Positive Traits for Building Your Best Self

My Best Possible Self

Here’s a handy list of traits you can use to identify your best self, the you that you want to be in your relationships, in your work, in achieving your goals.

Play with them. Pick the ones that best describe you or the ones that represent the you that you want to be.

For more information about creating your Best Possible Self and the ways that it can serve you, see:

Lovable You: A Best-Self Inventory

Your Best Possible Self

Focused Intention: Remembering Your Best Self

Positive Traits List



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The Devil on Your Shoulder: Overcoming Self-Sabotage


I’m one of those people who likes order.   I’m not a wholehearted “neat freak,” but clutter bothers me.  So I was kind of embarrassed when I realized I had walked past a leaf that was lying on my kitchen floor about four times, bothered every time by the fact that it was there.  Why didn’t I just pick it up when I first noticed it?  Ah.  Self-Sabotage had struck.  I had bowed to the whispers of the devil on my shoulder.

We all have one.  It’s that part of us that holds us back from getting what we really want, from being who we really want to be.  It’s the evil little devil that tricks us into believing all the bad stuff it whispers to us about ourselves is true.  We’re weak, it tells us.  Or vulnerable, incapable, worthless, needy, too tired, foolish, stupid, careless, clumsy, lazy, irresponsible, unlovable, and probably unattractive, too.  Sheesh!  You can see why I call it a devil.

It’s as tricky as one, too.  It loves to reinforce our bad habits.  “Go ahead,” it says soothingly.  “Take a nap.  Have another slice of pizza.  Have a drink.  Have a smoke.  You deserve it.”  Or maybe it says, “Don’t bother trying that.  You know you’ll only fail.”  It urges us to spend money we don’t have, to eat what we shouldn’t, to let people take advantage of us, to lie a little, to cheat a little, to be mean to our loved ones, to isolate ourselves, not to make an effort to achieve, not to take a risk that might win us all the marbles.

Its mission is to rob us of all that’s good in our lives by tricking us into doing whatever is against our best interests.

Noticing the Stop Signs

But here’s the good news.  You can defeat it.   Overcoming self-sabotage is simply a matter of becoming aware of the little devil’s voice.  When I talk with my clients, I sometimes call that “noticing the stop signs.”  Begin by noticing what the self-sabotage devil is saying to you when you’re about to do something that you know you shouldn’t do–or when you find yourself not doing something you know that you really need to do to move toward your goal.

My personal little devil, for instance, was whispering things like “Not now.  You’re too tired.  You can do it later,” when I noticed the wayward leaf on my floor.   It spoke in a soothing voice, as if it was comforting my irritation and trying to lift the stress of it from my shoulders.  But what it was really doing was preventing me from taking responsibility for solving the problem—and thereby insuring I would continue to feel irritation.  See what I mean about “tricky?”

One of my clients is trying to save money for his wedding, but he has trouble with impulse-buying.  I asked him to notice what the devil on his shoulder is telling him about why he should go ahead and purchase that little trinket or treat right now.  I’m still waiting to learn what he found out.  But whatever he finds out, the awareness will keep him from buying into the self-sabotaging devil’s ploy.

That’s why noticing what the devil on your shoulder is whispering to you is so powerful.  Your awareness of it throws a monkey wrench into its game plan.   Suddenly you spot how it’s justifying the choice to do what’s not in your best interest.  Just notice.

You won’t always hear words, per se, in your mind.  But you can learn to notice the moment of decision, the moment the “stop sign” pops into your awareness and see what you’re feeling.   Even if you have already given in to it—you walked past the bit of clutter, you ate the piece of chocolate cake, you bought the new shirt—you can ask yourself what message the self-sabotage devil was using to trigger your choice.

If you will do only that—notice—you will develop awareness of what’s happening as its happening.  And that lets you say to the self-sabotage devil, “Oh no you don’t!  You’re not going to get me this time.”

