07 April, 2011

Creating an Enduring Relationship

During my Christmas vacation this past year, I was engaged in a conversation with my oldest niece. In the course of that conversation she informed me that she was not going to get married. When I asked why, she told me that it was because “fifty percent of all marriages (in America) end in divorce” and went on to explain that she had no interest in becoming part of the divorce-rate statistic. I shared with her my perspective that she could get married and not add to the divorce statistic. Implying that I didn’t understand her point-of-view, she asserted the significance of the statistics previously cited.

It may be of help for you to know that she and I entered this conversation with very different personal backgrounds. My parents have been married almost fifty years and remain happily together. But my niece’s parents divorced several years ago and she has been subject to, and a witness of, the pain, emotional turmoil, and heartache that this decision has had on her parents, her sister, and herself.

Since that original conversation, I’ve replayed it many times over in my head. And I’ve wondered how this (statistic) could be viewed differently and how I might be able to make a difference for her. Is there another, possibly more powerful, point-of-view from which we might view these astounding statistics?

Over this past weekend, I awoke to a thought that I now view as the answer to this question. And I believe that this concept holds a powerful perspective from which we can all learn so that we might make better choices in those we choose as significant others and even as friends. The thought to which I awakened was to “marry someone whom you don’t want to change.” The concept sounds simple enough and it’s certainly easy to say. But I believe that we all fall prey, at one time or another, to this hazardous, slippery-slope.

When I awoke with this thought, I began to think back over my partnership. Next month I will be celebrating my 13-year anniversary with my significant other. Most couples experience their first major difficulties around the two-year mark of being together. The first year or two of relationships are often referred to as “the honeymoon phase” because partners are generally still enchanted with one another during this time. However, around the two-year mark, partners generally begin to view each other from a more realistic point-of-view.

Behavior or habits once viewed as cute or entertaining, many times becomes annoying to us. We begin to start recommending “small” changes to the other and suggesting how he could better himself! Your girlfriend’s consistent behavior of being 15 minutes late is no longer viewed as her taking care of herself or wanting to look good for you. Instead, it now takes on new meaning, such as a lack of respect for you and your time or a lack of time-management skills. Your husband’s behavior of leaving his clothes wherever they fall when he removes them from his body may have once been viewed as carefree. Now, the same behavior becomes an anathema to you who likes to have a tidy home and feels the responsibility to clean up after him.

To borrow a popular American colloquial phrase, this is where the “rubber meets the road.” The hard work of a relationship only starts when you begin to see what you may view as flaws in your partner. After all, no one has a difficult time relating to another when the two are in total agreement. It’s only in discord, or in differing points-of-view that we find we need to walk in grace with one another. Only when we can find the grace to allow another to be who he is without requesting, or even desiring, that he change behaviors or habits will we find that we have the capacity to love another unconditionally. This is what it takes to stay together for “the long haul.”

Of course I’m not suggesting that anyone stay in a relationship where there is physical or emotional abuse or where another’s actions threaten our well-being in any way. However, outside of these types of circumstances, the ability to create a lasting relationship that works comes down to our individual abilities to accept another exactly as he is, and exactly as he isn’t. This requires that we adopt a new perspective for our relationships—one where we view nothing as missing or in disrepair.
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Copyright ©2011.  All rights reserved.

28 January, 2011

Part II: Obtaining Your Goals (Meeting Your Resolutions)

In last week’s blog, I wrote about obtaining your goals/meeting your resolutions by putting structures in place to support you in the areas where you find yourself to be weakest in respect to will power and motivation. In this week’s blog, I’m continuing to write about obtaining your goals, but doing so by applying another method, reframing, on top of the structures you’ve already put in place.

The idea of reframing is not new to many. In fact, it’s used quite a bit by psychologists, therapists, and those who practice neuro-linguistic programming. And, the concept of reframing is simple enough for anyone to use in everyday life. Here, of course, I will be writing about using it for the purpose of obtaining your goals.

The simplest way to break down the concept of reframing is to look at it as “putting a new spin on a familiar concept.” We automatically reframe certain things in our lives – like changing our concept about someone whom we thought we would not like and then coming to find out that we have a lot in common with that individual. When we have the new realization, we naturally place that individual into a different category in our minds – a category that includes people we like. As we grow up, many of us reframe ideas about the foods we like and dislike, altering our perceptions to coincide with the altering of our tastebuds. So, the process of reframing is not new to any of us, and in fact, is used by all of us – albeit not always as a conscious act.

