The Power of Personal Commitment

CommitmentMy week began with a 13-year-old boy, struggling to find the motivation to do his homework. He flat-out asked me, “How do I make the commitment to do my homework?” Next was a 22-year-old marijuana smoker who constantly makes excuses for not stopping, even though he knows it’s putting his life on pause. Finally there was the 28 year old who wanted to lose the weight she’d gained, but could not consistently find her way to the treadmill. The recurring theme at my private counseling practice last week—commitment.

What prompted me to write about the topic of commitment was my client who wanted to lose weight. She knew she needed to exercise more consistently, but just couldn’t get herself to do it. At the beginning of our session, we were talking about good habits versus bad habits, and she mentioned that it takes 66 days to form a new habit. That comment got me thinking, so towards the end of our session I revisited it. It got me thinking about my own level of exercise consistency.

Here was my issue. For the last fifteen years, I’ve been waking up at 5 a.m. and going to the gym five days a week. Over the last year something changed in me; I started hitting the snooze button and sleeping in more than I ever have, bringing my gym attendance down to four d
ays a week. So here’s what I did. I made a deal with my client. I told her that if she agrees to exercise for 66 straight days that I would do the same. She took the deal and we are now both committed to getting on track. And more importantly, we are both motivated.

What is a commitment?

In a nutshell, a commitment is a promise that you make to another person or to yourself. The good news is that most of us are excellent at keeping the promises we make to our friends, colleagues and family members but we are lousy at keeping the promises we make to ourselves. So how do you become good at staying committed to your goals, your personal promises? Here are a few tips:

  1. Make a deal: Let’s say you want to get into yoga, but you’ve been making excuses and still haven’t started. A good way to get going is to find a friend that also wants to start yoga. If you sign up together, you are more likely to attend, because you will feel obligated not to ditch your friend. The same holds true with starting a new diet or joining a gym.
  2. Look in the mirror: Look at yourself in the mirror and make a legitimate commitment to yourself as if you were making an important promise to your best friend. It’s as simple as that. It has to be real, though. In order for you to stay committed, you have to pack a big punch.
  3. Post It: Take a packet of post-its and write your specific goal on a bunch of them. Then stick them in places that you frequent, like the dashboard of your car, or the bathroom mirror, or the refrigerator. This is a good way of keeping your goal — your commitment — fresh in your mind. You are now more likely to act on that goal.
  4. Visualize: Practice 5- or 10-minute mediations each day for a week. The meditations must relate to your goal. For example, if you want to get on the exercise bike five times a week, visualize yourself doing so. The key to effective visualization is to attach a feeling to the things you’re visualizing. If weight loss is your goal, imagine the feeling you’d feel after you have lost the amount of weight you desire to lose. Really feel it. If doing your homework is your goal, imagine the feeling you’ll feel when your report card reads all A’s and B’s. Really feel it.

As of today, I have gone to the gym eight straight days. I plan on attaining the goal of 66 straight days.

Talk to me anytime about the power of personal commitment.

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A&E Network Presents New Original Real-Life Series “Surviving Marriage”

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A&E NETWORK PRESENTS NEW ORIGINAL REAL-LIFE SERIES “SURVIVING MARRIAGE” TUESDAY, MARCH 24 AT 10:00PM ET/PT

SERIES FOLLOWS COUPLES STRANDED ON A REMOTE ISLAND IN A LAST DITCH EFFORT TO SAVE THEIR MARRIAGES

New York, NY – February 17, 2015 – A&E Network presents the new original real-life series “Surviving Marriage,” which follows couples on the brink of divorce who are stranded on a remote island for an extreme form of therapy designed to repair their troubled marriages. The hour-long, nine-episode series produced by Big Fish Entertainment premieres Tuesday, March 24 at 10:00pm ET/PT on A&E.

With their relationships on the rocks, each week one couple takes the plunge to spend five days together on a secluded island deep in the South Pacific to try to rectify their marital issues. Left alone with no modern conveniences and limited access to food and water, these pairs have only each other to rely on as they navigate the challenging and treacherous conditions on the island. The couples must complete a series of physical and emotional exercises specifically designed by marriage experts to solve the serious issues tearing them apart. Guiding viewers through the experience are Dr. Colleen Long, licensed clinical psychologist, and Dr. Tom Kersting, family therapist, who help navigate the couples’ often volatile journeys, where a simple act can unearth years of pent up aggression, regret and pain.

