Quit Acting So Darn Stupid!…John Page Burton

At one time or another all of us have been effected by a negative label that some “well meaning” person assigned to us. These “well meaning” people may have held the misguided belief that their “worldly” input would somehow be invaluable to us as we made our way through the ups and downs of our formative years. Many of us had some rather unhealthy labels attached to us, labels that we still identify with as adults. In all fairness, most of us were also the recipient of empowering labels. For the purpose of this article, I am choosing to take a closer look at some of the more “damaging” labels many of us have been subjected to. Most of our “hang ups” and insecurities as adults can be traced directly back to a label  we “accepted” during childhood. The same can be said of the areas in our lives where we exhibit extreme confidence. Unhealthy label=insecurity and fear. Healthy label=confidence and daring.

In my practice I have the privilege to work with a diverse group of clients. Many of my clients have been the recipients of empowering and encouraging messages that instilled in them a profound sense of self worth. They enjoy an up beat, confident approach to life. Conversely, I have clients who received a plethora of negative, discouraging messages which they have allowed to keep them trapped in the emotions of inferiority and fear. To them life is a scary place that consists of “winners and losers”.

Below are five negative messages/labels that many of us received during our formative years. Remember, if we hear a message long enough we are likely to believe it’s true. This should serve as a reminder when we are communicating with young people.

*”Quit acting so darn stupid”. The message we received was that we were not very smart. Many of us have held this belief since childhood, and we have chosen to routinely under perform in every area of our life.
*”You look fat, chubby or to skinny”. These insensitive labels may have been the catalyst for our negative self image around weight, our distorted relationship with food and may contribute to an array of unhealthy practices that support our belief that our body is not “good enough”.
*”You never do anything right”. The message taken away from this “gem” is that we are incapable of thinking for ourselves and that someone else will always “have to fix our mess”. Because we fear that we will not do it right, many of us have created the habit of avoidance.
*”Why can’t you be more like your sister/brother”. The take away from this “timeless classic” is that we are not good enough. Many of us go through life constantly comparing ourselves to others and we routinely avoid competition or scenarios where we may be put in a position where we could lose and “look bad” in doing so.
*”Keep your mouth shut, unless you have something important to say”. Silenced at an early age, many of us have chosen to remain silent for a lifetime. We fail to speak up when we see injustice, we accept abuse, we routinely look the other way when we know something is wrong and we refuse to speak up for what we desire. We may also be unclear as to what actually constitutes “something important”.

Some of the people we received these messages from included, parents, siblings, teachers, clergy, coaches, friends and relatives. Many of us have internalized these messages to such a degree that we might as well declare  “I am nothing more than a fat, stupid loser who never gets anything right and I am obviously going directly to hell because of the errors in my ways. I should have just kept my mouth shut and been more like my brother Earl”.

In order to live a truly rich, rewarding life, it is imperative that we stop identifying with false, unhealthy labels and begin telling ourselves a new, empowering truth. It is not up to other people to write our life story…IT IS UP TO US!

Some things to consider regarding LABELS…

Limiting. Labels are limiting. Living up to our “assigned” labels will never allow us to expand and grow. The Ego knows that a “mind expanded will never return to it’s original size” and therefore it will fight hard to keep us trapped in our comfort zone.

Adversarial. Labels feature two opposing sides. There is the truth and there is the Ego. The Ego wants to hold us hostage to our negative labels and the truth wants to set us free. Which side will prevail? The one we feed!

Belief. Labels represent an outdated belief system. The labels that most of us carry around were “assigned” to us during our formative years. As adults we know our truth and it is crucial that we adopt a new set of beliefs. For example, when I look in the mirror I am more than capable of determining whether I am at a healthy weight, to skinny or morbidly obese. I do not choose to allow someones “opinion” from 30 years ago shape my current reality or my true self image.

Excuse. A label can become an excuse for not taking the action necessary for us to reach our true potential. When we encounter a challenge do we seek a breakthrough or do we revert to an outdated label that will allow us to conveniently justify our lack of courage?

