Do you know what you should do but you don’t do it? In this episode, we dig into the science behind WHY this happens and HOW exactly you can overcome this massive obstacle. No one’s ever actually stuck, but the reason you FEEL stuck is that what you want, your goals, desires, change you want in your life, etc, are bumping up against an emotional roadblock or subconscious belief. It’s like having one foot on the gas while the other slams down the breaks. In this interview with Dr. Sasha Heinz, we share what you can do to finally overcome that fear and anxiety and transform your life.
Dr. Sasha Heinz is a developmental psychologist and life coach, is an expert in positive psychology, lasting behavioral change, and the science of getting unstuck. She received her BA from Harvard, her Ph.D. in developmental psychology from Columbia, and her master’s in applied positive psychology from the University of Pennsylvania, where she also served as a faculty member.
Education is good. Application is better. Transformation is best.
Focus on mitigating mental disorders vs focusing on happiness and mental health
“The neurotic paradox"
You know what to do, yet you’re not doing it
Focusing your life around “optimal human functioning”
If you aren’t doing something, you aren’t going to see different results.
Do you ever know what you SHOULD do, and yet you don’t do it?
“The biography of your beliefs” shapes how you think, perceive, and ultimately act in the world.
Beliefs —> Emotions —> Actions
Your emotional brain is much more powerful than your logical brain
Your thoughts create your reality, but there are other factors, namely your emotions.
No one’s ever actually stuck, but the reason you FEEL stuck is that what you want (your desire, change, etc) is bumping up against an emotional roadblock or subconscious belief (often from your childhood).
Thoughts are just things you picked up from your childhood, from life randomly
Are you actively directing and engaging the direction and amplitude of change in your life?
If you want to know WHY you’re not moving forward, pay attention to what you’re feeling
Your thoughts are totally optional. You have the autonomy to decide what you want to believe about yourself.
What’s the difference between a belief and an emotion?
“We do all sorts of crazy things to avoid feeling our feelings"
Do you ever get sucked into “emotional Novocain:” overeating, over-drinking, over gaming, social media, porn, etc to avoid your feelings?
You have to work at both ends of the psychological spectrum simultaneously - healing wounds and trauma, and focusing on optimal human functioning
As you start to take better care of your self physically and mentally, it becomes easier to heal trauma and improve
Personal development is not a linear process, it’s a geometric or exponential process, small edges and life changes stack together and multiply, every single behavior compounds and works together
Do a deep inventory of your current belief systems. What were you taught about yourself? What were you taught about your potential? What did you believe about your health, competence, intelligence, lovability, etc as a child? Conduct a “belief blueprint” of yourself.
You have one foot on the gas, that’s your neocortex, and you have one foot on the brake, that’s your emotional cortex saying “that’s way too scary."
Often a coach of a psychologist can help you uncover those beliefs and figure out what is making your emotional brain freak out?
First, start with an inventory and start identifying the thoughts that are bouncing around in your head.
THEN, once you’ve started identifying them, you begin to break them down.
It’s very very difficult to capture the thoughts that are driving your emotions and behaviors.
You will likely notice the emotion or behavior first.
Ask yourself “what am I doing here?"
If my BEHAVIOR is a result of my emotions.. and my emotions are a result of my beliefs...
WHY AM I DOING THIS BEHAVIOR?
“Woah.. why am I procrastinating?” Why am I doing this?
“I'm procrastinating because I’m anxious"
What am I thinking that’s generating that anxiety?
When you’re doing something you don’t want to do… pause and reflect.. and ask yourself “WHY AM I DOING THIS BEHAVIOR?"
ASK: "What am I feeling right now that’s making me do this?"
Because this behavior is because of an emotion. What emotion am I feeling?
Procrastination is almost always some form of anxiety.
What feeling am I trying to MITIGATE with this action?
Develop an understanding of what you do when you’re anxious or scared.
The action that comes out of negative emotion is very narrow.
Sometimes personal development work is hysterical because the human brain is so irrational
You can rationalize anything.. Rational Lies.
You believe it, and so you spend your entire life proving it true, to yourself. But it’s not objectively true.
So many people cling desperately to their beliefs, regardless of how absurd they are.
What is attention bias/confirmation bias?
The human brain is always optimizing to:
Managing your mind is the currency of the next generation because our world today requires it to be successful.
Now, you can distract yourself infinitely.
What am I doing?
What am I feeling?
What’s the thought creating that feeling?
Become more fluent in your own emotions and experience them. Don’t resist your emotions, just allow them to happen, feel them, and observe them. They last about 90 seconds.
Growth and development require uncomfortable emotions.
Homework: Make a list of all the things you do to avoid feeling your feelings.
Homework: Make a list of the things you do that seem completely bonkers and seem completely contradictory to your goals and desires.
Thank you so much for listening!
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This week's episode of The Science of Success is presented by Dr. Aziz Gazipura's Confidence University!
You can learn to confidently connect with others, be bold, feel proud of who you are, and create the life you truly deserve!
Don't Wait and Wonder! Find Out Today!