Throughout the season, viewers will meet a new couple each week including: Cleburn and April, high school sweethearts who struggle with hot tempers and are haunted by past indiscretions; Josh and Alethea, who married young and 18 years later are still trying to find their own identities; Damian and Randi, who find it difficult to maintain a balanced relationship with an imbalance of power and decision making; and Dennis and Tamar, who struggle with financial burdens that are weighing down their marriage. On their last day on the island, after five days of battling deep seeded marital issues that seem beyond repair, the couples must decide if they want to recommit to their marriages or end them once and for all.

“Surviving Marriage” is produced by Big Fish Entertainment for A&E Network. Executive producers from Big Fish Entertainment are Dan Cesareo, George McTeague, Doug DePriest and Johnny Petillo. Executive producers from A&E Network are Shelly Tatro, Drew Tappon and Sean Gottlieb.

About A&E Network

Now reaching more than 96 million homes, A&E is the home to quality original content that inspires and challenges audiences to BE ORIGINAL. A&E offers a diverse mix of uniquely immersive entertainment ranging from the network’s original scripted series, including “Bates Motel” and “The Returned” to signature non-fiction franchises, including “Duck Dynasty,” “Wahlburgers” and “Storage Wars.” The A&E website is located at aetv.com. Follow us on Twitter at twitter.com/aetv and Facebook at facebook.com/AETV.

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Stop Feeling Like Crap and Start Feeling Great

Feel_Good_NowI think a lot about who I am and what my mission is, and something hit me this morning while I was running on the treadmill. I am a person who feels great every day and I know why—because I practice it, and I want everyone in the world to do the same. It’s all about using your time wisely.

For example, when I am running on the treadmill, rather than mindlessly watching the television screen that is attached to the treadmill or listening to music, I close my eyes about halfway and focus my attention on my thoughts and feelings. I visualize my goals and aspirations. During these “hypno-runs,” I focus on the good things in life. I give thanks for all that I am blessed with and I visualize a great future. The treadmill isn’t the only place where I practice this. I practice this mindfulness while I’m driving. I practice it when I take a break at work. I practice it whenever I have downtime, and I’ve been doing it for years.

The fact is, you too can feel great every day, but you don’t because no one has ever taught you how.  I’m going to teach you how, because feeling great is the key to success—period. Once you conquer you, you will start to conquer everything in your life, including your relationships, your job, and your future.

Here’s where I want you to begin. Start by becoming aware of your inner voice, those inner conversations you have with yourself every day. This self-talk is something we all do all day long. When you practice tuning-in to your self-talk, the way that I do when I’m in the car or on the treadmill, you will quickly notice that most of your self-talk is, well, crap. It is filled with fear, worry and doubt, because that is what you have been exposing yourself to. The only way to change this negative mental program is by becoming aware of it. Then you can begin the changeover process toward creating thoughts that are more positive and inspiring. You will become the captain of your own vessel.

Start thinking about everything in life that you are grateful for. Do you have your health? Is your family healthy? Do you have a job? Do you have food and water?  Do you have a bed to sleep in and a roof over your head? Think about all of the wonderful things that lay ahead. Direct your thoughts towards the things that you want, the things you like, and the things you are passionate about.

Think about it for a moment: if the inner conversations you have with yourself are positive and encouraging, don’t you think your emotions will correspond to those thoughts? Of course they will! Take a guess as to what happens when your emotions are positive and encouraging. You become motivated and confident. You start to feel great. Can you see the cycle? Stop the worrying and start taking control of your thoughts. Do this every day for a month and check back with me. I guarantee you will be a different person.

Here’s a self-hypnosis/mediation audio file that can get you started.

 

 

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Alone or Lonely: Which One Are You?

Lonely_or_AloneAll morning, I was looking forward to the pineapple fried rice. When my lunch buddy, Mike, told me that he wasn’t feeling well and couldn’t go to our favorite Friday Thai spot, I was a little disappointed. I don’t remember the last time we missed a Friday lunch at this place. So I had a decision to make. Should I go alone or should I do something else for lunch? The idea of a sit-down lunch by myself seemed a little strange, because it’s not something I normally do. As I thought about it a little harder, I said to myself, “why wouldn’t I go alone?” After all, I had been looking forward to the pineapple rice all morning, and I happen to enjoy my own company. Yes, I do like myself and could care less what other patrons might think of the poor guy (me) sitting alone with no friends. So I went.

As I sat at the table, I found myself quite tuned in to my thoughts. Although I missed Mike’s presence, I embraced the alone time. I very much enjoyed it.

It got me thinking about a topic that I discuss with many of my patients at my private counseling practice: the difference between aloneness and loneliness. The difference is quite extreme — here’s why. People who avoid idle, alone time fear being lonely. They don’t like the idea of having a front row seat to their thoughts. People who embrace alone time, on the other hand, enjoy the adventure and creativity that their thoughts can bring. It can be rather exciting for them, as it should be, because these are the people who literally attract the things they want into their lives.