Lies. When we attempt to live up to a negative label we are consciously choosing to live a lie. Yesterday’s label does not define who we are today. For example, I was labeled an average student with below average communication skills. If I had lived up to this label you would not be reading this article. I knew that my “assigned” label was false and so I set out to develop a new belief system that was congruent with my inner truth.

Story from the past. Do we desire to live in a world of make believe or in a world of truth? Labels keep us stuck in our stories from the past. Living our truth finds us alive and well in the present moment. Living up to our labels means that we are choosing to let someone else determine the rules of OUR GAME. The truth means that we have made a conscious decision to take authorship of our own life.

What negative labels are you hanging onto that are costing you happiness, prosperity and a true sense of self? We all get to choose what labels serve us and which ones don’t. If during your formative years you were encouraged to use your voice, run your own race, love your body, embrace your God given intelligence and always speak your truth, you owe the influential people in your life a HUGE debt of gratitude. If like many of us you feature a few scars, now may be the time to begin embracing a new belief system, one that offers a more honest representation of who your really are.

As always, I look forward to your thoughts and feedback.

Releasing Our Control, One Surrender At A Time…John Page Burton

Human beings have an insatiable need for control. Many of us have paid and will continue to pay a steep emotional price because of our control dramas. We find ourselves angry, frustrated, resentful or even vindictive when things don’t go the way we “expected them to”. Trying to control every aspect of our environment is akin to trying to fit a square peg in a round hole…it doesn’t work!  One of the main problems with control is that the more we attempt to control situations, events and people the more out of control we usually end up feeling. Most of us are resistant to being controlled and will fight hard to keep it from happening. Ironically, those who try and control every aspect of their existence do so because they are frightened by the feeling of being out of control. There are a myriad of reasons for a fear of not being in control, including but not limited to childhood trauma. People who have an unhealthy need for control generally drift back and forth between emotions. When things are seemingly in their control they are on top of the world and when things are seemingly out of their control they feel angst and frustration. The only way we can possibly break this cycle and find inner peace is through the process of SURRENDER.

Time To Hoist The White Flag…

Relationships. We must STOP trying to “fix” the people in our lives that we have deemed “broken”. This is an avoidance tactic artfully designed to keep us from addressing our own issues. Most of us don’t see ourselves as broken and we resent the notion that someone else thinks they need to fix us!. We must release our expectation that others need to behave in a certain way. People behave at the intellectual and emotional level that serves their current belief system. Imposing our will on others does not foster goodwill nor does it cause them to change. Surrender means that we have adopted a live and let live mindset, the cornerstone of which is acceptance.

Addictions. Food, sex, drugs, alcohol and work are some of societies most popular addictions. Most addictions start out innocently enough but quickly become a problem. When we feel that we are losing control of a person or situation many of us resort to addictive behaviors. When I was younger, my need for control due to my fear of being out of control contributed to the creation of a significant drug and alcohol problem. Under the influence I felt in control, although in reality my life was a series of control dramas that ultimately resulted in an arrest for DUI at the age of thirty. Twenty two years later, I can attribute my amazing life to the decision I made to “hoist my white flag” and surrender. Addictions effect everyone around us and WE owe it to ourselves and those we love to “hoist our white flag” and seek a breakthrough to a healthier way of being.

Clutter. When most of us hear the word “clutter” we visualize an overflowing closet, a garage that has not hosted a vehicle in several years or a pile of unsightly junk lurking in the corner of our back yard. Many of us carry around an equally disturbing amount of mental clutter. We relive our past hurts, failures, ill advised choices, relationships and a host of other “clutter” that the Ego uses to remind us that we are “less than, hopeless losers”. Surrender means that we have made a conscious choice to release the material and emotional clutter that is holding us hostage. We recognize that it no longer serves us in any way, shape or form.

It is through surrender that we find peace. When we let go of our need to always be in control we tend to find that the world is running just fine and that we have actually created quite a bit of additional time and space to enjoy it!  As always, I look forward to your thoughts and feedback.