Want To Dig In More?! - Here’s The Show Notes, Links, & Research
Career Contessa - “Goal-Setting for Perfectionists (+ Free Goal-Setting Worksheets)” by Dr. Sasha Heinz
Goop - “The Disease to Please” by Dr. Sasha Heinz
Mindful Magazine - Four Ways to Hack Your Screen Addiction
Thrive Global - Why Your New Year’s Resolution Fizzled Out Like Flat Champagne
[Podcast] Your Kickass Life with Andrea Owen - The Science of Happiness
[Podcast] Brand Yourself with Blair Badenhop - Neutralizing Fear to Chase the Dream
[Podcast] EmpowerHER - Brain Hacks and the Power of Positive Psychology
[Podcast] The Beyond the Food Show with Stephanie Dodier - Recovering from People Pleasing
[Podcast] Unmistakable Creative with Srinivas Rao - Taking Human Performance from Good to Great
[Podcast] Live Happy Podcast by Live Happy Magazine - Get Unstuck with Dr. Sasha Heinz
[Podcast] The Life Coach School Podcast with Brooke Castillo - Lessons Learned from Positive Psychology
[Podcast] Unstoppable Success Radio with Kelly Roach - The Power of Positivity with Dr. Sasha Heinz
[Podcast] Sarah R. Bagley Podcast - Sasha Heinz on Positive Psychology, Happiness, and Worth
[Podcast] Women on the Rise with Lara Dalch - Change Your Thoughts, Change Your Life
[Podcast] REAL TALK with Rachel Luna - Why Self Help Books Don’t Help
[Podcast] Rich Coach Club with Susan Hyatt - What Does Being “Rich” Mean to You? With Dr. Sasha Heinz
[Podcast] The Same 24 Hours with Meredith Atwood - Perfectionism, People-Pleasing, and Positive Psychology
[Podcast] The Love Your Life Show with Susie Pettit - Positive Psychology with Dr. Sasha Heinz
NSL Experience: Never Stop Learning - NSL Bites: Sasha Heinz, PhD, Unpacks the Psychology of Happiness
[00:00:04.4] ANNOUNCER: Welcome to The Science of Success. Introducing your host, Matt Bodnar.
[0:00:11.8] MB: Welcome to the Science of Success; the number one evidence-based growth podcast on the internet with more than four million downloads and listeners in over a hundred countries.
Do you know what you should be doing and yet you don't do it? In this episode, we dig into the science behind why this happens and how exactly you can overcome this massive obstacle. No one is ever actually stuck, but the reason you feel stuck is because what you want your goals, desires, changes you want to make in your life, etc., are bumping up against an emotional roadblock or subconscious belief. It's like having one foot on the gas while the other is slamming down the brakes. In this interview with Dr. Sasha Heinz, we share what you can do to finally overcome that fear and anxiety and transform your life
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Do you feel you don't have enough time and you're constantly in a state of reacting to external stimulus? How do you conduct a powerful monthly review that will unlock opportunities for growth, focus and improvement?
In our previous episode, we went deep into stacking powerful mental models, harnessing best practices and optimizing your life with our previous guest, Sebastian Marshall. If you want to free up your time and focus on what really matters, check out that interview.
Now for our conversation with Sasha.
[0:03:19.3] MB: Today, we have another exciting guest on the show, Dr. Sasha Heinz. Sasha is a developmental psychologist and life coach and an expert in positive psychology, lasting behavioral change and the science of getting unstuck. She received her BA from Harvard, her PhD in developmental psychology from Columbia and her master's in applied positive psychology from the University of Pennsylvania, where she also served as a faculty member. Sasha, welcome to the Science of Success.
[0:03:44.3] SH: Hi. So happy to be here.
[0:03:46.2] MB: Well, we're super excited to have you on the show today. There's so many different topics that you dig into and talk about that I think will be really relevant for audience. To start out, there's one phrase that I pulled from your website that I thought was great and it was really interesting, which was education is good, application is better, transformation is best. I think that's so true, because so many people and I mean, I think, I know I'm even guilty of this a lot of the times and many podcast listeners probably feel the same way. It's so easy to get stuck in the trap of feeling you're doing something because you're educating yourself and you're learning. Yet, if you don't ever apply anything, does it really even matter? Does it really make a meaningful difference in your life?
[0:04:26.5] SH: right. Oh, yeah. I mean, I say that as a professional student, right? I was a professional student in my life for many, many years. When you do a terminal degree, you're in school for a very long time. I think my interest, obviously my love is positive psychology. To study happiness is it's pretty good work if you can get it. It's really fun to study. When I was teaching at Penn and after I graduated from Penn, it was then got my degree in developmental psych, in what we call in psychology, we call this business –
Well, the positive psychologist call this business as usual psychology. Meaning, that the focus is not on health and well-being, the focus is on mitigating pathology disease disorder, or a dysfunction. It's more in alignment with the Western medical model. When I went to Columbia to study for my doctorate, all of a sudden I felt myself slipping back into some – just not exercising, not sleeping well, all the behaviors that we know optimize our health and well-being. I was in this what we call the neurotic paradox. I know what to do, yet I'm not doing it. Which was so frustrating. I was in this place of thinking, I know more than almost anyone on the planet what makes people happy, what makes people thrive, I study this. Yet, I can't seem to apply it.
Not only did I find that I was struggling with this, but so were my students. They had a theoretical understanding of health and well-being and what we call optimal human functioning and yet, they were struggling with just life and the everyday mundane reality of life. Then I became really interested. My interest shifted more to behavioral change. Wait, what are the roadblocks between – I know what I'm supposed to do and yet, I'm not getting them done.
I think you can use podcasts and reading books, self-help books all that in a way, it's almost an emotional novocaine. It makes you feel better, but you're not doing anything. Yeah, it's an issue, right? How do you actually apply – you're not going to transform your life unless you're doing it, right? Unless you're applying what you know. I think that's where most people find there's a roadblock there for most people.
[0:06:59.3] MB: Yeah, that makes total sense. I love the idea of the neurotic paradox, right? That's a great quote. I don't know if that's actually from the researcher you just coined that phrase, but either way, it's a great –
[0:07:08.8] SH: No, no, no. I didn't make that up. It's a psychological term.
