Motivational Mondays- Resilience

Hell fire and brim stones are hailing down on you and you want to plonk yourself down in the middle of the street and yell “Alright already”. You don’t of course, you trudge on through the mire of obstacles until you reach the other side. Does sticking it out through thick and thin come easily to you or could you do with a bit of help when you are faced with adversity? Indeed is Resilience something we are born with or is it something we can develop?

Be infinite

Illustration by Lou Hamilton

The American Psychological Association defines resilience as “the process of adapting well in the face of adversity, trauma, tragedy, threats or even significant sources of threat.”

 In their book, Resilience: The Science of Mastering Life’s Greatest Challenges, Dennis Charney M.D and Steven M. Southwick M.D, Professor of Psychiatry, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, and Resilience, Yale Medical School, they say that

“Resilience is common and can be witnessed all around us. Even better, we learned that everyone can learn and train to be more resilient. The key involves knowing how to harness stress and use it to our advantage. After all, stress is necessary for growth. Without it the mind and body weaken and atrophy.”

 Our bodies respond in the fight or flight mode during a stressful event but once the immediate danger has passed a well-balanced brain will shut down the alarm bells and resume business in a controlled and orderly fashion. But if our brains have been sensitised to frequent stress the brain becomes trigger happy and we remain in a prolonged heightened state of alert. If left like this for too long our bodies start to fire up signals of pain and disease; it is the only way they can get us to sit up and take notice. You’d think, after this, if we continue to ignore the bells tolling, that our minds and bodies would spontaneously combust under the continued pressure. In fact our bodies do start to break down but there are things we can do before it’s too late. This is where resilience comes in.

Be strong at your core

Illustration by Lou Hamilton

What scientists are discovering now is that we can ‘adapt’ to stress. Studies on the brain using ECG and fMRI scanning, show that mindfulness meditation strengthens the left prefrontal cortex, which is primarily responsible for helping us recover from anger, resentment, frustration, disgust, fear. The greater the activation of the left prefrontal cortex; the faster the recovery. Aerobic exercise can also help resilience by boosting levels of nerve growth factor and appears to protect against some of the negative effects of stress. It also lowers cortisol levels, allowing a greater resilience to stress.

According to Dr Fred Luskin in his book “Forgive for Good”, forgiveness is key to resilience. It requires unraveling our grievance stories, recognising where we have tried to put unenforceable rules in place (she should be more affectionate, he shouldn’t drink so much, they shouldn’t have kicked me out when I was 15), and making a choice to forgive when we have been hurt, traumatised, let down. (We can still put boundaries in place). The outcome of forgiveness is the release from our own pain and the power to move through almost anything.

Communicate

Illustration by Lou Hamilton

In science resilience is the ability of a material or an object to resume its natural form after it has had a disruption or a knock. For example a building that settles back after an earthquake tremor. The more strength and flexibility that the engineers have built into its design, the more likely that it will resume its original shape without stress damage. According to expert Dr Carole Pemberton, author of Resilience, a Practical Guide for Coaches, resilience is the ability of humans to stay flexible in the face of the obstacles that life brings. The world is changing rapidly and on many levels, so we are being forced to have to be more resilient in order to survive. As Dr Pemberton says “Surprises are the new normal”. It is about being able to recover when things are pressurising us, and the ability to learn from those experiences. When we are creative, we are able to adapt, to reconfigure, to find alternative routes, different ways of thinking about what has happened, be pro-active and resourceful.

Direct the flow your way

Illustration by Lou Hamilton

When our minds are tuned into keeping hold of the bigger picture we are much better able to keep going under duress; we know why we are persevering. We keep an eye on what’s coming so that we can be aware of what we need to prepare for, how we can best develop our skills and abilities. We must know our strengths and work with them. Where we feel we are weak we must be ready to get support and help. We must know when to say no and we must learn from previous failures.

Resilience isn’t about being super-human. Viktor Frankel, the psychologist, talks of how he managed to withstand the horrors of the concentration camps: “What man actually needs is not a tensionless state but rather the striving and struggling for some goal worthy of him. What he needs is not the discharge of tension at any cost, but the call of a potential meaning waiting to be fulfilled by him.” Victor Emil Frankl (1905 – 1997), Austrian neurologist, psychiatrist and Holocaust survivor, devoted his life to studying, understanding and promoting “meaning.” His famous book, Man’s Search for Meaning, tells the story of how he survived the Holocaust by finding personal meaning in the experience, which gave him the will to live through it.