Which type are you? Are you the type that looks at alone time from a perspective of loneliness or from a perspective of aloneness? If loneliness is your answer, here are some strategies that will help you to start embracing your time alone.  Doing so will help you to build a stronger relationship with yourself and will help you in the direction of your goals a lot faster.

  1. Have a meeting with yourself every day. That’s right. Make it a priority to have a 15-minute meeting with “you” every day. While you’re at it, really pay attention to your thoughts. What exactly are you thinking about? How are you feeling? Are your thoughts filled with worries or fears? Are your feelings down? If so, start replacing those thoughts with positive ones. Breathe in feelings that are abundant. The more you practice this, the quicker you will become it.
  2. Give thanks. During your alone time, steer your thinking. Start giving thanks for all of the wonderful things you have. Give thanks for your health, your family’s health, the home you live in, the car you drive, and the bed you sleep in. You get the picture. Creating a daily “attitude of gratitude” will literally have you loving yourself in no time.
  3. Meditate: Speaking of alone time! Meditation is the epitome of it. Have you ever closed your eyes for 15 minutes at a time in a quiet place for several consecutive days? Try it. Not only will you learn new things about yourself, but you’ll also discover who you actually are.
  4. Stretch: Take a few minutes to lightly stretch your body, and do it slowly. You can do this right from your desk. Not only does this help you to tune in to your physical body, it also help you tune in to your thoughts.  This is a great way of creating a balance of mind and body.
  5. Accept aloneness: The next time you have some serious downtime with basically nothing to do, don’t try to fill in the downtime with meaningless activities like Internet surfing or texting. Instead, embrace the boredom. Boredom time is probably the most mentally creative time there is. It is the Miracle-Gro of the mind.

As always, contact me if you have any questions about my blog or anything else. Let’s talk!

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Post-Holiday Vacation Memories

While I enjoyed some moments lounging by the pool and sipping Pina Coladas last week in the Bahamas, that wasn’t the focus of my much needed vacation. The focus was the quality time I spent with mfat fish Atlantisy family. It was about enjoying one another’s company, and creating memories that we’d forever cherish. It was about the excitement in my children’s faces as we raced around Atlantis, plunging down the water slides.  That sense of pride in my
8-year-old daughter eyes, as she stood tall with her back against the measuring chart, proving to each water-slide attendant that yes—she was indeed 48 inches tall, thank you very much!!!

I decided to share a little about my recent vacation, because I’ve always felt that it is important for us parents to remember that when we are on vacation with our children, we need to be aware of their needs, not just ours. For example, there was a boy I met on one of the water-slide lines. He was around my son’s age (11), and by himself. He told me that he was there with his father, but that his dad was relaxing by the pool. I felt bad for the kid,
because his father obviously didn’t realize that being on that slide with his son was probably more important to his son than the slide itself.  The memories that you help your children create with you in them will last a lifetime. When they are older, your kids will remember how involved you were with them. Here are some of the memories that my family and I will be talking about for years to come.

  • The massive, ugly-looking fat fish in the underground aquarium maze that we laughed about the entire trip.
  • Seeing major league baseball great, Albert Pujols, at Carmine’s restaurant. The best part was that Pujols looked right at me and did a double take. My son then looked at me and said, “Dad, you know Albert Pujols?”
  • The waffle maker at our hotel during breakfast. My kids loved it. Now I’m going to have to buy one of these things.
  • Going down the “Leap of Faith” waterslide over and over again. My butt was killing me, and my kids found that to be quite humorous.
  • The unbelievable yachts in the Atlantis marina, especially the one with the basketball hoop. My son pointed that one out.
  • Teaching my daughter how to negotiate at the souvenir kiosk. She was able to get the Coca-Cola guitar for $20 instead of $25. And she felt quite proud of herself.
  • The bill at Bobby Flay’s restaurant – yikes!!!
  • My son and I flipping over in the river rapids.
  • My wife finally going down the “Leap of Faith” waterslide. My kids loved it.

As parents, it is absolutely OK to unwind and pamper ourselves while on vacation, but we also have to remember to attend to the needs of everyone, not just ourselves. Go to breakfast with your kids. Take them out to dinner with you. Go on the slides with them. Ride the waves with them. Take some risks with them. If the only memories my kids had of me on our vacations were of me sitting by a pool all day with a drink in my hand, I would feel like I failed them. Instead, I feel confident that when they are older, they will remember just how involved I was in their lives.

