Why New Year’s Resolutions Fail and What Works Better

Free yourself from your limitations.Traditional New Year’s Resolutions fall into the category of behavior that I call “control mechanisms.” Resolutions like going to the gym more often or losing 20 pounds are usually based on trying to control the feeling that “there’s something wrong with me being just as I am.” This feeling, called Learned Distress®, is what your brain uses to automatically generate the negative moments of your life. (You can find out your Learned Distress pattern by taking this free personality test.)

Learned Distress doesn’t take kindly to being controlled. Sometimes, the control mechanism just plain fails. You just can’t get out of bed early enough to make it to the gym before work. Oh, well.

Or, if you’re particularly good at controlling it, Learned Distress also can be sneaky and find another way “out.” Maybe you’re three weeks into your gym routine when you slip on the ice and injure your back. There goes your resolution!

Or, your Learned Distress might even find an entirely different aspect of your life within which to express itself. If the feeling is “there’s something wrong with how I look,” you might have something go wrong with some other aspect of your appearance or your someone might criticize how you dress.

You might guess correctly, then, that New Year’s Resolutions are not something I recommend to my clients. However, there is a type of resolution you could craft based on an element of Quanta Change® that will work with your brain’s automatic generating force, instead of trying to control it.

First, you should know that the part of your brain that stores Learned Distress only deals with how you feel about being yourself. It isn’t capable of rational thought. And, this part of your brain, your sense of self, deals only with two simple kinds of feeling—”it’s good being me exactly as I am,” and, “there’s something wrong with me being exactly as I am.” Every feeling you have and every moment of your life, positive or negative, can be traced back to one of these two basic kinds of feelings.

So, when you craft a control-style resolution, you’re really reinforcing the “something wrong with me” feeling. Your brain recharges while you sleep with the feelings you experience every day. When you resolve to go to the gym more often to keep this negative feeling under control, your brain actually recharges with it at night, and you wake up the next day with just a tad bit more of the feeling that “there’s really something wrong with my body”—the exact opposite of what you were going for!

So, if you’re going to make a New Year’s Resolution, I recommend making one that reinforces the positive way you would like to feel. Maybe something like, “I feel good in my own skin for the first time in my life.” Or, if the change you want to see has to do with relationships, “When I’m with others, I feel so comfortable just being myself.” Or, if it has to do with being more organized, “It’s so easy to find everything in my house!” You might visualize these outcomes as if they had already happened, letting yourself feel the joy of how different it is to be you in this new way. This helps your brain experience the feeling you want it to recharge with when you’re asleep.

If “there’s something wrong with me” rings a bell and you want to know more about your Learned Distress, click to get a free report that shows your pattern of Learned Distress and how it can change.

Wishing you a new year in which you feel really good being yourself!

Sara Avery is the Executive Director of Quanta Change, and she’s been guiding people through this process for the past 16 years. Click to get your free, personalized SQ report and to sign up for a free, 30-minute call with her to learn the kinds of positive changes you will see through Quanta Change.

How to Move from Blame to Empowerment

Learn why we blame and what we can do about it.“When you think everything is someone else’s fault, you will suffer a lot.” —Dalai Lama

I would extend this to one’s own self, too: When you think everything is your own fault, you will suffer a lot. So, the problem isn’t whom you blame, but that you blame someone, period.

In reality, the source of feeling bad and things going badly is something called Learned Distress®. It’s the feeling that “there is something wrong with me being just the way that I am.” You absorbed Learned Distress from the people around you—how they felt about being human—from conception until the age of 2 1/2. This sponge-like time was the process that developed your sense of self, or how you feel about being your unique self. (Discover your pattern of Learned Distress by taking this free personality pattern test.)

So, it would seem that if you absorbed this negative feeling from those around you, you could blame them for your negative moments since then, right? Nope. Think back to when you were two years old. Did you choose to absorb the feeling that there was something wrong with being human back then? You probably don’t remember, so I can help you with the answer. It is: “No.” You couldn’t have chosen, because the part of your brain that allows you to choose wasn’t operating yet. Your rational brain starts to develop around the age of 2 1/2, so before that point, your little brain is just a sensory sponge, absorbing how it feels to be human.

So, if you didn’t choose these negative feelings that are the source of your negative moments, your parents couldn’t have chosen theirs, either. They absorbed Learned Distress from their parents, who absorbed it from their parents, and on back. And, therefore, there is no blame associated with this passing of Learned Distress on from generation to generation.