When we know why we are here and that is consistently entwined with our values, then we are able to keep going against the odds. If you need help building up your resilience, learning to forgive, and letting go of anger work with me and I will show you how. For a free 30 minute consultation email me Lou@createlab.co.uk

Do what you have to

Illustration by Lou Hamilton

Follow my daily inspirational drawings on twitter @createlab Instagram @brave_newgirl or COMING SOON my book of drawings “Brave New Girl- How to be Fearless”

Motivational Mondays: Resisting Change

Humans hate change. We do everything we can to avoid it. We are afraid of losing control, of uncertainty, of surprises, of difference. It makes us feel threatened. We become defensive and recalcitrant, even when there is proof that change will shine a brighter outcome upon us.

practise the art of raking

illustration by Lou Hamilton

In America, Orthopaedic spine surgeons are performing over 600,000 back and neck fusions a year. It’s big business. Dr Joseph Mercola interviewed the orthopaedic surgeon Dr David Hanscom, author of Back in Control- Taking Charge of Your Chronic Pain Treatment. When studies showed over and again that the fusions were only 15 – 25% effective in stopping chronic back pain Dr Hanscom started to look deeper. He discovered acute pain is registered in the pain region of the brain but after six months to a year it leaves that area and settles in the emotional region of the brain as chronic pain. To simplify, he realized that anxiety was setting off the adrenals and causing inflammation. It becomes a whole syndrome of the neurophysiological disorder, instead of just a physical one.

Bring in the experts

illustration by Lou Hamilton

He decided to treat the anxiety. He now gets patients to do expressive writing about their negative thoughts, then asks them to immediately throw it away, without judging or analyzing the content. Over a period of time it helps to break the negative, anxious cycle. He focuses the patient on reprogramming, repetition and relaxing the body system. The programme also includes active meditation or mindfulness (awareness, detachment, and reprogramming), good nutrition, sleep, de-stressing, a positive outlook and body strengthening. It is a comprehensive retraining and it requires willingness and engagement on the part of the patient. If they are prepared to engage, it works. Dr Hanscom says: “There are about six world experts on this process. All of us have the same experience about 90 to 95 percent success rate of patients doing much better, dramatically better… And this is going to pain-free; this is not just managing the pain… The stories are very, very consistent. The timing is different. Most people spend three or six months doing pretty well. I’ve seen people two or three years later eventually do well. But people willing to stick with the principles – again repetition is key – it really is just a matter of time.”

Don't be afraid of the past

Illustration by Lou Hamilton

But most people aren’t prepared to change their lifestyle even though pain is the body’s way of telling us that we need to change something. Dr Hanscom says most would rather go under the knife, with its bleak outlook, than take responsibility and control of their own chronic pain treatment. “I see people coming who seem to be very smart, intelligent, and motivated, and they just don’t engage. The only thing that’s making a difference is people’s willingness to engage. Dr.Gordon Irving, the head of my pain management, figured out a couple of years ago that the only factor that determines success is whether they want to engage or not.”

Challenge your mind

illustration by Lou Hamilton

Our egos are steadfastly intent in getting in the way of change. We build up habits over time, we settle into our defaulted systems. We go for the path of least resistance. We want to take the easy route, even when the results are giving us a hard time.

According to Andrea Simon, Ph.D., Cultural Anthropologist & CEO of Simon Associates Management Consultants in their article in Forbes Magazine:

Habits are powerful and efficient. As you mature, your brain creates a mind map that sorts reality into a perceptual order and creates effective, quickly established habits. The result: your brain limits what it sees and reality conforms to past perceptions. Early lessons in life and business play a heavy-handed role in keeping you from seeing things in fresh ways.

Your brain hates change. When you’re learning something new, your prefrontal cortex must work very hard as you experiment with unfamiliar ideas. Since your brain uses 25% of your energy, no wonder you feel tired and your head hurts when learning!

You have to “see and feel” new ways of doing things, not just read about them. Experiential learning is critical. As you learn, your brain actually changes, reflecting new decisions, mind maps, and reality sorting. As soon as a challenge presents itself, your brain will want to hijack the new thought patterns.

It is not enough to just think creatively, we have to also take action. Then our brains will leap on the bandwagon and its resistance to change will transform into welcoming it. In “Neurosciences and Leadership,” David Rock and Jeffrey Schwartz tell us: “When people solve a problem themselves, the brain releases a rush of neurotransmitters like adrenaline.”

Imagine a parallel universe

illustration by Lou Hamilton

But it takes a lot to get people to the place where they are ready to do what it takes. It’s all very well, lying on a beach in the sunshine, dreaming of how, on returning home we will resume our gym sessions, ditch the daily sugar hits, drink less, reduce the stress at work, spend quality time with the kids, find a hobby. As soon as we are back in the grey and the grind, the good intentions go to pot, even when our health and mental well-being depends on it. We may want to create change but old habits die hard. Studies show that only one in nine patients who have undergone coronary bypass surgery will actually adopt healthier day-to-day habits, but all too soon they settle back into the well-worn path of life even though they know it’s probably not in their best interests.

