It's easy to forget that we are all perfect in our own design. Sometimes we muck it up with habits and choices that do not serve us. 

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Why I’m Staying Open to the Unexpected

birthdaycake Why I’m Staying Open to the Unexpected

I've Been Thinking...

I celebrated my birthday on Wednesday. It was a beautiful, warm, meaningful, lovely, and easy day.

It started with one of my daughters bringing me coffee, and then I took an early morning walk with my elder son (who bought me another cup of coffee and a vegan scone!). My other daughter picked me up later and read me my horoscope for the year. And then, my youngest son (who is away at college) Facetimed with me.

If that wasn’t enough (and it was!) so many friends and family took a moment to text, e-mail, and call to let me know that they love me and that I matter to them. I’ve come to learn over the years that that’s what life is really about: having people around that love you, see you, make you laugh, and make a point to reach out to you.

Something else also happened on my birthday that made me take a step back. It made me reflect on how I approach my life and discover a theme for my new year ahead.

What happened was that I got a text from someone I met many years ago—someone I really don’t know at all. It was someone I would have never expected to reach out to me on my birthday, but lo and behold, they did. Their message, which came out of the blue, reminded me of our previous exchange and wished me a happy day.
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Start Attracting Positive Life Results

bravo-on-your-business-accomplishment-picture-id658494798 Start Attracting Positive Life Results

If we can see how positive inner states lead to positive life experiences, then we can also see that negative inner states must attract negative results. Shedding light on this dark cycle will help us bring an end to it as a source of self-compromise.

Suppose someone walks into your office and drops the bomb that your company has unannounced plans to lay off several employees, and that no one knows who these unfortunates are going to be. Without higher principles to meet this unexpected moment, the fear would surely take control of you and the moment. In no time, you would be the victim of your own self-compromising plans for revenge on an insensitive company, or some such enemy.

Of course, at first glance, feeling scared and getting angry in an event like this seems like it makes sense. But a closer look clearly shows how it betrays. We can't have fear without anxiety. Anxiety can't exist without unconsciously comparing what we hoped would happen, to our new fears that it won't. And connected to this spreading fear our expectations won't be realized is our growing resentment of the situation, or person, we blame for wiping out our hoped-for happiness. So bitterness spreads. And as it does, it whispers to us that since we've already lost our future, why should we do anything more, for anyone, in the present? Now defiance has the reins, and in no time, self-righteous anger courses through our veins.

It's impossible to have one sad or sour state without another. But there's still much for us to see. Negativity, like all forms of thought, is actually physical in nature. All things physical, all forms of matter, have mass. And any mass in motion has momentum. Now, with these facts in mind, let's go back into our illustrative story and see what the momentum of this negative state has to ultimately attract.

So now the boss walks into your office -- or you see him at lunch -- and he asks you to do some extra work. But with the feeling of being betrayed still fresh in your heart, you can't help but meet him and his request with a full-blown negative state. The impression you make on him is indelible. Later on, at a time unknown to you, this same superior starts to review who he's going to keep on and who to let go. And he chooses to release you. Why? Because among other items weighted in his decision process, he recalls your barely masked aggression and obvious resistance to his request.

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The Surest Way to an “Aha” Moment

ahamoment The Surest Way to an “Aha” Moment

An invitation to Sages and Scientists Symposium, Crystal Bridges Museum, Bentonville Arkansas

One of the fastest ways to make a breakthrough occurs in an “aha” moment, a flash of insight that delivers an answer all at once. “Aha” moments are very desirable. Isaac Newton had one about gravity when he saw an apple fall from a tree (even though this popular story was never told by him), and Alexander Fleming had one about penicillin when he saw that a common green mold had spoiled his carefully cultured dishes of bacteria.

Yet “Aha” moments are unpredictable by their very nature, and no one knows—or even has a clue—why or how they occur. This doesn’t decrease the urgent need for breakthroughs in all kinds of fields where conventional answers, and the method for reaching them, has failed. More than 200 promising Alzheimer’s drugs have failed, for example, leading some drug companies to give up the effort to find one that works. We have no proven answer for aging despite dozens of theories. We don’t have a viable technology to reverse the buildup of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.

