Category: Making changes

We ALL Play the Embellishment Game

I got a fabulous call recently from a dear friend. She wanted to tell me about her three grandchildren, twins, aged 8 and one, aged 5. They have been playing a game with their grandma when she takes them to school 3 times a week. It’s called, Embellish the Story. One of them begins the story and then they each take a turn adding to it. In other words, they embellish it.

My friend said the best thing is watching their faces when the person ahead of them takes the story in a direction they didn’t want or didn’t anticipate. She sees their face go from annoyed or mad to thoughtful and then illuminated as they figure out where they can take the story, so it fits what they want better.

Recently, in school, the older girl’s teacher said that they were going to have an embellishment project. The twins were so excited because they knew what the word meant. They were the only kids in class who knew what it meant. So, what does the word mean to them? That is a very interesting thing – In their words you get to tell your story and sometimes you make stuff up.

Our Stories Matter!

Isn’t that the truth. In every situation, we get to tell ourselves the story and sometimes we make stuff up. And it all affects the results that we get. I’ve learned through almost seven decades of life that we do have control over the story that we tell ourselves in any situation and that the story we tell impacts our response to whatever is happening and the outcome that we get.

One of my favorite quotes is from Viktor E. Frankl, a Holocaust survivor. He said, “When we’re no longer able to change a situation—we’re challenged to change ourselves.” He reminded us in his book Man’s Search for Meaning the one thing that can never be taken from a person is their ability to choose how to respond (Frankl)

This can be tough because it means that, just like these little girls, we have to figure out how to tell a better story, one that leads us to the destination we want.

You’ve all heard this old saying or something like it, “What you say is what you get.” It’s true. If you say, “My kids are driving me nuts,” they’ll drive you nuts. If you say, “I can’t stand my kids today,” or “My kids are so sloppy, messy, noisy, naughty, and so on,” that’s what you’ll get. It’s what you perceive is happening, regardless of what’s actually going on.

I worked with a self-employed mother who was telling herself a negative story about her son’s actions. She felt he was whiney and needy. He was a bother when she was trying to work. Her responses to her son were causing a strained relationship between them. She was having difficulty figuring out how to fix the situation. When I asked her to tell me more about her son, she replied that he was bright, loving, and responsible.

We talked about the importance of our story, how they affect our response and ultimately the result we get. Her result was painful. She determined to change the story even if the situation wasn’t changing. She decided to remind herself of her sons’ positive qualities each time she began to experience annoyance or frustration.

When I talked with her next, I asked her how it was going. She replied she and her son were no longer at odds. She enjoyed his company. She could see that he was just interested in what she was doing, and they had had opportunities to connect on and off during the day. She was able to respond positively to him more often.

This mom got better results because her feelings were positive. Her feelings were positive because she changed her story about her son.

Now back to my friend and her grandchildren. She made the call because she wanted to thank me for all that she has learned about taking control of our stories and how impactful and life-changing that has been.

She wanted me to know that because I have made an impact in her life, she has been able to make an impact in the lives of her granddaughters. This morning as she dropped them off to school she asked, “Now when you get in school you get to tell your story. So, what will you do if someone gets your story going in a different direction that you don’t want it to go or that wasn’t what you expected? They knew – “We get to take it in the direction we want it to go!”

As my friend said goodbye and thanked me for sharing with her through the years, she had tears in her voice because as she said, “It’s wonderful when you can see it used in real life, and when you can help the rising generation learn it so much earlier. I know this is going to have an impact on how their lives will go.”

Here are a few tips to help you have better stories.

• Take responsibility and stop blaming
• Decide to think the best of others
• Choose your words wisely
• Keep practicing

Take responsibility for your thoughts, the stories, and emotions they create, and your responses. Stop blaming. Take responsibility for your words, which are your stories in concrete form. You’re in control of the stories you tell—stories about yourself, your family, your children, the world, the past, the present, and the future. Knowing this gives you all the power.

