All posts by Brett McDonald

The biggest barrier to new understanding is old knowledge

Sifu Joseph and Brett McDonald training at The Dragonfly Retreat
           Sifu Joseph and Brett McDonald training at Wind and Rock

The biggest barrier to new understanding is old knowledge with repetitive and often terminal consequences. This nuance, I suspect, in variable degrees makes all the difference between success and failure, winning or losing, and may ultimately determine whether your business remains open or closes down.  According to, eight out of ten entrepreneurs who start businesses fail within the first eighteen months.  A whopping 80% crash and burn, which shows how rare the fluid use of new understanding coupled with creative new ideas really is. The need to adapt and embrace the creative approach to organizational leadership is pressing in the highly competitive, dynamic and multivaried field of dentistry, which is why dental leaders must constantly push themselves to subvert the comfort of routine mindsets.
To us, old knowledge is the antithesis of new understanding. In society we see this repeatedly–what we think we know about a group or an idea stops us from logically and clearly integrating more effective ways of thinking and reacting. In business, when we rely too much upon untested hypotheses and outdated approaches, we fail to meet incumbent data with lucid open-mindedness. If you hold knowledge with a closed fist, that just means you need to be right and you are unable to reach for new enlightenment. Sifu Joseph often says to his students, “ask me if I am right”, “are you right?” “I don’t know.” This demonstrates the pathway needed to prevent our “old knowledge” from precluding our grasp of more adaptable perspectives.
To pursue new understanding , challenge yourself to recognize your own most comfortable and steadfast mental paradigms. Consider how these worldviews influence your filtering and interaction with new information or new people. When you encounter a novel situation or an emergent problem, try considering things from the vantage of one who is naive. Spend more time on understanding, exploration, and curious discovery, even if you are tempted to jump in with what you believe to be the answer. Sifu Joseph constantly implores his students of all rank to “embrace the spirit of the white belt”. This means you must let go of your expertise for a moment and consider taking the stance of not knowing. High performance leaders do not follow trends, they set trends and this requires innovative processing.  Such leaders are role models for the progressive mentality, as they defy the odds and engage the sustained effort necessary to see new ideas to fruition.  They lead by example, starting early and staying late, and follow a path where even course corrections have a unique outcome.
To some of you, letting go of expertise may sound as easy as falling off a log–we assure you it is not. Several forces can chain us to our expertise, and in the blogs that follow, we will be outlining each and explaining ways you can break free from the bonds of old knowledge. We will also discuss the ways in which the spirit of the white belt can propel team communication, innovation and social cohesion, so stay tuned!


The Motion of the Mind

two energy

People are like rivers–we are defined by continuously flowing energy, never-ending movement. It is the nature and direction of this energy that determines our life path, our productivity and our happiness. Will we direct our momentum toward an intentionally-designed destination, pursuing a pathway of enlightened and deliberate course? Or will we engage our energy in reactivity and divert ourselves toward impulsive and painful unawareness? In truth, all of us have times where we do either one or the other, but we are each unique in the degree to which one direction is predominant.

Some people grasp a higher and deeper level of self-understanding and a more clear perspective of the world around. They are mindful and present, and carefully consider each moment through a genuine lens. This enables one to have sustained effort and a more planful course. The energy that is used more consistently goes toward the fulfillment of needs, resulting in what I call proactive energy use.

Others of us are frequently bogged down with lack of awareness, repressed self, distraction, impulsive and ruminative negative emotion, and an obfuscated lens that distorts reality. This leads to an inability to retain progress and ultimately culminates in a lot of unmet needs. These individuals are caught in reactive energy use.

In order to achieve proactive energy flow, one must have attunement to the needs of the self and the needs of others. This attunement is understanding of intent, as well as grasping the the means by which one can realize these deeper intentions. However, when a person is not present and is unable to understand the needs of self and others, they are thwarted in their efforts to meet those needs. Unmet needs lead to pain, emotional negativity and the energy then flows toward reacting to the dysfunction. The more energy is sucked in by the reactive state, the less one is able to gain attunement and fulfill needs to realize a proactive course, and the cycle continues.