The trouble is, change is hard work. Sophia Kristjansson, Emergenetics International Associate says:

“This is because of the interplay between working memory and focused attention.  Working memory is considered a holding area where new information can be compared to known information already stored in the brain. To perform a rational comparison of new to old, the brain engages the prefrontal cortex — the brain’s center for rational thinking —  which is energy-intensive and can only hold a limited amount of information at a time. It fatigues easily. The brain is also wired to recognize environmental errors – perceived differences between an expected outcome and the actual outcome.  When the brain perceives a contradiction, intense neural firing takes place in an area of the brain connected to the fear center.  This, in turn, engages the fear circuitry of the brain and can start an anger or fear response that is highly counterproductive to any change process.”

 We put all our energy into creating change and when the desired results aren’t immediately forthcoming, we sink back into our own negative feedback: “What’s the point? It’s never going to work, I’m useless, Success isn’t for me, people like us don’t get rich anyway, I’m never going to get a six-pack, etc.” It’s easier to step back into the usual habits we have repeated so many times. Habits are engrained in our basal ganglia deep in the core of our brains. If we attempt to railroad the habits and use our pre-frontal cortex to intellectualize that it is in our best interest to affect change, as soon as we perceive failure, our fight or flight mechanism in the amygdala, kicks in, we panic and retreat into what is easy. The die-hard habits.

In his book, The Mind & The Brain, Jeffrey M. Schwartz, M.D., discusses studies he conducted on OCD patients to help them overcome their biologically engrained habits.  He used an effective 4-step process with the study subjects to affect lasting change. We don’t need to be fully-fledge obsessive compusives to benefit from this habit basher.

Step 1: Relabel the thought.  Call it what it is, and depersonalize it. It’s a reaction, it’s not you.

Step 4: Revalue the thought.  Achieve objectivity. Tell yourself that you are responding this way out of habit.  Eventually, the intensity of the thoughts will change.

Step 3: Refocus the thought.  Interrupt the pattern. Do anything else to distract yourself.

Step 4: Revalue the thought.  Achieve objectivity.  Use evidence to prove you are succeeding.

 

Change won’t happen overnight. There will be mini-successes and major setbacks. It is important to understand the process and record the positive results. You will easily remember the failed attempts and forget the small achievements. You need to switch this around. The more you focus on each step forward the more your brain will resolve to entrench it’s new found successes. The brain is plastic; with enough repetition is will gradually build up new habits and in so doing, change will arrive.

Kick up some changes

illustration by Lou Hamilton

The world changes and we must change with it. We must harness our brains into propelling us forward; it’s tricky but it’s possible. It takes creativity and commitment, humility and perseverance. It takes willingness and hard work. But to evolve into happier beings we must take those steps to change.

mourn their passing by celebrating their life

illustration by Lou Hamilton

“I refuse to accept the view that mankind is so tragically bound to the starless midnight of racism and war that the bright daybreak of peace and brotherhood can never become a reality.” Martin Luther King, Jr.

Work with accredited coach Lou Hamilton to affect positive change and start creating a happier life for yourself. Lou@createlab.co.uk

Follow her daily Inspirational Illustrations on Instagram @brave_newgirl twitter @createlab or go to www.bravenewgirl.co.uk

Motivational Mondays: Building New Beliefs

We create a tapestry of beliefs in our lives, some that help us, some that hinder. We build them on the back of childhood experiences, learned behaviours, difficult setbacks, and proven successes. However, it turns out, we have much more control over what we believe than we give ourselves credit for, and when we do pull rank on our cranky belief systems, we find that we can create much happier lives for ourselves.

Illustration by Lou Hamilton

Illustration by Lou Hamilton

“Belief has been a most powerful component of human nature that has somewhat been neglected,” says Peter Halligan, a psychologist at Cardiff University. “But it has been capitalised on by marketing agents, politics and religion for the best part of two millennia.”

But that is changing. Now in the new field of social neuroscience, focus has landed on our beliefs systems; how we develop our beliefs and how we view those of other people. It shapes how we live our lives, how we interact with others, how we feel, how well we perform, how productive and happy we are.

“In the West, most of our physical needs are provided for. We have a level of luxury and civilisation that is pretty much unparalleled,” says Kathleen Taylor, a neuroscientist at Oxford University. “That leaves us with a lot more leisure and more space in our heads for thinking.” Beliefs and ideas therefore become our currency, says Taylor. Society is no longer a question of simple survival; it is about choice of companions and views, pressures, ideas, options and preferences.