Our Stories Determine Our Happiness Level

Stories are powerful in determining our happiness level. My granddaughter, Mary, is six. She loves to watch the fish in our tank. We have a very sleek, silver catfish that swims fast and erratically whenever anyone stands in front of the tank. I believe the fish does this out of fear or because it has been disturbed. One day Mary asked me, “Do you know why this fish swims so fast when I’m looking at him?” I replied, “No, why?” She responded with, “Because he likes me!”

Mary, like all of us, gets to write the story, and her story makes her happy. And for all I know, her story may be as true as mine.

Want to Know More?

If you want an in-depth understanding of how to control your responses in tough situations, how telling a better story can open up your internal resources, and an in-depth look at the tips above as well as a few more, then read my book Becoming a Present Parent: Connecting with Your Children in Five Minutes or Less. You can purchase it on Amazon or at your local bookstore. Here’s to better stories and better outcomes.

Your Shares Are The Best Compliment : ) 

A Principle with Power – Consistency

I love to write but don’t always want to prepare and post a new article every week. I enjoy posting something of value every day on Facebook but sometimes I would rather do other things. However, I do both as perfectly as I can because I have a goal and to reach it, I have learned that there must be consistency in my effort, for as long as it takes.

Consistency is a principle with power. When we do simple things consistently, over time, we will achieve amazing results. This principle can be found in cultures all around the world and in most, if not all religions. But this is a challenging principle to live because what we really want is a silver bullet, one big thing that will bring us growth, change, or success.

It’s amazing we ever believe the silver bullet myth because the truth of small steps over time has been restated and demonstrated so often. But the myth is comforting. It’s what we want to believe because the truth is harder to accept. Why would we rather do one big thing to change our lives? Although the big thing may take a massive effort on our part, if we gave the effort, then the work would be done. But the truth is we have to decide to do it and then follow through—over and over and over and over . . . ! There is no one and done.

Whenever you hear that a person has achieved an extraordinary goal, rarely, if ever, are you told the process they used—that is, the ordinary actions they took consistently. You only hear about the outcome. We’re led to believe extraordinary successes in business, home, or life are a result of significant actions, but they’re not—they’re a result of daily actions done consistently over time.

I worked with a single mom who was struggling with her children ages eight, eleven, and fourteen. They were argumentative and disobedient. One of her sons was withdrawn, and other people commented on how hyper her kids were. There was a fair amount of chaos in the home.

As we talked this mother realized that to have what she wanted in her family she would need to be more consistent. But being consistent in anything was a challenge for her. So, she picked one thing that she would do consistently in her home so she could practice living this principle.

She occasionally read to her kids, but it was rarely successful. However, she chose this to experiment with. As she began reading aloud to her children, it didn’t appear it was going to work out well. The kids were restive and quarrelsome. But I encouraged her to keep it up no matter how it looked or felt because the goal was to practice consistency. Her job was to provide a comfy spot and to read, no matter how her kids behaved, and to do it consistently.

So, she did. She committed to reading to her children twice a week. They would all gather in her room, in the middle of her bed and they would read. It wasn’t always easy, but as time went by it became more and more enjoyable. The surprising part is they began to have a sense of cooperation and peace while they read together, and this feeling moved into other areas of their lives. They felt it at mealtimes, in conversation, and when working together. People began commenting that her children seemed more patient and calmer. Her withdrawn child seemed happier and had begun to sing around the house.

Time and consistency are required to take care of most things. Understanding this is especially important in parenting because it nearly always takes until a child leaves home and creates their own life to see the results of our efforts. While they’re growing, it’s tempting to let ourselves feel failure because we don’t see our child as neat, quiet, mannerly and so forth. We often see a mud-covered child, a snitched cookie behind a back, spilled milk on the kitchen floor, or we hear voices’ complaining that it’s not their fault or “it’s my turn.”

Remaining Present while a child grows, not checking out because of discouragement or feeling overwhelmed, is dependent on doing simple things consistently rather than searching for a one-time fix to family issues.