[0:07:11.9] MB: Oh, nice. Even better. Okay, cool.
[0:07:14.1] SH: If you think about it, it’s something that's just been talked about for thousands of years. There's nothing new under the sun. This is a human condition of I know not to yell at my kids and yet, I'm doing it anyway, right? I know that doesn't help and yet, I can't – I'm not responding to them calmly. I know that getting to bed earlier makes me feel better tomorrow and yet, it's midnight and I'm watching something on Netflix, right? Or scrolling Instagram. It's death by a thousand cuts in our life, right? It's these little things that add up to a really messy, chaotic life.
[0:07:51.6] MB: I want to dig into this question more, because it's so prevalent it's such a major challenge. I mean, if you think about it, it's almost never – you had another great phrase, optimal human functioning. I really like that as well. Is almost never a question of getting more information, or finding this new secret hack that you've never heard of before, that if you just do this one tiny little thing, it's going to change your whole life. It's almost always about just executing the basics, executing the fundamentals, getting more sleep, exercising, maybe meditating, things like that. Yet, most people know that and they don't do it. Why not?
[0:08:28.2] SH: Well, a number of reasons. I mean, I think first of all, you have to understand the biography of your belief systems, right? You have to understand, because the way that your brain works is you have a thought, right? There's events in your life, facts. I call them facts with my clients. Or just the facts like, “I'm 40.” Where you live? Are you married? Do you have kids? What happened that day? Did someone cut you off in traffic and whatever? Did you get a flat tire today? Whatever is happening. Those are just the facts. They're all neutral. All of them.
The facts of our life then trigger a belief. Your past is fact, things that happen to you, they trigger belief, right? The beliefs that you have then created your emotions so whatever your beliefs are, create your emotions, and then your emotions then generate action. What most people don't realize is that they're like, your beliefs matter. Yes, they matter a lot, because they create this whole cascade of effects, right?
What's really important is that your beliefs create an emotion. The emotion is what's motivating the action. The absolute core of it is your emotion. Your thoughts only matter because they create your emotions. If you're thinking things all day long that make you anxious and stressed and worried, right? All of your actions are going to be generated from those emotions. When you're wanting to change, right? It's your neocortex, your higher functioning brain is saying like, “Yes, I sincerely desperately want to change this.”
There's other parts of your brain that unfortunately are your emotional brain is it's much more powerful than your logical brain. It's just the way that human brains are designed and they've evolved to be. Your emotional brain is much more powerful. If your emotional brain is like, “Yeah, but that sounds really scary. I don't know about that. That's unfamiliar. No, thank you.” You are going to be in that churn cycle of like, “I really want to do it and yet I'm not,” right? Which is you feel you're constantly in Groundhog's Day. What you really need to be working on is the emotional piece of it, which is challenging for most people. Most people do not want to sit in their negative emotions. No, thanks.
[0:10:50.7] MB: Yeah. That's a great insight. Unpacking that, or rephrasing it so that I understand it clearly. The idea is that and I also really, really like that phrase, the biography of your beliefs, your belief structures about the world, about the events that have happened in your past etc., shape the way that you perceive the world. If you're stuck in a cycle of whether it's self-sabotage, or knowing what you should be doing and yet you're not doing it, the first place to start and the best place to really begin that investigation is what are my belief structures? How are my emotions impacting this and how can I start to unpack these things, so that I can create a path to move forward?
[0:11:31.1] SH: I think the main point is we live in a culture now that I think people are beginning to understand, “Oh, your thoughts matter. Your thoughts are really important. Your thoughts create your reality. Indeed, they do.” There are mediators. I really believe that the mediator, your emotion is the main mediator. That's really what matters, right? The reason you feel stuck, no one's ever actually stuck, because we're always developing and evolving and growing, but the reason you feel stuck is because you're what you want, you're yearning, or your desire, or the change you want to make is bumping up against an emotion. That emotion, the roadblock of that emotion, whether it's anxiety, or fear, or doubt, or insecurity, right? That's created by some underlying belief system that you probably picked up as a kid, that you may not even be conscious of.
The reasons that your thoughts matter is not – because your thoughts are just made up sentences in your brain. They're all made up. All of our thoughts are. They don't really matter, but the reason that we want to pay attention to what your thoughts are is because they create our emotions. Once you begin to see thoughts in this way where you’re like, “Oh, thoughts are just things I picked up.” It's like there was a grab-bag of beliefs that I could have picked up as a kid and I picked up these ones. When you begin to realize that they're optional, that's when your life begins to change.
[0:12:59.0] MB: Yeah. That's another great insight. I love this notion that nobody's ever actually stuck, but yet it really feels like you're stuck.
[0:13:07.1] SH: Yes. Really feels like you're stuck. It absolutely can feel you're stuck, but no one's – you're always in a process of change. The question is are you actively engaging in directing that change, or are you just passively a bystander, right? You feel your life is happening to you and you're not actively participating in it. To be in terms of your mental fitness and thinking about creating life you want, what you want to be doing is actively engaging in this process of change, right? That's the critical thing is figuring, is really getting to know your emotions.
The litmus test of your understanding what your beliefs are. If you want to know why you're not moving forward, pay attention to what you're feeling, right? Like, “Oh, I feel really anxious. Okay, wait. What's the thought that I've picked up that's creating that anxiety? I'm not smart enough. not competent enough, right? I don't have enough education,” or whatever the thought that you picked up over the years.
then you begin to realize like, “Oh, those thoughts are actually just totally optional. This is then that becomes the work,” right? The work is as an adult, you realize you have the autonomy to decide what you want to believe about yourself, right? That your thoughts are actually quite flexible, right? That your thoughts really matter. The reason that your thoughts matter is because they activate own emotion and the emotion is what's generating your action.