In order to move your life’s energy toward the proactive state, you must constantly ask yourself this question: “Is where I am giving my energy actually meeting one of my needs, or is it being drained out to pain?” The realization of a meaningful and happy life lies in the distribution of energy and the deliberate partitioning of effort toward needs. Many people believe that happiness is gained by positive things happening in life. In reality, life requires us to take much more accountability for the creation of results and this creation all lies in how energy is used. Challenge yourself to avoid taking the “victim stance”, stop reacting to pain and instead see pain as an indication of an unmet need that must be addressed. Use strong emotions (both positive and negative) as valuable indicators of where your needs lie, don’t allow them to build up into pain that is then reacted to. Above all, remember that fulfillment and meaning in life are not the outcomes of good fortune, but the residue of careful energy design.

Mental Poison in the Modern Age

citizen sane photo

In days past, we would spend our waking hours alongside close others–either in work or in leisure. Today, most of us work with acquaintances and strangers, interacting in “professional” (e.g. impersonal) ways. Historically, our evenings were spent gathered together with friends and family, sharing stories, dancing, singing and talking. Now, evenings are spent either busy until late hours, or if down time happens, it most often is passed while gathered around the TV or computer screen. In the lifestyle of yesterday, when we wanted to contact someone, we had to go find them and speak face to face. Now we send one another texts, emails or snapchats, and verbal communication is more or less obsolete. Married couples used to spend considerable time face to face, now we have cluttered that space with screened diversions that prevent meaningful connection. We used to keep up with one another and sustain our friendships by having conversations and setting aside time to be with one another. That need is outdated now, as we socialize via Facebook, Twitter and other social media. In times past, when we “hung out” with our friends, we played games, joked around or had conversations. Now, much of our group “socializing” actually involves a great deal of time on iphones, videogames and computers–the direct engagement is diverted or moderated through the ubiquitous and omnipresent screen. In the past, we would have to deal with our emotional and interpersonal stressors directly through interpersonal support. Now we escape and repress our pain and instead turn to addictions, drugs, alcohol and other numbing activities.

                Historically, we were more interdependent, sharing resources like food, childcare, transportation, tools, housing, entertainment, etc. Now we live in “Single-Serving America” where pretty much every family is a self-contained unit, and sharing has become unfashionable in the consumer-driven world. Entertainment too has been outsourced–no longer do we rely upon one another to prevent boredom and hold our interests, because we have movies, TV, YouTube, video games, pornography, etc. to fill that need. The human friendship is becoming unnecessary, and technology has taken over. Our highly-prized independence means we are no longer compelled to have contact with one another. We have little need to know our neighbors or rely upon friends and family in on a regular basis. We used to work when we were at work and be off when we are home. Increasingly the lines between work and home life are being blurred, and people are finding themselves always on the clock even during time that is spent with family and friends.

                As we undergo these changes, we are also seeing an increase in mental illness in our country. Although correlation does not prove causation, there is certainly cause for deep concern that the human mind is suffering as a result of our engineered mental landscape. If we consider that the mind is a system of energy that depends upon social interdependence, mutual nurturing, reciprocal understanding, internal reflection and presence of focus, we can see that our new world is causing severe and insurmountable disruptions. What is more alarming is that no one has drawn a clear connection between the dramatic and forceful remodeling of the human mental world and our worsening psychological and social wellbeing.

The omnipresent screen may be crippling our natural psychological and social process, and we are seeing a corresponding decline in our mental, social and emotional health. Yet this correlation between screen use and mental health has not been examined thoroughly, as most of us don’t realize the connection between non-human exchanges and our psychological health. Unless we are proactive in understanding this process, we can expect to see a worsening of behavioral and psychological health, in an already impaired society. Yet, if screens are really the issue, then the complicated and expensive question of what to do to become more psychologically and socially healthy may literally be staring us in the face.

