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"The results suggested that suppressing the thought for the first five minutes caused it to `rebound' even more prominently into the participants' minds later," according to an article in Monitor on Psychology. Wegner later dubbed this tendency "ironic process theory" to explain why it's so difficult to tame intruding thoughts. The irony being, of course, that relieving the tension of desire makes something all the more rewarding. An endless cycle of resisting, ruminating, and finally giving in to the desire perpetuates the cycle and quite possibly drives many of our unwanted behaviors. For example, many smokers believe it's the chemical nicotine that causes their cravings. They're certainly not wrong, but they're not completely right either. Nicotine produces distinct physical sensations. However, a fascinating study involving flight attendants demonstrated how even smoking cravings might have much less to do with nicotine than we once thought. Please use this final reflection to allow yourself to dream. What would your mantra for living be now? Where do you want to go? What can you imagine in your life that would bring you happiness? What kind of relationships do you want to grow in your own life? What do you want to learn that would bring you fulfillment? What do you want to discover in yourself and the world that would bring an inner smile of wonder? It's time for you to dream. And know that whatever you choose to do, it won't be perfect. What it will be is a reflection of all of who you are. That's one example of how internal dialogue replays familiar themes. But because it is as unique and varied as people's individual DNA, the themes and topics of your internal dialogue are uniquely yours.

In fact, a lot of your comments to yourself might not seem so bad, in isolation. Much of the time, your dialogue might be simply task-oriented, but heavily so, even to the point of putting considerable pressure on you. In the midst of your busiest mornings, your internal dialogue may be running right alongside, insisting, You've got to do X; don't you dare forget Y; You should; You really have to; You must . A snippet of your internal dialogue today might have been, I really need to get back to the office; This traffic is making me late. Maybe your internal dialogue is guilt-inducing, such as your putting yourself down if you sit too long and watch television or read the paper. The point is that your internal dialogue has particular themes; those themes are not always negative, but seldom are they neutral. Your internal dialogue may include constant comparisons, fear, worry, anxiety, and pessimism. It may be a ruminative obsessing over everything from minutiae to major life events. You may downplay something that you really care about by generating a dialogue that is marked by a false sense of apathy. After all, if you "just don't care," it won't hurt if you don't get it, right? So, to protect yourself, your internal dialogue will convince you that you don't care. It will clutter up your mind with all kinds of BS, every time you try to do something that is not a lay-down, slam-dunk sure thing. I love ending my days in the gentleness of child's pose or meditating in prayer pose: kneeling on the floor with my knees wide, my body stretched out in front of me, my forehead resting on the floor, arms extended and hands in prayer pose. I can stay in these deeply soothing poses for some time, tuning into my breathing while enjoying some beautiful, calming music to wind down. Any time that I spend on my yoga mat feels like a commitment to myself: to the wellness of my spirit, my health and my happiness. Yoga is deeply loved and appreciated by so many around the world who practise it in all manner of ways each and every day. If yoga is something you are yet to explore I urge you to give it a try, experiencing for yourself the magical, comforting and sparkling energy it can cultivate within you. The question naturally arises in my mind: Where and how did I learn this perspective for myself? My parents didn't set goals or expectations, though they may have internalized them without expressing them verbally to me. However, that brings me back to one of my core beliefs: If you don't express expectations, how can they come to fruition?

For me, it would've helped if my parents had stated or written down goals and expectations. They didn't. How did I overcome my upbringing? I believe my experience in the marine corps made the difference. I know it's the way that I've trained myself to think. Effort-based expectations are applicable and teachable to both children and adults. It can be much easier to teach to adults if you put it in plain English, like you do with training kids; it becomes more of a way of life, a habit. When you focus on effort-based expectations, you reduce the stress that accompanies outcome- and ability-based expectations. As a result, you are better able to tap into motivation, excitement, and creativity. This approach is congruent with findings in the field of psychology. For instance, think of the famous experiment involving Pavlov's dog. The scientist rewarded his dog by ringing a bell and then giving him a treat immediately afterward. Soon, the dog salivated expectantly whenever he heard the bell. Similarly, the positive feelings and reduced stress associated with effort-based expectations help to reinforce your endeavors. Put simply, there are immediate rewards when you see your hard work paying off and making a difference. You can see development right away and feel good about yourself. It builds your confidence and the can-do attitude that you require. You need the creative thinking that comes from this, and you also need the discipline that comes with it. Two groups of flight attendants who smoked were sent on two separate flights from Israel. One group was sent on a three-hour flight to Europe, while the other group traveled to New York, a ten-hour flight.

