

Healthy people have healthy boundaries. What are boundaries? They are the physical and emotional barriers that establish the division between you and the outside world. What are healthy boundaries? Healthy boundaries are semi-permeable limits that allow you to have life giving contact with the world. You neither give too much nor receive too little.

If you picture a circle with a dot in the middle, you are the dot. The circle is the boundary. For some people, this circle is a solid wall that reaches to the sky. Nothing can get in or out. These boundaries are too rigid and don’t allow meaningful interaction with people. Some people have  circle that is falling down in places and can easily be breached. These boundaries are too weak. They are easy to overstep and often leave the person inside the circle feeling violated or unsafe.

Healthy boundaries are more like having a sturdy fence with a strong gate. They are semi-permeable, meaning they let some things in and some things out. They are flexible and adjust to circumstances. They allow the person inside to grow.

Types of Boundaries

Physical boundaries have to do with your body, your space, and your stuff. You have a right to decide how much touch, personal space, and privacy you require. You have a responsibility to let others know your comfort zone. Your money, clothes, and electronics are yours. It’s up to you to choose whether or not you wish to share them with others. You can say under what conditions you will do this. Others also have this right and responsibility.

Mental boundaries surround your thoughts, values, and beliefs. You have a right to your own thoughts. You don’t have to share them. You don’t have to explain or defend them unless you want to. Signs of weak mental boundaries: you get upset when other’s express their opinions or thoughts; you can’t stand up for your opinions; you don’t know what you think or easily change your mind.

Emotional boundaries surround your feelings. You have a right to your feelings. So do others. If you find yourself taking on the feelings of others, blaming, taking blame, trying to calm others down or solve their problems, or just being highly reactive in emotional situations, you may have unhealthy emotional boundaries.

Creating and maintaining healthy boundaries is a skill. The more you practice, the better you get at it. Here are some guidelines that can help.

  • Practice mindfulness. This can help get and keep you centered. It can help you tune into how you feel. It can help you act instead of react. It can help you stay clearheaded.
  • Figure out what your boundaries are. If you are aware of what you find acceptable and unacceptable, it will keep you from wavering when your boundaries are tested.
  • Ask yourself, “Is this my issue?” or “Do I have the power to change this?” If not, let it go. Pressing forward is a violation of someone else’s boundaries.
  • If you are whining, begging, or demanding that someone do something, you’re encroaching on someone else’s boundaries. People have a right to do what they want. Accept it. If this is not a something you can live with, you may have to take other steps to respect your own boundaries.
  • Ask for what you want directly and respectfully. This tends to get better results and keeps things clear.
  • Know your worth. When you believe you are worthy of respect and kindness, it’s easier to stand up for yourself without feeling guilty.
  • Practice regular self-care. When you’re at your peak level of functioning, it is easier to do everything.

You Can’t Heal the Body with the Same Thinking that Made it Sick

thoughts

When you are not doing well, it’s common to ask someone with expertise in one area or another for help. If you want to be well, you can’t just show up and expect someone to do something to you and then walk away feeling better. You have a part to play. You have to learn something new and do something different. Why? Because

“You can’t heal the body with the same thinking that made it sick.” ~Mary Burmeister

Your life is a reflection of your physical environment, exercise routine, diet, sleep patterns, social interactions, relaxation, spirituality, and thinking. If you have sleep problems and take a sleeping pill, that will allow you to go to sleep, but it won’t touch the cause. So, your body will either continue to deteriorate or your symptoms will show up somewhere else. If your mind is always racing, you can say that it’s normal and ignore it, take a pill, get acupuncture, or many other things to bring you back into alignment. Whatever you do will be temporary because the cause is still active – your thinking.

Here’s why. Everything starts with a thought. Your thoughts generate your emotions. Your emotions lead to behaviors. So, if I am thinking, “I am not good enough.” That might make me feel sad. That could lead me to soothing my sadness with food, so I eat. Consequently, I am overweight. That makes me think I am not good enough and the whole cycle starts all over again.

Now, if I get liposuction or laproscopy that will take care of the cosmetic issue, but it won’t change my body chemistry. My cortisol levels, blood sugar, and mind all stay the same. My low self-esteem is also still the same. So the energy that created the problem is still there. I will either gain the weight back or it will show up in other ways.

Many times thought patterns that generate dysfunctional behavior or energy is hidden. You may have a unconscious belief of “I am not worthy” or “I am stupid” that you don’t recognize because all your memories are affirming ones. Yet your behavior shows that you are sabotaging yourself in some way. This is common.

We can be “hypnotized” (so to speak) instantaneously from one forgettable incident as easily as we can from a lifetime of repetition. If you had a instance where a parent was out of control for a moment, and said something damaging, that’s enough to plant that seed in your unconscious mind that you are invisible, worthless, or a trouble maker. You might not even remember the incident. Or if you do, you might think it’s inconsequential because of all the other interactions that show those things aren’t true. Still, you feel the way you feel. And your behavior still reflects that inner programming.

When you are in utero, you are not completely separate from your mother. Her thoughts and your thoughts are the same. If she is fearful of giving birth, that experience might give you the programming, “I hurt people.” This may cause you to shrink from forming relationships or take responsibility for pleasing people. Who knows?

If you have complex problems, you probably have layers upon layers of maladaptive thoughts. Maladaptive thoughts are anything that doesn’t affirm you. Those thoughts damage your physical and emotional health. If you want to live optimally, erase and replace that programming with something that promotes health and well being. As each one comes away, you will notice that you will have different ideas about self care, love, and how you live your life. Your way of being in the world becomes more productive, mindful, and happy. It has to because your outside is a reflection of your inside.

