30 October, 2009

Finding Yourself - Part II

I am very happy to announce today that I am now incorporated in the State of California to do business as Strategies for Today, LLC. My website for my coaching business is also available as of today and may be found at www.strategiesfortoday.com. Even if you’re not interested in having a Life Coach, you may be interested in some of the information on my website – especially the entire “Philosophy” section. Please check it out and let me know what you think.

This morning as I was watching the Today Show, the interview of Katie Callaway Hall, who was interviewed by Meredith Vieira, caught my attention.  In 1977, Hall was attacked and raped by Phillip Garrido, the same man accused of kidnapping Jaycee Dugard at age 11 in front of her South Lake Tahoe home and holding and raping Dugard for 18 years.

Hall, and her husband, Jim, had made the long drive from Las Vegas, NV to Placerville, CA to attended Garrido’s first court hearing on the Dugard charges.  Garrido had been paroled from his 50-year sentence for his rape conviction of Hall after serving only eleven years.  He is now accused of abducting Dugard just three years after his release from prison for the Hall rape conviction.

During the Hall trial, Katie Callaway Hall said that she was unable to look Garrido in the eyes.  She had made the drive to face her attacker in an effort to find closure (my words).  The thing that caught my attention was that Hall said (in speaking of looking Garrido in the face), “It took me by total surprise, my reaction, and I can’t even explain why — except to tell you on some deep, subconscious level, I reacted to this man in a way I didn’t expect to.” [italics mine]

She went on to say, “I thought this chapter was closed.  I pretty much closed it and got on with my life.  It’s always been just under the surface of my life, and I thought this was in its box and put away.  But this Pandora’s box is open for me, and now I’m dealing with it again on a different level, like I’ve been victimized myself.” [italics mine]

Hall was surprised by her reaction.  She said, “I just thought I’d look at him in victory: ‘You jerk.  I survived.  You’re going down.’  But it hit me completely different,” she said. “I almost broke down.  I started tearing up.  I couldn’t understand why.  I couldn’t control it.  I hope that that’s not going to happen next time.  I hope I got that initial meeting out of the way and now I know what to expect.” [italics mine]

It’s a common saying for us that “time heals all wounds.”  But that’s just a fallacy.  With time, we learn to bury our hurts and our emotions.   We stuff them down and pretend that they’re not there.  Most of us don’t know what to do with them.   And then when they come to the surface, just as Katie Callaway Hall said in her interview, we’re taken by surprise.

Just because we don’t think about our hurts or our emotional scars on a daily basis doesn’t mean that they’ve been healed!  If we haven’t done the work to replace those hurts, they simply simmer below the surface, just waiting for a similar situation, a look, a certain word or tone of voice to present itself before they explode to the surface, surprising even us.  In these times, our subconscious minds are simply reacting to the stimuli that remind us of the past hurt. We are not responding to the current situation.  If we were, we’d find that we were over-reacting to it.  Over-reaction is a big clue that tells us when we’re reacting to something other than the situation at hand.

Another point of interest is that Hall said that she felt like she’d been victimized herself when facing Garrido.  Our subconscious minds hold the memories of every single moment in our lives in storage for us.  They hold every event, everything said, every smell, every color, every word spoken, and every thought related to each event.  And, the subconscious mind can’t tell the difference between real life and a memory.  So, when the memory and the emotions of an event are triggered, the subconscious mind brings that memory to the forefront of our minds and it really is like we’re in that event again.

These events do become a part of who we truly are.  The Bible reads, that “…out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.” (Luke 6:45, NKJV)  When we realize we are not responding to what is before us, but we are reacting to something from our past, that’s a sign that there is something we’ve buried that needs to be healed.  Unless we work to heal those wounds from the past, we will never be free of the emotional hurt that we suffered in relation to those wounds.

Copyright ©2009.  All rights reserved.

21 October, 2009

Finding Yourself – Part I

While sitting in a seminar some years ago, I heard the lecturer make a statement that at the time I didn’t agree with.  He said [paraphrased]:
You think that you need to be separate from others in order to find yourselves.  You believe that your identity can only come to the surface if you are not surrounded by others, working in teams or in groups.  You believe that you need to be separate in order to be noticed or to really find out who you are.  But none of that’s true.  You only find yourselves in teams.  You only find yourselves when you are working with others.
As I said, I was in complete disagreement with this statement.  Yet, as you can see, the thought continued to stay in my mind, every so often, coming to the surface as if to say, “I’m still here, take a look at me again.”  I would look at that thought, measure it to what I had experienced in life, and continuing to disagree with it, I would push it to the back of my mind.