There's this little sneaky little mediator and it's called emotions. You got to get that figured out. That's what I think when people get stuck in this place of in the self-help world, where they're like, “Wait, I'm saying all these new beliefs to myself. I'm doing all these affirmations and I am trying to put on a new belief system, but they don't really believe it, so the emotion is not their, right?” Then they're not really seeing any transformation and change, so it feels it's not working, right? Because your thoughts aren't actually what create your actions, it's the emotion that creates your actions.
[0:15:07.4] MB: Yeah, that totally makes sense.
[0:15:09.1] SH: That’s how it works.
[0:15:10.3] MB: That totally makes sense. I want to dig into the process of how do we actively engage in changing our thoughts and beliefs and emotions. Before we do, I want to unpack a little bit more this relationship between emotions and beliefs. Because sometimes I think they can be used synonymously, but they're distinct, they're different. Tell me, what's the distinction between an emotion versus a belief and how do they interact with each other?
[0:15:36.0] SH: Well, I mean, I think they're directly related, right? Because your belief is what's going to generate the emotion, right? It creates this chemical cascade that creates that sensation in your body, right? That feeling of like, “Ooh, I feel sad. I feel anxious. I feel elated and joyful,” right? Those are physical feelings that are generated by your thoughts, right? With the exception of well, even physical pain, right? There is a signal that's going to your brain and your brain is telling you this is painful.
Your beliefs are generating your emotions always, but the thing is so wild right, is that we do all sorts of crazy things to avoid feeling our feelings. Most of this entire process for most people, like 90% of this is unconsciously happening.
[0:16:27.8] MB: Yeah. I feel so many people in today's world and probably throughout history, but in today's world, especially I meet and interact with so many people who aren't even aware of this iceberg under the surface, all the subconscious feelings, thoughts, beliefs, things that are interacting with the way that they think and feel and behave in the world. How do you start to peel back the layers? How do you start to engage with those emotions?
Because as you said, we'll do all kinds of crazy stuff to avoid feeling our emotions and whether that's impulsively turning to things like social media, or all kinds of hedonic pursuits. I see so many people that I feel they're trapped, or they're stuck, or they don't even realize what's happening beneath the surface. How do you start to crack through that, or blast apart the fog and help them see what's really going on?
[0:17:17.7] SH: Right. I mean, it's interesting, right? We live in a world now where we have so much more access to what I call emotional novocaine. overeating, over-drinking, over-shopping, overspending, porn, Instagram, social media, we have all these ways of just numbing out and avoiding being present. By the way, it can come in some very innocuous ways, like listening to an audiobook with the earbud in your ear while other stuff is going on, right? Just to not be present.
You have to consciously engage in this process now, because if you live 300 years ago, these options weren't available to you, right? You didn't have a pantry full of food to go squirrel away at if you were feeling a negative emotion. You didn't have liquor stores everywhere. That just didn't exist. Forget the internet, right? It's a rabbit hole for people. I think it requires a lot of consciousness to disengage with it. I used to think of things in a more linear way. It was like, okay heel the –
If you're thinking about your mental health on a spectrum and about negative 10 is you've got psychological dysfunction and personality disorders and addiction and problems right? On the negative end of the spectrum. Then you get healthier and then you get to zero and then you move on to the let's work on flourishing and cultivating mental health and well-being. That's on the positive end the spectrum and you linearly, like you're moving up this ladder, so to speak right? To your mental health. You can think about it in medical terms, right? Or with your physical health like, “Okay, I've got cancer on the negative end of the spectrum.” Then you move into okay, positive end of the spectrum is physical fitness, building muscle, getting healthier, eating well nutrition, getting super fit.
I used to think of it with your mind and your mental health, the same linear structure. I'd really don't think that's the way it works at all. I think you got to work on both ends of the spectrum at the same time. Everybody has experienced some trauma in their life. If trauma is something less than nurturing, everybody on the planet has experienced some trauma. It's a part of the human experience. Everybody has wounds that they need to heal from. The thing that is so interesting is that as you get healthier, and as you clean up your life right? you stopped over drinking, or you start eating more healthfully, or you start sleeping better, and so you feel better, this interesting thing happens.
The wounds, the trauma, the difficult things, the negative belief systems that are maybe very pervasive in your life, they become easier to access and to deconstruct and work through, because you're on a more stable foundation. I find that they happened together. As you're working on your mental health and you're getting your feeling physically feeling better and taking better care of yourself, it becomes easier to work through family of origin stuff and things that happened to you and heal those wounds. It becomes this exponential growth, right? Because you're healing thinks as you're also augmenting things at the same time.
[0:20:51.6] MB: Yeah, that's a great point. Definitely something that I've experienced personally as well that it's almost like a compounding effect, where these factors start to really stack together and multiply. You start to see some really massive acceleration in your emotional intelligence and self-awareness and all these other things, if you start to really do this work while simultaneously taking better care of yourself. Every little edge you can get, stacking them all together. As you said, it's not a linear result, but it's a geometric or an exponential result when you do that.
[0:21:26.9] SH: Yeah, because as you start to develop your life and moving towards your most valued self, the person you want to be, it becomes easier for you. You're more able to access like, “Oh, wow. I see how I develop that belief as a kid. I couldn't even go there. That was way too hard for me to even look at that.” As you start to feel more stable and as you start to feel you're positively developing in your life, the interesting thing is that you actually can go deeper, I think, in terms of healing yourself. I really realized it's not a linear progression like, “Okay, I'm going to heal my wounds and then I'm going to start working towards the life I want.” No, it's all going to happen at the same time.
