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Embrace the New

Embrace the New

When I don’t have strong clarity about what I want to experience next in my life, I like to explore something new. I know that I want to keep growing, so I seek out new growth experiences, new places, new people. Anything new.

This default decision to embrace the new has been a powerful heuristic in guiding my life path. I find myself leaning into many experiences for the simple reason that they’re new. If I receive an invitation to try something I’ve never tried before, I tend to say yes fairly often. If I’m not sure, I nudge myself towards the affirmative. I figure that exploring something new is generally better than doing nothing. New input means learning, and I love to learn.

Sometimes I need to return to my comfort zone to catch my breath. Too much newness can feel a little overwhelming at times, so when I feel that way, I take some downtime for personal renewal. A long meditation, a solo walk at night, a journaling session, or writing a new article are restorative experiences for me.

Then when I feel ready to branch out again, I put out some fresh invitations and/or say yes to more invitations to go explore. I lean into the new. The more I do this, the more my comfort zone expands, and the more I feel capable of saying yes to experiences that I once resisted.

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Oslo

Last weekend I had a wonderful time at the Morten Hake Summit in Oslo, Norway. The summit went very well, and there’s already talk about doing another one next year.

The days before and after the summit have been a whirlwind of social activity — an 8-hour mastermind session with the other speakers, several video interviews (some of them spontaneous), nights out, parties, intimate conversations, delightful cuddle sessions, reconnecting with old friends and making new ones, brainstorming new business ideas, and inspirations galore. I must have had well beyond a hundred hugs while I’ve been here, and I directly encouraged hundreds more hugs between others.

Initially I flew to Oslo with a one-way ticket. This is the second time I’ve flown to Europe this year without a return ticket booked in advance, and it’s my fourth visit to this continent since 2011.Up until 2009 I had never been outside the USA. Embracing the new has been a helpful heuristic to guide me in saying yes to travel experiences. Lately this has taken the form of doing more open-ended travel, i.e. flying somewhere without knowing where I’ll go next or when I’ll return home.

While I desire to explore other parts of the world too, lately I’ve been drawn to explore Europe. I’ve been to five countries here so far, and soon I’ll land in my sixth European country — Romania. My flight to Bucharest leaves tomorrow morning.

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Bucharest

My friend Zan Perrion likes to say, “Accept all invitations.” That’s another growth-oriented heuristic, and it nicely overlaps with “Embrace the new.” Zan invited me to come stay with him in Casa Amorata after Oslo, so in alignment with both of those heuristics, I gratefully accepted. Zan and I have been friends for several years, and like many others who know him, I love the energy that he and his friends create together — the energy of love, happiness, lightness, and beauty.

I’ve never been to Eastern Europe, so I’m really looking forward to it. I’m not sure how long I’ll stay, but I already have some interesting invitations coming through for Bucharest. Once again, I bought a one-way ticket. I have no doubt that this trip will be filled with interesting growth experience. The newness of it pretty much guarantees that.

After Bucharest I may go somewhere else, or I may return to Las Vegas. I trust my intuition to make those decisions.

Familiar Unfamiliarity

As I keep leaning into new experiences, I find that the unfamiliar starts to feel increasingly familiar. Getting my bearings in new places, making new local friends, calibrating to new social environments, and learning the nuances of other cultures becomes less uncomfortable after a while. The surprises are still there, but paradoxically they’re becoming familiar surprises.

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The more I embrace the new, the more I feel at home on a path of growth and change. Going outside my comfort zone ceases to feel scary and stressful, and instead it becomes fun, stimulating, empowering, and even playful. I become comfortable in those spaces of awkwardness, confusion, and mistakes, knowing that whatever happens, I can deal with it and learn from it.

When I embrace the new, I make plenty of mistakes. I spend more time in that uncalibrated beginner phase, not really knowing what I’m doing but eager to learn. I love this phase because it’s where I learn and grow the fastest. Even simple gains, like learning to navigate a new public transportation system, feel like significant accomplishments. I love reaching the point where a once unfamiliar city feels like a place I can call home, or a previously undeveloped skill can be utilized with reasonable competence.

Embrace the New

When life begins to feel stale, embrace the new. When you’re not sure what you want, embrace the new. When you feel stuck in your job or your relationship, embrace the new.