Move to Your Point of Power

Recognize, too, that the stop signs it throws up at you, the messages it whispers, aren’t coming from the adult you.  They’re remnants of your past, reflecting your child’s-eye-view of what your parents or caretakers or teaches said, or of the models they presented to you of what a grown-up does.  But you’re not a child now; you can decide for yourself.  You can choose to distance yourself from old patterns.

Last week, we talked about the present being your Point of Power.  When you notice a stop sign, pull yourself into the present.  Wake up from the self-sabotage trance and remember that you’re here, now, and that in this moment, you get to choose what you truly want to do, who you truly want to be, what will best move you toward your aims.

So notice.  Just that.  Oh, and maybe tilt your head a little towards the “Best You” Angel that’s sitting on your other side, too.


Mindfulness Practice: Your Point of Power


Given the chaos of our times, all of us suffer, on some level, an anxiety about what might happen next.  Where will the next threat come from?  What’s coming that will impact my family, my livelihood, my security and peace?  So today I wanted to talk with you about some ways you can maintain your sense of balance and equanimity by returning to your personal point of power. The key is to learn to learn the knack of mindfulness, or living in the Now.

Of all the moments you have ever lived or ever will, the present one is the one that holds all the gifts–this very moment, right now.

Now–and only now–holds the miracle of your beating heart, the power to direct your attention, the power to experience the richness your senses provide.  Now is when you feel.  Only now holds the power to notice, to imagine and to choose. Now is the only moment in which you can act.

Because now is the moment where your spirit intersects your body and where consciousness infuses your mind, now is you point of power.

Freedom from Anxiety

When you’re wholly focused on what’s happening in this instant, allowing yourself to accept whatever it offers, you place yourself in a position where you can enjoy its multiple layers of dazzling richness.   Your feelings of worry and anxiety dissolve, because both are based in fears focused on an imagined event in a non-existent future moment, not on what’s happening right here and now.

Even if the present moment holds a crisis, by bringing your attention fully to it you center yourself, allowing you access the full range of your inner resources.

The mind simply can’t ride two trains of thought at the same time.  Bring it back to the present and you will be in the only place where it’s possible to create the decisions and actions to move you toward an outcome you prefer.

In his Introduction to his book The Power of Now, spiritual teacher Eckhart Tolle gives this advice:

“Realize that the present moment is all you ever have.  Make the Now the primary focus of your life.  Whereas before you dwelt in time and paid brief visits to the Now, have your dwelling place in the Now and pay brief visits to past and future when required to deal with the practical aspects of your life situation.  Always say ‘yes’ to the present moment. . . Say ‘yes’ to life—and see how life suddenly starts working for you rather than against you.”

Practice Makes Perfect

Because we’re creatures of habit, learning to be mindful of the present–and to return to it when our thoughts and emotions carry us off down their accustomed paths–takes a little practice. Those familiar paths, even when they’re unpleasant, are built right into the neural pathways in our brains.  The more you practice, the more you aid your brain in building new pathways, ones that lead you to the here and now.

The peace and freedom of being in the present can take a little getting used to.  Compared to all the intensity that negative fantasies generate, it’s easy to feel disoriented in the present.  We’re not sure what to do with it, and rather than stay here and explore, we let familiar habits draw us away.  But its openness to the present, a willingness to explore it, that brings us freedom and peace, allowing us to experience the ultimate truth of our own being.

The Now is not some static place where everything stops. It has endless depth and breadth and motion.  Attend to it and you experience its kaleidoscopic, ever-changing nature—and the nature of the Grand Awareness, which, at your core, you are.

Mindfulness Tips

One interesting way to anchor yourself in the present is to tell yourself in words what you are doing:  “This is me, reading about my point of power,” or “This is me, stretching.”  It’s a helpful practice to play with.

Your senses are always bringing you information about the present.  You can practice directing your attention to the sounds you can hear, to what your skin is feeling, to how the light is casting shadows, to what fragrances are in the air.

You can practice paying attention to your breathing, focusing on the movement of your stomach and lungs, or on the changing temperature inside the tip of your nose as air flows in and out.