God Is Empathy, Empathy Is the Language Of God…John Page Burton

Recently, my friend Judy suggested that I write an article on empathy. She shared her belief that “empathy is the natural step forward as the Ego gives way to a much more deserving higher power”. I agree with Judy and believe that the Ego is very threatened by our natural inclination to be empathetic. Let’s take a closer look at the word empathy and what I believe it means to be empathetic.

Many of us tend to confuse the word empathy with the word sympathy. They are similar sounding words with very different meanings. Empathy means that we understand what another is feeling because we have experienced it firsthand and can readily place ourselves in their shoes. Empathy is a very personal one on one experience. On the other hand, sympathy is comfort and assurance that is usually offered by someone who does not have an experiential understanding of what the other person is going through. Sympathy is often rendered via a 3rd party experience. “I can only imagine what you must be feeling because my dad went through the same type of experience 10 years ago” is an example of a very common expression of sympathy. Although the sympathizer is trying to be of comfort, it is not relational and therefore not empathetic. Our personal relationship with God is a one on one experience which explains why so many of us can find a profound sense of peace during times of adversity. To know God is to experience empathy in it’s purest form.

The Ego keeps us separate from God, empathy brings us closer.

Equality. Because I have walked in your shoes, I am familiar with what you are experiencing. Our communication will be deeper and I may find myself absorbing your pain as if it were my own. We share an emotional bond.

Morals. True empathy demands that our standards, beliefs and behaviors serve the greater good. We are counted on to stand up for those who crave our understanding, love and support. We speak our truth and take compassionate action.

Patience. Empathy requires patience and understanding. We don’t have a timetable.

Awareness.  God has given each of us the power to heal. This awareness helps us find the right words, take the right actions and summon the strength to serve as a true intercessor.

Trials. Through our own life experiences we learn to relate to others on a more intimate level. Our trials and our breakthroughs often provide inspiration during someones darkest hour. In the realm of pain, our greatest comfort often derives from the guidance of those who have gone before us.

Humility. I am not able to practice empathy until I have mastered humility. Humility spells death to the Ego. It is no longer about me, it is about comforting you.

Yielding. When we are yielding we are not rigid or set in our expectations. We are able to go with the natural flow of life which is the energy of God. We are able to encourage others to embrace this God energy as they travel down their path to healing. Through our own trials we have learned that “what we resist will persist” and therefore it is imperative to let go, let God.

God is empathy, empathy is the language of God.

I look forward to your thoughts and feedback.

It’s Hard To Be Humble…John Page Burton

You are about to read my 170th blog post! This is quite an achievement considering a college professor once told me I “lacked communication skills”. I’m grateful that I didn’t allow his criticism to deter me from making a living as a professional copy writer, peak performance strategist or from earning two degrees in the field of mass communications. I enjoy sharing my perspectives with you and I want to thank you for reading and appreciating my work, it means a lot.

Let’s be honest, the vast majority of us crave recognition. “Men die for it and babies cry for it” is a quote I heard many years ago that still rings true today. When I “surf” my social media streams, I can’t help but notice all of the people who “advertise” their victories with the hope of garnering “likes” and “comments” that will further validate their achievements. I know that when I experience a win my initial reaction is to want to shout “hell yeah, I did it” and commence the celebration! With this being said, I have gradually learned to simply say thank you to my creator, express gratitude for my experience and get back to work. I can ensure you that I am not attempting to be holier than though, rather I’m sharing my “newly found” sense of humility, which by the way I am quite proud of! The seeds of humility are usually planted in childhood, although most of us don’t grasp the concept until much later in life. Society promotes a win-lose model in which winning is the ultimate goal. Looking back on my youth, I never truly grasped the concept of shaking hands with the other team after “losing” the game. It sucked to lose, I wanted to win. As an adult, I carried my “win at any cost” philosophy into every area of my life. The cost became family, relationships, friendships and partnerships. It wasn’t my success that was getting in the way, it was my lack of humility. How each of us can learn to appreciate our wins, embrace our losses and remain humble in the process is the topic of my 170th blog post.