Illustration by Lou Hamilton

Illustration by Lou Hamilton

Cognitive neuroscientist Rebecca Saxe tells us in her TED talk ‘How we read each other’s minds’ that there is a region of the brain geared especially for understanding our own and other people’s thoughts, knowledge, beliefs, desires and emotions. It’s called the Right Temporo-Parietal Junction (rTPJ) and is located above and behind your right ear. It’s not hugely developed in children who find it very hard to comprehend that other people have beliefs that are different from their own.

Illustration by Lou Hamilton

Illustration by Lou Hamilton

As we progress to adulthood we are more able to understand, and go on to make moral judgments on, what people believe and think by observing their behaviours, emotions and actions. However people with autism find it very difficult to understand other people’s beliefs, although those who are higher-functioning are often able to develop compensation mechanisms to bridge the shortfall. Indeed we probably all know people who seem to lack a degree of empathy when it comes to understanding us, and it could be that this area of the brain is under-developed.

Illustration by Lou Hamilton

Illustration by Lou Hamilton

Being able to step into someone else’s shoes works in two ways: The capacity of sharing and recognising an other’s emotion has been described as emotional empathy (Shamay-Tsoory,2011). The term cognitive empathy refers to empathy as a cognitive role-taking ability, or the capacity to engage in the cognitive process of adopting another’s psychological point of view (Frith and Singer 2008). Either forms of empathy require the use of imagination; the creation of images in our own mind that represent what we believe to be going on in someone else’s mind. In fact when neuroscientists observe the brain of someone asked to imagine someone else’s beliefs, they witness the rTPJ firing up.

Illustration by Lou Hamilton

Illustration by Lou Hamilton

“And yet, what are we to do about this terribly significant business of other people? So ill equipped are we all, to envision one another’s interior workings and invisible aims.” Phillip Roth

Well, the scientists at MIT are now looking at ways to disrupt or scramble the rTPJ in order to change our entrenched beliefs or judgments and improve our ability to empathise with the beliefs of others. There is of course a moral dilemma associated with this, when it comes to Big Brother telling us what to believe or not.  We can all benefit from having a highly tuned radar for the plight of others: especially as coaches, teachers, aid-workers, politicians, novelists and parents, but most of us don’t need the interference of a scrambling machine to disrupt our own harmful beliefs and create new beneficial ones. The more we can develop and build up the muscle of our imaginations, the more we can empathise with the people in the world around us, and the less we will make divisions between ourselves and others.

Illustration by Lou Hamilton

Illustration by Lou Hamilton

As Frank Borman, commander of the Apollo 8 mission, put it, “When you’re finally up at the moon looking back on Earth, all those differences and nationalistic traits are pretty well going to blend, and you’re going to get a concept that maybe this really is one world, and why the hell can’t we learn to live together like decent people?”

It is equally important to be able to have insight into our own belief system, because it has an enormous impact on our mental state and well-being. It is our foundation. We view and interpret the world through our belief system. When we harbour false beliefs that cause us harm, they stop us doing things we might otherwise succeed at, we judge others through a warped lens, we rush to conclusions without pause for thought. When we believe we can’t do something, we don’t try and we shrink wrap our experiences. Those that believe that there is nothing to be lost by giving something a go, naturally have a greater chance of making it happen. Beliefs are an extension of memory. When we have succeeded before, we bring that experience to our assessment of the present problem or challenge. When we have failed, we draw on that memory to undermine our current perceptions.

Peter Halligan says “A belief is a mental architecture of how we interpret the world […] We have lots of fluid things moving by – perceptions and so forth – but at the level of who our friends are and so on, those things are consolidated in crystallised knowledge units. If we did not have those, every time we woke up, how would we know who we are?”

 Beliefs are building blocks; they are the structure by which we understand our existence. They are handed down to us by our families, culture, and communities; they become entrenched, built up over time, like plaque, hardened and immutable. People’s beliefs can be manipulated through brain-washing, new messages repeated over and over in a stressful and emotionally charged environment. But equally they can also be disassembled and rebuilt in a way that is healthy and valuable, to create a more positive outlook. When harmful beliefs have become a bad habit we need to flip them over into helpful ones.

“Beliefs are mental objects in the sense that they are embedded in the brain. If you challenge them by contradiction, or just by cutting them off from the stimuli that make you think about them, then they are going to weaken slightly. If that is combined with very strong reinforcement of new beliefs, then you’re going to get a shift in emphasis from one to the other.” Kathleen Taylor, Oxford University.