The Weakness of Dominance


ant earth isolated“I can’t seem to ever be comfortable with confrontation, no matter how hard I try, no matter how much I know that I need to, I am just not a dominant person. I wish I were stronger,” says Denise.
“What makes you think dominance is the same as strength? How many people do you know who are dominant, pushy, confrontational, who pride themselves on being the loudest person in the room? So many are closed-minded and only make space for their own perspective and viewpoint. They seem to need to shove out anyone else’s opinion or perspective. I know a lot of people who have no problem being aggressive and pushy. However, when you describe strength, to me you are describing power. Power is the ability to move energy toward a desired goal. People who are dominant are not necessarily powerful. Dominance is not synonymous with intelligence, emotional agility, open-mindedness or an ability to relate to others. Without these qualities the dominance becomes a liability and impediment to power,” I retort.
Denise looks at me with a mix of wonder, gratitude and relief. “My whole life I have beaten myself up for not being stronger because I can’t be dominant, I can’t be confrontational. Now you are saying this doesn’t make me weak at all?” she asks.
“Look, you’re not comfortable with confrontation. It’s your personality and it probably will always be that way. I spend a lot of my session time working on assertiveness but hardly ever do I ask people to be outright confrontational if that is their style. The trick is to protect your energy and your viewpoint and don’t get pulled into draining yourself out to someone. It takes a concerted effort to not disappear in the face of people who want to erase you. Don’t give your power away. All these things can be accomplished without loud or overt conflict. The thing to remember is, you are strong in your own unique way. You are careful in how you interact with people, you are conscientious, thoughtful, intelligent, graceful and you have integrity. That is strength. You’ll have more success manifesting your strength in a way that is natural than trying to be something you are not,” I say.
“Wow. I feel stronger already. I don’t feel like I am going to be overpowered anymore by loud and dominating people. I can just sit back and with the knowledge that I am strong in ways they could never be,” she says.
“Sometimes that is the best form of strength, the one that is quietly watching and processing, maneuvering through the moving parts of a situation. Stay focused on that and believe me, you won’t be dominated for long,” I respond.

Thermodynamics of the Mind

Nuclear power plant on the coast. Ecology disaster concept.

The law of conservation of energy states that energy can neither be created nor destroyed, it can only change forms. This tenet is as valuable in the metaphysical realm as it is in the physical realm. In my view, the psychological and social constructs we encounter may follow these tangible rules more than we realize. If we can harness a perspective that works in physics and apply it toward improving how we manage and heal the mind, we might all realize a more simplified, streamlined and easily-implemented path toward social and psychological wellbeing.
Relational Distribution Theory is founded upon the tried and true laws of thermodynamics. If the mind is an energy system functioning to meet the psychological and physical needs of the organism, then that energy system should, ideally, operate in a fashion similar to any other energy system (nuclear reactor, solar cell, wind turbine, etc.). Let’s assume, a priori, that there is a limited amount of energy available to the mind, that this energy must be partitioned, and it is the quality and habit of this partitioning that determines the outcomes we garner. Take the example of a space heater: the goal is to have radiant heat in the room, however there is some heat that is “lost” or not used as efficiently as possible, so the total amount of energy coming into that space heater does not translate directly into ambient heat released in the room. This brings to light another important rule of thermodynamics: no system is without some kind of entropy–that is true of a wind turbine, a nuclear reactor, and ultimately it is true of your mind and social system as well.
How does your mind create entropy? We partition our focus, behavioral effort and time toward various endeavors during the course of a day. If that “energy” is used toward things that are not need-fulfilling, the result is entropy, or wasted energy. Wasted energy ultimately leads to unmet needs, and unmet needs are the cause of all psychological and social dysfunction. If we accept entropy as unavoidable, the best we can do is be intentional and conscientious to minimize that entropy in whatever ways we can. In other words, take careful stock of the types of needs you have, how those needs can be met using the energy available, and how you utilize your focus and effort toward those endeavors. Do they match up? You might discover that a significant chunk of your time is spent on things that don’t actually meet your needs and if this is the case, you must redistribute your energy toward that which does fulfill your needs.
We employ engineers to constantly work on reducing wasted energy in any thermodynamic system. Imagine yourself having one of those engineers in your mind as well, constantly looking for ways to maximize efficiency and ensure that energy flows where it is used best. I appreciate this approach because it takes the mystery out of the mind and enables a much more scientific and logical perspective to psychological navigation. After all, excessive complexity is ultimately its own form of entropy.