Tips for Remaining Consistent

It takes time and practice to make lasting change and to grow as a person or as a family.
• We must commit to it.
• We need to consistently do the work.
• We must believe we can accomplish it.
• It’s important to remember that consistent is not the same as perfect.
• Keep your word to yourself. Do what you’ve decided to do.

Consistency long term is the key. We must commit to giving any issue time and consistency. Don’t allow discouragement and don’t quit! Time doesn’t equal failure. It equals eventual success.

Your shares are the best compliment : ) 

 

The REAL Cost of Stuff

Recently, while at a friend’s home, she talked to me about the challenge of managing all the stuff in her home. Now let me clearly state that her home is clean and orderly. She isn’t having a problem with clutter or mess. But she has accumulated a lot of stuff over the years.

She has been working to clean out cupboards and closets and storage areas in her home. It has taken years because so much has been allowed to accumulate and then stored in boxes, on shelves, and in storage bins.

I got permission to take some photos of what I’m talking about. It’s all neatly organized but it fills so much space in her home and mind and it is draining.

In a book titled Life at Home in the Twenty-First Century, researchers at UCLA observed 32 middle-class Los Angeles families and found all the mothers’ stress hormones spiked during the time they spent dealing with their household paraphernalia (Arnold, et al, Life at Home in the Twenty-First Century).

I’m suggesting that we generally accumulate and hang on to too much stuff, which must be maintained, managed, cleaned, organized, kept safe, stored, repaired, safeguarded . . . it all requires our mental energy, physical energy and our time. This is energy and time we could be using to enjoy our family, doing things together that bring us happiness.

As my friend has sorted through her closets and cupboards her constant refrain has been, “I’m not sure why I even kept this.”

Why do we accumulate and then store so much stuff?

Here are some reasons and you might see yourself here. If so, consider overcoming whatever has you in the purchase and store cycle and cut yourself free. It is worth it because keeping it simple = greater presence in all our relationships, including the one with ourselves.

1. We bought it and we don’t want to waste our money
When I had been married twenty years and had a large family my father in law gave us some camping equipment. He had stored it since his boys left home, a couple of decades. Guess what, none of it was any good. It had deteriorated. That money went to waste in the end.

2. We may need it later
While I was raising my children, I stored clothes they had outgrown, a few more pricey toys, and baby supplies. This was wise because from 1972 to 1990 we had babies coming and children growing, but then it stopped.

I didn’t need any of it later. I never had another baby. My kids never wanted it for their new babies.

So, if you’re not using it, find someone who can.

3. It all has memories—It’s part of who I am
We all have mementos that fill our hearts with joy when we look at them. However, lots of our cherished stuff is just that, stuff.

When my grandparents died, my dad got a lot of stuff. When my dad died, I got the stuff. Recently, I’ve been going through all this stuff and sending it to those to whom it belongs. I sent cards written in a childlike script to the adults who had written them. I returned letters, pictures, and so forth.

People were glad to see what they had said and made all those years ago. A few will hang on to the items. Others enjoyed seeing it again for a few days and then let it go. After all, those memories are in their minds and hearts, and they take up far less space there.

4. It was a gift; I must keep it
In our family, we’ve come to a consensus concerning this. We’ve decided, as a group, to be re-gifters. I know you may think this is tacky, but it has served us well. If we get it, and we can’t use it, we re-gift it. The person who gets it can do the same. No one has any
hurt feelings. We’re all about simplifying our lives, and it’s working out well!

5. I like to buy stuff
Recently the husband of one of my clients told me they were adding an addition to their home. He said they needed more closet space. After all, he confessed, he had 28 golf shirts. Let me say as crazy as this sounds it isn’t the exception. We’re a consuming society. We frankly buy too much stuff!

The Self-Storage Association reports that Americans spend 24 billion dollars each year to store their stuff in self-storage units. The National Association of Professional Organizers reports that organizing consultants and products have grown into a one-billion-dollar industry (Johnson, “The Real Cost of Your Shopping Habits”).

Here’s what helps me buy less stuff and get rid of the excess stuff I already have – I continually picture myself strapped to my belongings via energy threads attached to my shoulders. That does it for me. I want to be free.