Illustration by Lou Hamilton

Illustration by Lou Hamilton

Harvard Psychologist and author of Stumbling on Happiness, Dan Gilbert describes in his TED talk The Surprising Science of Happiness how our beliefs can be misplaced. When he showed the audience pictures of a lottery winner and of a paraplegic and asked who they believed to be the happier, the majority replied that the lottery winner would be happier. They imagined what it would be like to win a $million and equally what it would be like to be injured and left to live in a wheelchair. Their overwhelming belief was that it has got to be better to win the money. However Gilbert reveals that when lottery winners and paraplegics were tested one year after the happening of their fortune or misfortune, they were at equal levels of happiness. The audience’s belief and perception of imagined scenarios involving sudden wealth or disability were thrown upside down. The reality is that:

“Tis nothing good or bad but thinking makes it so” William Shakespeare

Illustration by Lou Hamilton

Illustration by Lou Hamilton

Our beliefs influence our behaviour, effect our bodies and minds and can have a profound impact on others. With determination we can create beliefs that serve us well and give our lives the best chance of happiness. They are not rigid nor inflexible, we can challenge them and turn them around. We can synthesize them to work for us and not against us.

Work with Accredited Coach Lou Hamilton to bash down your false beliefs and create new beneficial ones. Lou@createlab.co.uk

Follow my daily Inspirational Illustrations on Twitter @createlab and Instagram create_lab

Motivational Mondays: There’s always Hope

Hope requires stepping out from the past and looking to the future. It’s about imagining a better tomorrow and being prepared to do what it takes to make it so. It’s about creating a vision and taking affirmative action. It makes the difference between success and failure, triumph or defeat, confidence or fearfulness. Hope is in our hands.

Brave New Girl by Lou Hamilton

Brave New Girl by Lou Hamilton

Hope is “the belief that the future will be better than the present, along with the belief that you have the power to make it so.” according to Dr. Shane Lopez, senior scientist at Gallup, who also wants us to know how useful hope can be. “Hope is the leading indicator of success in relationships, academics, career, and business—as well as of a healthier, happier life,” he says.

Brave New Girl by Lou Hamilton

Brave New Girl by Lou Hamilton

Dr. Lopez is spearheading new research showing that not only is hope good for your wellbeing, but it’s a measurable quality that can be increased with practice. His new book, Making Hope Happen, discusses the science behind hope and describes practical ways to improve your wellbeing by nurturing a positive, active approach to life. He believes that by increasing the element of hope in our approach, we can lead happier and more productive lives. Once again it is our creative brain that is harnessed to till the soil ready to plant the seeds of hope. Without the proactive approach of constructive and creative endeavour, the belief that tomorrow will be better than today is merely an optimistic attitude. When we actually do something about making the future a better place then we are living in the real definition of hope. Being hopeful also helps us achieve more and to do so more quickly. Dr Lopez’s studies show that we are in fact 14% more productive at work when we believe that we are going to be successful in our outcomes.

Brave New Girl by Lou Hamilton

Brave New Girl by Lou Hamilton

Hopeful people understand that we need to have no more than two or three meaningful goals to work towards. Trying to juggle a chaotic life makes it hard to focus so we need to edit down our goals to what we know to be achievable by making them clear, specific and easily imaginable. They must also reflect our purpose and the values that have meaning for us. They must make us feel excited and motivated. We have to decide what matters to us most and concentrate our efforts on that. If we feel heavily invested in something we are more likely to feel hopeful about accomplishing it. Wishful thinking doesn’t get us where we want to be, hard work in the right direction does. In order to sustain the forward thrust we need to come with creative plans to keep our brains interested and engaged. To remain hopeful we must anticipate that it isn’t going to be easy so that we be responsive to the tripwires, shift our position, reframe our plans and come at the problems from another angle. We need to keep our creative minds agile rather than fixed, in order to keep hopeful.

Jerry Groopman, MD, in his ground-breaking book, The Anatomy of Hope: “Hope differs from optimism. Hope does not arise from being told to ‘think positively,’ or from hearing an overly rosy forecast. Hope, unlike optimism, is rooted in unalloyed reality. Hope is the elevating feeling we experience when we see – in the mind’s eye – a path to a better future. Hope acknowledges the significant obstacles and deep pitfalls along the path. True hope has no room for delusion.

Clear-eyed, hope gives the courage to confront our circumstances and the capacity to surmount them. For all my patients, hope, true hope, has proved as important as any medication I might prescribe or any procedure I might perform.

Hope can arrive only when we recognize that there are real options and that you have genuine choices. Hope can flourish only when you believe that what you do can make a difference, that your actions can bring a future different from the present. To have hope then, is to acquire a belief in your ability to have some control over your circumstances. You are no longer entirely at the mercy of forces outside yourself.”