After the age of 2 1/2, your brain starts to use Learned Distress and well-being, the good feeling stored in your sense of self, to automatically generate the moments and situations in your life. It’s the automatic work of energy described by Sir Isaac Newton in his Third Law of Motion: “For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.” In this case, the action was Learned Distress being absorbed (coming in), and now your brain puts this energy back out (opposite) as moments that feel the same (equal) as the moments when you absorbed those feelings.

Your rational brain gives you a way to cope with or control those moments, but the feeling you experience in the negative ones will still be “there is something wrong with me.” So, your parents were doing the best they were able with what they had absorbed, just as you are, and just as everyone else in the world is. And, despite everyone’s best efforts, Learned Distress keeps getting absorbed by little, sponge-like brains. So, you can’t blame your parents for your stuff.

But what about blaming one’s spouse for getting angry and ruining a dinner party? Or someone blaming her assistant for forgetting to tell her about an important meeting? Or something more difficult, like when a drunk driver killed one of my best friends several years ago? Here are some important points:

  1. If something feels bad for you, it is being generated, in part, by your Learned Distress.
  2. If someone else is involved, their Learned Distress is also a generating force.
  3. This framework never, ever excuses someone else’s bad behavior or suggests they shouldn’t face consequences, as a result.

Number one is the only thing you can do anything about, so that’s what I focus on entirely with my clients. The good news is that there’s a way to remove layers of Learned Distress permanently. This brings us to personal responsibility vs. blame. Owning your “stuff” and doing whatever you can about it is so different from lashing out at others or beating yourself up.

Sometimes, it’s hard to see past the blame game that we’ve played. For example, a client’s supervisor forced her to ask all of her co-workers for feedback on her performance and the mood in which she conducted herself at work. She was the only person told to do this. It would be easy to blame the supervisor for unethical behavior towards my client, and indeed, I think he was unethical and unfair in his treatment of her. But, what was most important to me was to uncover the Learned Distress that generated this situation for her.

This client has a strong history of abuse by men, which will put into place and repeatedly reinforce the feeling for her that she doesn’t matter. On top of that, she also feels strongly that there is something wrong with her unless she does things perfectly. Her working conditions made it impossible to come anywhere near perfection, so every work day, she felt strongly that there was something wrong with her in that way, also. Her brain put together “I don’t matter” and “I’m not perfect enough,” along with this specific pattern of abuse by men, and generated this awful work situation.

As she removed layers of this mixture of Learned Distress, work got better for her on a couple of fronts. A new co-worker discovered talents of my client that hadn’t been recognized, and leveraged those to get my client better working conditions. Not only did she feel that she mattered more, but she was able to work in an environment that allowed her to perform up to her standards. The more surprising thing was that the supervisor’s behavior towards her changed. When she needed to restructure her schedule, he said that the company would support her in any way possible, because she was vital to the organization! And perhaps best of all, she found out how much power she really has in her own life, and was able to move beyond the place of blaming herself (not perfect enough) or her supervisor for the situation.

Where do you tend to place blame? Do you beat yourself up, or do you blame others? Taking the free Quanta Change personality pattern test can help you uncover why this is and how you would feel more empowered by peeling away your Learned Distress.

Sara Avery is the Executive Director of Quanta Change, and she’s been guiding people through this process for the past 16 years. Click to get your free, personalized SQ report and to sign up for a free, 30-minute call with her to learn the kinds of positive changes you will see through Quanta Change.

A Surprising Cause of Being Rebellious

I used to be in awe of and even intimidated by rebels. They do everything their own way. They blaze their own trail, make their own rules. They’re so quick-witted that they usually dominate conversations and win any argument. I thought that they were really powerful and completely self-reliant, but I’ve come to see it differently. In fact, I think they’re as dependent upon others as people who are constantly try to get approval. (Curious if you’re one of these types? Take this free, personality pattern test.)

Most of the time when they say, “I’m doing this my way,” it’s actually just whatever is “not your way.” Give them a rule and they’ll break it. Their knee-jerk reaction is to do or say whatever is opposite the person around them in the moment. You say it’s warm out, they say it’s cold. You like a restaurant, they can give you five reasons why it’s horrible. The thing is that they’re not operating in a vacuum. In order to oppose, they need something or someone to rebel against. And, it is the entity against which they are rebelling who actually holds the power, not the rebel.