So, stop buying, no matter how attractive or interesting it is. If you can’t stop buying, do what my friend Laurie does. If you buy a new blouse give one away. If you buy a knickknack, give one away. If you purchase a new hammer or drill, give the old one away.

It’s working for her and it has worked for me. It will work for you and you will find yourself feeling far less burdened. Cut yourself free from too much stuff and regain all the energy you expend. You’ll be glad you did.

Your shares are the best compliment : ) 

See Differently – Act Differently

Perspective is an amazing thing.

It is, simply put, the story we tell ourselves. It all begins with a thought. Once we have a thought, if we hold it in our minds, it becomes a story because our brain does its job and goes to the files and finds evidence that our thought is correct. This process takes fractions of seconds.

Once we have our story, feelings are generated. These feelings move us to an action or response. Our response produces a result, either good or bad. This little scenario repeats itself hundreds of times each day.

You’ve all heard this old saying or something like it, “What you say is what you get.” It’s true. If you say, “My kids are driving me nuts,” they’ll drive you nuts. If you say, “I can’t stand my kids today,” or “My kids are so sloppy, messy, noisy, naughty, and so on,” that’s what you’ll get. It’s what you perceive is happening, regardless of what’s actually going on. This will influence your response and your ability to be Present.

Think of all the phrases we say and hear over and over again about kids:
• You’re driving me crazy.
• You’re so messy.
• You’re so noisy.
• I can’t get a minute’s peace.
• Why can’t you listen to me? You never listen!
• You’re so irresponsible.
• I don’t know what I’m going to do with you!
• You make me so mad.
• You’re so sloppy, disobedient, messy, argumentative, quarrelsome, and so on.
• You’re wearing me out.
• I can’t listen one more minute.

If we want better outcomes, we need to watch our words. Say what you want, not what you don’t want. Words are your thoughts/stories put into concrete form. Words generate emotions. You’ll feel the way you speak. How you feel moves you to an action that gives you a result, either good or bad. Your words move you closer to or away from the ability to be Present.

Let me give you an example.

I worked with a self-employed mother who was telling herself a negative story about her son’s actions. When she needed to work, he would come into the office and ask her a ton of questions about what she was doing, how things worked, etc. It was very disruptive.
She felt he was whiney and needy. He was a bother when she was trying to work. Her responses to her son were causing a strained relationship between them. She was having difficulty figuring out how to fix the situation.

Here’s what happened when she began telling herself a more positive story. When I asked her to tell me more about her son, she replied that he was bright, loving, and responsible. So, she decided to remind herself of these qualities each time she began to experience annoyance or frustration.

When I talked with her next, I asked her how it was going. She replied she and her son were no longer at odds. She enjoyed his company. She could see that he was just interested in what she was doing, and they had had opportunities to connect on and off during the day. She was able to respond positively to him more often. She was able to be Present more frequently.

Taking control of our stories, responses and hence our results take work and practice.

Here a few simple steps to get you going.

TIP 1—Take responsibility and stop blaming
Blame is always an indicator there’s a problem with our way of being or how we perceive what’s happening, or in other words, the story we’re telling ourselves.

TIP 2—Decide to think the best of others, even your kids.
When we decide to think the best of others, we can manage our thoughts and the resulting stories more effectively.

TIP 3—Choose words wisely. Watch the words you use when thinking or speaking:
• Childlike vs. naughty
• Young vs. clumsy
• Needs more direction vs. oppositional
• Tired vs. grumpy
• Preoccupied vs. lazy
• Angry vs. rebellious
• Being a kid vs. messy
• Wants my presence vs. needy
• Has a need vs. pushing my buttons

TIP 4—Keep practicing
Keep working at controlling your thoughts. This is something you need to do daily. There isn’t a point when you’re so good at it that you can stop working on it. Negative thoughts will come, and they’ll need to be managed. No matter what’s troubling you, change is possible, and taking control of your thoughts/stories is a great place to start.

Take responsibility. You’re in control of the stories you tell. Knowing this gives you all the power.

Your shares are the best compliment. 

