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Thursday, March 3, 2011

What American Idol can teach us about How our Emotions Pace Music

So it’s that time of year again.  And whether you have been anxiously awaiting your opportunity to cast your lots for your favorite American Idol contestant or not, there is always something that can be learned from the smash hit show.  Hopefully we can illustrate not only how we can use music to control our state of mind, but also what our singing faves should be doing in order to remain in the competition for the top American Idol.

As I sat watching the first episode of American Idol, I was left to wonder...why on Earth would anyone choose to sing a slow ballad.  Granted, we do not ever want to see a faster song done poorly.  But come on!  If your song selection doesn’t move us in a positive direction, then your phone lines are going to be quieter than my daughter sneeking a few games on my iPhone.  And I can guarantee she is not voting your behalf.  Here’s the danger of picking a slow ballad:  If you end up following someone who just did a decent job with a fast song, you’re hosed!  A fast song lifts the emotional and mental state of the audience.  A slow song by contrast will bring the audience back down.  You never want to bring down an audience that is supposed to be “inspired” in order to vote for you.  At best, you can hope to follow another ballad who either a)followed a fast song or b)was really pitchy Dawg ( btw, I love the “Randy-as-Simon” thing they are trying).  

A far better strategy is to pick a song that is a faster pace and moves the audience.  If you follow a slow song, your song will seem uplifting relative to the slower tempo of the previous ballad.  And if you follow a fast song, at least your lips were not preoccupied with the “kiss of death” so that they could perform the song to the best of your ability.  Now of course, nobody likes a manic performance American Idol, so contestants shouldn’t pick something too fast pace.  And it IS a singing competition, so yes you still better be able to sing.  But does tempo really affect the listener and if so, how can we use this to take control of our state of mind?
Lets look briefly at a couple examples that illustrate this.

To start off the show, Clint Jun Gamboa performed a version of “Superstition” by Stevie Wonder.  As fans of the show, we like to see it kick off hoppin’, and that song certainly bounces.  His choice of song however would have allowed him to perform at any point of the night, and come across to the fans in a positive uplifting manner.  The next performer, Jovany Barreto performed the ballad, “I’ll Be” which has to be a “kiss of death” regardless of how well you can sing it.  It serves as a perfect example to my previous point that whenever a slow ballad follows a hopping song, it inevitably results in a let-down for the audience which is sure to garner only a few votes from his closest family and friends.  So Jun got the audience going, and Jovany lets them down.  But the next performer Jordan Dorsey chose a slightly faster rendition of an Usher song,  “OMG.”  Interestingly enough, though his performance was infinitely inferior to Jovany’s version of “I’ll Be” it comes across with less negative impact because the audience was already brought down by Jovany.  If Jordan survives, he will owe Jovany the best dinner he has ever eaten- and based on Jovany’s build, the boy can eat!  

Now let’s look at what happens when you pick a fast song.  Half way through the show Scotty McCreery performed a Tim McGraw classic that you’ll have to forgive me for not knowing enough about Country Music to know the title of.  Again another example of a singer safe doing a ballad because he followed another let-down ballad.  He is followed by a mediocre (though the judges appreciated it) version of Bruno Mars “Just the Way You Are” sung by Stefano Langone.  I was unimpressed; however I have to admit I was uplifted and felt more awake and refreshed because his song choice had a quicker pacing.  

And for heaven’s sake, pick a song that represents the kind of artist you want to be - unless you’re hoping to be a ballad singer.

We could whip out any number of studies that have been done that illustrate that the tempo of music affects our state of mind.  But this would be pointless, because each of us already has some personal experience with this.  We have all heard the pounding rhythm of a techno beat and felt our heart and brain pick up its pace.  Whether you were experiencing an irritated lift or a joyous one akin to a Night at the Roxbury, you probably felt your hearbeat quicken, your blood pressure rise, and your mental acuity increase.  Perhaps you have had the luxury of a massage in a spa - certainly they were playing a slow paced New Age piece that quickly caused your mind, body and emotions to relax.  And I assure you that you will never hear a Barry Manilow classic if you are at a football or hockey game.  Instead you will be blasted with the loudest version of some rock, pop, or techno song designed to get you geeked out of your mind.  So how can we use this information to improve our lives?