Relationships are sometimes like dirty hot dogs

One of the ways that I gauge a really good therapy session is when I laugh really hard with my clients. Of course laughter in itself is not necessarily remedial, but healing is ultimately a joyful process and that is evidenced in the ability to experience hilarity. Often, the most gut-wrenchingly funny metaphors are that way precisely because they are so poignantly true. I recently experienced this when a metaphor for relationships occurred to me while working with a young fella who was having problems with his girlfriend. He was describing this deep sense of ambivalence about the relationship, exhausted by the ongoing search for resolution. Although “Jeremy” was repelled by his girlfriend’s rigid approach to the world, her tendency to lack understanding in pursuit of being “right” and, what can only be described as a rather immature approach to conflict, he nevertheless desperately longed for connection with her. This is a situation that characterizes many of life’s relationships–we want the other person to change certain negative characteristics, they seem unwilling and unable to adjust, but we can’t very well throw the baby out with the bath water and give up on the other person completely. If we did that we would soon find ourselves alone and without any source of nurturing or support whatsoever. A big part of our ability to bond interpersonally has less to do with the good fortune of finding perfect people to hang out with, and more to do with developing a strong “emotional immune system”, a term that describes a person’s ability to remain engaged with others but be minimally harmed by the flaws, mistakes, inconsideration and interfaces that happen within that dyad. Just like your body has a means of protecting itself from an imperfect environment (we fight off germs and heal when injured) so your mind and social interactions must also possess certain immunities, insulations and self-healing abilities. Without this, we would either need to be completely isolated, like the boy in the bubble, or we would be consumed by illness and pathology, like someone afflicted with AIDS. The emotional immune system is the set of skills I teach my clients so they can achieve the healthy middle ground of “connected but protected.”

I used a novel metaphor to help him take a different orientation toward his plight. I find the most useful lenses are also those that bring a lightening and comical spin to the dire problem:

“Say you are really hungry and there is no other food in the house but a hot dog. You heat it up in the microwave, put ketchup on it and just as you are about to take a bite, it falls off the plate and rolls onto the floor. It comes to rest in the corner of the kitchen where all the cat hair, crumbs and dirt accumulate. Even though you would like to get another one, that lone hot dog is all you have to eat. So, you have a choice: you can throw it away and go hungry, or you can brush it off the best you can and eat it anyway, trusting your body to fight off whatever germs may cause infection. What do you do?” I ask.

“Uuuhhh…I guess I would eat it if I were really hungry, but I wouldn’t like it too much,” he replies.

“Yeah, OK you would eat it, because you recognize that you have an immune system that was built for just this kind of thing, and your body will keep you safe, but if you don’t eat the hot dog you certainly will starve. Well, your girlfriend is kind of like the dirty hot dog.”

He looks at me like I’m out of my mind and we both burst out laughing.

“Go with me on this!” I say. “You need your her to nurture your needs. You don’t have any other girlfriends hanging around, at least ones that you have a good connection and history with. Yeah she has some character defects, she has some flaws, she’s kind of a stinker sometimes, but she’s your girlfriend and if you go without her in your life, as much as you hate to admit it, a lot of your emotional needs will go unmet and we all know depression is caused by unmet needs. So maybe you take a risk. We’ve been working in therapy for the past how many sessions building up your emotional immune system. You know how to have internal boundaries, how to give less energy to the strain between you guys and assertively ask for what you want in that relationship. You have to start trusting your emotional immune system and be proactive in making use of it, because she (and probably most other people in your life) are like dirty hot dogs. They nurture you but they also have “germs”, (personality flaws and bad habits) that can hurt you. Only you can make the choice whether to eat the hot dog or not, but my opinion is it exactly is our capacity to eat dirty hot dogs that determines whether we will (emotionally) “starve” or not. Pat Benetar said it best, “love is a battlefield” because people are imperfect and expecting that you will never have to protect yourself from someone’s crappy behavior is kind of like expecting that all the food you eat will be completely sterile and you will never have to use your immune system. It is our capacity to embrace reality and use our skills to protect ourselves while connecting with those who meet our needs that in a big way separates the psychologically well from the ill.”

“Who is Pat Benetar?” he asks.

Once again we erupt in laughter, and I tactfully reply, “you suck.”