I actually have a soft place in my heart for these folks, because this is just a way of coping with the feeling of not being good enough. They actually store a conglomeration of negative feelings that make the “rebel” survival mechanism necessary. These feelings include:

  1. In order to survive I have to be perfect and/or know everything.
  2. In order to survive, I have to win at everything.
  3. I am not capable of conforming to others’ rules or way of being.
  4. I am not capable of getting others’ approval.

Numbers one and two carry a lot of pressure with them. It’s stressful to feel that survival depends on always being perfect and always winning. Think of the kid who was always expected to have perfect grades or win first place in every race—always.

Most people’s response to numbers 3 and 4 is to say, “I don’t care about conforming or getting people to like me,” or, “I don’t have to do that” (often with the voice of someone who doth protest too much). When someone starts a sentence with, “I don’t care about. . .,” I know that they often do care deeply, but just feel that it’s impossible for them to fulfill whatever it is. So, they cope by pretending that they don’t care and then demonstrating that by opposing those who won’t accept them.

The most interesting, and for me the saddest, thing is that the “I’m doing everything my own way,” mechanism actually cuts someone off from their truly unique way of being. All of their energy is funneled into rebelling, so there’s no room for their real self to come through. While most of us look at people like this as strong voices or even as leaders, they’re just as scared and feel under as much pressure as the rest of us.

But buried beneath all of the pressure and feelings of inadequacy is uniqueness. It is the alternative to having to be perfect and to have to win all the time. Uniqueness is one’s own place and purpose in the world, so there can be no competition around it, nor any such thing as (im)perfection. Uniqueness just is someone’s natural way of being.

As my clients with this pattern start to change, who they really are starts to emerge. They’re more able to collaborate with others and listen to other points of view. The “volume gets turned down” on that intense need to react and oppose others. And, as they begin to feel safe to be who they really are, others feel that and respond with more openness. . . the former rebels find that they can “fit” exactly as they are.

If some of these rebel traits ring a bell, you can learn the negative impact they’re having on you and how you can shift to the greater ease and comfort of your uniqueness by getting your free, personalized Quanta Change report.

Sara Avery is the Executive Director of Quanta Change, and she’s been guiding people through this process for the past 16 years. Click to get your free, personalized SQ report and to sign up for a free, 30-minute call with her to learn the kinds of positive changes you will see through Quanta Change.

How to Stop Giving Away Your Power

People always say you shouldn’t give away your power. But what does that really mean and why does it happen? Let’s look at one of the reasons people “give away their power,” three areas where it happens most often, and how accessing your inner knowing, or intuition, can bring about a very different result.

The origin of this particular kind of power abdication is in the cluster of feelings that includes:

  1. I’m not good enough
  2. I don’t know enough or I’m not smart enough
  3. I don’t have what I need within me to accomplish my goals
  4. For some, the preceding feelings are compounded by the need to conform to others’ rules in order to survive

What gets really interesting is when one interacts with some kind of authority from this cluster of “I don’t know enough” feelings. Often, the response is to just accept whatever the authority says.  There are three big arenas in society where this interaction happens often:

  1. Healthcare
  2. Spirituality/religion
  3. Economics/politics

Obviously, these arenas are so complex that no one can possibly know every detail within them. However, this feeling that “I don’t know enough” blocks one’s ability to listen to their intuition or feel that they can learn enough to make a good decision independently. So, they just go with the authority, sometimes blindly. (You can learn how much you tend towards this powerlessness by taking a free personality pattern test.)

The intensity of “I don’t know enough” can vary from area to area. For instance, you might be really in touch with your body and how it works, feel like you know what’s right for you spiritually, but then be completely overwhelmed by politics, feeling like there is no way for you to understand public policy decisions.

When clients bring this issue to me, we talk about their natural inner knowing, which includes intuition, and its ability to bring them to the best answer for themselves. They work on unlearning the feeling of, “I don’t know enough,” which uncovers their connection with inner knowing. This connection is possible for each of us—we only need to remove the negative feelings that block it.

A shift toward natural, inner knowing can take many different forms. It could involve, say, being more in tune with your body’s natural needs, instead of feeling like you have to comply with every single nutrition news release. Or, it might be that your well-being leads you to the perfect expert or information source. For instance, someone mentions a book or doctor out of the blue, or you happen to run across an article that is exactly the information you need. You may find more confidence in understanding and even speaking up for solutions to complex societal issues. I have seen all of these outcomes and many more in myself and among my clients.

