Lessons for Life

Best life lessons from 2012

Expert tips for coping with challenges as we head into 2013

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Best lessons of 2012

Best lessons of 2012 (McClatchy-Tribune)

As the year 2012 comes to a close, it's time to look back at all the experts' wisdom given to me for this column over the past year. Here is a list of some of my favorite tips, which range from relationship advice to career focus. Enjoy, and let's have a healthy and happy 2013.

Ditch the affirmations.

Best-selling author Caroline Myss, whose latest book, "Archetypes: Who Are You?" (Hay House), hits stores in January, said the emphasis on affirmations (reciting what you want) and vision boards (which display images of things you want or aspire to) is "complete nonsense."

"This is one of the reasons why the holistic health movement has really not worked," she said. "If you want energy medicine to work you have to put energy into it: You have to get up and walk. You have to take action. ... There's a passivity and narcissism that goes along with this psyche that so many people have ... (so) they will not have to do that work themselves. I can't tell you how appalling I think it all is."

Embrace your shadow.

Psychotherapist Barry Michels and psychiatrist Phil Stutz talk about celebrating our flaws in their book, "The Tools: Transform Your Problems into Courage, Confidence and Creativity."

"You have to love the part of you that you hate the most in order for it to have a transformative effect, and that takes work," Michels said.

"If you look at the shadow, which are all the parts that you wish you were not — the parts you're hiding ... if you can love those parts, then you have fully accepted yourself and that's actually when the magic happens," Stutz said.

Learn to forgive others.

Author and motivational speaker John St. Augustine said it took years for him to be able to forgive a drunken driver who hit and seriously injured him.

"Forgiveness is a marathon, not a sprint," he said. "But the willingness to forgive is the starting point. Most people won't even start the process because, if they let go of something, they worry that makes the person they're upset with right. Forgiveness is not condoning anything. It's letting go of everything. You can be a prisoner to your anger, or you can choose to let it go and live your life."

Establish boundaries.

Dr. Judith Orloff, a psychiatrist and author of the best-selling book "Emotional Freedom: Liberate Yourself from Negative Emotions and Transform Your Life" (Three Rivers Press), said it's important to keep the negative people in your life at arm's length.

"If you have energy vampires around you, which are people who suck the energy from you or do you wrong, don't get into that unhealthy dysfunctional exchange," she said. "It could be just constraining yourself and not going for their bait when they engage. Then they become less interested and will move on to someone else."

You don't need a significant other to be whole.

Steve Arterburn, author of "Addicted to Love: Recovering from Unhealthy Dependencies in Love, Romance, Relationships and Sex" (Vine Books), said people who suffer from love addiction jump from relationship to relationship as an unhealthy way of trying to fill a void.

"One of the reasons people do this for so long is they don't think this is unhealthy behavior, but that they have high standards," he said. "If the relationship doesn't fulfill them they feel the other person is falling short but what's really happening is they are trying to fill a need and they feel incomplete if they're not involved in a romance. They feel like something is missing ... . When they find someone who has that interest in them, there's a sense of fulfillment and completion. It feels like it makes up for all they didn't have when they were younger. But this is a temporary fix to a much deeper issue that needs to be addressed with therapy and self-awareness."

Stop focusing on your flaws.

Phil Cooke, author of the book "One Big Thing: Discovering What You Were Born to Do" (Thomas Nelson), said you should be honest with yourself about what comes naturally to you.

"I spent months trying to get better at balancing my checkbook, and I really worked hard on it," he said. "I realized I wasn't wired to do this. If, on a scale of one to 10, you are a three or four for balancing your checkbook, nobody pays for a three or four. They pay for a nine or 10.

"What are the areas of your life where you can be a nine or a 10? Decide what they are and work on those ... I tell people: Stop being average at a lot of things or pretty good at a lot of things and start being extraordinary at one thing. Look at the Olympics. You won't find a track guy also swimming and skiing. To get to a higher and higher level, you need to let go of the peripheral things and cut through the clutter."

The facts about your feelings.

Psychotherapist Jeffrey Sumber said we often shape our reality on assumptions rather than evidence, which can be very damaging for our mental health.

"What I ask clients often is, 'Let's discern between fact and feeling. Is this a fact or is this is a feeling?' he said. "If we ask this we can catch ourselves before we go to that place of insecurity that takes you back to that rejection you felt in third grade. If you ask, 'Is there a thread of possibility that what I'm experiencing right now is not true and that I actually have more self-worth than ... I'm giving myself credit (for)?' — that can be helpful."

jweigel@tribune.com

Twitter: @jenweigel

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