[0:22:11.3] MB: I want to start to go deeper and more concrete about how to specifically implement and execute some of these things. For somebody who's listening to this interview that's thinking to themselves, “Okay, yes. I know there's a lot of things I should be doing, but I'm not doing them.” What are the starting points? What are some of the things they can begin with to implement these ideas?
[0:22:30.5] SH: Well, I mean, I think a great place to start is doing a deep inventory of what is your current belief systems around what were you taught about yourself as a child? What do you believe about your potential? Being very honest about it. Really looking at what do I believe about my health? What do I believe about my competence and my intelligence? My love ability, how lovable you are, or you're just a very broad over – I call it belief blueprint, right?
This the design of a house, you're really being honest about those things, because what you'll begin to uncover is like, “Oh, wow. I want to be successful and I want to make more money and I have this belief that I'll never make a certain amount.” You might have a ceiling on a belief, right? Then you would see it and you're like, “Oh, my God.” The first place is to start looking at where did I pick that up? Where did I learn this idea and pick that up in my life?
I think it’s really – the great place to start is understanding that there's – you have one foot on the gas and that's your neocortex like, “Yes, this is the life I want.” Then you have one foot on the brake and that's your limbic system, your emotional brain saying like, “No, that's way too scary,” right? That's that horrible feeling of I'm revving the gas. I've got my foot on the brake and I'm not going anywhere, but I'm expending a ton of energy, not a great feeling.
A great place to start is really – I think it helps having a coach, or a psychologist, so somebody's helping you uncover what are those beliefs that are making that emotional brain freak out, right? What are the foundational beliefs that make you want to dig your heels and then say, “Yeah, we're not doing that.”
[0:24:20.3] MB: It’s a perfect analogy, because this notion of your neocortex, or your conscious experience of your thinking brain basically saying, “I want to improve. I want to grow. I want to do this. I want to do that.” Yet simultaneously, your subconscious is just mashing the brakes and trying to desperately stop you from doing this, because of some belief that could be from 20 plus years ago, embedded in your subconscious that is causing you to be scared about something. It's really hard to uncover those sometimes.
[0:24:49.2] SH: For example, I had a client who was starting a business. All the things are in alignment and there's no reason why it's not going to be successful. It was on its way to really doing well. Then there was all this self-sabotage going on. It was like, “What is this about?” As we were doing the work, what we uncovered was that her father had had a business that had done really, really well and then he sold it and started a second business and the second business was a total flop.
In her mind, this was her second act that was going to be a flop. Even though she was very excited about it, she's really motivated, she wanted – so her conscious brain really wanted to go after it. Her subconscious brain was like, “Do not do this, because this is going to be a faceplant, like your dad had a faceplant.” As a child, right? She experienced this as a kid watching this happen. It feels obviously even more intense when you experience that as a kid, because you don't have – your brain isn't fully developed and you don't know how to understand it in the right context.
She had this unconscious processing that was like, “Hey, we're not doing this,” which came out on all these weird, seemingly bizarre like, “Why would I do that? Why would I sabotage myself? Why would I procrastinate on that? Why would I not get this done? Why would I blow off this opportunity, right?” It seems so maddening, because it doesn't actually make sense. Then when you get to the root of it you're like, “No, it actually makes a lot of sense,” because you think you're going to have a professional face plant like your father did, his second act as a entrepreneur and that's scary to you, right?
The first place is just identifying it. Then it's about questioning all those thoughts, right? All of those thoughts are made up. It's completely irrational that the thing that happened to her dad is going to happen to her different business, different era. Everything is different, right? Why would they be the same? Why would those two situations happen in the same way? It's very unlikely, right? That doesn't matter. Her 13-year-old brain picked that up.
[0:27:01.6] MB: Hey, I'm here real quick with confidence expert Dr. Aziz Gazipura to share a lightning round insight with you. Dr. Aziz, how can people say no more often and stop people-pleasing?
[0:27:14.9] AG: This is not only important to figure out how to do, but to start practicing immediately, because most people don't realize their anxiety, their stress, their overwhelm is often a result of not saying no. Here are some quick tips on how to start doing that. First of all, imagine right now in your life where would you benefit from saying no? Where do you feel overloaded, pressured, overwhelmed, even if intellectually you're telling yourself you should tune into your heart, tune into your body, where do you feel? “I don't want to.” Start paying attention to that. Start honoring that.
The next tip is to imagine saying no and then notice how you feel, because you're probably going to feel all kinds of good stuff, right? Guilt, fear, what are they going to think? I don't want to let this person down. What you want to do is before you go say no to them, you want to work through that. You want to address that you want to get out on paper, “Can I say this? Why can't I say this? What's stopping me from doing this?” Do a little prep work, so you can really just practice it.
Then the third and most important step, of course is going to be to go say no. Start saying no liberally. Start saying no regularly. In fact, after listening to this, find an opportunity today to say no. Because the more you do it like anything else, like any sub-skill of confidence, the more you do it, the easier will become and the freer you'll become in your life.
[0:28:31.8] MB: Do you want the confidence to say no and boldly ask for what you deserve? Sign up for Dr. Aziz's Confidence University by visiting successpodcast.com/confidence. That's successpodcast.com/confidence and start saying no today.