You might even find that you already have resources within you. Recently, a client faced a professional situation in which someone opposed everything my client said. My client was very frustrated and felt powerless to do his work. As he started to shift toward his inner knowing, he was able to bring forward considerable professional experience that brought new perspective to the situation. And, as he felt more confident in what he knew, the other man responded by relaxing and feeling more comfortable in collaborating.

Are you aware of this “I don’t know enough” feeling within yourself?  Where does it crop up and in what way does it trouble you? You can gain more insight and find out how you can take back your power by taking this free, personality pattern test.

Sara Avery is the Executive Director of Quanta Change, and she’s been guiding people through this process for the past 16 years. Click to get your free, personalized SQ report and to sign up for a free, 30-minute call with her to learn the kinds of positive changes you will see by unlearning the feeling that you don’t know enough.

Is Your Need for Approval Overwhelming You?

For the first 30 years of my life, getting other people’s approval was the primary motivator in my life.

I got great grades. . .mostly because that earned the approval of my parents and teachers.

I practiced the violin a LOT, got two college degrees in performance, and made that my first career. . .mostly because playing well earned the approval of parents, teachers, conductors, and audiences.

I was really nice to everyone all the time because. . .well, you can guess. (Curious how big a motivator this is for you? Take this free, personality pattern test to find out.)

Lucky for me, the means by which I won approval were mostly beneficial to me. But, I started to see the downside when I learned that getting approval was just a way to survive with the feeling that there was something wrong with me. As long as everyone liked me, I could mostly ignore the voice deep within that played “there’s something wrong with you” on eternal repeat. But, that survival mechanism carried with it the cost of ignoring other internal voices, like the one that could tell me what really mattered to ME.

I’ll never forget the time that someone close to me was having another of their constant dramas, and I was preparing to jump in and do whatever I could to make it better. A friend asked me, “Do you want to rescue her, again?” It was such a perplexing question to me, nearly incomprehensible, actually.  The words, “Do you want…,” just didn’t make any sense. I realized then that I was so dependent upon others’ approval, that I rarely (if ever) stopped to wonder if I was doing something because I wanted to. It was hard to even connect with what I wanted.

I work with clients on this issue all the time, too. When I suggest that this survival mechanism is something they can unlearn, they get scared.” Am I going to turn into a competitive jerk? I don’t want to be THAT guy!” But that never happens, because the alternative to this mechanism is to express one’s uniqueness, and our uniqueness is the part of us that is connected to everyone and everything else in the world. So, expressing uniqueness actually invites others to express their uniqueness and well-being. It’s a win-win.

One of my clients recently had a big breakthrough in this realm. Someone in her work group suggested a strategy that seemed like the group would agree to, but my client thought it was a bad idea. It’s a situation she’s been in with this group before and disagreeing hasn’t gone well for her, but she did it, anyway. And to her great surprise, the strongest voices in the group immediately agreed and said they were thinking exactly the same thing.

This is a phenomenon I see a lot—when my client makes a fundamental change in how she feels about herself (this time in the realm of expressing her opinion), the people around her actually shift their behavior towards her. It’s not that my clients are actually changing the people around them, but that people are always responding automatically to how we feel about being ourselves. So, when we make a deep internal shift from “I don’t matter,” to, “I do matter,” other people automatically change their behavior accordingly.

As for myself, I can say that life is so much easier now, not having to constantly guess what might make someone happy at any given moment. When someone asks me what I want to do, I can actually answer and feel comfortable saying it out loud. And that friend who was always in crisis? When I stopped jumping in to rescue her, she started to find more inner strength and resilience, and she seems happier. Like I said, it’s a win-win.

Does this ring a bell? You can find out how much your need for approval factors into your survival mechanism and what unlearning that intense need would feel like by taking this free, personality pattern test. The the people around you and the world deserve to experience the real you, not just the one you’re putting forth to try and get them to like you!

Sara Avery is the Executive Director of Quanta Change, and she’s been guiding people through this process for the past 16 years. Click to get your free, personalized SQ report and to sign up for a free, 30-minute call with her to learn the kinds of positive changes you will see by unlearning your need for approval.

