Firebirdlifecoach's Blog

Pursuing a Passionate Life

The Crow and The Hawk February 26, 2013

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crow-attacking-red-tailed-hawkThis morning, like most days, I sat enjoying my coffee on my porch. For me, even in the cold of winter, it is my favorite way to start the day. This is because there almost always exists a still, meditative quality to the early morning which is enhanced by the clean brightness of a fresh layer of snow.
Like many mornings the only other creatures I come across in those early hours of a new day are the birds, and today was no exception. But rather than the usual company of songbirds, my feathered friends this morning were three squawking Crows and one very large Hawk.
You’ve seen this phenomenon haven’t you? It happens when a murder of Crows bands together to harass and ultimately scare away a bird of prey. It’s an impressive sight, as both birds have a particular magnificence about them that demand attention.
I watched as they flew from treetop to treetop until finally the Crows were satisfied with the distance the Hawk had flown from their “home-turf”, and they retreated victorious and calm. But this dance is not exclusive to these two types of birds. I have seen it play out before with other combinations of predators and prey. And as my morning moved on, I couldn’t’ help but think about their boisterous interaction and how it repeats itself over and over again in our day-to-day lives as well.
Only, in our lives, both predator and prey often occupy the same close-knit neighborhood – because in us, they represent the opposing voices inside our very minds. You see, it seems that all of us have within us two very different types of “self-talk”.
I am not talking here about the “cartoon angel and devil” sitting on our shoulders advising us on the “right and wrong” of a particular course of action. I am talking about that other kind of self-talk; that conversation between the parts of ourselves that can either “lift us up” or “tear us down”. We all have them. You know the ones… There is the predatory self-talk; “You’ll never get this done”, “You aren’t smart enough”, “No one will want to hear what you have to say”, or whatever particular combination of self-defeating words will trigger your particular psyche to shut-down. And then there is the encouraging self-talk; “You can do this”, “You are doing great”, and “You are totally on top of this material”. Unfortunately, for a lot of folks the former group gets a lot more time at the microphone than the latter. And there’s a reason for that – it’s called the “Negativity Bias”.
First described by social psychologist, Roy Baumeister in an article he co-authored in 2001 entitled “Bad is Stronger than Good”, the Negativity Bias refers to the psychological phenomenon in which humans pay more attention to, and give more weight to, negative rather than positive experiences or other kinds of information. (
There is a lot of information out there about how to work with our negativity bias (See the work of neuropsychologist, Rick Hanson, author of Buddha’s Brain: The Practical Neuroscience of Happiness, Love, and Wisdom) – not to the extent that we are burying our heads in the sand and ignoring danger – but in order to help us temper this internal response when it’s input may not only be unnecessary but, destructive as well. But over and over again, I find that the most significant intervention we can make is to simply raise our awareness of it and recognize those negative voices when they occur.
You see, it seems that a lot of our negative self-talk likes to operate “on the down low”. When you really stop to notice them, to think about what they are saying, often this simple illumination itself can weaken the force of their message. Like the lion in the grass stealthily stalking its meal, detection significantly lowers the chances they are going home with a big supper.
Once recognized, you can work with doing a little “reality check”. You can consider more positive and encouraging things to say to yourself. You can choose to re-wire your brain by spending more time savoring the positive, or any number of other interventions. But, before you go there just take a moment to shine a little light on your self-talk. You will be pleasantly surprised to see what it has the power to illuminate. After all, if the Crows didn’t notice that Hawk in the first place, they never would have thought to chase it away.


Solo Concerto June 4, 2010

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So I was considering the impact of these two voices whirling through my head this morning as I sit here pondering what to write on my blog. First the tired voice – “I don’t know what to write; I’m too tired and can’t find anything to focus on.” And second the quiet sensible voice – “Just clear your head and start to write, something will emerge”. (Ironic, but understandable.) Pretty obvious which one is the more productive and useful, isn’t it? Nonetheless as we face our days, the choruses of voices inside our heads sing out their tunes in a steady stream. Mostly flying under the radar of our awareness; we are constantly giving ourselves messages through this ongoing dialogue of one. How we choose to heed their recommendations is a choice for our conscious awareness.

Obviously, I am not talking here about “hearing voices” in a pathological sense, and yet they can still be rather destructive in their own right.  But they can also be productive and useful or simply neutral in “weight”. We are constantly telling ourselves what we can do, what we should do, what we want to do. They tell us how to make meaning, how to act, how to react, how to behave and how to feel. Though sometimes given voice their work is often silent, unseen, unheard and even unnoticed by our own selves. Remarkable really when you think about it with your conscious mind, isn’t it? The impact of this self-talk is powerful and constant so why not work to focus their energy in a way that is productive for us?

Making conscious choices about which messages to heed and which to dismiss can have powerful consequences in our daily lives. So today I’m going to keep the message simple on this rather complex subject. And here it is – pay attention, listen carefully to the messages you are giving yourself, try to notice the things you say to yourself that uplift your spirit and focus your energy in a positive and productive direction. You are your own best guide and cheering section – let that group linger at the microphone to your consciousness and ask the undermining voices to quietly take their seats, their services are no longer needed here.


Am I Talking to Me? March 19, 2010

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Throughout your life there will be many people who influence and inspire you. There will also, of course be those people who’s words cause you pain, self-doubt, and difficulty. There is no underestimating how powerful the words and influence of others can be on our lives, think for a moment about all the people who have had a powerful impact on you over time. Now ask yourself – if there is anyone missing from that list? Did you remember to include yourself? Because really who has your ear more than your own inner voice? The impact of others is an obvious given, but the person with the greatest impact on your life is you, who else could have 24/7, lifelong access?

When you think about that voice – how does it feel to you? We can most certainly be our own greatest champions and our own biggest nemesis, and largely our influence over our own selves goes greatly unnoticed even sometimes for the most self-aware of people. Ours is the voice that we hear most often, and when we need a break from our own words, it is not like we can hang-up the phone or walk into another room and leave the voice behind. So the question is do you tell yourself the things that help you along your way or are we harsh critics of our own lives? Likely, there is some sort of combination of the two, mixed in with a decent dose of benign musings, fanciful daydreams, inspired moments and rote assumptions. We get the smorgasbord of messages, the Pu Pu platter of ideas and the full gamut of impact.

So what I was thinking, was this, given that our voice is the most constant one in our lives, wouldn’t it serve us the best if the words it shared were of the supportive, encouraging, understanding and positive variety? Words can be powerful even before they break free of your mind. It is important and I would even say imperative that we treat not only others as we wish to be treated, but ourselves as well. Self-care, self-worth, self-confidence and overall sense of self depend on our ability to be gentle and loving to our own selves. That doesn’t mean you can’t challenge yourself, you certainly should and we will not always be proud of everything we do. Nonetheless self-care is imperative, be gentle with that one soul who is most fully under your control; no one else has a bigger impact or more control of how you experience your life.