It wasn’t until a couple of years ago that I actually began to understand what the lecturer was saying all those years ago.  And, little by little, I began to believe that what he said is true to life.  (Isn’t it amazing what just a few years of living will do to increase our understanding and wisdom?)

I found, from my own experience, that working with others always brought out things in me that I didn’t know where there – both things that I liked and things that I didn’t like.  Working alone I wasn’t challenged to get along with others, I wasn’t challenged to be understanding of others, and I certainly wasn’t challenged to try and understand another’s views.  Working alone, I only had to deal with me and I got along pretty good with myself!  Working alone, I wasn’t stretched to accept any other views other than my own.  Working alone doesn’t cause one to grow like he would when working with others.

I finally understood what the lecturer had said.  When you give yourself to others, you don’t lose yourself – you actually find yourself!  Working in teams shows you what’s inside.  It makes you aware of the things that you like about yourself and exposes those things that you don’t like and that you wish to change.  Working with others causes you to re-examine what you believe.  It challenges your beliefs and gives you insight into others beliefs so that you may choose differently than what you had believed before.  Or, it helps you grow stronger in what you already believed.

Working with others moves us much more quickly through the lessons of life that we all have to learn.  Just like rushing water helps determine what a rock is made of and polishes it over time, we need the friction provided by others to help us see what we’re each made of and to polish and mold us into what we are supposed to become.  Without the catalyst that others are for us, it can take us years longer to learn our life-lessons, which amounts to years of suffering that could be avoided.

If you are working with someone that is a challenge for you to work with, say a simple prayer asking that you be shown what it is that you are to learn from this person or from working with this person.

Copyright ©2009.  All rights reserved.

09 October, 2009

What Everyone Resists

Have you ever considered that we are all resistors (of others) in one way or another?  Some people resist any guidance from others or they resist taking any advice from another in a somewhat passive-aggressive manner.  Others resist being told what to do no matter who they are with.  While yet others resist even the directions they are given by those in authority over them at work!

What is it about being given direction that so threatens us that we seem to run from it?  I’d like for you to consider that there is a set of behaviors that we have in common with everyone in the human race.  And then also consider that one of those behaviors that we all share is that we all resist being controlled.

Our Resistance to Being Controlled.

Consider that one of the fundamental driving forces we all share is a resistance to being controlled by others.  Simply put, we resist being told what to do.  When we are working in teams at our places of employment, we resist allowing the outcomes of our circumstances (our fates) to reside in the hands of another (the team leader).  If we disagree with the direction that the team leader is taking the team, we fight against that direction in one of many ways: we become directly confrontational with the team leader, or we talk to others on the team to try and sway them to our way of thinking so that we can form a coup to show a majority stance against the leader, or we go over the leader’s head to someone higher-ranking in the company in order to try and convince that person of our way.

In my own life, one place where I’ve resisted another is in allowing my partner to navigate our way anywhere when he was driving us in the car.  In order to fully understand where I was coming from, you must first know that my story about my partner was that he had zero-sense of direction.  I tell you this not because it’s true about him, but because that’s the way that I viewed him for quite sometime.

If we were going somewhere in the car, I really held him accountable if he got us lost, or made us late in getting somewhere, especially if I had told him to take a different route or turn.  I would sit in the passenger seat and get really quiet.  I just wouldn’t talk to him (because that’s the adult way of handling disagreements – right?)!  I know that none of you have ever done this, but I’m sure you can imagine how well that strategy worked out for me/us!

Once I realized that I was being controlling every time we got into the car, and once I realized that I wasn’t allowing him to be responsible for getting us to where we were going, I decided to run a silent experiment.  I decided that I was going to allow him to be fully responsible for getting us to our destinations and I wasn’t going to be upset about him taking wrong turns, taking a route that I wouldn’t, or even getting us to our destination late.  I just was going to be in the car and not get upset!

Now there’s a big difference in the way that I prepare for going somewhere and the way my partner prepares.  I’m driven to not only know the address of where we’re going but I also have to know the phone number in case we need to call ahead and let someone know we’re going to be late due to traffic.  I will also typically have directions with me or I will have looked at a map enough to have a general sense of what roads would best get us to our destination.  My partner? – his preparation usually involved getting in the car, sometimes having the destination address, and using his trusty GPS.