Why Standing Up for Yourself Fails. . .and What Actually Works

stand up for yourselfHave you ever stood up for yourself, either because it seemed like the right thing to do or because someone encouraged you to do it? Did it work? Or, were you ignored? Or, did you even get push back?

I hear about those failures all the time from my Quanta Change® clients. And, I also help them make changes at their core that often eliminate the need to stand up for themselves, at all.

The core issue that we’re dealing with here is the feeling that “I don’t matter.” This is the most common piece of Learned Distress® (the feeling that there is something wrong with you), so if you nodded your head when you read that phrase, you’re not alone! (You can learn your overall pattern of Learned Distress by taking this free personality pattern test.)

The feeling that we matter is what we need more than anything else as humans. We all inherently want to be seen and heard, and engage in the activities that matter to us. But, we all absorb the feeling that “I don’t matter” early in life, in one way or another, and it becomes stored as part of our sense of self—the part of us that generates each moment of our lives.

So, since you have to keep moving through life, you need a way to survive with this awful feeling; you find some way to cope with it or keep it under control. When it comes to the feeling of “I don’t matter,” we take one of two roads in dealing with it. We either find ourselves being powerless or overpowering others in some way. You probably feel much more comfortable with one of these than the other. Here are some ways you may experience your default survival mechanism:

Being Powerless to Survive

  • You feel unable to speak up for yourself, like there is some invisible wall that keeps you from expressing yourself.
  • It might feel unsafe in some way to speak up for yourself.
  • Or, even when you do express your opinions or desires, you are ignored.
  • You may feel that it’s best to not want anything, because what matters to you isn’t going to happen, anyway.
  • You may even find yourself pretending that it’s OK that you don’t matter or rationalizing when someone slights you. . .”Oh, she’s going through a hard time, so I’m not surprised that she forgot about our lunch date. It’s completely fine!” (All the while, hearing that awful voice inside say, “See? You really don’t matter.”)

Overpowering to Survive

  • You make sure to hold the power in any situation, to be the strongest voice in the room.
  • You might ignore others’ opinions or requests, consciously or not.
  • Maybe your knee-jerk reaction in any situation is that you have to get your way or that you have to automatically oppose what someone else has said.
  • Other people always tell you that “it’s all about you” and “you have all the power,” even if that’s not something you’re consciously trying to accomplish.

So, what’s the solution to dealing with “I don’t matter”? To go in the opposite direction from what your default is? If you’re in the powerless category, become “empowered” or “learn to stand up for yourself”? If you’re in the overpowering category, just try to stay quiet or become a people-pleaser? My guess is that you’ve tried these things, and it hasn’t worked very well.

Why It Doesn’t Work: the Feeling Radar
We think that we’re interacting with others on a conscious level—just reacting in a rational way to what they say or do. But actually, we are always interacting on a level that we’re mostly unconscious of. I call this your “feeling radar.” You may be aware of this sensing system in certain situations like:

  • You walk into a room where people have just been arguing. There’s nothing physical you can point to as evidence, but you can just feel it.
  • A certain person always bugs you. You can’t figure out why they irritate you, but you can’t stand being around them.
  • Someone walks into a room, and you know instantly that this is the person who will lead in this situation.

When someone consciously tries to act in the way that is opposite of their default survival mechanism, we often feel it and reject it (often without realizing it or understanding our reaction). For example, take the powerless person who “finds her power and stands up for herself.” Often, the response is either that she is rebuked for being so presumptuous or ignored altogether. That’s because the feeling underlying her message is not only “I don’t matter,” but also, “It’s not SAFE for me to matter,” so she gets exactly that feedback.

The Alternative to Being Powerless or Overpowering
So, there has to be another option to just acting the opposite way. I call that option “allowing power to come through.” And specifically, that power comes from what Quanta Change calls your natural well-being. This is the feeling at your core that you are completely OK and you matter just for being yourself. When my clients unlearn layers of “I don’t matter” Learned Distress, they feel increasingly that they do matter, and that feeling starts to be reflected in their relationships and interactions with others.

What does that look like? For the formerly powerless, they feel seen and heard more, without making any special effort. They may be asked for their opinion more, asked for what they want to do, or invited to lead something, and becoming visible actually feels good to them now. For the formerly overpowering, they feel more able to work with others easily, to listen to other points of view, and they are honored for their uniqueness, instead of being considered overbearing or intimidating. To find out how that shift might feel for you, fill out this free, personality pattern test.