The Big Epidemic

The idea that we should be careful to keep our priorities right in terms of not letting lesser concerns get in the way of greater ones so that we find ourselves “in the thick of thin things,” is good advice.

The Big Epidemic

However, getting stuck in the thick of thin things seems to be epidemic in today’s world. It can be a challenge to discern what the thin things are and sidestep them. This is a problem for every parent. There are so many things we need to do to manage our home, make a living, and frankly, get some time to ourselves. And then there are the expectations of the world; what parents are supposed to do to really give their kids a good life, to be great parents.

Let me give you two very different examples of the difficulty of staying out of thin things from two very different moms. One is middle aged and is schooling her children at home and one is older with five grown children. And just for fun, I’ll share how the issue was solved.

Phones, Screens, Frustration!

I was working with a mom who happened to be homeschooling. She really wanted to be Present with her kids during the time they were learning together but she kept getting sucked into thin things.

If the phone rang it had to be answered – it might be important. The computer and other screens were also a siren’s song. Just glancing at the screen for a few minutes couldn’t be harmful, right!

As this mom put it to me, “during our learning time are a tool of Satan!” Pretty strong words! That tells you the level of frustration this mom felt at her willingness to let the unimportant intrude on the important.

This mom, like all the parents I work with, really does want her children to know that they come first, that she loves being with them, and values her time with them. But she was struggling to not walk away from being present with her kids to take care of what was coming in from the world. It was making her feel terrible.

Wisely, she pondered the situation, did a bit of knee time and came up with a solution. She decided to turn off the screens when she wanted to be present with her kids during their learning time. She turned the computer off at night, so it wouldn’t be a temptation in the morning and then when she got down to business with her children, she put her phone on silent.

The outcome is that she’s been able to be truer to her family and herself. She can be present for small amounts of time and accomplish her goal of teaching her kids, but more importantly of sending the message that they matter to her and are at the top of her list.

Expectations, Stuff, and Guilt!

I have another friend who has raised five children. In a recent conversation, she mentioned her dismay at all the stuff that she still had from when her kids were living at home. You know the kind of stuff we save – school photos, childhood drawings, old school papers, awards, etc. She felt that somehow, she had let her kids down because they didn’t have all this stuff in beautiful scrapbooks. I mean, all her friends had made beautiful scrapbooks for their kids, she was sure of it. She felt guilty. It weighed on her mind.

This is what she said to me “I guess I was too busy helping kids with lessons, sitting through games, playing, supporting plays,” … her voice trailed off.”

When I called her on this she smiled and said, “Your right. All that stuff I did with my kids was really more important, wasn’t it?”

Seth and his treasures : )

Now there isn’t anything wrong with a beautiful scrapbook or looking at a screen if they don’t take us away from time we should be connecting with our family. I made a few scrapbooks for some of my older kids, but they didn’t have any fancy pages. I just paper punched the sheets and put them in the binders. My son, Seth, who is on the downside of forty, still has his and thinks it’s the best. He never missed beautifully crafted pages. Andrew doesn’t even have a scrapbook, he was farther down the line but he loved the box of his stuff.

And if you feel pressed about all that stuff you seem to be collecting for

Andrew and his box of ‘stuff’.

your kids here is a thought. A couple of Christmases ago I bought some pretty storage boxes. Then I sorted all the stuff, and after seven kids there was a bunch of it! I put each child’s treasures in a separate box and that’s what Don and I gave them for Christmas.

How did that go? They LOVED them. It was so fun to watch them sorting through the contents. You could hear, “Do you remember this.” “Oh my gosh, I can’t believe I did that.” They sat and reminisced for a couple of hours. Since then they have discarded most of what I thought needed to be saved all those years ago.

Funny how we downplay the time we spend with our family, connecting with one another. We rarely give it the kudos it deserves. Funny how we sometimes elevate the value of things that matter far less.

As the world gets busier and noisier and the expectations increase, it becomes critical for us to carve out time for those things that are of greatest importance, our children, our family, our time together.