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Parenting Children to be Leaders Instead of Followers

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Do you feel pressured to sign your children up for lots of sports and activities so that they keep pace with the other kids, even though your gut tells you it’s too much? Do you fear they won’t measure up and succeed in this competitive world? Do you allow your children to spend too much time on smartphones and video game devices because that is how kids  communicate these days, and that depriving them of this will lead to social isolation? The reality is that all of these activities and devices that we provide our children have little to do with them and everything to do with us.  Here’s why.

We want our children tofit inbecause we fear that they won’t be happy and successful. Take a deep breath for moment and really think about this. Do you really want your children to “FIT IN”, to follow the crowd? Or, do you want them to be leaders? As parents we get sucked into the fitting-in trap and we may be setting-up our children to be future followers instead of future leaders.

Here are a few tips to help you raise children that are future leaders instead of followers.

Unplug the phone: Getting smart-phones for your children is the furthest thing from “smart.” You know how addictive these things are and how dangerous that world-wide-web is. So does it make sense to place these dangerous devices in your children’s hands? I understand that all of the other parents in the community are ok with it, but does that really make it ok? Wouldn’t you rather your child do things the safe way instead of societies way? If your children are among the few that don’t have smart phones then you’re already teaching them how to march to the beat of their own drum; to lead rather than follow. Their time to have a smart phone will come, there’s no need to rush it. And remember, this fear you have of your children being left behind is your fear, not theirs.

Limit the sports: Are your kid’s schedules jam-packed? Again, do you fear that they will fall behind and not be any good, and not have a social life? Again, these are fears, not facts. Here are the facts: If your child is on the football field practicing every night until 8:00, what he’s really missing out on is what he needs the most—time with you. You are your children’s teacher and mentor, and the only way you can teach them and guide them is if you are with them.

Rated M video games/Rated R Movies: Leaders play by the rules. Why? Because the rules are the rules. If you allow your children to play games and watch movies that aren’t age appropriate, what do you think that teaches them? It teaches them that it’s ok to break the rules, which is something leaders just don’t do. If you start playing by the rules your children will too.

In a nutshell, human beings tend do move with the crowd, to go with the flow. This is similar to the flock of birds in the sky or the school of fish in the sea. We unconsciously conform to the things that others around us are doing and we don’t even realize it. This is known as the collective consciousness or social conformity. Unless you start becoming more aware of this fact and pass it on to your children, your children will start to, well, follow the crowd. Here is a great clip from an old candid camera episode that will help you understand this more. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BgRoiTWkBHU

 

 

 

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Should you get your preschooler an ipad?

Every parent on this planet should go to www.commonsensemedia.com and sign up.  Common Sense Media helps families make smart media choices. They offer the largest, most trusted library of independent age-based and educational ratings and reviews for movies, games, apps, TV shows, websites, books, and music.  Their Parent Concerns and Parent Blog help families understand and navigate the problems and possibilities of raising children in the digital age.

I read a post earlier today from Common Sense Media regarding ipad’s or other tablets for kids – Click here to read.  The question in the article is whether or not you should get one of these devices for your child.  I didn’t have to think too long about this one.  My answer is a resounding NO…  The American Academy of Pediatrics agrees with me.  They recommend  ZERO hours per day of any screen time for kids ages 0-2 and ONE hour per day of screen time for kids ages 3-5.  And you want to decide whether or not to buy your toddler an ipad?

As many of you know, I lecture extensively on the topic of technology and its affects on kids emotional intelligence, coping skills, focus and attention; how it’s delaying development, creating an epidemic of obesity and leading to a substantial increase in mental health problems.  Oh, and I can’t forget the sleep deprivation part.   I think most parents are aware of this stuff but they kind of fluff it off as being benign.  In fact, at a recent lecture I presented I asked the audience of 200 fifth and sixth grade parents to raise their hands if they thought it was a good idea to allow their child to play the video game, Call of Duty.  Not a single parent raised their hand.  Then I asked them to raise their hand if their kid owned Call of Duty.  Again, not a single hand rose.  And here’s the kicker–roughly 70 percent of the parents in the audience have bought Call of Duty for their child and allow him/her to play it.  Am I missing something here?

The fact is, the majority of people in this world go with the tide, including parents.  They see what it is that everyone around them is doing and they make it ok in their mind.   Yet somewhere inside they know it is not ok.  It’s an adult peer pressure of sorts. This “going with the flow” mentality is known as the selective or social consciousness.  We simply make most of our decisions not from sound morals and values but from what we see others around us doing.  So in other words, the majority of parents out there are followers and guess what their children are becoming will be by the time they get to high school.  Guess what all followers have in common that leaders don’t? That’s right, they do what everyone else is doing. And that is just downright dangerous when you’re a teenager.