Well, it’s all about taking control.  Say you are trying to wake up and get going in the morning.  Well, while it might be soothing to awaken to soft, melodic songs, you will probably want to shift gears once you crawl out of bed and put on something that is a faster pace.  The genre of music is not too important, but the tempo is critical.  Ideally you would want to build up to something that makes you want to dance...or cheer on your favorite team (though this will probably annoy the heck out of your spouce).  On the otherhand, if you find yourself needing to relax and unwind, then you should pick a slower paced song.  Perhaps a slow ballad, some slower baroque pieces, or yes even spa music works.  

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Tired of the Same Lover Over and Over?

The first step to adopting a new pattern for relationships is to recognize what your current pattern is.  Take a moment and go through all of your past romantic escapades.  What similarities and trends do you notice?  Look not only at your partners, but how you related to them.  What caused them to end?  Next, take a moment to clarify what it is that you want in a relationship.  Pay particular attention to the aspects that have repeatedly be unfulfilled by your previous partners.  Now before you go any further, you should determine whether that is a fair expectation.  Sometimes we hold others responsible for filling our needs, yet it is impossible for another person to fill that need.  If it is beyond another’s ability to fill that need for you, then you will have to let it go.  You must first find it within yourself, or else any relationship you enter into is likely to fail just as your past ones have.  If it is a legitimate quality or aspect for a lover to possess, then hold on to that.  Draw up a list of those legitimate qualities and compile a picture of what your ideal partner would be like.  And no, I do not mean their physicality.  I mean what emotional and personality qualities would you insist upon. 


And then ask yourself, “Would this person be attracted to me as I am right now?”  Answer this question with all honesty.  And don’t fixate on things like, “I am too short/tall.  I am too heavy/shapeless.  I am not a model.”  Again, we are looking for ideal partners, not ideal looking partners.  It is only when we seek materialistic, superficial people that we need worry about the superficial, material aspects of ourselves.  Now this also implies that we cannot hold-out for a “Perfect 10” in regards to looks, because we are not “Perfect 10’s” ourselves.  But take comfort in knowing that physical attributes add nothing to a deep, emotional connection that we are seeking.  No, what I mean when I say “would this person be attracted to me right now?” is would your ideal partner be attracted to the kind of person that you are?  You may find that there are a few aspects about your personality that require tweaking. 

I can hear some of you right now.  “I am perfect.  If they can’t love me for who I am, then I don’t want them.”  Yes, I even saw your eyebrows rise and your hand snap in the “talk-to-my-hand-cause-my-face-don’t-wanna-hear-it” gesture.  But let’s for a moment drop any defense mechanisms- after all, they haven’t really been working too well for us so far have they?  Remember that definition of insanity?  We are talking about lifting ourselves to a level of sustained emotional engagement.  The reality is that right now, YOU ARE PERFECT…for getting what you have right now.  And if you want more, if you want something you have not had, then you have to be willing to become something you have not been.  This does not mean that who you have been is wrong.  It simply means that it was not the ideal way to go about getting what you really want.  And more importantly, who you were was perfect for bringing you to the place that you are now.  In this space that your emotional triumphs and tribulations has led you to, you are ideally suited to transform into the person who can achieve that deep, meaningful relationship that you so dearly yearn for.  And usually, it only requires a minor shift of perspective; a slight alteration to the way that we think and feel about the people and environment around us.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Lick Your Love-Rut for Good!



Is your love life in a rut?  Do you find yourself going out on dates with the same kind of person over and over again?  On the surface, they may look different.  They may do their hair differently, or be a few inches taller or shorter, perhaps different color eyes; but ultimately whom they are, how they act, how they treat you always seems to be the same?  Do you keep embarking on the same relationship over and over, even though your partners change?  As I have written about in previous blogs, this is because we tend to keep seeking out other people to fill some need we have within ourselves.  In this article, I will let you in on a little secret about why it is so hard for us to seek out new solutions to filling those needs. 