Hide and seek therapy

woman with bag on her head

           In today’s society, we have learned to not inconvenience others with our emotional or experiential needs, and this may be creating unforeseen consequences for our emotional and social health. In public, we keep to ourselves, we avoid eye contact, we all dread sitting next to that chatty person the plane and find it presumptuous to annoy a stranger with conversation. We haven’t done away with the practice of asking “How are you?”, but we have adopted the unwritten policy of almost never answering this question honestly. Almost invariably the answer is “fine” or “good” but in reality (I hope) most of us experience a variety of feeling states both good and bad throughout the day. We’ve started considering it an imposition to inform strangers, or even loved ones, about our real experiences or wants, choosing convenience over connection. Although these practices seem benign, in the long run they can build into substantial disruptions in a psychological system that relies upon interdependence. Then we wonder why many of us have a behavioral or emotional or relational disturbance of some kind. It is more natural to hide from one another than it is to connect with strangers. To see amusing evidence of this, the next time you ride in an elevator, try turning around to face the riders behind you. How awkward is this? The very fact that we avoid eye contact and “unnecessary” conversation with each other (and most polite conversation can hardly be distinguished as personal) demonstrates the discomfort of connection. Mostly we don’t dare to show genuine feelings, and just in case we continuously block access to our own minds with all the devices of divergence (technology, drugs, alcohol, TV, endless tasking).

            I so often, in therapy, hear my clients tell me they are fearful of what will be revealed in the analytical process. They delay making an appointment, put it off until the problem becomes intolerable, cancel the intake and reschedule, finally land on the couch ready to crawl out of their skin with anxiety. I’ve learned not to take this personally, because I know I am about as intimidating and frightening as a Care Bear with a clip board. I am, nonetheless, intrigued by the extent to which many of us prefer to avoid self-examination and hide ourselves from discovery, both from without and from within. We occupy, distract, divert and repress the content of the psyche, keeping it concealed not only from others but also from ourselves. We invent new ways to achieve this obfuscation, and are now to the point that we almost consider it rude to divulge too much or solicit divulgences of self from one another. What is it about the company and content of our own minds that we find so aversive, so embarrassing, so noxious to drive us away from ourselves and each other so completely? And yet, as we avoid self-understanding and being understood by others, we are interrupting the natural process of mind and thereby weakening its very constitution. The more it is weakened, and darker it becomes, the more we fear it, avoid it and obscure it, leading us to trust others less with our pain, which inspires us to further avoid self-disclosure. When we consider the positive feedback loops, just how many of them are there?

The power of gratitude

Beautiful cave in Bulgaria

We continuously take stock of our lives, our situations and our interactions, engaged in an ongoing process of comparing what we have with what we want. There are two main “zones” that this perceptive process falls into: the zone of gratitude and the zone of aspiration. With gratitude, we see either things we have that we want, “Hey I really love this new dishwasher I just bought” or things we don’t have that we don’t want, “I am so relieved I don’t have a huge zit tonight because I am going to the Prom”. Then we have the aspiration zone, which is populated by things we don’t have that we do want, “I wish I had a Maserati” or things we do have that we don’t want, “I gained 7lb over the holiday!”

I think we don’t spend enough time in the zone of gratitude, but there are reasons for this. Usually the mind looks for things that it wants to change, and if everything is as it should be, we move on to looking toward things that could improve our situation. When you think about it, if we always lingered in the zone of gratitude, our species would still be living in caves, huddled around a fire, wearing the latest in hyena pelt fashion. We’re not built like that–humans have a very unique approach to existence in that we always strive to make things better. This involves spending comparatively less time being grateful and more time being dissatisfied. Dissatisfaction is an impetus for growth, so don’t beat yourself up too much for being unhappy with what you’ve got. It’s in our biology to be that way and it’s one of the reasons why we aren’t all still using rotary phones and sending hand-written letters as our primary mode of communication.

I do, however, believe there is a difference between aspiration and negativity, and this is where I would like to challenge you. When you find yourself thinking about what you don’t have that you do want and what you do have that you don’t want, try to take an agentic orientation. Don’t dwell on things you want others to change, resentments, the past, or blindly longing for betterment. Take an accounting of what you can do to realize the improvement. Make a plan, don’t waste energy on anger and self-pity, turn that energy into a proactive innovation and action. For instance, if you don’t like the way your girlfriend ignores you when you talk, try thinking of two things you can do to help her improve her ability to listen. Ask her when the best time to talk to her would be, make sure there are minimal distractions, emphasize to her how important her listening to you is, and try to make what you talk about more interesting to her. Solicit feedback on what would make it easier for her to hear you out. “Well you always talk to me when I am doing dishes or cleaning and I have kind of a one track mind, so wait until I am finished with everything” or “It would help me if you included me in the dialogue rather than giving me a one-sided speech about your day”.