Humility…A check up from the neck up.

H-Heart space vs Head space- Our head space encourages us to feel one thing, our heart space another. With regard to our victories, it is important to reside in our heart space. In my head space it is always about me vs. you. This is a win-lose model. In my heart space I appreciate my victories, however, I am keenly aware that they are a “temporary reward” for my dedication to a chosen endeavor. I also recognize that it is only fair that others have the opportunity to experience victories as well. As hard as this can be, it is a true win-win model. Residing in our head space will almost always demand the need for winners and losers. Our heart space allows us to recognize that today I had a victory, tomorrow is another day.

U-Unsolicited recognition-When we come from a place of true humility we don’t have a need to solicit recognition from others because our primary focus is on showing appreciation for the gifts given to us by our creator. We recognize that the only recognition that matters is of an “eternal” nature. We don’t need or seek approval, however we gratefully accept it when it arrives of it’s own accord. The comedian David Spade, recently was asked what he thought of Reese Witherspoon’s comment “do you know who I am” as she was being arrested. His comment was priceless…”If you have to ask that question then it is pretty obvious they don’t”.

M-Mindset- Being humble is a mindset. Humility is focused on gratitude, lack of humility features shameless self promotion, usually followed by a heavy dose of gloating. When we develop a mindset that is focused on gratitude we will naturally draw more success into our lives. People will desire to help us, favorable opportunities and events will show up in our path and we will exude an endearing aura of personal confidence and happiness. To me, nothing is more annoying than being around someone who has the insatiable need to draw attention to themselves. Conversely, nothing is more calming than to be around a person who is self assured and who acknowledges that their perceived success is due in large part to the combined efforts of countless others.

B-Blessing-Being a sports fan I was excited to see Nick Foles, a former University of Arizona Wildcat and now the starting quarterback for the Philadelphia Eagles, tie an NFL record by throwing 7 touchdown passes in a single game. This is a monumental feat to say the least. His interview after the game illustrates his character more than anything else. He stated to a reporter that his three priorities (in order of importance) are “faith, family and football”. The very reason he was being interviewed is the least of his priorities. Nick recognizes that football is a temporary blessing and although he appears very grateful for the opportunity to get paid to play a game, he is also grounded in humility. Each of our lives are a gift that I believe should be honored accordingly.

L-Lease-Recently, a friend made the comment that they had a “new lease on life”. All of us, no matter how much we accomplish, how many toys we collect, how gynormous our house is or how many cars are parked in our garage must face the fact that we are going to die. We are leasing our time on earth and we will be remembered by how we treated the people we shared this time with. I have never experienced a eulogy highlighting the departed’s “uncanny ability to gloat over others”. In the end we will be remembered and rewarded for our humble service to mankind.

E-Ego-The Ego desires for us to seek approval, crave attention, win at any cost, gloat, compare ourselves to others and take FULL credit for our achievements. The foundation of the Ego is INSECURITY. The last thing our Ego wants is for us to acknowledge that a power far greater than ourselves is the driving force behind our accomplishments. The Ego always wants to make it about “us” and encourages us to never give any credit where credit may be long overdue! The Ego is indeed the “great separator”.

It’s hard to be humble, however, it is through our humility that our greatest rewards will be realized. In the words of the Dos Equis man…”stay humble my friends”.

I look forward to your thoughts and feedback.

Letting Go of Yesterday…John Page Burton

“Yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery, today is a gift, that is why we call it the present”. I have appreciated this quote for many years but like many of us I have invested far too much time and energy dwelling on the past. All of us hold onto and relive past events, keeping us from truly experiencing the present moment. Many of us seem to believe that if we re-hash the past and beat ourselves up just one more time, the universe will finally open up and say, “my bad, you were right and I was wrong”. Reality check… yesterday is gone, we can’t bring it back. Let’s take a closer look at what it means to live in a yesterday mindset and why it rarely serves our greater good.