Hopeful people are realists. They know the path is peppered with obstacles to be overcome. As Dr Lopez has discovered, they are also not shy to reach out and ask for support and help when they are faced with something that is insurmountable on their own. Surrounding ourselves with other hopeful people will help us sustain our energy and inspire us to keep devising new ways to reach our goals. However sometimes the rocks being hurled at us along the way turn into an avalanche of opposition and at that point the hopeful know to stop and reassess. They are not afraid to acknowledge when the pursuit of a goal is no longer working for them and they clear the road and begin again. It takes courage to recognize when a goal has become toxic but when we are hopeful we are also open, and that mental state allows for the creative brain to get working again on a new strategy. It takes resilience, vulnerability and curiosity to build and sustain the hope muscle.

Brave New Girl by Lou Hamilton

Brave New Girl by Lou Hamilton

If ever there was a story of hope triumphing over adversity it is that of Malala Yousafzai. She was born on 12 July 1997 in Mingora, a town in the Swat District of north-west Pakistan. Her father Ziauhddin ran a school in Swat near the family home. Pakistan has the highest number of children out of school and in 2009 the Taliban’s efforts to encourage this by restricting education and attempting to stop girls going to school, were sharply increased. But Malala loved learning and going to school. She began writing a blog for the BBC Urdu service under a pseudonym, about fears that her school would be attacked and the increasing military activity in Swat. Television and music were banned, women were prevented from going shopping and then Ziauddin was told that his school had to close. But Malala and her father both continued to speak out for the right to education. In 2011 she received Pakistan’s first National Youth Peace Prize and was nominated by Archbishop Desmond Tutu for the International Children’s Peace Prize. Her public profile and popularity enraged the Taliban leaders and they voted to kill her. On 9 October, 2012, as Malala and her friends were travelling home from school, a masked gunman entered their school bus and asked for Malala by name. She was shot with a single bullet which went through her head, neck and shoulder. Two of her friends were also injured in the attack.

Brave New Girl by Lou Hamilton

Brave New Girl by Lou Hamilton

Malala survived the attack, but was critically injured. She was taken to Birmingham hospital in UK and not released until January 2013 when she was joined by her family. The Taliban’s attempt to kill Malala received worldwide condemnation and led to protests across Pakistan. In the weeks after the attack, over 2 million people signed a right to education petition, and the National Assembly swiftly ratified Pakistan’s first Right To Free and Compulsory Education Bill. Malala became a global advocate for the millions of girls being denied a formal education because of social, economic, legal and political factors. Malala accepted the Nobel Peace Prize on December 10, 2014 with Kailash Satyarthi. She started the Malala Fund to raise awareness about the social and economic impact of girls’ education and to empower girls to speak out, to work to their potential, and to demand change. Throughout her trials Malala remained undefeated. She trusted in hope, she stood firm to her beliefs, she defied those trying to stop her and still today continues to use her voice to share hope with others.

“Dear brothers and sisters, do remember one thing. Malala day is not my day. Today is the day of every woman, every boy and every girl who have raised their voice for their rights. There are hundreds of Human rights activists and social workers who are not only speaking for human rights, but who are struggling to achieve their goals of education, peace and equality. Thousands of people have been killed by the terrorists and millions have been injured. I am just one of them.

So here I stand… one girl among many. I speak – not for myself, but for all girls and boys. I raise up my voice – not so that I can shout, but so that those without a voice can be heard. Those who have fought for their rights:

Their right to live in peace. Their right to be treated with dignity. Their right to equality of opportunity. Their right to be educated.

Dear Friends, on the 9th of October 2012, the Taliban shot me on the left side of my forehead. They shot my friends too. They thought that the bullets would silence us. But they failed. And then, out of that silence came, thousands of voices. The terrorists thought that they would change our aims and stop our ambitions but nothing changed in my life except this: Weakness, fear and hopelessness died. Strength, power and courage was born.  I am the same Malala. My ambitions are the same. My hopes are the same. My dreams are the same.” 