“We become so caught up in the busyness of our lives. Were we to step back, however, and take a good look at what we’re doing, we may find that we have immersed ourselves in the ‘thick of thin things?’ In other words, too often we spend most of our time taking care of the things which do not really matter much at all in the grand scheme of things, neglecting those more important causes.” (“What Have I Done for Someone Today?” Pres. Thomas S Monson, Oct. 2009)

Being present doesn’t require a lot of time. It does require letting go of outside influences and focusing on those who matter most. When we look someone in the eye and listen, we send a very clear message: I see you. I hear you. You matter to me.

Your shares are the best compliment. : ) 

I’ve Got The TONE!

 

Nature abhors a vacuum.

 

Aristotle believed this was true and so do I.

I used to rage/yell. Even though it took ten years to stop raging and many years before that to even see that raging might be a problem, I have felt very proud of the accomplishment. However, if we’re open to growth we won’t rest on past laurels.

Not too long ago I was having a conversation with my son-in-law, Kash. He’s married to my third daughter and we see their family a couple of times a year. I like Kash a lot.

He and I were talking about making changes, what that process looks like and so forth. I happened to bring up the raging thing and this was his reply, “Well, you know what I hear in your voice most of the time – frustration and annoyance.” WHAT!!!

Man, that was like having cold water thrown in my face. Whew! But I have learned over many decades to pay attention when the Universe/God speaks, even if the voice is funneled through my son-in-law. So, I spent some time pondering what he had said and, being a praying person, I spent some knee time asking God about the situation.

When You Discover a Weakness

CELEBRATE! 

 

Guess what? He was 100% correct. Now in my past, I would have felt terrible and castigated myself for having yet another weakness. But no more! I do not do that “beat myself up for not being perfect” thing. In fact, after catching my breath I did a halleluiah dance. Really, in my mind I celebrated.

It’s been over twenty years since I stopped raging and it had finally become time for me to make a new advancement in my life. I know this because I have been shown a current weakness that I’m prepared both mentally and emotionally to change. It’s an event to celebrate.

After I returned home, I made it a priority to see what this frustration/annoyance looked like in my daily walk. It was easy to see, now that I knew it existed. It’s a tone in my voice. It’s not the words or the feelings behind the words. What I had done over twenty years ago was replace raging with a tone.

You see, what I didn’t realize back then that I understand now is that you can’t just say, “I’m going to stop yelling/raging.” You must also decide what you’re going to do instead. You must replace one way of being with another. Remember the earth abhors a vacuum. By default, I replaced raging/yelling with a tone of voice that lets people know I’m not happy or satisfied with them or the situation.

I decided that I wanted to replace the ‘tone’ with a calm and peaceful response. I have written about taking control of our response many times and I know it’s doable! I believe that I’m 100% in control of my response no matter what is happening.

So, I’ve been paying attention. Man, this has become a deep-seated habit for me. Every day I hear the tone many times. If I didn’t know what I know I would be discouraged because on the surface I don’t seem to be getting a handle on it. However, I’m clear about what change looks like and frankly, it looks like failure long before it begins to look like or actually become success.

You may be at a place in your life where the Universe/God knows you’re mentally and emotionally ready for a change. Celebrate and decide what you will replace the current behavior with. Then get clear on what change looks like in real life. Here are the steps that I have experienced repeatedly and have watched those I mentor experience. Understanding and embracing these truths will help you stay the course while making lasting changes.

 5 Steps to Lasting Change

 

1. Recognize that there is a need for change or adjustment. I recall weeping on the phone during a session with one of my mentors. She asked me why I was crying, and I replied, “I am ______ years old. I should have known that!” She reminded me that we come to knowledge when we’re ready to do something about it and not until. You can read, hear or be taught something and never really internalize it. That’s because you weren’t ready. When we’re ready the teacher will come in some form. There is no need to weep over the time that it’s taken to become ready. Just celebrate that you are now ready and then go to work!