At the beginning of the experiment, we would get in the car and my partner would just start driving!  I would ask, do you know where you’re going?  And he would say, “no, I thought you did.”  If I had the address, I would tell him so.  Then he would ask me to get his navigation system out of his glovebox and enter in the destination address for him.  Oohhh, how frustrating!  He was depending on me but only under his conditions and he still wasn’t conceding control to me!  Everything else, for me, was a lesson in taking control of myself by letting go of my attachments to “being right”, having things my way, having to be places early by a particular amount of time, or taking the route that I would take.

The part of my experiment that involved me not dominating and not getting upset turned into a lesson of accepting that which is rather than fighting against not getting upset (which as you know is a losing battle).

Ultimately, I ended up learning that my silent experiment was as much about me as it was about him!  I didn’t realize what I was doing at the time I was doing it, but more than allowing him to just be responsible, I was hoping that he would come to his senses and realize that my point-of-view (that he had no sense of direction and needed my guidance) was right and then he would ask for my help (knowing that it always works out better when someone asks for direction rather than receiving unsolicited advice).  So as you can see, my experiment was really just another strategy for me to try to get my way and get him to relinquish control of getting us to our destination!  (One might even say that I was being passive-aggressive.)

Take a look at your life now.  Where can you see that you’re being controlling and uncompromising about how things have to be?  Can you give up having to control those situations?  Will you give up trying to control those situations?  Can you accept that another’s way of doing something is just as valid as your way?  It may be that you have great ideas for cutting corners or improving a process.  However, if your ideas aren’t welcome or solicited, they’ll simply be ignored and that may leave you feeling unimportant, unwelcomed, or diminished.

Our position is that everyone has a place at the table.  That includes us.  So if you are feeling that you don’t have a welcomed place from which to share your ideas or opinions, look at where it is that you are trying to control the situation and ask yourself if you can give up that control and simply accept what is.  I think you’ll find that acceptance may ultimately not just give you a place to sit, but a place from which you are asked to speak, and possibly a place where your words are given great weight.

Copyright ©2009.  All rights reserved.

07 October, 2009

Incomplete Communications

Several years back, my partner and I took a vacation with another couple who were good friends of ours.  However, this wasn’t the normal vacation we like to take (snorkeling at some pristine beach in the Caribbean), but it instead involved a lot of time together in the car as we toured the Northwestern parts of Nevada and California.  As we planned our trip and determined the places where we wanted to go, I could hear the voice of my mother in my head saying, “When you believe that you want to marry someone, take a long trip in the car together. That will test your compatibility.”

Before I tell you the rest of the story, let me ask you, “Have you ever had an incomplete communication with someone?”  What I mean by incomplete communication is:
a) the other person didn’t understand what you said
b) the other person didn’t receive your communication
c) you didn’t understand what was being said to you
d) you didn’t receive the other person’s communication    or
e) there was something that should have been said but never was.

These are all examples of communication that was left incomplete.

When an incomplete communication is in your space, it will come up for you every time you are around that other person.  It seems like it becomes a plaque of sorts because it doesn’t appear to diminish with the passing of time.  Instead, it just seems to drive a divide between you and the other person – a divide that after enough time has passed will seem insurmountable.  In fact, if enough time has passed, you’ll find yourself getting really reasonable about not completing an incomplete communication with justifications like, “I don’t need to bring up that old thing.  That happened a long time ago.” or “That’s water under the bridge.”

Unfortunately, incomplete communications of any kind will serve only to diminish the affinity that you can have for another or the affinity that he could have for you.  And truthfully, that’s one of the primary reasons you will want to resolve any communications that are incomplete.  The completion of an incomplete communication will immediately release the negative feelings that you have about that person.  It will open your heart to have more affinity for that person and it will provide you with peace of mind – all good reasons to complete your past incomplete communications.

One thing to remember though is that just because something was left incomplete for you does not necessarily mean that it is also incomplete for the other person.  It’s best not to project your beliefs or feelings onto the other person.  Simply complete with that person what was left as incomplete for you.  Then, your work is done.  If that thing was also incomplete for the other person, through your boldness and generosity of completing that thing, you will be giving the other an opening that he or she may not have had before.  That could be a gift of grace that will provide the other person with peace of mind and greater affinity.