All the smokers were asked by the researchers to rate their level of cravings at set time intervals before, during, and after the flight. If cravings were driven solely by the effect of nicotine on the brain, one would expect that both groups would report strong urges after the same number of minutes had elapsed since their last cigarette; the more time passed, the more their brains would chemically crave nicotine. But that's not what happened. When the flight attendants flying to New York were above the Atlantic Ocean, they reported weak cravings. Meanwhile, at the exact same moment, the cravings of their colleagues who had just landed in Europe were at their strongest. What was going on? The New York-bound flight attendants knew they could not smoke in the middle of a flight without being fired. Only later, when they approached their destination, did they report the greatest desire to smoke. It appeared the duration of the trip and the time since their last cigarette didn't affect the level of the flight attendants' cravings. What affected their desire was not how much time had passed after a smoke, but how much time was left before they could smoke again. If, as this study suggests, a craving for something as addictive as nicotine can be manipulated in this way, why can't we trick our brains into mastering other unhealthy desires? Thankfully, we can! As you think about negative internal dialogue generally, and more specifically as you begin to take stock of your own, you may logically wonder, If it's negative, why do I keep doing it? If this behavior is toxic, then why do I persist in it? The first answer, as we've seen, has to do with the power of the negative. Just as the fear of that robber's pistol weapon overwhelms and excludes any other data, your tendency to "lock on" to negative information can cause you to miss everything else going on around you. Negative information can seem more vivid, more real, than even truthful information that is positive. But you also need to keep in mind the power of the payoff. In any quest for understanding why your internal dialogue is what it is, you must be alert to what "payoffs" you are getting from telling yourself the things that you do. You will not maintain any behavior, dialogue, or thought pattern that is not providing you with some kind of reward or payoff.

In other words, you don't choose your self-talk randomly; you choose it because, at some level, it "works" for you. At some level it pays you off or you wouldn't do it. No reward, no repetition. We all yearn to feel alive and loved, yet we feel lost and crestfallen when we seek our affirmation or rewards in the outer world: in others' approval, accolades or possessions. We miss so much when we look in all the wrong places, but we find so much when we seek our happiness within. When we find, nurture and share our sparkles we contribute to the personal and collective meaning we seek. When we nourish our personal sparkle we join a collective energy nudging us closer to a happier, healthier and more peaceful world. Beauty, peace and joy exist not somewhere out there, but within us. Once we find this sacred wellspring, this divine retreat within, we feel the relief and comfort for which we have been yearning. Lovingly releasing our hurries and worries, our doubts and fears, we may sparkle on with courage, faith and self-belief. All the seasons of our lives may be navigated with grace and savoured with joy simply by choosing to embrace the magic of life. When we live in day-to-day awareness of our luminous inner sparkles, infinite inspiration comes to us in all manner of subtle, enchanting and delightful ways. We can sharpen our wits to the miracles unfolding endlessly around us, and lead truly enchanted lives. We have touched on self-care rituals, the value of community and connection, and the joy of living in contribution to a meaningful and magical bigger picture. We have explored ways in which we can all cultivate more sublime moments of tenderness, faith, surrender and bliss in daily life: ways in which we nurture ourselves deeply to sparkle from within. By choosing to find, accept and celebrate our divine sparkles, we naturally begin to see ourselves, each other and our world anew. We awaken to light, purpose and perspective, and replenish ever-new energy for life. We savour more wonderful moments than we could ever imagine. By focusing on the process rather than the outcome, your children will be more likely perform better. Naturally, if they perform better, then they're more likely to achieve the outcome you wanted in the first place.