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Thursday, July 29, 2010

It's All About You

Sometimes it’s about your work, your co-workers or your boss. Often it’s about your family, being a good parent, child or sibling. Other times, it’s about other obligations and relationships – friends, church, social activities. But to paraphrase an old Janet Jackson song, “What have you done for you lately?” If you can’t be good to yourself, it won’t be long before you won’t be good for anyone and anything else either.

Normally, when we talk about self care, the focus is on the physical: eating right, exercising, getting enough rest or it could be about pampering yourself with bubble baths or massages or manicure (all still very physical).

All of those things are important but self care is about so much more. It can be as easy as A-B-C!

Advocacy. You are your own best advocate. Only you know what you want, what you need and what truly matters to you, so speak up! State your needs. Do not assume that people know what you want.

Boundaries. Part of advocating yourself is setting clear boundaries. Most people don’t set boundaries because they are afraid of what others might say, think or do. Hurt feelings normally pass and you will be surprised how many people won’t be hurt by your decisions. If it’s just too hard to say no, counter with an offer that works best for you.

Connection. There are a number of ways to connect and you know kind of connection you need: spiritual, social, familial. Human beings are social beings. We need to connect to others and we need to connect to ourselves (spiritually and emotionally). Connections enrich our lives!

Monday, July 26, 2010

Throwing Back the Lifesaver

Last time, I wrote about asking for help and also being able and willing to help someone else in need. As I finished that post, another thought occurred to me and that thought is the focus of this post. It’s simple. You cannot help everyone.

There are people out there who don’t want help. There are people out there who don’t want YOUR help. There are people out there who don’t even think that they need help.

The people who don’t want help are often the bootstrappers. They are fiercely independent and they feel that asking for help is like admitting the ultimate failure. No matter how bad things get they can handle it. They can solve their own problems and are willing to lose their homes, jobs, friends and even lives to prove it.

The people who specifically don’t want your help are people that you might have wronged or offended. Again, it’s the pride that just won’t let them give you the satisfaction of helping them. These people might harbor secret resentment if they think you are doing ‘better’ than them. They might even ascribe motives to your altruism that never occurred to you. Regardless, of what you do, you and your help are of no use to them.

The last group is people who haven’t even realized they have a problem. Addicts in denial fall into this group but it’s made up of many more. These are the people who believe that their situations can turn around at any minute. “Things aren’t so bad,” they tell themselves. In many cases, they are simply unwilling to accept the reality of their situations and there really is nothing you can do about it.

You might see this person headed for a fall, not looking objectively at a situation or refusing to see the big picture. It doesn’t matter because the moral of the story is that you can't help someone who doesn't want help.

As painful as it might be, the best thing you can do is be there for them if they ever do decide that they need you.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Ask and You Shall Receive

Asking isn’t a problem for many, we can ask for what we want. We can ask for what we think we are entitled to. We can ask for a lot of things. One thing that is difficult to ask for however, is help.

Sometimes we all need a helping hand. Help might mean financial assistance but help comes in a myriad of other forms. We need help with the kids. We could use some help on a project. You might need some help to make it through an emotionally difficult time. No matter what your need at some point we all need some kind of help.

But, the same pride that comes before a fall, often gets in the way of a request for help. Think of all of the people who could have been spared the hurt or aggravation or embarrassment, if they had just reached out.

To be honest, there are some people who will look down on you for even admitting that you need help. They will pass judgment. They will condescend. They might even laugh. Yet, for every cruel and callous person standing at the ready to mock you, there are others willing to lend a helping hand and not offer a foot on your neck. Seek out those who can help you but also those who will uplift and encourage you through a difficult time.

When you ask for help, be open to suggestions and counteroffers. Maybe the person you’ve asked cannot give you the exact kind of help that you need, but maybe they can do something.

Yes, there will come a time when we all need help and there is also a time when people come to us for help. When that time comes, show the same generosity, kindness and support that you would want to receive.

Don’t be afraid to ask for help and don’t be afraid to offer to help someone else.

Monday, July 19, 2010

You Can't Take It Back

You can't put toothpaste back in the tube and you can't take back words said in anger. You can try but it just doesn't work.

An angry moment is a seductive moment. It feels good to let those hot words dancing on the tip of your tongue finally jump off. It's amazing when days, weeks, months or even years of pent-up frustration finally explodes. The dizzy, frantic and overwhelming feeling of anger is almost intoxicating.

But that intoxication comes at a price. The anger hangover can't be slept off. It lingers ... sometimes forever. Words said in anger don't go away. In fact, they create a deep and lasting impression and often, "I'm sorry," isn't enough to repair the damage.