There’s a very popular quote going around right now that “the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again while expecting a different result.”  And as it pertains to relationships, many of us are clinically insane.  Sure, we may abandon one relationship with John to engage in new one with Michael, but the patterns are the same.  At first we are enamored by the thrill of “getting to know” our new romantic interest.  Sure there is a lot of excitement that stems from new discovery.  And unfortunately some people become addicted to this excitement.  But as time wears on, and we begin to discover fewer and fewer traits about our romantic interest, something within us begins to shift.  Those habits or tendencies that they have (which we were all-to-willing to overlook in the beginning of the relationship) begin to grate on us.  Why won’t he just put his nasty socks in the laundry basket?  Can’t he rinse his plate before leaving it in the sink?  And when, oh, when will he ever put the toilet seat back down after he uses it?  Perhaps you guys wonder:  When will she learn to put the seat back up in the middle of the night, so she doesn’t have to complain about me peeing on the toilet seat?  Either way, you get the point.  Over time, as the novelty of the relationship wears off, we begin to nit-pick the habits of our lovers.  Soon, and more damaging stage begins.

As we begin to habitually criticize others, we become less committed to our relationship with them.  We allow ourselves to find less enjoyment out of the shared experiences.  At the same time, we increase the level of frustration we experience as a result of their behaviors.  This allows us to emotionally decrease our investment in the relationship so that when it inevitably ends, we will not be as traumatized.  Ouch!  Now we can walk away, placing the blame on them.  It is only once we have accepted the end of the relationship that we can begin to look at the relationship as part of a larger pattern.  That is usually when you hear yourself asking, “Why me?  What’s wrong with me?  Why do I keep picking guys/ladies like this?”  The short answer is that there is nothing “wrong” with you.  You have simply developed poor patterns as it pertains to looking for a romantic partner.  While that may not be a news flash to you, it is comforting to know that you can always choose to adopt a new pattern. 


Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Date a Dork this Valentine’s Day


I was at a restaurant the other day with a business connection of mine.  At the table next to us was a smoking hot woman with the most unassuming man you could imagine.  Their PDA intimated that they were romantically involved, and not in a monetary sort of way.  They seemed to be genuinely and deeply connected to each other.  Upon seeing their intimacy, my colleague said “What’s wrong with her?  She could do WAY better than that guy.”

Now I had to be very conscious about my reaction.  I understood the insinuations of his statement.  It was implied that physical beauty would only be happy with other physically beautify people; that an average-looking guy lacked the credentials to be with a beautiful woman; that my colleague was better looking than him, so he was more qualified to be with that woman; and hey, where was the beautiful woman that he deserved.  If only they weren’t taken by guys like that.

But here’s the rub:  they were genuinely happy with their relationship, while my colleague was not.  For whatever reason, they had allowed themselves to discover what was TRULY important in a relationship, and they went out and found someone they could build it with.  My colleague on the other hand, continued to look at superficial means to find a deep level of happiness.  That’s insane!  But yet it happens all of the time. 

We all know people who are single, yet yearn to have a romantic partner.  Whenever we try to set them up, inevitably they want to know what the other person looks like.  As if how tall someone is has any bearing on whether or not they will do the dishes.  As if their athletic prowess will contribute to their willingness to comfort their lover through their fears.  As if their chosen brand of clothing will support their lover’s difficult life choices.  And yet these are often the most significant factors as to whether the relationship will last beyond a first date.

Sure it’s trendy to state that appearances aren’t important when choosing a mate.  Yet when pressed, most people claim a need to be physically attracted in order to be romantically involved.  But how do we determine what we are physically attracted to? 

We all have a type.  One that is both socially defined, and yet also based on our personal experiences.  Sometimes our type is influenced by our parents or other members of our family.  Sometimes it is a result of our image of ourselves.  But here’s the most interesting thing that has been discovered about sexual satisfaction:

The most influential organ for sexual satisfaction is our BRAIN!

Research has uncovered that most people fantasize during sex.  And activity has as much to do with that fantasy as any visual stimulus.  So if we are in our head (so to speak) during sex anyways, why not share those moments with someone whom you can actually enjoy being with when you are not engaging in sexual activities.  You just might find that you can connect with them in ways that you have been previously unable to with your other romantic partners.  Then watch and discover how intimately you can connect with them during sex. 

I am not suggesting that you go find the most unattractive person you can and have sex with them.  (Although if you do, please tell them that it was my idea and send them to my blog-I am sure they will want to thank me.)  What I am saying, is first figure out what kind of partner you would need in order to have a truly meaningful relationship.  Put physical appearance aside and just look at their personal characteristics.  Once you find them, begin to nurture an open and honest relationship with that person.  You may be delighted in the romance that buds.  