Leaving these problems to science is the typical way, and for many the only way, to achieve solutions. But a growing number of theorists believe that every department of human knowledge should be allowed to contribute. If you divide the world into the objective domain “out there” and the subjective domain “in here,” science is very good at the one and drastically lagging in the other. If you want to understand all kinds of inner experiences—love, beauty, curiosity, creativity, pain, wonder, suffering ecstasy, or even what a thought is—there is little science can tell you compared with what centuries of personal experience can tell you.

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A Love Letter from Andrew Harvey to His Most Sacred Places

varanasi-at-sunrise-picture-id905049262 A Love Letter from Andrew Harvey to His Most Sacred Places

I hope everyone has a chance to travel the world and see places that feed them spiritually. Two places very sacred to me, influencing my life and spiritual path, are India and Sri Lanka. My early years in India shaped my sense of unity with all religions. The sights, smells, and sounds of India are like no others. It is quite simply the most transformative place on earth.

My favorite place is Benares, also known as Varanasi. It is on the banks of the Ganges river and a major religious hub. Buddha is believed to have founded Buddhism here when he gave his first sermon in nearby Samath. Varanasi has been my sacred home for 40 years. Hindus believe that dying here and getting cremated along the banks of the holy Ganges river allows one to break the cycle of life, death, and rebirth and attain salvation. Varanasi is also an important cultural and creative center in India, well known for its silk fabrics, perfumes, ivory works, and sculpture.

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Receive Faces

crowd Receive Faces

What do their faces say to you?

The Practice:
Receive faces.

Why?

As our ancestors evolved over millions of years in small bands, continually interacting and working with each other, it was vitally important to communicate in hundreds of ways each day. They shared information about external “carrots” and “sticks,” and about their internal experience (e.g., intentions, sexual interest, inclination toward aggression) through gestures, vocalizations – and facial expressions. Much as we developed uniquely complex language, we also evolved the most expressive face in the entire animal kingdom.

Our faces are exquisitely capable of a vast range of expressions, such as showing fear to send signals of alarm, interest to draw others toward an opportunity, or fondness and kindness to increase closeness and the sense of “us.” These expressions include seemingly universal signs of six fundamental emotions – happiness, surprise, fear, sadness, anger, and disgust – as well as more culturally and personally specific expressions. For example, I know that very particular look that crosses my wife’s face when she thinks I’m getting too full of myself!

Of course, there is no sense in having evolved an extraordinary transmitter – the face – unless we also developed an extraordinary receiver: our remarkable capacities to recognize, sense, and infer states of mind in others from subtle and fleeting facial expressions.

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How To Let Go Of Negative Thinking And Be Happy

happy How To Let Go Of Negative Thinking And Be Happy
“An experience is inherently neutral. Your reality is determined by the story you make up within yourself.”

We have all had negative thoughts in our lives. It often seems safer to give in to the negative thinking than questioning it. However, this will only rob you of happiness and cause you suffering. Listen to this short, powerful episode to learn 3 simple keys to overcome negative thinking, deal with your inner critic and be happy.

Some Questions I Ask:

  • Do you ever get caught in negative thinking? 
  • How are you interpreting things?
  • Who does the negative voice in your head belong to?Is it really yours?
  • Is there a payoff for being negative?
  • What can you learn from this experience?

In This Episode You Will Learn:

  • The reason we gravitate towards the negative.
  • The importance of dealing with your inner stuff to perceive events accurately. 
  • 3 keys to dealing with negative thinking.
  • How being aware of your thoughts will help you stop the negative pattern.
  • The key reason we choose to wallow in the negative and how to prevent it. 
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Mark Nepo's Weekly Reflection: The Quarter Turn

holdingbutterfly Mark Nepo's Weekly Reflection: The Quarter Turn

I suddenly knew I was looking at it from the wrong angle and I gave the cloth in my hand a quarter turn. Immediately I saw a beautiful and coherent golden pattern... In wonder, the pattern had emerged, to be seen in all its beauty by those who could learn to make the quarter turn.