[0:28:52.9] MB: It's fascinating too, because I like the framework that you just presented, which was the idea of starting with an inventory of these thoughts. Then once you've collected them, going through a process to break them down, even step one seems logical, seems obvious, seems relatively straightforward, is actually really hard work. You need to take some meaningful steps to start to do that, whether it's a tool and this is my own experience and I'm curious what yours has been. For me, things like meditation help to start to build that listening device inside of your head, where you can actually hear what you're thinking and saying to yourself. Because without something like that, you never have the ability to capture those thoughts when they happen in the moment, or something else as you mentioned things like coaching therapy, etc., helped put a mirror up to that and you can start to pull out and see some of those thought and behavior patterns.
[0:29:46.5] SH: Oh, absolutely. It's very, very difficult to capture the thought that's driving your emotions and behavior in real-time. It's very hard. What I would say to my client is you're going to notice either the emotion, or more likely the behavior first, right? You're going to be way down the rabbit hole of surfing the web and be like, “Wait, what am I doing? Right? I am supposed to be working on something else.” You'll notice the behavior first. Like, “Wait, what am I doing here?” Then that's the perfect moment to say like “Okay, if my behavior is a result of my emotions and my emotions are a result of my belief, let's work backwards and figure out what I'm thinking that's creating this action,” right? That sounds very laborious and to some degree it is, but it becomes a practice.
You catch yourself procrastinating on something and then you have that moment of pause like, “Okay, wow, wow, wow. I'm procrastinating. Why?” Right? “Oh, I'm feeling anxious. Ooh, didn't realize I was feeling anxious, but I'm totally feeling anxious, which is why I'm distracting myself with inane stuff on reading nonsense on the internet. Okay, wait. What am I telling myself right now that's making me feel anxious?” Right? It actually takes 30 seconds to do this.
Just that process of it's a mindfulness practice really, but it's just a process of stopping and saying, “Wait a minute.” Reverse engineering it back to the thought like, “What am I thinking that's generating this whole cascade of effects?” Then you might realize like, “Oh, my thought is –” let's say you're writing a piece, or something and your thought is like, “My writing is hackneyed. Someone said this before. This isn’t original. It's not as good as so-and-so.” You'll begin to see, “Oh, those are the thoughts,” right?
Then if you peel it back, you might find that, “Oh, there is this underlying thought that I'm not smart enough. Whoa, where did that come from,” right? You may even be aware of it, and so once you become aware of it you're like, “Oh, that's my story that I'm not smart enough.” Then you can get better at just allowing that belief to be there and still taking the action, right? That's the next step of the practice is recognizing like, “Oh, there is my story that I learned when I was 10 that I'm not smart enough and I'm just going to allow it to be there, because I made it up. It felt true.”
The funny thing is it's always really – I mean, this work is hysterical, because our brains are so irrational. I mean, the thing that's so funny is that my clients will argue to the hilt that they're right? No, I'm really not smart enough. Let me tell you why. The only thing that's happened here is that you picked up this thought as a child and then you've just confirmed it over the years, because that's how your brain works, right? We call it attention bias, cognitive bias, confirmation bias, all the same thing. It's just the way your brain works. What you believe, you are biased to prove right.
When someone's like, “Yeah, but I have so much evidence that I'm not smart enough.” I'm like, “Right, because you believe that and you just spent your entire life proving that true to yourself, but it's not actually true.” On what objective scale are we actually measuring that? There isn't even any academic consensus on how do we actually measure intelligence. There's your G, your G score, your general IQ, but there's a lot of other voices in the field saying like “Wait a minute, there's other kinds of intelligence that aren't reflected in an IQ test,” right? I think everyone is who lives life would be like, “Right, that's true. There are many forms of being bright, or being intelligent, or being competent.”
Once you start to question these beliefs, they don't ring true. There's not much veracity there. You have to be you have to be willing to engage in the process of questioning them. I mean, so many of my clients hold on to their beliefs. I would tell them, I'm like, “You're like Gollum in Lord of the Rings, right? You're holding on my precious. You don't want to let them go,” right? You're like, “No, I'm really not smart enough,” and it's destroying you and yet, you don't want to let it go. It's crazy.
[0:33:57.1] MB: So many good insights. The notion that asking yourself, if you're doing something you don't want to be doing and you're in the middle of that behavior, just pausing for a moment and reflecting and asking, “Why am I doing this?”
[0:34:11.4] SH: The question to ask this not just why am I doing this, because I think that's people will answer, “I have no idea.” That's what most people would answer, “I don't know. I don't know why I'm doing this.” The question that I would suggest asking yourself is what am I feeling right now that's making me do? This this behavior is because of an emotion. I'm doing this behavior because of an emotion I'm feeling. What's the emotion I'm feeling? If it's procrastination, I would say yeah, fairly likely it's some variety of anxiety. Fear, anxiety, worry, right? Those are the negative emotions, it's called the thought action repertoire. Essentially with a negative emotion, the action that comes out of a negative emotion is very narrow. You feel fear, you're going to do a few very specific actions, right? You're going to fight, flight, or freeze. That's it. There's really not much else you're going to do.
You're not going to self-reflect if you're feeling fear. That's not going to happen. Normally, you can start to – you can catch on to yourself pretty quickly like, “Oh, yeah. This is what I do when I'm feeling anxious, or oh, right. This is what I do when I'm feeling scared.” You can begin to pay attention to these patterns and you can begin to – you're onto yourself. That's always the question I would ask is wait, when you're doing something that you don't want to be doing, it's like, “What am I feeling that this action is trying to mitigate that feeling?” Right? Then the question is what am I feeling? Is it fear, anxiety, stress, boredom, loneliness? Then you get better at recognizing your specific patterns.