However, you can utilize this process consciously to help in obtaining your goals. For example, if you were working on developing a new habit of exercising every day, at some point (or at several points), you might be tempted to not go to the gym and your mind may automatically begin to think about all of the things you’re giving up in order to workout. You may think about how nice it would be to just be able to sit and relax in front of the T.V., to sit down and read a good book, or even to be able to run errands during that time rather than losing your personal down-time. This is where you can use reframing to your advantage. To reframe this, you can simply turn your thinking around to look at what you’re gaining instead of what you’re giving up.

When you think about all of the things you’re giving up, you’re fighting an up-hill mental battle that’s going to be difficult for you to win. Giving in to that mentality for even one day isn’t an option when you’re creating a new habit. You must be successful for 21-30 days consecutively in order to instill your new habit. Therefore, you need to change your thinking, choosing to concentrate your thoughts on what you are achieving, or what you’ll obtain, by continuing to exercise. Look at what you’ve visualized as the end-result of you obtaining that goal, whether it’s a healthier body, a slimmer body, or a body that’s capable of doing more than it has in the past.

Instill in yourself the habit of thinking about your goal, or its benefits, first thing in the morning before you get out of bed. And instill the same habit as the last thing you think about at night before you go to bed. Reward yourself, mentally, each night by complementing yourself for achieving your goal that day and adding another successful day to your new habit. Before long, with the proper structures in place and a bit of reframing to remind yourself of what you’re getting vs. what you’re giving up, you’ll find that you’ve successfully instilled, as a habit, your new resolution.
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Copyright ©2011.  All rights reserved.

19 January, 2011

Part I: Obtaining Your Goals (Meeting Your Resolutions)

As we are now over midway into the first month of the new year, I suspect that many who made New Year’s Resolutions have already been tempted to give up on their goals at least once or twice. It’s no easy task to form a new habit – especially one that requires work and dedication. Because of this, I’m writing this two-part blog about reaching your goals. These blogs apply to any goal that one sets – not just New Year’s Resolutions.

Researchers tell us that forming a new habit takes daily implementation of that practice for a period of 15 – 21 days while some believe that more lasting results are the result of a 28-day repetition of that new practice. Whatever the true number is for you, I think it’s safe to say that in order to succeed in repeating a new behavior daily for 15 – 28 days takes much more than just pure will power!

Most of us are driven to our goals because of our own desires for change – whether that’s related to a specific trait or characteristic we want to develop or the result of being fed-up with the way our lives or bodies look. Regardless of the reason(s) we want to change, it’s not a lack of discipline which ultimately determines whether or not we reach our objective of creating a new habit or behavior. Instead, I’d like for you to consider that your success or failure is ultimately the result of the structures that you put in place to support your new habit. And, the lack of structures, or lack of adequate structures, is was precipitates not achieving that goal.

So, what is a structure? A structure is anything (e.g. process, system, support person) that you put in place in order to help you achieve your goals. People who succeed in their endeavors aren’t simply stronger-willed than you or even more dedicated or ambitious. People who succeed are those who have learned their limitations and are honest with themselves when it comes to knowing what they will or won’t do of their own accord. Successful people look at the areas in which they are weak and put support structures in place in order to aid them in overcoming those areas of weakness.

As an example, let’s say that you’ve decided to change your nutrition program. And, the parts of that change that will be difficult for you are: (1) giving up sweets, (2) not eating processed foods, and (3) eating every two hours of your waking day. In order to support your goal, your structures should be put in place prior to the first day of your new routine. Some of the support structures that you could put in place might be: (1) going through your kitchen and giving away (or getting rid of) all foods that have sugar in them, any sweeteners, and any processed foods, (2) talking to those who live with you (or are closest to you) about your goal, why you want to achieve it, and making a request of them to ask you specific questions or use specific wording to support you when you are feeling weak and wanting to give in or quit, & (3) adding reminders to your calendar to eat at your specific 2-hour intervals of every day. You may even find that to ultimately be successful you need to prepare your foods a day in advance or even on the weekends in advance of the week.