Sara Avery is the Executive Director of Quanta Change, and she’s been guiding people through this process for the past 16 years. Click to get your free, personalized SQ report and to sign up for a free, 30-minute call with her to learn the kinds of positive changes you will see by unlearning the feeling that you don’t matter.

Is Your Generosity Harming You?

Growing up and through my 20s, I was the kind of person who liked to give. . .a lot. In fact, I often gave so much that my parents, teachers, and friends would really question me on it or even get mad at me. And, I was often giving to people who didn’t reciprocate at the same level. In the back of my head, I knew something was wrong, but I didn’t really know what it was yet.

Then I learned that for me, giving was a survival mechanism. I didn’t feel capable of doing things all on my own, so I felt dependent on others for help. I gave to them in hopes of getting back whatever I needed. Traditionally, this is called co-dependence, and while that label absolutely fits, what really helped me was to understand that I felt giving was the only way to survive, even when it started to feel bad. (Find out what your survival mechanism is by taking this personality pattern test.)

Others give from survival-based places, also. For some, survival depends on doing what they “should” or on trying to make everything and everyone around them OK. If you’re not one of these people, you probably know someone who is. They might say things like:

“It’s not about ME. I just want whatever YOU want.”

“Oh, I don’t need anything. As long as my family (or significant other or friend) has what they need, I’m fine.”

“I don’t even have time to think about what I need. I have to take care of all the people who will fall apart unless I help them.”

All of these survival mechanisms are based on burying one’s own wants and needs. But, wait? Is that a bad thing? It’s better to give than receive, selflessness is a virtue. . . right? These are nice ideas, but when giving is based on denying one’s own wants and even their most basic needs, it ultimately falls apart.

A tree is a great example of what I’m talking about. Trees give oxygen, shade, beauty. But they can only do so when they sustain themselves first. And, they have everything they need within them to do that. They draw what they need from their own roots and leaves. They’re not grabbing onto the leaf of another tree to get what they need or tending to all the other trees in the forest, instead of themselves. That would be ridiculous, but it is exactly what so many of us have tried to do.

We, too, have our own roots and leaves, and they draw from our well-being and uniqueness, the energy that can sustain us and provide what we’re here to share with the world. But, our access to well-being gets cut off. Early in life, we absorb the feeling that there is something wrong with us. As this negative feeling, called Learned Distress®, becomes embedded in our sense of how it is to be human, we feel that we need something outside of ourselves in order to survive.

So, we feel dependent on getting other people’s help, or on making everything the way it “should be,” or on everyone around us being OK. We operate that way as long as we can, but at some point, our energy gets depleted and that survival mechanism stops working. Our leaves shrivel up and turn brown, and we have no oxygen or shade left to give.

When I begin to talk with clients about removing layers of this Learned Distress, they’re sometimes afraid that they’ll lose their generous nature. But that isn’t the case at all. When your roots and leaves tap into your well-being, you have a much more abundant place from which to give. Generosity feels completely different. . .freer, easier, more joyous, and completely sustainable. Your natural well-being is a bottomless well, so your ability to give in a way that nourishes you and benefits others just keeps flowing.

Sara Avery is the Executive Director of Quanta Change, and she’s been guiding people through this process for the past 16 years. Click to get your free, personalized SQ report and to sign up for a free, 30-minute call with her to understand how your generosity might be sabotaging you.

Is Competition Good or Bad for You?

17 years ago, a shocking paradox was revealed through my Quanta Change® Sensory Quotient®: I hate competition, and yet, I’m very competitive.

When you have my personality pattern, it doesn’t feel safe to compete. In my first career as a professional violinist, I would go to symphony orchestra auditions, which are very competitive, and make friends with everyone, encourage them to do well, but be secretly thinking to myself, “But not too well, because I want to win!” (You can find out your personality pattern by taking the free Sensory Quotient test.)

Since then, I’ve done a lot of work to unlearn my buried competitive tendencies, and I’ve thought a lot about this subject. As a violin teacher, I’ve seen the benefit of competition for students. Most kids won’t push themselves to master a something as hard as playing the violin without the incentive of “sitting at the front of the orchestra.” I certainly didn’t, nor have any of my students. And trust me, you don’t want to hear an orchestra full of players who haven’t pushed themselves towards perfection.