[0:35:49.8] MB: Yeah, that's a great framework and super helpful. You made another really interesting point a minute ago, which is this notion around rationalization, right? How the human brain is incredibly irrational and yet, we can rationalize really almost anything to ourselves, regardless of how absurd it is and then start stacking up evidence, so that we believe it whether it's a belief about ourselves, a belief about other people, belief about the world, etc. One of my favorite little play on words is just to turn the word rationalize into the word rational lies.
[0:36:21.4] SH: Ooh, I love that.
[0:36:22.9] MB: That always helps me start to – every time I'm rationalizing something and I'm sure there's millions of times when I don't even realize this, but whenever I catch myself rationalizing something, I always try to break that down and say, “Hold on a second. How am I BS’ing myself here?”
[0:36:34.6] SH: Oh, absolutely. I mean, this is just the way your brain is – it's just the way that your brain is wired, right? This is what we call like as I said, attention bias or confirmation bias. They've done a lot of studies on this that show they look at a group of smokers and non-smokers and they have everyone read a study on smoking. On the follow-up, they were asked to recall what they had read and the smokers remembered the flaws of the study and the non-smokers remembered the findings, because the findings were smoking, shocker, so a case bad for you.
In any research study, they're always going to describe the flaws, right? There's not a single research study that doesn't have some problem with it, right? Not perfect. The smokers, they were like a heat-seeking missile to trying to find evidence that what they're doing isn't that bad for them, right? A nonsmoker isn't invested in that. A nonsmoker is invested in yeah, smoking is not good for you. I'm right.
When they do studies like this, it's really fascinating to see depending on what your belief going into it is, determines what you remember about what you just read. I mean, think about this in terms of our political system, right? It’s like, yeah, you see how it bifurcates and how we have such a partisan world right now. Well, right. That's your brain is wired to do that. It's difficult for your brain to do the other thing, which is approach something more neutrally and look at something objectively. That's difficult for us.
[0:38:08.7] MB: You brought up a really interesting point in the pre-show that we were talking about that this directly relates to, which is this notion that there's many different ways and you just gave a great example of it, that our brains basically short-circuit, or go haywire in modern society. Tell me a little bit more about that.
[0:38:28.2] SH: Well, I mean, we want to always conserve energy, right? That's what the human brain wants to do. We want to conserve energy. We want to avoid pain and we want to seek pleasure. It's the emotional triad. We live in a world where that's really easy to do. Corporations put billions of dollars into research and development to take advantage of the motivational triad. How do we make things as easy as possible, as pleasurable as possible, right? It becomes very difficult for our brain to not gravitate towards those things, right?
Okay, I'm going to buy something at a convenience store that has lots of fat, has lots of sugar, calorie dense. Your brain is all over that, right? Because it's like, “Oh, I don't have to work hard to fuel my body.” Yes, that was very adaptive a thousand years ago, but not now. Not when you have [inaudible 0:39:27.5] options in front of you. It's actually very maladaptive nowadays, because of the way that we live.
If you're in a hunter-gatherer society and you're – I mean, which is the way that human beings have been for most of history, the way we live is very new, very modern. If you're even in a agricultural society, same thing, which is finding food and putting something on the table takes an enormous amount of energy. It's hard. A calorie dense food that's going to give you a lot of fat a lot of nutrition, a lot of calories easily, yeah, you're adapted to want to have that. We live in a world where all of this is very accessible to us, and so we're required to be conscious in a way that I don't think that any other generation has had to do.
For the first generation, maybe the second generation, that's had to motivate itself to move. That's crazy. We're in a brave new world of having to managing your mind in my opinion is going to be the currency of the next generation, because we live in a world that requires it.
[0:40:34.9] MB: Even something as simple as social media, right? Or the news, etc., those are such dangerous things in today's world, because they're essentially engineered to hijack your brain.
[0:40:49.3] SH: Oh, yeah. The people that design it essentially say that, right? We created this to make you want to stay on it, right? To have eyeballs on this as long as we possibly can. That's how we designed it, right? We know enough about the way your brain works that we know how to get the dopamine hits, right? Your brain is like, “Yes. More and more and more.” It requires consciousness to live today in a way that this is a really new challenge. It's a really new challenge for human beings. I mean, I think it's an interesting challenge to solve, but it requires a lot of consciousness. Because you can distract yourself now, you can distract yourself all day.
[0:41:30.1] MB: How do we in a world of infinite distraction where our brains are constantly being hijacked, what are some of the beginning steps to start to cultivate more awareness, more mindfulness, more peace, more understanding of ourselves?
[0:41:48.0] SH: I think that using that mindfulness tool of figuring out like, “Wait, what am I doing asking myself, what's the emotion I'm feeling?” Then one more step back would be, “Okay, what's the thought that's creating this emotion?” Just that little pause just to wake you up. You're scrolling Instagram and then the question is like, “Wait a minute. What am I doing? What's the emotion I'm feeling? Is it boredom? Is it anxiety, right?” It's just you're in that trance of scrolling. Pausing and just what's the emotion I'm feeling? What's the thought that's creating that emotion? Just waking yourself up I think is incredibly helpful.
Another thing I think is an important thing to do too is becoming more fluent in your emotions. Part of that means just being willing to experience your emotions. There's emerging research that shows that emotions are really only experienced if you don't resist them and you just allow them to roll over you. It’s like I was surfing a wave. You're just going to allow your emotion to happen and just observe it and feel it. They last about 90 seconds. Anything that you want to achieve, anything that you want to do, growth and development are going to require uncomfortable emotions. That's the deal. There's no way around it.