You can find more detailed information on practices that will bring you into the present in my article “Mindfulness by the Minute.”   Or you may  enjoy practicing with one of the brief, helpful videos provided at Instant Mindfulness. 

If you’ll weave increasing visits to the Now throughout your day, it won’t take you long to appreciate the clarity of mind they bring and the enhanced abilities they provide to focus on whatever task you choose to do and to make more enlightened decisions.

The present truly is your point of power.  Dip into it often.  It will let you make the most of life and bring you gifts of great awareness, peace, freedom and effective action.


To the New Graduate: Learn to Fly

Learn to Fly

A friend asked me to write “one of your letters” as a graduation gift to her son. I did, and sent it in my weekly newsletter to my subscribers.  Now a whole new batch of graduates (and subscribers) have come along.  So I wanted to share it once more, and to wish all you new grads the very best.

*     *     *

“You were born with potential. You were born with goodness and trust. You were born with ideals and dreams. You were born with greatness. You were born with wings. You are not meant for crawling, so don’t.  You have wings. Learn to use them and fly.”  ― Jalal ad-Din Muhammad Rumi

Dear Graduate,

Rumi’s right, of course.  But it’s hardly the whole story.  This learning-to-fly business is no easy thing.  Nor is it quickly learned.

For one thing, you have to want it—that ability to soar above the crowd.  You have to keep fighting against the pull of mediocrity.  You have to want freedom more than you want to belong.

Those ideals and dreams you have in your heart?  Define them.  Write down what you want and why and keep your reasons close at hand.  You will need reminders when the headwinds are strong, when storms come.  And storms will come.

No one succeeds without chalking up a list of failures.  Don’t be afraid to fail.  Be afraid of not trying to win.  “Wisdom,” an old saying goes, “comes from experience.  And experience comes from making mistakes.”  There’s no shame in that.  Setbacks and failures are life’s gifts to you, sent as corrections to your course.  Be daring.  Take risks.

Keep a good helping of forgiveness in your pocket.  Mostly you’ll need it for yourself.  It will keep you from tearing yourself down needlessly and will help you maintain your humility while you continue your upward climb.

Learn not to blame circumstances or other people when things go wrong.  The key to success is the acceptance of full and complete responsibility for every choice you make and for every action you take, for your own response to whatever is happening.   When you inadvertently hurt others, be quick to apologize and make amends.

To the best of your ability, maintain your health.  Eat wisely.  Exercise.  Get sufficient sleep.  Learn to relax.  Adopt some form of meditation.

Maintain flexibility of thought.  Consider opinions that oppose your own.  Be willing, if it serves truth, to discard every belief you’ve ever held.   Demand truth, whatever the consequences.  And to the very best of your ability, be honest with yourself and others; that’s what the practice of truth demands.

Nevertheless, be kind.  Be gracious and tactful.  Allow others the respect and compassion they deserve.  These are the hallmarks of genuine maturity and of leadership.

Take time in your life for pleasure and play.   To be alive is a profound privilege.  And your gratitude is best expressed through your laughter and your joy, through your appreciation of life’s beauty and goodness and fun.

Above all, vow to learn to love, as broadly and fully as you can.  For love is the wind which lifts us, and the power that enables us to soar.

You have wings, my friend.  Learn to use them, and fly.

Congratulations on all your magnificent successes thus far!  You have honored yourself and your loving family and made all of us better with all that you have achieved.




5 Minutes to Inner Peace

SunriseRecently I received an invitation to participate in an unusual study.  Its purpose was to determine the impact on participants’ fears and feelings of well-being of a simple, five-minute daily practice called, “The Three Treasures Practice.”

Because one of the designers of the study was a former mentor and instructor of mine, Ann-Marie McKelvey, whom I like very much and trust deeply, and because I only had to invest five minutes a day for two weeks, I agreed.  Who can’t clear five minutes in their day?

The practice is called “The Three Treasures Practice,” by the way, because it draws on the disciplines of loving-kindness meditation, EMDR (a therapy technique for reducing the effects of trauma), and positive psychology.