There is a role for anger. It can be a very valid expression of emotion but like all emotions it has a time and a place. Anger can light a fire under you. It can motivate you to take action. Anger can ignite your primal response to fight and protect yourself or your family.

Yet too much anger is dangerous and damaging. Unfortunately, those closest to us are often the focus of our anger and it's with them that anger can leave the deepest scars.

The urge to lash out in anger is real and it's strong, but often it's also fleeting. Don't let a fleeting feeling cost you a marriage, a friendship or a career.

Keep the toothpaste in the tube.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Sorry But We Only Take Cash, Checks, Credit and Debit Cards

Jessica had recently lost her job. To say that she and her immediate supervisor didn’t get along would have been an understatement. In fact, on several occasions, Jessica went over her supervisor’s head and took her complaints directly to their manager. Finally, after months of conflict and tension, the two women had a confrontation and Jessica left stormed off the job, mid-shift, in a huff.

The manager called her at home and offered to mediate a meeting between Jessica and her supervisor. As Jessica recounted this story to me, she said proudly that she refused to attend the meeting. She couldn’t stand the supervisor and told her boss’s boss that she would not even sit in the same room as her supervisor much less talk to her.

So, Jessica lost her job.

Here we were, months later, Jessica was still out of work, and she told that story with pride. You can hear the “I showed them” intonation of her voice.

So, I asked her how she felt about what she had done. Of course, she was proud. In Jessica’s mind, it was a victory because she stood her ground. She didn’t let the supervisor or the manager get the best of her.

I followed up with another question. I smiled and asked her how many bills could she pay with that pride? Would they accept it as payment in the grocery store or at the gas station? She was speechless.

Jessica is still riding off the high of the emotional victory. Yet, the reality of her situation tells a different story. She might have ‘showed them’ but they still have jobs. They can still meet their financial obligations. They aren’t out there pounding the pavement in the worst job market that many of us have seen in our lifetimes.

Emotions are powerful and intense and necessary. A life without a mixture of happiness, sadness, passion, laughter and even a little anger or righteous indignation wouldn’t be much of a life. But, we have to learn how to effectively harness the power of our feelings. If we don’t, we can end up jobless and/or alone.

Taking back things said and done during moments of intense emotion is about as difficult as putting toothpaste back in the tube. It isn’t going to work.

Here are a few tips to help you keep your cool, when your emotions start to heat up:

Leave: When possible remove yourself from the situation. Even if you can just spend five minutes in the bathroom or in your car, step away.

Bite Your Tongue: Don’t respond with anger, sarcasm or condescension. The best thing to do is to not say anything until you calm down.
Vent to a Disinterested Party: Vent to someone who has absolutely nothing to do with the situation or the people involved. Venting to family and co-workers just puts the rumor mill into overdrive and increases the chances for hurt feelings, confusion and manipulation.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Memories Are Made of This

We live in a time where we, arguably, have more of just about everything. We have access to more information than any previous generation. We eat more. We work more. We travel more. We have more things: iPhones, Blackberrys, laptops, desktops, televisions, and Wiis. The average woman owns between 19-22 pairs of shoes (I guess the women I know are above average because they have a lot more than that!). On the street where I live, half of the homes have cars permanently parked in their driveways because their garages are overflowing with things, stuff and whatsamagigs. Yet, we seem to be more dissatisfied than ever before. And I believe there is a simple reason for that.

Things ≠ Happiness

If things made us happy, we would all be dancing giddily down the street, everyday. But, we aren’t. Relationships fail at an astounding rate. There seems to be more distance between parents and children than ever before. Job satisfaction is at an all-time low. Basically, too many people are walking around grouchy and disgruntled.

When I think about my fondest memories, none of them are ‘thing’ related. I remember my Dad teaching me how to hand-dance. I remember my mother making me laugh so hard that I cried and how embarrassing it was to watch her do her ‘car-dance’ while we were at a stop light. I remember doing karaoke with one of my closest friends. I remember walking on the beach, alongside the ocean during a warm summer rain.

If you don’t believe me, ask your children or your significant other about their fondest memories of you. I think you will be pleasantly surprised.

Don’t get me wrong. Things, in and of themselves, are not bad. It’s the relentless pursuit of things to the exclusion of all else that causes the problem. Life should be more than just getting more stuff. There are other things that matter.
  • How you treat people matters
  • What you do for yourself matters
  • Your values matter
  • How you feel about yourself matters
  • What you do for others matters
Dedicate a little time everyday to something that matters. Play with the kids. Talk to the spouse. Take a walk by yourself. Laugh with a friend. These are the things from which memories are made.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Reading is Fundamental

Here in Charlotte, they are rolling out a new recycling program. To the city’s credit, they have been very clear in their communication for the past two months we’ve received letters and postcards about our new garbage pickup day, when we’d receive the new bins and when we would start using them.