If you are conscious of the thoughts that are creating problems in your life, change your thoughts. That will lead to a change in your emotions and behavior. If you don’t know where it all started, change your lifestyle. Eat better. Move your body. Give yourself proper rest, meaning sleep for the body and meditation for the mind. This starts at the end of the “thought – emotion – behavior” chain, but can result in positive changes anyway.

If you are still not getting the results you want, consider getting professional help. Counseling can help with changing thoughts and behaviors. Hypnosis is one way to release maladaptive programming. Neurolinguistic programming, energy psychology, somatic experiencing, mindfulness, and EMDR are others. There are many effective interventions. Nobody has to stay stuck. If you change your thoughts, you will change your life.

Stop Using Speech as a Weapon

right speech

We live in an age where everyone has a potential audience. Anything you post online could potentially “go viral.” If you comment on a news story, you could find yourself arguing with someone across the world or making a new friend. As with anything, this could be a really positive, unifying thing or an ugly, dividing thing. Most often what I see is damaging. I am inspired to ask people to stop using speech as a weapon. Try cultivating right speech instead.

Words are energy. This energy is a reflection of what is inside you. Ugly words can only come from an ugly place. This incubates bitterness, strife, and disharmony and spreads it out into the world. You can’t release it and expect to be immune from its effects. If you want to have more balanced, happy surroundings stop using speech as a weapon. Instead cultivate right speech.

What is right speech? It is the mindful use of language that is reflects loving intentions, a nonjudgmental attitude, and respect for all beings. It’s used to further our understanding of others and ourselves and create connection.

How to Engage in Right Speech

Listen Mindfully. If you are not a good listener, you can’t be a good communicator. You have to have a sense of who is the person that you are speaking to. You have to have a sense of their story before you can initiate or respond in any meaningful way. Otherwise you are just talking at them. That is only effective if you are cultivating a dictatorial relationship. Listening creates intimacy and promotes relationship.

Speak the Truth. Do not tell lies or partial truths. Do not use words to obscure or distort meaning. Do not leave information out so as to create false impressions. When you speak the truth, you take responsibility for your thoughts, emotions, and actions. You respect that the other person has a right to decide what to do with that information. The door to intimacy opens because you allow your true, whole self to be seen. Lies promote feelings of shame and doubt that fracture you and cause parts of you to live in shadow. When you tell the truth, you stand in the light with your whole self.

Whenever we resist something we create stress. Nature knows what is truth and what is a lie. When you lie, you create stress because you are going against what is. If you think there is no consequence to lying, you’re not feeling what your body is saying. I assure you, it doesn’t like to be out of alignment with the truth. The more truthful you become, the more you feel the dissonance when you or someone else lies. It’s a powerful motivator to live in truth.

Speak with Loving Words. Some people say that lies are necessary to spare other people’s feelings. How you say a thing is as important as what you say. Truth delivered in soft, polite words is generally received with the respect that accompanies it. Think about who you are talking to. What sort of relationship do you want to build with that person? Are your word a reflection of that? Would you want to hear these words? If not, change them.

Speaking with loving words means that you can’t use rude, sarcastic, impolite, or abusive language. Being mad, feeling emotional, or kidding is not an excuse for not using loving words. This is not about whether or not you’re justified or if the other person deserves it. It’s about cultivating discipline and creating a peaceful existence. If each of us can only be relied upon to be peaceful when it suits us, then it’s not a real peace.

Using loving words doesn’t mean you have to gush with superlatives or use sweet nicknames. Be authentic to your own personality.

Speak Well of Others – or at least speak factually and nonjudgmentally. This is a reflection of that golden rule: If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all. This means no idle talk, gossip, and certainly no slander. If you need to vent or repeat an unpleasant incident, speak about it factually. This will keep you from getting worked up and keep you from spewing hostile energy  out into the atmosphere that will eventually circle back to you.

Stuff happens. As human beings, we tend to want to talk about it. That’s fine. It helps us to process it. Just be careful about how it comes out. Language has power.

Get Clear On What You Want to Say

If you aren’t sure what to say, stay silent until you are. This is a skill that takes time and mental discipline to master. If you take the time to develop it, you will confound those who want a quick response, but will delight those who prefer clear, meaningful dialog. It’s a rare gift.

Have you ever been in the company of someone who needs to talk and talk to get clear on what they think and feel? Okay, I admit that’s all of us at some time or another. I am not talking about the occasional blab fest, but talking all the time. When you talk all the time, you don’t get a chance to digest your words, their meaning, or the feeling behind them. So it’s actually a way of avoiding the truth. Stop. Sit with it. Let it percolate and fully form before you bring it out into the world. You may find that a lot of what is there dissipates before it makes it to the top.

Taking your time can also allow you to avoid saying hurtful things that don’t need to be said. It can give you space to figure out what you want so that you can ask for that. It can give you clarity, strengthen your resolve, and just be more mindful in your communication.

Can you recall a time when someone insulted you? Can you remember when someone said just the right thing to soothe you? Words can feed and sustain us or they can damage us. It’s not just something we say. It’s something we’ve all experienced. We all create the world we live in one thought, one deed at a time. You can make a positive difference by changing one thing, your speech. It’s pretty easy to do. Who knows? The life you change most may be your own.