Y-Yearning.When we yearn for the past we cannot be present. For example, I have a friend who consistently resides in yesterday. She compulsively compares her current reality to something she has done in the past. “The food was better there, the people were friendlier, the traffic was slower, the weather was nicer” blah, blah, blah. Besides the fact that it is very annoying, I can’t help but notice how many great experiences and new memories she is missing out on because she chooses to compare everything to a past event.

E-Ego. The Ego thrives when we dwell in the past. Reliving our past by way of guilt, shame, should have’s, could have’s and would have’s is a steady source of fuel for the Ego. The Ego demands our separation from the present moment because it can only survive if it is allowed to feed off the pain we feel when we remain stuck in yesterday. Many of us continue to maintain limiting beliefs about ourselves that stem from something someone told us 25 years ago. The Ego doesn’t want us to EVER acknowledge that we have grown, changed or that we are now ready to take on a new, more empowering identity.

S-Stagnant. When we live in the past our lives can’t help but become stagnant. Everything is old, nothing is fresh and new. We wouldn’t wear the same underwear for a month at a time yet this is what many of us experience emotionally. I have a client who has lived in the same small town his entire life. By his own admission he feels “stuck”. He justifies his stagnation by explaining that he has a local business, a network of friends and so many “fond memories from his youth that it is hard to see himself living anywhere else”. I can’t speak for you, however, in my humble opinion, the world has way too much to offer to reside in the same 10 mile radius for 58 years. My client is content within his comfort zone. In order to expand our horizons we must be willing to get uncomfortable and step out of our PAST!

T-Trap. The past is a trap. Everything that happened prior to this precise moment is gone, done, over. When we spend our mental and emotional time living in the past we are robbing ourselves of the challenges and enjoyment that can ONLY be found in the present moment. The past is a trap that is brought to us exclusively from our friend…the EGO.

E-Energy. Expending energy dwelling on the past is a waste of our emotional resources. We can’t change the past and yet millions of us waste valuable energy reliving it in our minds. Sadly, everyone around us pays the price of our obsession. We “throw up” on our friends and family as we recount how we were wronged by parents, spouses, friends, teachers and employers. We become so caught up in our mental sewage that we fail to check into the NOW and are stunned when we learn that our child has a drug problem. We need to CHECK IN, not remain checked out. We must focus our energy on the present moment, this is our reality.

R-Redundant. When we dwell in the past we are reliving the same old story. The outcome always remains the same because the event has concluded. It’s like standing on a ski slope in the middle of July and wondering where the snow went? News flash…it melted!

D-Drama. Dwelling in the past usually represents drama. We rarely dwell on events that we deem “good”. We take “good” events for granted because it is far more appealing to the EGO when we spend our mental and emotional energy digging in the muck of past hurts and failed expectations. Yesterday’s drama fuels our insatiable need to be right and we are willing to fight tooth and nail to build support for our drama, effectively killing our chances of living in and embracing the present moment.

A-Awareness. We cannot be accountable to the present moment if we are living in the past. “If I had known better I would have done better” is how my dad once rationalized my dissatisfaction with his parenting skills. This philosophy serves as a reminder that the true function of the past is to serve as a guide, making us more aware and accountable for our present circumstances, choices and challenges.

Y-Yardstick. Yesterday does serve one very important purpose. Yesterday allows each of us to measure how far we have come and to experience who we have become in the process. When we review our past from an objective perspective, we are able to experience the magnitude of our accomplishments as well as the lessons we needed to learn along the way. We have all said “I wish I could do that over, I would do it so differently”. Why do we say this? Because we have a new reference point that has been gained by experiencing what has worked well and what hasn’t. We obviously don’t get a “do over” but we can use our past experiences to make different decisions in the future. This is what is meant by the process of trial and error.

As always, my hope is that you find these thoughts helpful as you navigate through life and business. I welcome your insights and feedback.