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

How plastic is your brain? - What Neuroplasticity teaches us about our habits


All of the latest breakthroughs in Neurobiology are resulting in a revolutionary view of how the brain works.  Science has discovered that neurons that fire together strengthen their bond by increasing the number of synapses between them.  This encourages the stimulation of one with the other. 

In layman’s terms, this means that when we think of relationships between two things, or when we think about something while undertaking an activity, then these things become connected in our thoughts because they literally become hardwired together in our brains.  This explains the Pavlovian experiments that result in the salivating dog. 

What excites me most about this latest breakthrough is the implications regarding habits and mental world-view constructs- but more on that in a moment.

Have you ever seen the question posed in a seminar or forum, “How long does it take to change a habit?”  Whenever I see that question, I always know that there is a trick question being thrown out to the audience.  I have seen no conclusive scientific research to suggest one answer over another, yet people will vehemently adhere to what they have been told.  21 Days!  1 Month!  In an Instant of Decision!  Well sure.  To some degree, all of those answers are correct.  But was the question trying to figure out how long it takes to make a decision – because the most recent research suggest that we make decisions approximately 5 seconds prior to our recognition of the decision.  Or is the question trying to figure out how long it takes to replace or eliminate a habit?  Because that is a much more complicated issue, where the answer would depend on how long, how often and how intense the habit was.  It also depends on how proactive an individual is in changing the habit.

Neuroplasticity suggests that the longer we do a habit, and the more varied experiences that we have with the habit, the more deeply ingrained it will be in our brain.  The wider variety of activities in which we engaged in the habit, the more experiences the habit will be linked to (quantity).  The longer and more frequently a habit was carried out, the stronger the bond will be between the linked neurons (quality).  Here’s the important part:  We must counteract the habit we are trying to change with new programming equal in measure.  The longer and stronger a habit is, the more effort is needed to change the neurology of the brain regarding the habit.  In cases where hypnosis fails, it is typically due to a failure to address the quantity and quality of synaptic connections.  Hypnosis can however be effective at shifting belief paradigms that can result in eventual habit change.

There is another way to combat unwanted habits, and neuroplasticity holds the key. 

Habits and beliefs can literally be adopted into or eliminated from your consciousness through proper programming.  Through repetition, emotional anchoring, and increasing brain functioning we can decrease the synaptic connections (or desires) for unwanted habits, and increase the strength of synaptic connections for desired habits.  The same holds true for beliefs, and the process is the same.  We can witness the effects of daily visualizations. 

Let’s look at an example.  What would happen if we were to listen all day long to commands regarding our health habits?  Eventually, and usually quickly, we notice that our desires and thoughts about food, exercise and activity all begin to shift.  And shortly thereafter, without any cognitive effort, our actions begin to conform to those new desires and thoughts.  Each time a command is heard, it strengthens the synaptic connections that shape our actions and mental constructs.  It’s a pretty cool thing to witness, and even a cooler thing to have happen personally.  It is also the gift that our clients give back to us when they share their experiences.  So, if you have benefited from Mindful Measures, please tell us about your experience by commenting below.  And join us on Facebook and Youtube, where your experiences, comments, and discussions are also welcome.  

Monday, January 3, 2011

7 Magical Ingredients to Ensure You Keep Your New Year's Resolution

Picking a New Years Resolution is to the New Years Holidays, what decorating your Christmas Tree is to Christmas. At least it is to most people. It’s that activity, which we all must do out of some sort of cultural expectation. It gives us a common conversation piece to share with other people in our lives. It allows us to fill the intimate moments of a social holiday with idle, but anxiety relieving chatter. And like the Christmas tree, decorated according to each persons taste and lifestyle, our New Years Resolutions symbolically represent our deepest hopes and desires. And yet, like our trees, they are often discarded a week after the holiday. Sure, some of us may leave the tree or resolution hanging around a few months; afraid to officially discard it, for fear of the cold darkness that fills the void once the warmth of hope is abandoned. But for the most part, the value of the tree or resolution is the sense of happiness and hope that it provides leading up to the holiday. And yet our New Years Resolutions are genuinely accomplishments that we would truly like to have come to pass. So how can we make sure that we are able to not only keep our Resolutions around, but also make sure that we achieve them as well?