So, back to my story, since I don’t enjoy traveling in a car for any more than 4 hours to reach a destination, I hadn’t, as an adult, had a lot of travel experience of being in a car and having to be responsible.  Boy was I in for a big awakening!  The big day came and we met at the airport to fly across the country from Maryland to California where we would pick up our rental car and begin our long awaited vacation together.

The first couple of days were great and we really enjoyed the camaraderie with one another.  After that, things went downhill quickly!  We couldn’t get the temperature in the car adjusted to everyone’s liking.  The music, too, was an issue of personal taste with little compromise.  Sometimes, the individuals who were driving would become agitated with the heavy traffic or his or her loss for direction.

After that, everything seemed to become a challenge: Finding a restaurant that we could all agree on; agreeing on what sites we would see that day; finding compatible entertainment at night to suit everyone’s tastes; and even seemingly unfairness in our accommodations – all of which were spoken of but never did the four of us just sit down and hash out our differences.  Not once did any of us take responsibility for the situation.  And never did anyone apologize for their words spoken out of anger or upset.

It was almost a year after our trip that I had finally had enough of these issues eating away at me.  I had never enjoyed a vacation any less than that one and I was stubbornly holding on to all of the wrongs I felt were done to me.  But, I couldn’t stand not having peace in my life.  I didn’t like the anger and the upset eating away at me.  So I picked up the phone and called my friend with whom I felt there was a communication left incomplete.

In our phone call, I took full responsibility for the way things went.  [Please note that when I say "I took full responsibility" I don't mean to imply that I took all of the blame.  Instead, I mean that I was declaring myself as being the one who would be responsible, or “at cause”, for how this matter would turn out.]  I took responsibility for how I had acted immaturely and for my words and actions which were not in line with who I say I am.  I told my friend how much I loved her and I told her what she meant to me.  I told her that I wasn’t going to tolerate anything that separated us like that again.  She said what she said and we ended the call.  Peace was present for me and my affinity for my friend was restored.

Sometimes it takes great courage or boldness to initiate this type of communication.  But the instant reward of completing something that was left incomplete for you and is standing in the way of you having a fully loving relationship with someone cannot be tolerated.  It doesn’t matter if it’s your boss, a coworker, a family member, a partner, or a friend.  The separation caused by something left incomplete should never be tolerated under any circumstances.

If you have an issue that has been left incomplete with someone in your life, I challenge you today to pick up the phone or drive to see that person and clean up your mess!  The rewards that you will reap are well worth it.

Copyright ©2009.  All rights reserved.

05 October, 2009

Are You More Like Your Mother or Father?

Today’s blog is based on the premise that we all have taken actions in our lives to be like, or not like, our parent(s).  This may immediately turn you off to the point that you no longer are interested in this article.  However, I would ask you to withhold judgment until after reading the full blog.  There just may be something in here that would resonate with you to a degree that will allow you to become more fully self-expressed.

Consider that at some point in your life, you made a decision that was something to the affect of: “I will not be like my mother.  She’s manipulative and controlling.” or “I’m going to be just like my mother when I grow up.  She’s self-assured and unafraid to stand up for herself.”  And those are just statements about your maternal parent!  The same thing happens with the father in a two-parent home.  A person will decide to be like his father, or not like his father.  Do you see the irony in this?

If you made a decision to be just like your mother, then your words, actions, and emotions are given to you by “being your mother.”  If you made a decision to not be like your mother, then your words, actions, and emotions are given to you by “not being your mother.”  I’m certain now that the irony wasn’t lost on you.  You can plainly see that regardless of which path you chose, your words, actions, and emotions are given to you by your mother.  I would never presuppose that all of your actions, words, or emotions are given to you by “being your mother” or by “not being your mother.”  There are a variety of other sources whom you may have copied along the way because you liked who you saw them being.

The same is true of your father.  You made a conscious decision (although it may be buried in the subconscious for some) to be “like your father” or to “not be like your father.”  Therefore, the personality of your adolescent and teen years were shaped and blended by you:
a) being your mother OR not being your mother
b) being your father OR not being your father.
Isn’t that great news?!!?

Ok, I can hear imaginary groans from some readers at that last remark.  However, I do think it is good news and here’s why:

We human beings have the unique power to choose our attitudes, our emotions, our speech, our actions, and our personalities, just like we have the power to put on clothes.  I know that may sound simplistic but I use that analogy because it conveys an ease to it rather than struggle.  And our lives do not have to be about struggle!  Along our lives’ paths, we have picked personality traits that we saw and liked in others and we said to ourselves, “I’m going to be like that.”  Or, we saw personality traits in others that we had an extreme dislike for and we said, “I’m not going to be like that.”