Despite the fact that we naturally are deficiency-attentive, embracing a grateful perspective is really important too. Gratitude gives us a foundation of positive security upon which we can build our motivation and positive energy, thereby actualizing our aspirations. The trick is to make a concerted effort to first list the most important things you are grateful for, then move on to making plans that are reachable, specific to you, controllable. The worst thing to do is waste energy and attention wallowing in unhappiness, so be sure to redirect yourself when that pathway is activated. Being gratefully aspirational will ultimately lead to the realization of positive change.

The climate and weather of your mind


Sunset Tornado

I was watching “Cosmos” the other day, and Neil deGrasse Tyson was describing the difference between climate and weather. He was walking along the beach with a dog on a leash. The dog was unruly and curious, running off this way and that to sniff a patch of ground or chase after some new movement, while the man was walking in a relatively straight path along the shore line. Neil deGrasse Tyson (love that guy!) was using this demonstration to show that climate is the steady, average course that the man walks along, and weather is the up and down path of the dog. In other words, just because weather fluctuates, climate is really the overall trend that belies a more steadfast and useful truth.

I see that our moods are similar to weather and our minds are similar to climate. Mood goes up and down depending on circumstance, whether you have slept well, eaten well, are experiencing hormonal changes or other medical happenings. One’s mind belies the deeper, more enduring realities such as who we love, who nurtures us, what our personalities are, what our ambitious proclivities, skills and predispositions are, and many other types of longstanding personal/life traits. Being able to distinguish between a mood and the climate of your life is essential to cultivating goals and strong relationships. Mood tells us what “feels true”, just like weather tells us what it feels like outside. Ever heard of someone denying global warming because “It’s cold and snowy where I am right now”? Sometimes mood can be that way too–it makes us overlook or deny reality, reject fact and doubt truth because the climate of our moment dictates otherwise.

Don’t be fooled by the transient weather of your mood though, because inevitabley the climate of your life will override any fickle variation. One day you may feel like the most capable, loved, attractive and lucky fella you know, and then the next day you feel depleted, overburdened, self-pitying rejection. In one moment, the person you love is the biggest jerk and you can’t wait to get divorced, and the next you wonder how you ever lived without him. Our ups and downs are the manifestation of a feeling and engaged mind. Taking these divergences toward the polarities of reality are part of living, part of being in the moment. Don’t curse or judge yourself negatively for feelings, but do remember to keep the more entrenched and sustainable perspectives in mind, as they anchor you to the real value of your enduring existence.

Guilty appreciation


Happy man celebrating a success or solution

“I have finally decided I am ready to leave my job. It has been a long time coming–several years in fact. The only problem is, I feel really bad for deciding to change, like I am letting my coworkers and clientele down. The other day, I had a meeting with my boss, and even though he doesn’t know I am going to change, I left feeling really bad because he’s done so much for me,” says Cindy.

“I think it’s great that you can acknowledge how much he has contributed to your life, and you should certainly tell him so before you leave. However, it seems like your gratitude is turning into guilt,” I respond.

“Right? Like the more thankful I am to people, the worse I feel if I have to let them down in some way,” Cindy comments.

Cindy, like many of us, is caught in the guilt trap. She feels bad for making a change that is in her best interest, and this is part of her alignment of usually thinking about the expectations and needs of those around her a lot more heavily than she thinks of her own needs. I caution her, and you, to be aware that this course of self-neglect often leads to job burnout, resentment and other negative social and psychological sequelae. In this session, it occurred to me that gratitude often worsens guilt, and that people who are preoccupied with the perceived well-being of others will let gratitude prevent them from acting on the behalf of the self. There have also been “unexpected” findings that people with eating disorders rate higher in overall sense of gratitude to those they love. For me, eating disorders are almost always associated with a lot of inappropriate guilt, so it doesn’t surprise me that guilt and gratitude are linked.

Gratitude can transform into a sense of duty to another, a sense that you owe them. In this position, you are a lot more likely to be negligent or dismissive of your own priorities and wants so you can continue to fulfill the role that the other person wants you to play. Ultimately, feeling like you owe people can poison a relationship in both directions, leading to power differentials and imbalanced exchanges.

Thanksgiving inspires us to reflect on what we are grateful for. I hope I’m not ruining that for you by saying that gratitude can have a downside if you are already off-balance. If you are prone to putting yourself as a seventh priority behind everyone else, you may need to look at the degree to which gratitude might be eroding your ability to act on your own behalf.