2. You will continue behaving in the old way for a time, but the difference is that you recognize that you’re doing what you don’t want to do. Because this step can last a while it can be discouraging and we are tempted to think, ”I’m never going to overcome this, or change this.” But the truth is that this is what the second step looks like so don’t get discouraged. It can and often does look and feel like failure before it looks or feels like progress.

3. Eventually, as you begin doing the very thing you have decided not to do you will catch yourself in the act and reverse course. This step can feel a bit challenging because it usually involves apologizing, some explaining and then starting again. But it’s worth it!

4. The next step is having a desire to behave, speak or act in the old way but then choosing not to. There is a space between stimulus and response and in that space, we get to choose. When we begin making a change that space is small and for some, seems non-existent, but I promise it’s there. I also promise that we can increase this space for choice.

5. Our way of being has changed. We no longer think about responding in the old way. We just respond in the way we have chosen. Our very nature has changed. We have become a new person in that one thing. We no longer must practice because “we are changed”.

Anyone can change. We just need to understand what change looks like in real life, the steps, and then be persistent and consistent.

Your shares are the best compliment. : ) 

Exploding is ALWAYS a Choice

I bet you clicked this email because the subject line ticked you off! Twenty years ago, it would have ticked me off too. However, I hope to move you in the direction of accepting this as true because it has great bearing on what we have been discussing for the last two weeks.

We have talked about how our perception of what is happening fuels our emotions and leads to a response either positive or negative. We have also looked at seven tips to help you learn to control your responses when things go wrong.  However, you have to believe that controlling your response is even possible.

How I Learned to Take Control

When I was a young mom, I was prone to exploding/raging on a regular basis. I am not proud of this fact and it took me quite a few years to come to the realization that exploding/raging was not only ineffective when dealing with my husband and children but that it was detrimental to healthy family relationships. You see I came from a family of exploders. It’s what we did, how we dealt with disappointment, sorrow, frustration, etc.

Eventually, I did begin to see that exploding/raging was counter-productive and that it never resolved whatever it was that was causing me to explode/rage in the first place. But I couldn’t see how I could ever stop this behavior because it was so immediate. I mean there would be a stimulus of some kind and then an explosion. There wasn’t even an opportunity to not explode/rage.

However, as the years went by, I began to learn more about stimulus and response and I realized that there was a moment of choice. It took me a long time to accept this because if it was true then I could choose to not explode/rage. It made me responsible for what I did and took the responsibility away from the circumstance or another person. It made me 100% in control of my response.

That was intimidating! It felt like a huge and burdensome responsibility.

One thing I learned and began to believe in fully was that there was a space between stimulus and response, no matter how small. When I had accepted this as true I was able to move to the next step: believing that I had the power to increase this space.

The first thing I did was begin to analyze what happened after each explosion. What triggered it? What was my perception of what was happening? Was I blaming anyone or anything? What was I really feeling because I knew that anger is always a secondary emotion? Was I disappointed, embarrassed, feeling disrespected, what?

Looking carefully at what caused me to explode was helpful.

It didn’t take long for me to begin to be able to see in my mind what was happening. I could see the trigger and then see the explosion and in between, I felt a tiny space for choice. I also began to see that I chose to explode. It’s hard to put this into words but I think if you’re a person who lets your response get out of control you will know what I’m talking about.

Next, I stopped beating myself up when I behaved inappropriately, and I just looked at what had happened. I gave myself credit for wanting to do better, to be better.

As I did this, I began to feel hopeful that yes, I could take control of my responses. I began to feel the space between stimulus and response get larger, I could feel myself making the decision to explode. Rather than feeling badly about this I allowed myself to celebrate that I could see myself choose. This made it possible, over time, to begin making a different choice.

Eventually, I stopped exploding/raging. I rarely do it anymore. I still see the space in most situations and I feel myself choose.

A couple of weeks ago I told you about my husband and my good sewing scissors.  What I didn’t reveal in that story was that when I picked up the scissors, I felt the space for choice and I saw myself choose to be angry. Then I marched into the house and confronted my husband. I didn’t explode/rage as in the old days, but I was clearly annoyed with him.

