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No One Will Tell You Exactly How to Get Over an Ex, So I Will

No One Will Tell You Exactly How to Get Over an Ex, So I Will

It’s that time of year: turkeys are being deep-fried, Christmas party invites are going out… and you can’t stop thinking about your ex. Who is he bringing to Thanksgiving instead of you? What douchebag will be putting some cheesy trinket under the tree for her this year? Your heart breaks just imagining it, even though you haven’t been together in weeks. If only you could wave a wand and stop the pain.

We’ve all been there, but thanks to John Gottman’s pioneering work at the University of Washington Love Lab, you don’t have to be a character in a Wham! video anymore. I’m about to teach you a reverse lifehack that will systematically destroy all longing for the person who broke up with you. Note: this isn’t for the faint of heart; like all those spells from Once Upon a Time, it’s not easily reversed and comes with a hefty price. So, if you think there’s even the remotest chance of you getting back together, don’t try this.

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One of the pillars of Gottman’s work, highlighted in Malcom Gladwell’s book Blink, are what he calls the Four Horsmen of a relationship “apocalypse”: Criticism, Defensiveness, Contempt, and Stonewalling. These are the things that take down relationships, by eroding the attraction and affection that drew you together in the first place. One of the hardest things to do when a relationship ends, especially if you are the “dumpee” or if there was a betrayal that came out of nowhere, is to stop seeing the person through rose-colored glasses. If you want to erase all those warm and loving feelings for someone you’re really better off without, you can deliberately engage Gottman’s Four Horsemen in a session of “mental calisthenics” to turn your heart in another direction (do not try this exercise in person; use a journal, meditate, or just turn it over in your mind while you’re going about your day). As you practice these four steps, your tenderness toward The One That Got Away will magically become apathy for Somebody That You Used To Know. Again, do not try this if you are “taking a break” – engaging the Four Horsemen is not something to be done lightly, as it will plant a seed of discord in your heart for your ex that will likely be irreversible!

Horseman One: Criticism

Think about all the things that bothered you about your ex. Be as critical as you can possibly be, to the point of ridiculousness. Go to your darkest place and think about all the things that bothered you at first, but that you let slide because you were “in love.” Was his comb-over a little too Donald Trump? Did he wear New Balance sneakers with acid wash jeans before you took him shopping? Did he have any style or taste before you? How about her muffin top? Wasn’t it annoying how she never found time to get on a treadmill, but always had time to binge on Netflix with a bowl of potato chips? Didn’t you hate it when she laughed about your aviator sunglasses, while rocking those ridiculous Mary-Kate Olsen knockoffs? Be as critical as you can possibly be. Make a list if you need to (but burn it – trust me, you don’t want that list being seen by anyone but you).

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Horseman Two: Defensiveness

Now, put yourself on the witness stand. Get all up in your self-righteousness, and defend whatever things your ex might have been critical of. Maybe he broke up with you because he claimed you stopped taking care of yourself. Wasn’t it because you were so busy picking up his socks or hello, taking care of his children? How can he say that?! Did she complain that you didn’t have a good enough job? I guess we can’t all prostitute ourselves for a raise or have Daddy’s friends give us internships at Ivy League start ups, right? She didn’t understand you at all – some people have to work for a living! Again – go there, be hyperbolic. Get up on your high horse and defend yourself like your ex is trying to make a federal case out of why you deserved to be dumped.

Horseman Three: Contempt

Gottman often refers to Contempt as the best predictor of divorce, because it puts another person in a position that is lower than you, and you cannot be a partner with someone you cannot see as your equal. Cultivating contempt for an ex is a very powerful kind of brainwashing, because it disables you from ever seeing them as someone you could be on the same level with. To cultivate contempt for your ex, you have to be more than critical – you have to be downright insulting. Contempt is a personal attack that tears down another person. It’s not, “She always left these gross piles of hair in the shower;” it’s “She was a disgusting slob who didn’t even value basic cleanliness.” He’s not “a guy who always flirts with other women;” he’s “a philandering misogynist who only sees women as objects.” Contempt takes criticism a step further by reducing a person to a stereotype or object. It removes their humanity and allows you to reject them as a lesser being who isn’t on your level.

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Horseman Four: Stonewalling

Stonewalling is the final step in the end of a relationship: complete and total disengagement. It’s when you put up a figurative “stone wall” between you and another person, completely shutting them out. When you’re trying to get over an ex, this means complete and total disengagement. If you’re in the same social circle, it doesn’t mean being a jerk; on the contrary, it means just not having anymore meaningful conversations with them, not sending them a Christmas card (do you really want to see a picture of him and his new wife in ugly sweaters anyway?). It means disconnecting – cutting off all the unnecessary “casual” ties you’ve maintained up until now. This person no longer has a reason to be an integral part of your life. For your own mental health, keep them at a deliberate distance. And yes, you should de-friend her on Instagram and Facebook. Scanning her selfies isn’t going to get you over her any faster, dude.