Helen Luke

The above quote is from Helen’s inner autobiography, Such Stuff as Dreams Are Made On. She begins the book with a dream in which one of her oldest friends, now gone, is asked on the other side to weave a tapestry that tells the story of her life. But as Helen looks at the cloth, it makes no sense—until she gives the cloth a quarter turn and the pattern of her friend’s life emerges plainly.

Helen then offers the quarter turn as a synonym for a paradigm shift, as a way to understand those unexpected shifts of perception that return us to the hidden wholeness, the spot of grace, the Oneness that exists beneath all subjects and conclusions. And like the fine-adjustment knob on a telescope or microscope that brings what you’re looking at into focus, the quarter turn is the skill of perception by which you can bring into focus the instrument that is you.

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The Gift of Caring

firefighters The Gift of Caring
“It is not how much you do, but how much love you put in the doing.” — Mother Teresa


I've Been Thinking...

November kicks off National Alzheimer's Disease Awareness and National Family Caregivers Month. For us here at The Sunday Paper, it's an opportunity to focus on the huge issue of caregiving (in all its forms), as well as on the value and importance of care. 

My mission is to find a cure for Alzheimer’s disease, and I’m relentless in my pursuit of it. That's why you often see curated news from the Women's Alzheimer's Movement (WAM) featured in this newsletter. My father passed away from the disease in 2011, so I know first-hand what a toll it can take on families. That's why I'm determined to do everything I can to stop it from happening to others.

Yesterday, WAM held its big annual event Move for Minds, which works to educate and empower you with the information you need to care for your brain health and prevent or delay Alzheimer’s. It’s also a chance to raise funds for much needed women-based research, and to honor the work of those caregiving for someone with this mind-blowing disease.

Caring for another human being is God's work, and how one cares for another person tells you a lot about them. It tells you whether or not they value the concept of care. 

Care can be exhibited in so many ways, but what I know to be true is this: when a person feels cared for, the world suddenly feels a little less scary and a lot more OK. When you feel cared for, you feel soothed. You feel secure. You feel safe. And trust me, feeling safe is huge.

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Let Go of Anxiety and Regain Your Freedom

freedomof-lettinggo Let Go of Anxiety and Regain Your Freedom

When life falls apart, or threatens to come unglued, it seems almost natural to carry around some desperate, stressed, or depressed emotional state. But why cling to something that makes us ache? The answer is surprising, but evident, once we’re aware of what’s actually taking place within us.

Negative states tell us that we must feel as we do.

In some strange and unseen way, the weight of a dark worry serves as proof that we have “no option” other than to buckle beneath it . . . to fall down, feel betrayed, or prepare for a fight.

Real life can no more act to pull us down than the rising sun can burden the spring flowers that wait to bathe in its nourishing light.

No event, in itself, is the cause of the fear we feel in the moment of its appearance. William Shakespeare, whose insights into the workings of the human mind still remain treasures in spite of passing time, validates this important finding: “There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.”

The same wisdom holds true when it comes to the moments that make up our lives: we meet in events nothing more or less than the wealth of possibilities they present before us.

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The Future of Personal and Planetary Well Being : An invitation to Sages and Scientists Symposium, Crystal Bridges Museum, Bentonville Arkansas

sagesandscientists The Future of Personal and Planetary Well Being : An invitation to Sages and Scientists Symposium, Crystal Bridges Museum, Bentonville Arkansas

Despite a steady increase in life expectancy, medical science is facing diminishing returns. It has been estimated that every increase in lifespan since 1990 has resulted in only ten months of increased healthy life; the rest is only prolonged suffering and the decline of aging. Globally more people now die of so-called “lifestyle diseases” than from infectious diseases. Doctors cannot make choices about lifestyle; only the patient can. Finally, half of all heart attacks before old age occur in people who live a good lifestyle, managing their weight, eating right, and exercising regularly.