But then, I look at what I’ve gleaned from work on my own competition issues and those of my Quanta Change clients. There, I see a very different and detrimental aspect to competition. It stands squarely in opposition to expressing your uniqueness. You can have one or the other, but not both at the same time. And expressing your uniqueness is what you’re on the planet to do, so maybe competition isn’t such a good thing.

Competition and uniqueness are built on different platforms. Competition is based on scarcity. There’s a winner and a loser for everything, and you either try to win it or bury that need to win it.

If you’re one of the people who is saying, “But wait, I’m just not competitive,” you’re like me—you’ve buried the need to win. I chose a competitive field, so that buried feeling was revealed to me, but you may have it so under wraps that you’re not even aware of it. In any case, whether you compete vociferously or avoid it like the plague, the way you relate to other people will very often be driven by that feeling.

Uniqueness, on the other hand, is built on a platform that is limited only by the number of souls in the universe. Each of us has a unique gift and voice that is ours alone. You can’t compete for something that is already yours, and no one can win it away from you. Nor can you take anyone else’s from them.

A bonus of the uniqueness platform is that it fosters cooperation and teamwork. Each person brings something different to the party, and everyone’s gifts work together.

When I was a kid in orchestra, it was hard to see that. Winning the seat closest to the front of the orchestra was the only thing that mattered. But once I started playing in professional orchestras, it didn’t matter where I sat. On a very practical level, nearly everyone was being paid the same, playing the same music, and dealing with the same work issues. And I started to learn that smart orchestras actually put some of the strongest players in the back of the violin section, because that helps keep everything together. So sitting in the dreaded “last chair” became an honor.

From some bad gigs, I also started to understand the importance of every single player doing their part. When only a couple of violinists in a section of 20 are playing the music well, the result is awful. It might not be as glamorous to play in a violin section as it is to play principal flute, but a Brahms symphony only sounds good when all 80 people on stage are playing their own parts well. And of course, this counts for every position and job in society, no matter how humble it seems.

So, in the contest between competition and uniqueness, the latter wins for me, hands down. I know we’re not getting rid of competition in our society any time soon, but I think we’ll be better off when we do.

Sara Avery is the Executive Director of Quanta Change, and she’s been guiding people through this process for the past 16 years. Click to get your free, personalized SQ report and to sign up for a free, 30-minute call with her to understand what negative role competition might be playing in your life and how that can change.

The Internal Battle Everyone – Yes, Everyone – Is Fighting

“Be kinder than necessary, for everyone you meet is fighting some kind of battle.” ~ Plato

“Really, everyone?” 17 years ago, that would have been my response to Plato. Many people wear their battles on their sleeves, and I usually find compassion easily for anyone who is having a rough time. But what about the people who don’t seem to need my empathy or compassion?

There are a couple kinds of people who have fallen into this category for me, not surprisingly people who move through life differently than I do. One is the person who always seems to have it all together, who is continually saying, “Everything’s great!” My knee-jerk response in the past was, “Must be nice!” (Take this free, personality pattern test, if you’re curious which type you are.)

But my view has changed after working with many people like this as clients. They are actually working incredibly hard to maintain their ideal-looking life. They come to me when that effort has become overwhelming or started to fail. When I say to them, “You accomplish everything you set your mind to, but it’s very hard work, and it’s getting harder all the time,” they usually sigh heavily and agree.

Often, I’m the first person who has ever recognized their struggle to keep what doesn’t feel good under control and work like crazy to keep everything together. And, they usually tell me that they didn’t even see how hard they were working until it started to feel impossible. From that, I have deep compassion for those who don’t yet realize that they are fighting some kind of battle, as well as those who feel the struggle but just don’t show it to the rest of us.

Another kind of person who hasn’t seemed to need my compassion is the know-it-all, win-at-all-costs type. A friend who fits that bill gave me great insight into his internal battle one day. I had seen him completely take over a situation in a way that wasn’t appropriate. When I asked why he did it, his answer shocked me. He said he felt unsure of himself and he panicked, and that his response to panic is to take over. When I panic, I get quiet and try to take care of everyone around me, so the idea that someone would do exactly the opposite was a revelation. As a result, I view people who are dictatorial or super-competitive in a much more compassionate way now.