In the beginning, this process may feel like “Sour Grapes,” and yes, using the Four Horsemen to get over an ex might seem extreme. If you’re still wasting your life and your energy mourning the past, you’re closing off any chance of future happiness with someone who is right for you. So move on!

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One caveat: now that you’re familiar with the Four Horsemen, do your best to keep them out of your next relationship. If you find yourself being critical of the future Mr. or Mrs. You, getting defensive about your life choices, personally attacking who they are, or shutting them out when you don’t want to hear them out, you’ll quickly find yourself on the road to another breakup!

Nobody wants to go through that again, right?

Featured photo credit: showmeholly via flickr.com

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Last Updated on May 28, 2020

10 Success Principles for Living Your Dream Life

10 Success Principles for Living Your Dream Life

Are you stressed out and overwhelmed, wishing you had more time to do the things that really matter? Are you ready to do something better, something special in your life or your career?

You were born with a gift that no one else in the world can express like you. When you dance to your own music, you naturally develop your innate abilities and excel in work and life. You are a total rock star. But when you live someone else’s idea of who you should be, it throws off your groove.

Many people—maybe you—stopped following their dreams way too early in life because their talents were ignored, minimized, or shamed. They didn’t have the chops to win an American Idol competition or nab an Olympic gold medal, so they stopped expressing their inborn gifts altogether.

You don’t need to be an award winner to rock your life. Living your dream life is about discovering your superpowers and feeling vibrant and joyful when you use them. It’s about owning what makes you unique and finding like-minded people to support you.

Here are 10 success principles to help you live a rich and rewarding life on your terms that have worked with thousands of people in my workshops and will work for you, too.

1. Get a Hobby to Move Closer to Your Dreams

If you never became a professional dancer or a world-renowned author, it does NOT mean you should stop dancing or writing! These activities make you come alive, even if you “only” do them as favorite pastimes.

Engaging in a hobby is one of the most important success principles you can follow to move closer to your dreams.

When you try something creative for the first time or in a long while, you begin to see opportunities at work and in life that you were unaware of before. You also feel happier and more energized, according to a recent study from New Zealand.[1]

Some of my most burned-out executive clients reinvigorated their careers by discovering a creative outlet that refueled them after the workday ended. Research at San Francisco State University shows that having a hobby lowers stress and helps you succeed at work.[2]

So, give yourself permission to try new things and revisit old passions you gave up long ago. Setting aside just one hour a week for personal exploration can significantly change your life.

Who knows? Your creative outlet could transform into a thriving business or lead to a new profession down the road.

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2. Focus on Your Strengths, Not Your Weaknesses

Did you know that you are more likely to succeed when you develop your natural strengths rather than work on your weaknesses? The problem is that you probably don’t know where your true talents lie.

Here are a few options to help you discover your unique strengths. You can:

  • Take the VIA Character Strengths Survey[3]
  • Try Gallup’s CliftonStrengths Assessment[4]
  • Answer a few Superpower Questions

Once you understand what makes you tick, you can use these skills at work and your personal life to get more done in less time. If you boost your unique abilities through practice and study, you can accelerate your career and become a leader in a field that matters to you. It’s worth investing in yourself this way.

3. Jumping off a Cliff is NOT Required

Here’s the deal: most people are too afraid to change. When participants first come to my workshops, they tell me they have mouths to feed, bills to pay, and fear that if they follow their dreams, someone will get hurt.

The old saying “leap and the net shall appear” does not comfort them. Because they are hesitant to plunge into the unknown, they believe their only option is to stay put where they are in life. Can you relate?

You do not have to sacrifice the life you have now to start a new one. I was a psychology professor by day and singer by night for years before I transitioned into a full-time music career.

Just take a little time out each week to do what enlivens you through a hobby, volunteer work, etc. Get a feel for it.

Is it what you really want? If so, increase the time you spend doing it and make the transition when the time feels right.

4. Give Your Inner Critic Some Love

The main culprit that keeps you from stepping outside your comfort zone and getting the life of your dreams is KCRP or K-CRAP – the radio station that plays 24/7 in your head. The moment you try to do something interesting with your life it slaps you down with such chart-topping killer hooks as “Who do you think you are?” and “You’ll never be good enough!”.

Have you ever noticed that KCRP’s mean-spirited DJ sounds like your parents, teachers, bosses, and other authority figures who shut you down creatively? These folks don’t need to stifle you any longer (although they often still do) because your inner critic does it for them. That keeps you stuck in a rut.

To break free, try thinking of this DJ as a gruff old grandfather who gives you crap to keep you safe. Remember, this grumpy grandpa is woefully out of touch with the times. So, his stern opinions don’t really matter much, do they? Give him a pat on the back for his good intentions, and put your focus back on what makes you come alive.