This is not an easy path, so if you prefer to play it safe and stick with your current comfort zone, then don’t use this heuristic. But if you want to learn, grow, and become smarter, then embracing the new can serve as a powerful way to get unstuck and move forward.

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Don’t overthink this. Embrace the new isn’t rocket science, unless you want to visit a new planet. This is a simple suggestion to favor invitations (and to issue invitations) to explore the untried, the untested, and the unknown.

Much of the time you can still keep the old. Use your comfort zone as a home base. Return to it when you need a break from exploration. But eventually you may find that the zone of exploration becomes your new comfort zone. You may begin to feel at home on the road of growth and change, instead of only feeling comfortable at your favorite inn.

Embrace the New | Steve Pavlina

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Published on April 7, 2021

6 Signs Of A Controlling Person To Be Aware Of

6 Signs Of A Controlling Person To Be Aware Of

Some of the most manipulative people are so good at what they do that their words and actions can convince you into thinking they truly care about what’s best for you when in reality, it’s quite the opposite. The most common signs of a controlling person are rarely obvious to outside observers. And for someone enmeshed in a controlling relationship or friendship, it can be incredibly challenging to stay away from this toxic person, even if you’re aware of their emotionally abusive tendencies.

While it’s ultimately up to you to decide whether to preserve or leave a lopsided, unfulfilling relationship, it’s nevertheless critical to understand the following six signs of controlling people so you can better advocate for yourself and mitigate the influence of their manipulative tendencies in your own life.

1. They Push Their Own Personal Agenda

Do you know someone who always tries to micromanage the words, behaviors, and attitudes of people around them? Does this person act like they have the right to know anything they want about you, including your location, what you’re doing in a given moment, who you’re talking to online, or any other private information about you? And when planning events and special occasions, does this person dominate conversations, steer plans in their own preferred directions, disparage others’ suggestions, and refuse to collaborate with anyone who might disagree with them?

If you answered “yes” to some of the above questions, then those are clear signs of a controlling person whom you absolutely need to be cautious around. Controlling people are reluctant to even consider alternative ideas, let alone enthusiastically work with people who have differing views. They prefer to be the captain of every ship—regardless of how much or how little an issue personally impacts them—and they have an arsenal of manipulative tactics to deploy if someone stands in the way of them achieving their own personal agendas.

In long-term relationships with controlling people, you may feel constantly pressured to meet their demands, follow their schedule, and focus on whatever they feel is most important. It’s not an exaggeration to say that these people act like the universe revolves around them, which can be exhausting to deal with for their family members, friends, and colleagues.

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2. They Make Everything Transactional

Controlling people aren’t always self-centered, but they’re not too empathetic either. Empathy for them tends to appear in the form of strategic concessions they use as a means to get what they want. They typically view interpersonal relationships as transactional opportunities to extract more value from people surrounding them, which can have a draining effect on those they interact with.

For example, one sign of a controlling person may be their insistence on “keeping score.” This can involve doing nice things for you with the ulterior motive of demanding something from you at a later date in exchange for what you thought was just an act of kindness or a friendly support.

Perhaps they shower you in praise (also known as “love-bombing”) or gifts then blow up at you if you don’t intuitively know they’re expecting something back from you. None of us are mind-readers, but controlling people behave as though everyone else should think and act like they want others to and those who fall out of line are punished for failing to meet their impossible expectations.

A controlling person may also threaten to withhold support if you don’t adhere to their demands, but they do so in such subtle ways that the guilt they impose blinds you from the unreasonable nature of their behaviors.

Some statements to be wary of include:

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  • “I did ___________ for you. What do you mean you can’t do ___________ for me?”
  • “Remember how I helped you with ___________? That took a lot of time and energy from me, but I guess you didn’t appreciate my help.”
  • “I always give you ___________. Don’t you care about my needs too?”
  • “You’re so selfish!” or “You don’t care about me at all!” (gaslighting if you respond with hesitation or politely decline their request for help for perfectly valid reasons, such as not having enough time or resources to assist them)

3. They Criticize Everything

One of the most common telltale signs of a controlling person is their capacity to criticize anything and everything, even small things that seemingly don’t matter. As with many toxic traits in relationships, these problems typically start out so small that you may not even notice. At first, you may even agree with their criticism or at least be able to understand their perspective when they bring up an issue.