To understand other people’s battles, I have found it helpful to look through the lens of Learned Distress®, which is the fear that “there is something wrong with me being just as I am.” We all absorbed this feeling early in life, and it is the source of our negative moments and situations. When I really got that everyone is walking around with the fear that there something wrong with them, it gave me an entirely new perspective on the people I meet.

When I see people behave negatively these days, I stop and wonder to myself what fear is driving that moment for them. Is it that someone might see they aren’t perfect? That their current situation is straying beyond the boundaries of what feels safe to them (even if it seems completely innocuous to me)? That if this particular situation doesn’t fit their ideal, that the world might fall apart? Even if I can’t figure out the specifics, I find it incredibly helpful to say to myself, “Oh! They’re just scared!”

Sara Avery is the Executive Director of Quanta Change, and she’s been guiding people through this process for the past 16 years. Click to get your free, personalized SQ report and to sign up for a free, 30-minute call with her to get more insight into what drives your own internal battle and how that can change.

Are You Missing out on the Benefits of Your Uniqueness?

UniquenessYou embrace some form saying, “I am this.”
By God, you are not this or that or the other.
You are “Unique One,” “Heart-ravishing.”

Is this how you feel about yourself…right when you wake up in the morning? Right before you go to bed at night? Without doing any gratitude journaling or affirmations? Or, are you like so many of us, looking around and seeing the special things everyone else has to offer, but pretty sure there’s nothing unique about you?

If that’s so, then I can assure you that you are wrong. I help people like you discover their uniqueness every day by guiding them through a process to remove what blocks it, their Learned Distress®. (You can get a picture of your Learned Distress by taking this scientifically validated personality test.)

Learned Distress is the feeling that something is wrong with you being just the way you are. You stored this awful feeling in your sense of self very early in life, and it is the automatic, generating force behind all the negative moments in your life. For most of us in some ways, it places a dark, heavy blanket over our ability to express who we really are, or to even know who we really are.

Your wants, your needs, what really matters to you—these things are the key to uncovering your uniqueness. When I ask my clients what it would feel like to have what matters to them, here are the typical responses that I get:

1. That sounds very selfish, Sara!
2. I don’t even know what matters to me.
3. If I have what I want, it will take something away from someone else.
4. I usually get what I want, but others are always telling me it’s at their expense, so it rarely feels good.

Here’s my response to all of those objections: You have a unique place and voice in the world. You could think of it as an electrical outlet and you are a lamp. When you are plugged in, there is more light for everyone. How could you be taking something away from anyone else when this place and voice is yours alone? And how could it be selfish to shed more light in the world?

If you don’t know what matters to you or feel unsafe in having it, there’s a good reason—it all comes back to survival. One major piece of Learned Distress we absorb early in life is “I don’t matter.”  Then, as we get older, that stored feeling keeps generating situations in which we feel that same way. To survive with this awful feeling, we either bury it as deeply as we can so we don’t feel it, or we “take over” in situations with others to get what we need, even if we feel that it is at the expense of others (and they tell us that it is!). Either way, it feels less safe all the time to have what matters to us—and therefore, express our uniqueness.

Here’s how things typically unfold when I start to work on this very common issue with my clients.  First, I start helping them feel safe to first know what they want or what matters to them, and then feel safe in having it.  They work on feeling safe expressing their uniqueness.  Then, we branch that out to knowing that everyone benefits when they express their unique voice. As this shift takes place, amazing things start to happen. People around them start to inquire about my clients’ opinions, what they would like to do in some situation—or sometimes, people around them just start doing something that shows clients that they really do matter.

I was just talking with someone today who has been working a lot on “I don’t matter.” He just got a raise out of the blue and was told that he was the only person who got one, and that he was doing really good work. Just two weeks ago, this client told me that he was thinking about leaving his job, because he felt so undervalued by this same boss who has now given him a raise. (He had not said or done anything at work to elicit this change.) That is the real magic that I get to witness a lot – namely, that it is how we feel that generates our situations, not what we do.

Do you know what really matters to you? Do you feel good having it? Do you feel safe expressing who you really are in the world? If you answered no to any of that, a great first step towards changing your answer to yes is to get your free, Sensory Quotient® report. I hope you’ll take that step, because more than ever before, the world could use more of your light.

Sara Avery is the Executive Director of Quanta Change, and she’s been guiding people through this process for the past 16 years. Click to get your free, personalized SQ report and to sign up for a free, 30-minute call with her to understand specifically what your Quanta Change dreams might bring about.