Here are 7 Magical Qualities to imbue your New Years Resolutions and Annual Goals with to ensure that you are successful:

  1. Clearly defined – Whenever we want to accomplish a task, it is important that the desired result be clearly defined.  You should be able to see, feel, and hear what it will be like to achieve your New Years Resolution or annual goal.  In fact, daily meditation on what successfully accomplishing your goal will be like is a great way to stay focused and inspired.  You should also be clear on the time required to accomplish your goal.  Your resolutions and goals needn’t be finished by year’s-end, but you need to be clear on when it will be considered completed, and how close can we get during this year.
  2. Actionable – Your New Years Resolutions and annual goals should require you to take action in order to succeed.  You must own the process and responsibility.  You certainly have a stake in the desired result, so put your mind, heart and hands to work to make it happen.  Often times, our goals or resolutions require us to break it down into smaller tasks that can be achieved on a closer timescale.  This helps us evaluate if we are on track, as well as if there are any alterations to the execution of our plan necessary.
  3. Emotional need filled – This is perhaps the most critical aspect of successfully achieving any goal or New Years Resolution.  Any noble goal is going to require a lot of sacrifice and work.  Otherwise, we wouldn’t need to make it a New Years Resolution.  We could have simply changed in an instant.  Amazingly enough, we can change at any instant; however we seem to have some emotional need to connect our biggest, most pressing dreams with a monumental events such as a New Year, Birthday, or other fabricated novelty.  Either way, our Resolutions are big because they address some fierce emotional need within ourselves.  They usually boil down to acceptance (ie: lose weight or joining a gym is usually centered around appealing more to others, although it is sometimes genuinely centered on prolonging our life so that we may continue to connect more deeply with our loved ones).  So when we meditate or visualize the accomplishment of our goals, we should imbue the projection with all of the emotional gratification that will go alongside the success.  Again this will help to focus and inspire us towards the desired result.  This is particularly effective if the meditation occurs either first thing in the morning or the last thing in the evening.  It is truly amazing how your mind will begin to explore opportunities and tools to help you achieve your desired result.
  4. Accountability – Tell someone about it!  Find someone whom you trust and you know will support you to achieve your New Years Resolution.  Be leery of using someone as your accountability partner who is struggling with the task.  You may encounter enough of your own discouragement along the path of success; you don’t need to take on theirs as well.  If you can find someone who has successfully tackled the challenge of your resolutions, confide in them.
  5. Seek help when needed – Often times, with our big goals or resolutions, the task can become very daunting because of the resources required - be they knowledge, time, money or tools.  Resourcefulness is often required to pull together the means to accomplish our goals.  Don’t discount how much power lies within asking your social and professional network for insights.  Often times, they are great sources of information and tools required to succeed.  Once you have found an accomplished advisor, evaluate any advice or tools that they offer and apply it in an appropriate manner.
  6. Structural Congruency – It is important that our New Years Resolutions and annual goals be congruent with our mid-range and long-term goals.  If they are not, then we can be lead away from accomplishing larger, more epic achievements.  In the least, we may lose productive years, or we may even cause permanent damage to our ability to achieve our long-term goals.  When we align our New Years Resolution and annual goals with our longer term goals, then we ensure that we head towards our grander purpose.
  7. Ethical Congruency - Make sure that your New Years Resolutions and annual goals are congruent with your ideals and morals.  Too often, we see people make goals that are inconsistent with their larger moral code.  This dissonance can lead to a myriad of self-destructive behavior.  In the least, one may find themselves sabotaging their efforts to achieve a goal.  But we also see a lot of destructive avoidance habits develop as well.  Ironically, these destructive habits often find themselves as future New Years Resolutions.  Evaluate your goals and resolutions according to your moral code to create harmony in your life.

Now that you have made your New Years Resolution, and you are committed to taking on the coming year with a new determination, follow this guideline to make sure that your resolutions are kept.  If your goals are unable to meet each of the criteria mentioned above, then alter them.  It is never too late or early to make alterations to our plans.  Remember, our New Years Resolutions are not written in stone.  Surely they can be amended or adapted as our needs or knowledge change

From Mindful Measures, we wish much happiness and success for the New Year!

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