However, the criticism tends to get more intense, more constant, and more perplexing for people who maintain relationships with controlling people. You’ll likely notice how they rarely seem to criticize something they do. It’s almost always other-oriented and these types of people are so manipulative that any rationale they offer can seem plausibly legitimate.

Some warning signs of a controlling person who’s overly critical to the point of abusiveness include:

  • Criticizing things about you that you have little to no control over (e.g., appearance, disability, family)
  • Criticizing your personal choices and interests, such as educational pursuits, career, clothing, favorite music, time spent on your hobbies, etc.
  • Punishing you for expressing vulnerability by invalidating thoughts and feelings you share with them
  • Attacking you whenever you express an opinion counter to theirs

4. They Balk When Someone Criticizes Them

We all know the adage, “what goes around, comes around.” But this statement doesn’t apply as much to toxic, controlling people. They’d much prefer to dish out criticism without ever having to take it in return.

For instance, if your friend constantly talks about your appearance with little regard for your emotions but flips out if you make just a single comment about their appearance, there’s a possibility that they could have some hidden controlling tendencies left unchecked. Remember, these people aren’t just controlling in their behaviors towards others. They’re also actively trying to stay in complete control over every aspect of their lives, which includes how others view them.

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This seemingly insatiable desire for control can prompt them to lash out against even the smallest bits of criticism, leaving people around them too weary or scared to speak up again in the future. While it’s possible they may suffer from something called rejection sensitivity dysphoria, this does not excuse them from the consequences of their words and actions. They should seek professional help to better manage their reactions to criticism.

5. They Socially Isolate You

Not all controlling people do this, but for manipulative narcissists, socially isolating victims is a go-to strategy for maintaining control because it’s effective at preventing people from truly understanding how toxic their partner, family member, or friend is treating them. Think of it this way—if you don’t talk to many other people in your life, there’s less of a risk that you’ll damage their reputation by revealing their abusive tendencies.

Socially isolating others also gives the person more control over you and your life as it becomes more difficult to break away from them if you don’t have other healthier channels of communication and interpersonal support to turn to.

This process doesn’t happen overnight, nor is it something you can readily recognize as abusive. At first, it may seem reasonable, such as asking you to stop engaging so often with family members with whom both of you disagree on major social or political issues. As the social isolation progresses, they may suggest cutting people out of your life—especially if they don’t like that person, regardless of how you personally feel—or even conjure up high-stakes problems like “it’s me or them” under the guise of saving you from people in your life whom they don’t like for whatever reason.

In a controlling person’s life narrative, they’re always the protagonist who’s incapable of any wrongdoing. The blame is always redirected at someone else, whether that’s you or other people in your life. The more they isolate you from other supportive people in your life, the more susceptible you’ll be to falsely believing that they’re right and you “don’t need” your other friends and family when you have someone as perfect as this person.

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6. They’re Emotionally Abusive

It’s hard enough to be in control of your own emotions but when someone else is constantly belittling you and your interests or leveraging guilt and shame to manipulate you into saying or doing what they want, this can make it even more challenging to stay in control of your own life and emotional well-being.

Emotional abuse is another sign of a controlling person that is often overlooked in relationships. After all, human personalities vary widely in terms of passivity, and it’s not uncommon for one person in a relationship to be significantly more passive than the other. This becomes an issue when the controlling partner or friend exudes signs of emotional abuse, which can start subtly and become much more pronounced over time.

Concerning signs of emotionally abusive language or behavior to watch out for include:

  • Dismissing your needs and/or belittling your interests in counterproductive ways
  • Privately or publicly shaming or humiliating you
  • Making you feel as though you can never live up to their expectations or do anything right (according to their own vague, subjective standards)
  • Gaslighting you into thinking they said or did something that never actually happened (making you question your own reality)

Final Thoughts

It’s sometimes hard to see the negative things about someone with whom we have a relationship. We may sometimes unconsciously overlook the signs of a controlling person, especially if that person is someone we have known for a long time or are close to us. However, cutting them off your life is the best thing you can do for yourself. Just watch out for these six signs of a controlling person and take immediate action when you spot them.

More Tips on How To Deal With a Controlling Person

Featured photo credit: Külli Kittus via unsplash.com

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