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This success principle will give you the courage to venture into the unknown where you can dance to the beat of your own drummer.

5. Embrace Your Inner Weirdo

Many of us don’t go after our dreams because we’re afraid folks will find out how odd or strange we are. But our little eccentricities often turn out to be our greatest strengths. Yes, it’s good to be quirky.

Odds are, you lost track of your true passions and talents before you were even old enough to know you were getting off-track. You became slowly “adulterated” by learning to:

  • Take on family roles that don’t match who you really are.
  • Spit back what teachers taught you in school rather than risk getting bad grades for being original.
  • Hide parts of yourself that don’t seem acceptable to certain social groups.

The price for fitting in is that you may wind up leading a life that doesn’t fit you all that well. Your true calling becomes clear when you embrace what makes you different from others and allow yourself to stand out from the crowd, even if it feels awkward.

Often, the very qualities you view as your flaws are your greatest gifts.

6. See the Bigger Picture to Find Your True Calling

I cannot stress the importance of this success principle enough. Your true calling is right in front of you. But you may miss it because you’re looking for it in the wrong place.

To “see” it clearly, try widening your point of view.

Case in point: Maria felt she needed to retire early from being a police detective, so she could travel abroad. I encouraged Maria to think of ways that she could continue to serve as a law enforcer (a career she loved) and travel overseas at the same time.

A few months later, Maria landed a job with the United Nations in Bosnia training the local police force to understand and embrace human rights procedures.

Like Maria, you are an everyday rock star capable of accomplishing greater things than you can imagine. Is what you’re looking for right in front of you, too? Do you have an inkling of what it may be?

Look beyond your day-to-day activities, your current job, and even the town you live in. View your life from an eagle’s perspective and be open to new possibilities.

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7. Try a Little Wish-List Magic

Pretend I’m your fairy godmother and I give you permission right now to be your most magnificent self. What kind of life would be music to your ears? It doesn’t matter whether it seems unattainable or even downright crazy. Write it down on a wish list.

Get quiet. Be honest. Think big.

What would you like your career, your relationships, your health, your finances, and your spiritual life to be like? Jot down enough details so that your wishes seem tangible to you. Then, look at this list every morning before you start your day and every night before you go to sleep.

Sounds silly? It’s not. It works! Permitting yourself to daydream about a rich and fulfilling life is the first step to manifesting it.

8. Take Breaks to Get Clues About Your Ideal Future

Did you know that working straight through to a deadline leads to diminishing returns? Research shows that taking a break for 15 minutes every 75 to 90 minutes can help you recharge, refresh your focus, and get more done in less time.[5]

Wait, it gets better! A Stanford study shows that walking increases your creative output increases by 60 percent. Doing repetitive activities such as walking, running, riding your bike, swimming, and sweeping allow solutions to problems to pop into your mind out of nowhere.[6]

What does this success principle have to do with creating your dream life?

These mini-breaks allow you to get vital clues for what to do next to attain your ideal future. Plus, you won’t waste precious time and energy getting lost in other people’s agendas.

9. Take Action on Your Inspired Ideas

Once an inspired thought pops into your mind, take action.

This is one of the most powerful success principles for turning your dreams into reality; the sooner the better. Whatever it is—from calling an old friend to taking a new route home—be sure to do it!

Pay attention to your oddball hunches. You need to go after what you want, not just dream about it. As comedian Jim Carrey warns,

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“You can’t just visualize and go eat a sandwich.”

10. Count Your Rockstar Moments

Still not sure you have what it takes to get your dream life? This final success principle is guaranteed to help.

Make a list of everything you’ve ever accomplished. As you read back through it, put a star next to each item, and let it sink in.

You’ll be pleasantly surprised by how good you’ll feel about yourself afterward. You’ll also see how effective you’ve been in the past at getting what you want. You’ve succeeded before, you can succeed again.

You already rock. You just need to own it. Trust me, you’ve got this!

Final Thoughts

Eleanor Roosevelt said,

“The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.”

Following these success principles will help you find the time and energy to do the things that really matter and live with clear intention.

By spending just one hour a week doing something you love, focusing on your strengths and achievements, embracing what makes you different, and acting on inspired ideas, you can create a life that is a perfect fit for you, step-by-step.

If you don’t have a clue about what your dream life could look like yet, don’t worry. Your heart knows. It has been “talking” to you for a long time. It’s just being muffled by KCRP, buried under a lot of “shoulds” and fear.

This article can also help you figure out the life you truly want to live: How to Get Motivated and Be Happy Every Day When You Wake Up.

Stand still, get quiet, and listen. It’s constantly telling you what you need to do to realize your own rockstar potential. It may be just a whisper now, but the more you pay attention to it, the louder it will get, and the easier it will be to follow.

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Featured photo credit: Rahul Dey via unsplash.com

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