What lies beyond lifestyle? That’s a matter of much speculation. Will human existence be improved in the future through technology, genetic manipulation, nano-robots in the bloodstream serving as cancer hunters? Or will it take a new philosophical conception, one that entices people away from a life of speed, constant activity, and stress?

By all odds it will take both, because innovations in technology can’t succeed if we continue to define well-being in old, outworn ways. Consider the following statements, which almost everyone, including doctors, take as fact:

  • The body is a machine, and like all machines it breaks down.
  • Aging is a pre-determined process, probably controlled by our genes.
  • The body is a mindless lump of matter except for the brain, which has evolved to produce mind or consciousness.]
  • The causes of most diseases are now known. What remains is to find effective drugs to target each malady.
  • You are healthy until something goes wrong, which is signaled by the appearance of symptoms.

In reality none of these statements is correct. The body isn’t a machine; machines cannot heal themselves. The body isn’t mindless; every cell is imbued with vast knowledge that far surpasses anything found in medical textbooks. The brain doesn’t produce the mind; that’s merely an assumption that has never been proved.

The most urgent need facing each of us is how to envision our bodies without the burden of outworn assumptions, which is why, starting in two weeks, an annual symposium known as Sages & Scientists Symposium will bring together the best thinkers with views both humanistic and scientific. This year’s theme is “The Future of Well-Being,” and the public is invited to attend. There is nothing on the planet as open to the free exchange of ideas, from every kind of thinker and researcher, all aiming to find a way forward into a viable future.

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Don’t Be Intimidated

tiger-face-on-black-background-picture-id1001482448 Don’t Be Intimidated

What makes you feel threatened?

The Practice:
Don’t be intimidated.

Why?

Humans evolved to be fearful, since anxiety helped keep our ancestors alive. Consequently, we are vulnerable to being alarmed, manipulated, and even intimidated by threats, both real ones and “paper tigers.”

This vulnerability to feeling threatened has effects at many levels, ranging from individuals, couples, and families to schoolyards, organizations, and nations. Whether it’s an individual who worries about the consequences of speaking up at work or in a close relationship, a family cowed by a scary parent, a business fixated on threats instead of opportunities, or a country told it’s under assault by “them” – the same human brain reacts in each one of these cases.

Therefore, understanding how your brain became so vigilant and wary, and so easily hijacked by alarm, is the first step toward gaining more control over that ancient circuitry. Then, by bringing mindful awareness to how your brain reacts to feeling threatened, you can stimulate and therefore build up the neural substrates of a mind that has more calm, wisdom, and sense of inner strength – a mind that sees real threats more clearly, acts more effectively in dealing with them, and is less rattled or distracted by exaggerated, manageable, or false alarms.

How?

The nervous system has been evolving for 600 million years, from ancient jellyfish to modern humans. Our ancestors had to make a critical decision many times a day: approach a reward or avoid a hazard – pursue a carrot or duck a stick.

Both are important. Imagine being a hominid in Africa a million years ago, living in a small band. To pass on your genes, you’ve got to find food, have sex, and cooperate with others to help the band’s children (particularly yours) to have children of their own: these are big carrots in the Serengeti. Additionally, you’ve got to hide from predators, steer clear of aggression inside your band, and not let other hunter-gatherer bands hurt you: these are significant sticks.

But here’s the key difference between carrots and sticks. If you miss out on a carrot today, you’ll probably have a chance at more carrots tomorrow. But if you fail to avoid a stick today – WHAP! – no more carrots forever. Compared to carrots, sticks usually have more urgency and impact.

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Smackdown

IMG_1549-1200x900

Sometimes you’re the windshield;
sometimes you’re the bug….
Sometimes you’re the Louisville slugger;
sometimes you’re the ball.”
—Mary Chapin Carpenter

Life has a way of smacking us down, hard, sometimes repeatedly, when we least expect it. Things can be going along smoothly, and then out of the blue: wham! You are knocked off your feet by a sudden turn of events or twist of fate. It can be a minor passing upset or a major trauma. Life doesn’t tell you ahead of time what’s coming up around the next corner. Each day can be really wonder-full or really challenging. This is how I would describe my life over the past year.