Ultimately, finding the structures that will support you through the areas in which you know yourself to be weakest will be the foremost thing you can do to ensure success for your new behavior. And to accomplish the act of getting the appropriate structures in place, you must begin with being honest about what you will or will not do on your own. Honestly take a look at the areas where you feel weak. Also, take a look at what has caused you to fail to obtain goals in your past. Then put structures in place around these areas in order to support you for the first 30 days of your new routine. After that, your structures may be altered or dropped altogether, depending on how well you are doing at that time.

Next week, I’ll be posting Part II of obtaining your goals. But don’t wait until then to re-establish your broken resolutions. Support structures will carry you through the majority of any issues that you will face in achieving your new habit or behavior. So be brave and resolute in seeing your newly desired habit reinstated. In the wise words of Mary Pickford, “…this thing we call ‘failure’ is not the falling down, but the staying down.”
[End of Post]
Copyright ©2011.  All rights reserved.

03 January, 2011

A New Kind of Christmas

There I was, sitting in the family room of my parent’s home on Christmas Eve, surrounded by my mom, dad, brother, sister-in-law, sister, nieces, and nephews, and I realized that something was drastically different this year. All week long, my mind had only been on squeezing the most out of my time with my family that I could. It hadn’t even dawned on me that I was different – but different I was. In fact, it was the first Christmas in my life for which I no longer cared about receiving a single gift. The meaning of Christmas had somehow changed for me and it wasn’t until that night, while opening my presents and watching the others in my family open theirs, that this realization actually sank in.

I remembered that it was just last year before the Christmas holiday that I was admitting to my partner how self-centered and selfish I had always felt around this time of year. I truly loved to give presents but it was equally important to me to receive them! And, my expectations were always so high, that I had never failed to be disappointed. It was a way of being, that I had, in which I was not proud of myself and desperately wanted to change but didn’t know how.

At this point, I should add that I had embarked on a journey of self-healing over this last year – actually beginning in mid-2009 – but picking up a quicker and more intentional pace beginning in January of 2010. I was traveling the country to study and learn different techniques of healing and was applying them both in practice on others as well as myself. One such technique that I learned and used extensively on myself and others was The LifeLine Technique. The LifeLine Technique focuses on emotions (from our past – emotions that we’ve denied, disconnected from, or repressed) as the root of physical and emotional ailments and discomforts. Using this technique, I was able to locate and interpret several issues such as repressed emotions and self-limiting beliefs that I had held, and release them so that they no longer affected my present or future outlook on life.

It must have been a result of this work that I did which led me to be able to transform in such a way that I didn’t even realize the transformation had occurred. After all, that is the way that transformation works. It’s not like changing a behavior where one has to consciously train himself to act or behave differently than he always has in the past. Instead, transformation changes one from the inside out so that when you act in relation to events, you are no longer reacting from a subconscious pattern of behavior that is meant to protect you. But instead, you are now simply acting out a part of you that you have always had inside of you, but that was suppressed due to reactive patterns that were in place.

As part of this journey of self-discovery and healing, I had also spent quite a bit of time focusing on how my expectations in life always let me down. And while I firmly believe in expecting good things to come my way, I was also wrestling with the idea of letting go of certain expectations that I seemed to continuously have of others. At the end of my internal struggle with this idea, I came to a place where I was able to continue having expectations of others (expectations like having integrity, keeping one’s word, etc.) and also able to let go of the same when I saw that my expectations were not met (or were not going to be met). In other words, I feel like I found a balance of a place where I could have expectations for the things in life that really mattered, not have them for those things that didn’t matter in the larger scope of life, and the ability to let go of expectations that I had when I saw they would not be met.

Learning to let go was probably the biggest challenge for me and yet the most rewarding one. Once I realized that I was always left in upset by not letting go of my unmet expectations, and knowing that I was committed to not living a life of upset, the solution became obvious – give up any unmet expectation(s), thereby allowing me freedom to not live in upset with others.

I suppose it was a combination of all of these things, and putting these learned-lessons into practice that has led me to be even more available to no longer have expectations for those things in life, which in the grand scope of things, really do not matter. Expecting nothing for Christmas was an added bonus for me and evidence of the hard work that I had put into transforming this area of my life.

Being able to enjoy my family-time at Christmas this year was the biggest blessing I could have had. Not only was I able to feel truly appreciative for what I did receive, but I was able to enjoy my family on a whole different level, and allow the true spirit of Christmas to show through me, and to be fully felt by me.
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Copyright ©2011.  All rights reserved.

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