My immediate response to the practice, after I received the instructions and did my first session, was, “Wow!  That was easy –  and do I feel great!”   But it was only after the first full week of doing my daily sessions that I began to see the incredible power of the practice.

Before beginning it, we participants took a brief survey that had us identify one of our biggest fears and to rate it, and the negative feelings that went with it, on a scale of 1-10.  I rated my fear at a 5.  But my feelings of grief and sadness over it scored a 9.  To my surprise, by the end of the first week, all my scores dropped dramatically.  I was looking at the situation from an altogether different perspective.

By the end of the second week, my fear and the sadness and grief were hardly at play at all in my life.  I felt free from my concerns and saw clearly that if the situation I had feared did materialize, I would be able to deal with it as if unfolded.  I thought about the old adage that most of what we worry about never happens.  And even when it does, it rarely takes any of the forms we imagined.  All my apprehensions had done nothing but waste time I could have spent enjoying life in the present.

I ‘knew’ all of that about worry before I began the practice.  But I worried anyway, and was deeply attached to my concerns.    What you know in theory is far from the things you learn from experience.  The Practice simply melted my worries away.  Life became lovelier and more vibrant again.  Day by day, I was effortlessly moving into a broader, easier world.

Because, since I began doing The Three Treasures Practice, my understanding of its beauty and power has only deepened, I wanted to share it with you.   And I’m delighted to say that the developers of the practice and of the study have given all the participants full permission to share it.

So consider this happy invitation to try it yourself.  Make a commitment to give it a full two-week try.  And you, too, may want to write down what you biggest fear is and rate its intensity from 1-10, where 10 is complete, abject fear, and 0 is no worry.  Then think about the feelings that accompany your fear.  Does it make you feel any of these emotions:  Loss?  Anxiety? Grief? Sadness?  Anger?  Loneliness?  Which ones?  Rate those, too, so you can see the changes in your life at the end of the first week and at the end of the second.

Remember that the practice is designed not only to ease your fears, but to heighten your sense of well-being, too.  So write down the following feelings and rate each of them from 1-10 as you’re experiencing them right now:  Joy, Peace, Openness, Love, Connection, Kindness, Trust, and Happiness.

You don’t have to do that part.  But if you do, it will give you a way to evaluate how the practice is working for you.

Now here are the actual instructions for the practice, as given to those of us who engaged in the study:

Instructions for The Three Treasures Practice

1. Sit comfortably in a quiet environment.  Take deep inhales and deep exhales as you settle.

2. Cross your arms over your chest and place your hands on alternate shoulders like a pharaoh.  [Right hand on left shoulder; left hand on right shoulder.]

3. In a determined way, gently and slowly tap each shoulder one at a time.  Tap so that it is loud enough to hear.  This is called the EMDR Butterfly Hug.

4. As you perform the Butterfly Hug, silently or out loud say to yourself for five minutes:

“May I now be filled with loving kindness.”

“May I now be safe and protected.”

“May I now be resilient in mind and body.”

“May I now live with ease and joy.”

 The Loving-Kindness Meditation is an ancient tradition that goes back thousands of years.  Although the phrases may differ from culture to culture, the basic principle is to alleviate suffering.  Please use the positive LKM phrases above for the next 14 days* along with the Butterfly Hug for five consecutive minutes each day.

If you have trouble remembering the words, please print them on a card to look at during you initial repetitions.

Should you find yourself become drowsy, please stand up to do the practice until the five minutes have transpired.

* The 14 day part was for participants in the study.  Two weeks of daily practice will provide you with enough experience to judge whether the practice is something you want to continue.  If you’re like me, your inner answer will be a definite “Yes!”

That’s it!

Try it, and then come back and leave your comments.  I would love to know what your experience is with this beautiful and, in my view, very powerful exercise.



Photo credit: photo credit: http://www.rgbstock.com/photo/miL159C/~+Winter+Sunrise+2