So no, your pre-school child should not have an ipad.  And no, none of your children, no matter what their age should ever be allowed to sit at a table in a restaurant and spend the entire time buried in a smartphone, ipad or similar device.  And no, your child should never have any type of screen in his/her bedroom and should never have one of these devices in his/her hand when sitting in the back seat of your car. I see this everywhere I go and it is driving me nuts.  Aside from the mental health issues and other issues I addressed earlier, all of this “virtual reality” is destroying “real world” families.  The question I have for you is this – WHAT ARE YOU GOING TO DO ABOUT IT?

Come to my next lecture in Hohokus, NJ on 2/5/15 to learn more or visit my website at http://tomkersting.com/speaking/.

 

 

 

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Can Dinner Save My Family

safe_imageHere is a quick promo for my new TV pilot that airs on The Food Network this Saturday at 3:00 and Sunday at 5:30.

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“Project X”

I just read an article on Good Morning America’s website about a teenager in Houston who was shot and killed at a party that was inspired by the movie, “Project X”.  I watched the trailer of the movie and did a little research on the plot.  The plot is pretty clear:  A teenage nerd throws a party that gets totally out of control.  There’s plenty of partying, smoking weed, drinking, and sex.

What many of you don’t know about me is that in addition to being a psychotherapist and expert on television, I’m also a school counselor.  I’ve been one for 17 years and I know every inside/out detail of teenagers today.  I’m right in the middle of it.

This movie, “Project X”, has inspired many similar parties across America and I am bothered by this.  Why?  Because today’s teenagers are completely out of control.  It’s nowhere near what it was like when I was a kid.  Here are the two major flaws that I see nowadays.

  1. Parents (not all of them, just more of them) have no idea what their kids are doing everyday. Do you know how many teenagers I’ve seen in my office who smoke weed every single day and their parents have “no idea”.  More parents have become clueless and desensitized to the realities and dangers of our world.  How else can you explain 500-1000 teenagers showing up to party, drinking, smoking and having sex?  It’s because their parents either don’t know or don’t care.  Not good!!!
  2. Teenagers are followers: Bottom line-kids do what other kids do.  Very few are leaders and carve their own path in the woods.  We can thank media for its glorification of weed, alcohol and sex among teens.  It makes it “ok” in their young, innocent minds.

So what can we do with this problem?

  1. Parents – start becoming part of you your teenager’s life.  He/she is not an adult no matter what television or other media tries to tell you.  Your kid needs you to be a parent.  Take control for crying out loud!!  And no, it’s not ok if your 17-year-old has a couple of beers as long as he’s not driving.  You shouldn’t permit him to drink, period.
  2. Teens – Ask yourself this question:  Do you want to be ordinary just like everyone else or do you want to be more than that? Then start making better decisions and stop listening to your friends all time.  They know nothing; a positive adult in your life does.

Just had to get this off my chest……..

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Raising Self-Sufficient Kids

I had a meeting yesterday with some colleagues about things we’re all involved in with television, media, books etc.  I got into a discussion with one of them, who is a pediatrician and is writing a book on parenting.  Both of us have children around the same age, we both work with families in our professions and we both agree on limiting the amount of technology our kids use.  We also agreed on teaching the importance of independence and self-sufficiency.  Our conversations led to a discussion about an incident I had with my almost nine-year-old son yesterday.

My son asked me to get him breakfast.  He has a bowl of Cherrios every morning with Silk Soy Milk.  I told him that he had to get his own breakfast.  He replied by telling me that he didn’t know how to make his own bowl of Cherrios, which is nonsense.  I would not give in to him, to which he became very upset.  After about 10 minutes of pouting he got up off the couch, got a bowl out, took out the Cheerios and Silk Soy Milk, and made his own breakfast.

This morning I was driving to work and got stuck behind a school bus in my town.  The bus stopped 3 different times and each time I watched high school kids get out of their parents car and onto the bus.  Each of these streets is a dead-end and no more that an eighth of a mile long and these kids were being driven to the bus stop.  It’s not like it was 20 degrees and snowing; it was a beautiful morning.  My mind flashed back to my high school days when I had to walk almost a mile to and from the bus stop every day, no matter what the weather was like.  Getting stuck behind that bus got me thinking even more on how important it is to raise motivated, self-sufficient kids and not get caught-up in doing everything for our kids.

If you are a parent and you want your child to grow to be a healthy, self-sufficient adult do the following:

1. Let your child walk to the bus stop.

2. Let you child make his own breakfast.

3. Let your child earn the things you buy him

4. Let your child fail

5. Give you child lots of hugs

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