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Joy on hold: Are you afraid to be happy?

unhappy-schoolgirl-sitting-in-the-park-education-lifestyle-concept-picture-id1008019504 Joy on hold: Are you afraid to be happy?

“He who laughs the loudest, cries the hardest.” Someone said this in high school during lunch as we watched a girl laughing so boisterously that everyone in the cafeteria turned to look. “She’s so going to cry tomorrow,” she declared matter-of-factly. How would she know? I thought to myself. She was only 15, after all, just like me. And yet, somehow, what she said haunted me in the many years to come.

After that, whenever I had extreme moments of happiness, it would be followed by tears of sadness. So, I learned to hold back. I didn’t want to be too happy because the higher the high, the harder the fall. Each time I allowed myself to feel happiness full on, I braced for impact. I expected to be slammed back down to the ground. But does happiness really lead to sorrow or misery? Is it really happiness that is to blame?

Of course, it wasn’t! The B.S. that was put in my head by a random character in high school took hold of me. I gave it life. It became a self-fulfilling prophecy. It’s the energy of manifestation in action—if you believe in something strongly enough, it becomes real.

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Mark Nepo's Weekly Reflection: Becoming a Poet

Photo credit goes to Min An Mark Nepo's Weekly Reflection: Becoming a Poet

I started writing in high school after my first love dumped me. I was devastated. Though I wasn’t a loner, I didn’t yet have any close friends. So, I started talking to myself as a way to heal. Once on the mend, I realized I wasn’t just talking to myself. I had begun a conversation with the Universe.

In college, I wasn’t allowed to write creatively in the English department. This was before the burgeoning of creative writing programs. But a kind theater professor, Doc Palmer, took me under his wing, and told me that if I became a theatre major, he would take care of me. So I begin by writing plays, that was part of our deal. I’d sign up for his courses, though he’d give me different assignments. Instead of a paper on Oedipus or Hedda Gabbler, he’d invite me to write specific scenes modeled after the great playwrights. I also had to partake in every aspect of theater from set design to acting. This unexpected apprenticeship has stayed with me.

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Who’s Ready to Work Hard and Play Hard?

puppy Who’s Ready to Work Hard and Play Hard?

Did you raise your hand and scream, “I AM!

If you’re like most of us, before you can have fun and shake your sillies out, you probably feel like you need to squeeze in a few more minutes of work before you play. With your computer screen, phablet, tablet, or smartphone always on and filled with things to do, it’s hard to unplug and break away.

And of course, if you do get away from your job responsibilities, you may still need to pick up the kids, help with homework, cook dinner, wash clothes, check the mail and pay some bills. Phew!

If that describes you, then you, my friend, have joined the American cult of “Work Yourself Ragged.” The problem is, being exhausted and not taking time to refresh diminishes your creativity, and cuts into your productivity. And that can cost you money.

I know, because once upon a time I was more raggedy than Ann and Andy put together! (You know, the dolls? Okay, that’s a bad joke, but they are cultural icons and me and my sister had one of each when we were kids. Anyway . . .)

When I started my business, my type A personality was more like AAA+++. I was fully plugged into my belief that I had to constantly drive HARD to get ahead in this all go, no stop world.

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You are a Diamond. Own Your Personal Growth.

woman-with-arms-outstretched-in-snow-picture-id102284321 You are a Diamond. Own Your Personal Growth.

When I first began this journey of transformation that began 33 years ago and brought me here, I came to it with a lot of ideas of being victimized by life, of the unfairness of the stories perpetuated in my family by real tragedies, and by my own experience. Why would I believe in a better life? I will be honest, I didn’t trust that it was really possible for me. The issues that dogged us convinced me that life was hard, and it would be hard and when it didn’t work out the way I hoped, it was proof that I had done something wrong, and that fate would continue to prove that I was a mistake. 

Everything changed when I got sober and began following a specific spiritual program. I began to see the world as alive. I see the world today as ensouled—everything animated with life and Spirit. I don’t see myself as a victim ever. What changed? 