Brave New Girl by Lou Hamilton

Brave New Girl by Lou Hamilton

Hope has the capacity for healing in many ways. Since the 1960’s scientists have revealed the effect of positive mental attitude on our bodies. Psychoneuroimmunology (PNI) is the scientific study of our mind, body and overall health. Specifically it is the study of “the interaction between psychological processes and the nervous and immune systems of the human body.” It doesn’t rely on disingenuous wishful thinking. It promotes a hopeful attitude to health through the practical uptake of anti-inflammatory foods and a decrease in stressors. Inflammation in the body causes many of the diseases that kill 70% of the American population, so it makes sense to concentrate on eating foods that reduce inflammation: whole grains, fruit and vegetables, nuts, seeds, oily fish, cold-pressed oils, legumes, and ensure the right levels of vitamins, minerals, and amino acids. Ensuring that we reduce the stress in our lives also has a dramatic impact on our bodies. The vagus nerve is involved in digestion, absorption, and metabolism of nutrients. Unhealthy food, stress, and depression have negative effects on vagal activation. This shows that there is a direct correlation between your brain and gut because stress hinders your guts essential actions. Stress also influences your food choices, and increases  insulin resistance. Stress increases maladaptive metabolic responses to unhealthy meals, which affects mood and proinflammatory responses to stressors. Avoid or reducing our stress at home and in the workplace helps us to get the most from the nutrients in our food. To be hopeful about our health we have to take the right action.

Brave New Girl by Lou Hamilton

Brave New Girl by Lou Hamilton

To create a hopeful attitude we must use our imaginations to envision positive outcomes, we must develop a plan of action and we must take the necessary steps. Even in our dying days we can create a hopeful legacy; we can pass on our approach, teach others to dream and to fulfill their potential. Nelson Mandela left us hope by living his life with courage, determination, wisdom and belief. He proved that when all else fails, hope triumphs. He never stopped working towards what he believed could happen, against all the odds. He dreamed and he made a difference.

Brave New Girl by Lou Hamilton

Brave New Girl by Lou Hamilton

“What counts in life is not the mere fact that we have lived. It is what difference we have made to the lives of others that will determine the significance of the life we lead.” Nelson Mandela 18th May 2002.

Work with me to build a hopeful approach to life. Find out more with a free 30 minute trial consultation Lou@createlab.co.uk

Follow my Brave New Girl Inspirational Illustrations on Twitter @createlab or Instagram create_lab or keep updated on her developments on bravenewgirl.co.uk

Motivational Mondays: Beat the Imposter

Stress on hyper-drive, modern life is like speeding down the fast lane with no brakes. Early starts, no lunch breaks, working late, always online, in touch, on call. We don’t seem to have a switch off button or a do not disturb sign. No achievement is great enough, no award or target met satisfies the urge to push on. We are driving towards the cliff of perfection in a helpless attempt to satiate the lurking demon within.

Illustration by Lou Hamilton

Illustration by Lou Hamilton

This phenomenon is called the ‘Impostor syndrome’. It’s a term first coined in an article written by Pauline R. Clance and Suzanne A. Imes in the 1970’s. They noticed that many people, and in particular women who were high achievers, could not believe positive feedback given about their skills and talents and thought that they weren’t really very intelligent. This didn’t seem to be linked to certain types of personalities, but anyone could be prone to these feelings. They found that:

  • Diligence: Gifted women often work hard in order to prevent people from discovering that she is an “impostor”. This hard work often leads to more praise and success, which perpetuates the impostor feelings and fears of being “found out”. The “impostor” women may feel they need to work two or three times as hard, so over-prepare, tinker and obsess over details. This can lead to burn-out and sleep deprivation.

  • Feeling of being phony: A woman with impostor feelings often attempts to give supervisors and professors the answers that she believes they want, which often leads to an increase in feeling like she is “being a fake”.

  • Use of charm: Connected to this, gifted women often use their intuitive perceptiveness and charm to gain approval and praise from supervisors and seek out relationships with supervisors in order to help her increase her abilities intellectually and creatively. However, when the supervisor gives her praise or recognition, she feels that this praise is based on her charm and not on ability.

  • Avoiding display of confidence: Another way that a woman can perpetuate her impostor feelings is to avoid showing any confidence in her abilities. A woman dealing with impostor feelings may believe that if she actually believes in her intelligence and abilities she may be rejected by others. Therefore, she may convince herself that she is not intelligent or does not deserve success to avoid this.

According to studies nearly 70% of us suffer from feeling a fraud, no matter how well we are doing in reality. More women than men admit to it and it is particularly prevalent in high-achievers and minority groups. Extraverts let it slip that they feel this way and so get more support, while introverts dwell on the demon in their head. There are the bright young things who don’t apply themselves because it’s better to be thought of as lazy rather than stupid and there are those who procrastinate and don’t complete things because they that they might fail if they reach the end. Then there are those people hell bent on achieving success but reject compliments or make excuses and explain away their success; they just got lucky this time. They are unable to celebrate their achievements. They are more likely to feel a sense of relief that once again they have pulled off the masquerade. There is always a residing feeling that it will be the next test that catches them out; that will yank away the mask to reveal the despicable fraud they really are. They ride on the wave of anxiety as they beat their way to the door of each challenge, putting in blood, sweat and tears to ensure they nail it. The overriding fear is that they won’t, and they’ll get thrown to the wolves for all the charade. The pattern repeats over and over with the sound of the snapping and howling of wild dogs always just within earshot.