We got the green bins a few weeks ago along with a letter that was attached to the bin stated clearly not to start using the new bin until the week of July 5th. Yet that very next week, a number of my neighbors put those green bins out for pick-up. As I walked the dog, I noticed that many of them still had the letter attached, no one had read them.

On Monday I saw a neighbor placing his garbage and large rolls of old carpets out by the sidewalk. I was walking Marty as he finished. It was already hot and he was winded and sweaty. As we walked by him, I reminded my neighbor that this was the week garbage pick-up was moving to Thursday.

He looked stunned. He glanced up and down the street and only saw a few other garbage bins on the curb . He shrugged and said, “I didn’t have time to read all that recycling stuff.” With that, he began taking all that garbage back into the garage.

A full decade into the 21st century and the technological advances that were supposed to free us – cell phones, email, and laptops – keep us busier than ever. In fact, for many, it’s become a badge of honor to say that we are ‘too busy’.

We are too busy to be bothered with reading emails and mail. We use the circular file for most of our mail before reading important notices. We delete emails before we read them, or better yet, we 'skim' them so that we can say we read them when really we have no idea what the email really said.

We don't sweat the details and in turn, we end up, like my neighbor just sweating more. Little things become big things or at least larger inconveniences when we don’t handle them.

My neighbor, who didn’t have time to read, had time to take all that garbage out just so he could turn around and take it all back just so he could bring it back out today. How many meetings have been missed because someone didn’t have time to read the update? How much time have you had to spend getting someone up to speed on a project because they didn’t have time to read the emails and the memos?

The irony is that most of the email/mail that we don’t have time to read wouldn’t take that long in the first place.

Take the time to do it right so you don’t have to take the time to do it again.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Two Questions

1. What do you want?
Be specific. How much do you want to save? How much weight do you want to lose? Do you want to run a marathon? Maybe you’d like to go back to school. Okay, which school? What would you like to major in?

Be clear and be specific because you cannot get what you want until you know what you want. How will you know when you have reached your goal if you never clearly determine what that goal is? When you take a trip, you have to know your destination. Once you know it, you can look at the map and create a plan to get you there. If you jump in the car with no plan or no direction, you will have no idea where you will end up.
Again, find out exactly what it is that you want and then ask yourself the second question.

2. What are you willing to do to get what you want?
What are you willing to change, or stop doing or start doing to get what you want? Is it worth it to get up a little earlier or stay up a little later? Is it worth it to sacrifice several meals out each week so you can save a little more? Is it worth changing your schedule around so that you can make the time? Are you willing to make the financial investment?

To achieve a major goal, you have to be willing to make some changes (both major and minor). If you are not willing to change, don’t be surprised when things stay the same. The only sure way to ensure a different outcome is to take a different path. As you have heard before, insanity is doing the same things over and over and expecting a different result.

Before you take on any new endeavor ask yourself these two questions and don’t think about starting until you can answer both of them clearly and with a strong conviction.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

The Wall

Most athletes but especially long distance runners, bikers and swimmers can tell you about the wall. They get to a point in the race where they are exhausted and feel as if they can’t go on. They have hit the dreaded wall. These same athletes will tell you that if they can get past it, on the other side of the wall, is another burst of energy.

While you and I might never run a marathon or complete a triathlon, we hit walls of our own. In dieting, to use a more common analogy, it’s called a plateau. You get to a point where for a few weeks or so, in spite of your best efforts, you just don’t lose weight. With work or school, you get to a point where you might lose your drive or your focus. You might hit a roadblock in your plan to save money or pay off debt when everything had been flowing so smoothly before. Hitting the wall is natural in the progression of things. It’s what you do when you hit that wall that makes all of the difference.

A lot of people give up. They assume because they have hit the wall that it’s over. Remember, the wall is characterized by fatigue. So mentally, emotionally and maybe even physically, you feel too tired to go on and, you think, giving up would feel good. It would be nice to get some rest. Maybe you feel too hurt, frustrated or disappointed to go on and the temptation to just stop the madness and settle for what you’ve got is strong.

Yet, if you can muster up just a little more strength. If you can go just a bit further, you could break through that wall and get your second wind. When it comes to this point, it’s your supporting team and the reasons why you want what you want and even just seeing the progress you’ve made that will carry you through.

Just remember, hitting the wall is not a bad thing, it means you are making progress and you’re closer than you think to that second wind that will carry you across the finish line!