Well, it was a number of things I began to do differently—one was attending meditation classes at a Tibetan temple in Toronto frequented by others in recovery who were seeking new ways of living. There was one evening, now indelibly etched in my memory—one of those definitive moments, a turning point in my life when I sat with our teacher after class sharing a moment of hopelessness (which I had less and less but that night I was in some drama about my then-boyfriend.) He turned to me after quietly listening with great patience and said, “You see the hurt, but I see your life is like a diamond, a path of time and great pressure. When you can see the gifts in this, the great value, see what you’re becoming then you will be free.” 

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We All Have Super Powers

child-plays-superhero-picture-id542802766 We All Have Super Powers

I've Been Thinking...

The other night, I had dinner with a new friend. We talked for hours about life, relationships, our missions, and our goals. Then, this friend said something that I had never heard before. It was a phrase that took me aback. “All of us have a superpower,” she declared. “It’s kind of like your cape.”

 

I had never thought of myself as having a superpower, but as I walked home that evening, the description made me smile. I went into the makeup room at TODAY the next morning and asked Edna and Gina (two talented women whom I work with) if they felt that they had a superpower. Like me, neither had ever thought of themselves in that way. Still, they were both able to easily answer the question.

“Being all in with everyone I know,” one of them said. “Forgiveness,” said the other.

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3 Keys to Activating The Flow of Money and Abundance in Your Life

abundance 3 Keys to Activating The Flow of Money and Abundance in Your Life
“Abundance starts with remembering who you are. When you remember who you are, you start tapping into that inexhaustible stream of energy that is life. At that level, there is no scarcity.”

Abundance is not about what you have but about your attitude and feelings towards what you have. Abundance is not really about money because real abundance is a state of being. Listen to this insightful episode to learn how to shift your vibration in a way that attracts more abundance in all aspects of your life and the key practice to get out of scarcity.


Some Questions I Ask:

  • What do your relationships and life reflect about yourself?
  • What is your relationship with abundance?
  • How do you feel about yourself ?
  • Can you celebrate everything that you are and are not?
  • How often do you thank your body?
  • What pain, problems or challenges can you solve for humanity?
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To truly make a difference, you don't need to make a splash: A single drop is enough to cause ripples

drop To truly make a difference, you don't need to make a splash: A single drop is enough to cause ripples

“I’m sorry, but I can’t help you. Your book is great. In fact, I love it. Your writing style is really good. But you don’t have social media following or a substantial email list.” This is what a publisher told an acquaintance of mine when she pitched her book. Another acquaintance was turned down to be an affiliate marketer by an online course provider because they required at least 250,000 followers and a website with “very good” traffic for her to qualify.

These are just a couple of examples of how social media has shifted the way we’re seen and treated these days. In both cases, they were explicitly saying, “Without the numbers, you are worthless to us.” Through the social media lens, our worth is only as much as the number of followers we have or the size of our email list; the number of pageviews, impressions and clicks; and all the other vanity metrics that people seem to care a great deal about nowadays. So, if you’re not an influencer, forget about it.

In the meantime, while many people strive to be the next Justin Bieber, Kim Kardashian or PewDiePie, those who truly want to make a difference in the world get caught up in the crossfire and are measured by the same vanity-metrics yardstick. Those numbers translate to money, after all.

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What Happens to Your Brain When You Complain

brain What Happens to Your Brain When You Complain

Do you need to stop complaining?

It’s well understood that complaining never accomplishes anything positive, but did you know that complaining can have some very real, negative effects on your brain as well?

Complaining can actually rewire your brain over time and set you up for failure, time and time again, without you even knowing it.Research has shown that, on average, people complain about once a minute during a typical conversation.

As with any task that we instruct our minds to repeat over and over again, it doesn’t take long for your brain to pick up on the pattern and develop neural pathways specifically dedicated to complaining.

Just like a musician will develop neural pathways dedicated to the specific movements and thoughts associated with playing their instrument, people who frequently complain will do the same for the act of complaining.

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