Illustration by Lou Hamilton

Illustration by Lou Hamilton

“Intelligence is not a fixed, hard, immutable thing.  Intelligence is not an either you-are or you’re-not situation. Sure, you have a rainforest mind. You’re smart, sensitive, empathetic, analytical, creative, intense, perfectionistic and complicated. But that doesn’t mean that your traits and abilities can’t shift, change and grow. That doesn’t mean that you can’t be confused, dumb, embarrassing and a complete failure some of the time.” Paula Prober Blogger and Counsellor.

Imposterites recoil in horror at the idea of getting found out for being a failure and so they find ways to self-sabotage in creative and resourceful ways. They show up late for important meetings, they don’t ask for the pay level they know they are worth, they down size their jobs to roles that are well below their capabilities, they bail out of a relationship before they’ve given it a chance. Critically, they don’t ask questions, they don’t volunteer ideas, they push their creative insights into the background. They are constantly on the look out for external validation and when they don’t get it they beat themselves up and see it as proof that they are the world’s biggest loser. According to Dr Valerie Young, author of Secret Thoughts of Successful Women on the subject of the Imposture Syndrome “there is shame around these feelings; we think we are the only one who feels this way. So to know that you’re not different, you’re not even special. They key is to de-mystify that whole thing.” Most people experience it at some point, and to know that it’s normal can be liberating.

Illustration by Lou Hamilton

Illustration by Lou Hamilton

The problem is the world shows us the shiny happy, super rich, super bright, super successful, as the way life should permanently be. Facebook friends share their holiday snaps in exotic places, selfies on a good day, the latest triumphs and woohoo moments. It makes everyone else feel inadequate and miserable. But the reality is that life’s not a year round holiday, party, bright skin, swingy hair, wrinkle free experience. There is no point at staring at your facebook friends’ profiles and crumpling under the pretence of your own projected perfection. Yes capture and share the good moments but don’t harbour the belief that it’s meant to be like that all the time. It’s not for you and it’s not for anybody else.

Illustration by Lou Hamilton

Illustration by Lou Hamilton

This lack of ability to recognize or internalise ones own abilities and achievements is shared by some of the most brilliant and successful people. Albert Einstein said of himself towards the end of his life “the exaggerated esteem in which my lifework is held makes me very ill at ease. I feel compelled to think of myself as an involuntary swindler.” and Nobel Laureate Maya Angelou once said: “I have written eleven books, but each time I think, ‘uh oh, they’re going to find out now. I’ve run a game on everybody, and they’re going to find me out.” Business tycoon Sheryl Sandberg, American technology executive and chief operating officer of popular social media site Facebook, has reportedly experienced these feelings. “Many people, but especially women, feel fraudulent when they are praised for their accomplishments. Instead of feeling worthy of recognition, they feel undeserving and guilty, as if a mistake has been made. Despite being high achievers, even experts in their fields, women can’t seem to shake the sense that it is only a matter of time until they are found out for who they really are- impostors with limited skills or abilities.” Sheryl Sandberg, Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead. The actress Emma Watson, who played Hermione Granger in the Harry Potter saga over a course of 10 years, admits to losing belief in her abilities as an actress. “It’s called the imposter syndrome,’ she says. I’m just going: “Any moment, someone’s going to find out I’m a total fraud. I can’t possibly live up to what everyone thinks I am.” Now magazine in 2011.

Illustration by Lou Hamilton

Illustration by Lou Hamilton

The key to pulling the rug out from the Imposter, according to Carol Dweck, author of Mindsetis to be open to failing, growth and learning. Confidence increases when we embrace failure as part of our development, acknowledging that there will always be ups and downs on the learning curve. When we use our creative mind, we can always find ways to pick ourselves up and carry on. We can imagine success and take the leap. We can be resourceful and find solutions to the problems that arise without taking them personally or beating ourselves up about them. We can creatively reframe failure and concentrate our effort on growth. We can give ourselves realistic and achievable expectations and we can normalize our imposter feelings and self-doubt. We need to know that we can be vulnerable no matter how scary that feels. Life’s not going to be a non-stop Halcyon experience but it can be a creative, surprising and interesting one.

Illustration by Lou Hamilton

Illustration by Lou Hamilton

Be fearless, be intrepid, be tenacious, be a Brave New Girl and work with IIC&M Accredited Senior Coach Lou Hamilton. For a free 30 minute trial consultation or to find out more email Lou@createlab.co.uk

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