Although we all came “pre-programmed” with a basic personality, we shaped and molded what we had been given to be the outward representation of who we are (and how we feel about ourselves) on the inside.  So why is that good news?  It’s good news because, if you chose to be a certain way, you can now choose to put aside that same way of being if it no longer works for you.  As we grow in knowledge and skills, we find that we no longer need to have certain ways of being that we previously chose for ourselves – possibly as coping mechanisms.  Regardless of the reason, once you see that you have a personality trait that isn’t producing the results that you desire in your life (or that’s getting in the way of you getting those results), you can choose to set that personality trait aside, just as easily as you initially chose to pick it up and put it on.

That’s not to say that you’ll never have to deal with that personality trait again.  We have learned patterns or ways of being that are deeply engrained.  Therefore, once we decide to make a change, it will take several days of working in the newly desired trait before it is engrained on top of the old one, essentially taking the previous trait's place.  So, until that happens, you have a choice in every situation where that old pattern starts to show up.  You can give way to the old trait or you can choose to only allow the new behavior.  Whatever you choose, know that it is your choice and your actions, behavior, and speech are not given to you by another – but they are only given by you.

Now that’s empowerment!

Copyright ©2009.  All rights reserved.

02 October, 2009

Why Planning is Tied to Success

Welcome to October 2009!  Today I was reviewing the remaining months until the end of the year and what I have scheduled to do and what I need to do.  That year-end deadline is just looming ahead and making me more aware than ever of how necessary it is for me to plan my days, weeks, and months as well as my month-end and year-end goals.

According to several “success gurus,” planning is one of the most important tools used by those who continually achieve their goals.  Of course, one has to start with goal setting.  And after setting your goals for the year and month(s), those goals need to be broken down into specific tasks that you must complete by specific time-lines in order to meet the goals by your decided-upon deadlines.

In his book, “The 10 Natural Laws of Successful Time and Life Management,” author Hyrum W. Smith (founder and former CEO of the then, Franklin Quest Co.), writes about SMART goals.  He defines SMART goals as those that are:
Specific   Measurable   Action-Oriented    Realistic and    Timely.
He also writes that, “an unwritten goal is merely a wish.  Writing the goal [with the above mentioned attributes attached] forces you to be specific.  If a goal is not specific, you will have a hard time knowing whether or not you’ve reached it.

For me, I have learned over the years that I accomplish more in a day if I have previously planned my activities for that day.  Of course there are some things that I plan well in advance and other things that occur every day or on the same day/time of every week.  My practice is simply to sit down at the computer at the end of each day and enter into my calendar program each task that I need to accomplish for the following day, giving it the proper amount of time required.

I then organize those “appointment/tasks” into their overall order of importance and schedule them for the times throughout the day when I believe I will be able to work on each to complete them.  I enter notes into each task/appointment of any of the things I need to complete that task including looking up addresses of where I need to go, directions, and things I need to complete prior to the appointment/task

Then, I sync my smart-phone up to my calendar program so that I have my planned list of to-do’s with me.  My reminder on my phone will prompt me of the next planned event as the time nears.  (Before I had a smart-phone, I would simply print out that day’s calendar to carry with me to meetings, etc.)

That’s my simple system for keeping things in existence for myself.  Besides writing down your daily goals, you must implement some sort of system that will keep those goals in existence for you.  Once something goes out of existence for you, you are sure to not complete that task.  That’s why many people feel like they are always playing catch-up – because they don’t keep their schedules in existence for themselves.

Lastly, I gather up anything that I will need to complete my next-day goals.  I don’t move quickly in the morning so I’m much more effective if I get things together in the evening before going to bed.  I’ll pack my gym bag, get directions, paperwork/forms, coupons, or whatever it is I will need to complete my next day goals, and have them ready to go at a moments notice.

Although goal setting is one of the most important steps to achieving your desires, I would encourage you to, above all, allow for surprises to occur during your day.  Look for spontaneity and other things that might require schedule negotiation but will fill your life with love and rich rewards.  Remember, you may not always schedule in a call with a cherished friend or loved-one but that call may be the thing that completely makes your day worth your investment.

Copyright ©2009.  All rights reserved.

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