Becoming more fluent in your emotions and being more willing to sit in those emotions and experience like, “Ooh, I'm feeling anxiety. I'm just going to let myself feel anxiety and pay attention to it. Where am I feeling it in my body?” Allow it to roll over you. It's going to last on average about 90 seconds, which is unbelievable how short that is.
I think about anxiety all the time, because I think I'm wired more to be on the anxious end of things. I think goodness gracious. Thinking about my 50s vocabulary, but think about all the things that you do to avoid feeling anxious all day. Nuts. All day long, right? People hate feeling anxious, because it doesn't feel good. That fluttery, your palms are sweaty, or whatever. Just does not feel good. You feel a little bit out of your body. We do all these things to avoid feeling anxious. If you just allow yourself to have a moment of anxiety, it really is just that. It's just a moment. It's two minutes. Less than two minutes.
I think that that's when you begin to realize, “Oh, if I can just allow myself to feel this feeling and don't engage in this emotional novocaine behavior to avoid these feelings, oh, then I'm going to be moving towards the life I really want.” That's the cost of admission.
[0:44:27.3] MB: Yeah, that's a great quote as well. growth and development requires uncomfortable emotions, right? You have to push into those.
[0:44:33.8] SH: Have to.
[0:44:35.0] MB: If you're not, if you're hiding from them, you're going to be trapped in a cycle of self-sabotage and repeating the same mistakes and failures over and over again.
[0:44:42.4] SH: Yeah. Don't kid yourself. That's also incredibly painful too. It's just a more familiar discomfort. You're either going to be passively feeling discomfort, or your familiar discomfort, or you're going to be on purposely feeling discomfort and moving towards your most valued self and the goals that you want to achieve, right? I mean, when I’m working with clients, I'm like, “Hey, it's a hard sell, right? I want you to have the life you really want. What I'm selling you on is feeling pretty crappy. It's not going to feel amazing in the interim, right? It's going to feel uncomfortable, scary, frightening, right? It’s like you're going to feel you're jumping off a cliff.”
[0:45:25.2] MB: Yeah, I completely agree. I think in many ways, that's why so few people truly walk down the path of self-awareness and emotional intelligence and really digging into all these challenges.
[0:45:38.5] SH: Definitely, because it’s like, okay, here's your option. I can distract myself on my phone, or I can sit with feeling anxiety for two minutes, right? I mean, logically it's like, well, duh, obviously just sit with anxiety for two minutes and then go on doing what you want to actually want to do. In the moment, your brain is like, “No way. Way rather just put my head in my phone and distract myself.” The better you get it interrupting that habit, the better.
[0:46:10.1] MB: You shared a number of different strategies, tactics, things listeners can execute and implement in their lives. If there's one of the things you talked about today that you want someone to do as a piece of homework to begin implementing some of these ideas, where can they start as soon as they finish listening to this interview, or today, or tomorrow to begin this journey?
[0:46:30.1] SH: I think that the first thing I would say is to start to pay attention and make a list of all the things that you do to avoid feeling your feelings. Let me put it another way, which is what are the things that you do that seem completely bonkers? You have very clear goals, you have clear values, you know who you want to be. Yet, you do all of these things that seem completely contradictory. It's like times negative one, right? They don't make any sense. They're moving in the opposite direction.
Just take an inventory of what are those behaviors, right? Whether it's I really want to be fit and healthy and I blow off going to the gym. Put that down, right? It's writing an inventory, like what are the things I'm doing that are sabotaging the goals that I have for myself and who I actually want to be? How I want to show up in the world. Looking at those behaviors, like what are you doing? What are you not doing? Make an honest list of those things. Then looking at that, what is the emotion, right? What's the emotion that's motivating those? Just start there. What's the emotion that's motivating those behaviors?
[0:47:47.1] MB: Great piece of advice and great starting step. I think that's really, really good. Sasha, where can listeners find you and your work online?
[0:47:56.8] SH: On my website. They can find me at drsashaheinz, so D-R-S-A-S-H-A-H-E-I-N-Z.com. Then on Instagram same handle, so @drsashaheinz, S-A-S-H-A-H-E-I-N-Z. That's on Instagram. I'm on Facebook reluctantly. I don't really have much of a presence on Facebook. I'm mostly on Instagram. You can follow my beliefs that I have that I'm trying to – I think of it like, you’re a child of the 80s, so I think the Kool-Aid commercials, like the Kool-Aid man is jumping through the paper or whatever. You burst through. I think about that with our beliefs. It's like, what are the beliefs that are on my list of these are just things that I picked up over time? I'm not good at this. I'm not good enough with that. It's just the way that I am. What are those beliefs?
Then just I think, one of the things I love to do in my life and I feel it's my reason to be, it's look at those beliefs and then which one of them do I want to bust through? Instead of a New Year's resolution. It's what belief system do I want to completely obliterate?
[0:49:09.4] MB: Great feedback. Great advice once again. Sasha, thank you so much for coming on the show, for sharing all this wisdom, all this knowledge, fascinating conversation, tons and tons of great insights into how to dig into your own beliefs and thoughts and emotions and what might be holding you back. Thank you so much for joining us today.
[0:49:28.9] SH: My gosh, thank you for letting me geek out on this. So fun.
[0:49:32.5] MB: Thank you so much for listening to the Science of Success. We created this show to help you our listeners, master evidence-based growth. I love hearing from listeners. If you want to reach out, share your story, or just say hi, shoot me an e-mail. My e-mail is firstname.lastname@example.org. That’s M-A-T-T@successpodcast.com. I’d love to hear from you and I read and respond to every single listener e-mail.
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