As I walked away from him after my harsh words, I felt myself in that space between stimulus and response and I knew that I wanted to remain angry at him. So, I came to a dead stop in the middle of my kitchen and asked myself, “What are you really feeling.”

Here it is in a nutshell. I was frustrated that the office wasn’t finished. I was feeling anxious because the weather was changing and all my office stuff was under a tarp on the patio. I was weary of controlling my anxiousness because this part of my life was out of order.

Then I did what I have practiced for years now, I chose to let go of my desire to remain angry and I smiled. Smiling releases endorphins and even if the smile isn’t genuine it changes how you feel. I was able to pull myself together, apologize to my husband and talk about what was really going on.

Exploding/raging or even being angry, no matter the underlying cause, is always a choice. You are 100% in control of how your life looks. If you feel like you have no control, I promise that when you this you plant your feet on the path to control. As you increase the space between stimulus and response you will find a sense of freedom and you will be happier!

Seven Steps to Increasing Your Ability to Choose

Let’s put the steps I took to increase the space between stimulus and response into order:

1. Believe that there is a space between a stimulus and your response and that no matter how small it is now it can be increased
2. Believe that it is in your power to increase your space for choice no matter how poorly you are doing at present
3. Understand that when you take 100% responsibility for your life and your responses it is not burdensome but is the most freeing thing you will ever do!
4. Once you have these beliefs planted in your mind, begin analyzing every time you respond inappropriately. What were the real reasons? What triggered it? What was your perception of what was happening? Were you blaming anyone or anything? Be honest.
5. Never berate yourself for falling back into the old behavior. I gave myself credit for wanting to do better, to be better. It’s a wonderful thing to come to know where you are in error and then taking steps to change, no matter how long it actually takes to change. Celebrate that!
6. Begin to mentally see the space between the stimulus/trigger and your response. Mentally see it enlarging. If you are a praying person I have found this to be invaluable in assisting me to see in my mind this enlarging of the space for choice.
7. Avoid discouragement. This isn’t an easy or quick process for most of us but it is doable over time. How long did it take me to stop exploding/raging? Ten Years!
8. Never quit. Keep seeing. Keep analyzing. Hold on to the belief that you can choose anger or not.
9. Remember that small and simple things done consistently over time bring the desired results.

Your shares are the best compliment.

What Can You Do When You Have a Mess?

 

See those garbage bags-been there three days. They might get thrown outside today!

The last three weeks have been packed. I tried to get Christmas done and mailed before my trip to Seattle to help my daughter who is pregnant and very ill. But life is life and I live in a four-generation household and… well, I didn’t get it done.

Seattle was wonderful, busy, fun, and tiring all at the same time. I came home with croup. I know, only kids get croup but every few years I join them. I don’t feel ill, but I sound terrible and feel totally worn out, so Wed. and Thurs. I didn’t get much accomplished. But I couldn’t rest on Friday because there was so much to do.

 

Here’s what I was trying to accomplish on Friday 

  • Bake three apple pies
  • Make another tent kit
  • Go to the doctors
  • Get my mom to take a bath and trim her hair
  • Make 50 pancakes and a pot of green chili
  • Create and format a special document
  • Get all the rest of Christmas wrapped and shipped

I have a friend who had surgery the day before I flew home from Seattle. When I asked how I could help her she said that she was having tons of visits and treats but that her family could use some nurturing. Hence one apple pie.

My neighbor loves apple pie too and I have had her on my gift list for three weeks. I wanted to give her a pie and if you’re going to make one pie you might as well make two right! But if I bake and give away pies, I must make one for my own household or there would be a rebellion. So, three pies.

Saturday morning our church planned a Christmas breakfast. That’s right, breakfast. I would have opted to take a breakfast casserole, but my husband has a family tradition of Green Chili Pancakes and it’s so unique that he really wanted to share it. The problem is, he doesn’t know how to make it, I do. His grannie taught me. : ) So I needed to make 50 pancakes and then a huge pot of the green chili sauce.  It was too much to do Saturday morning, so it had to be done on Friday. This is very delicious by the way.  You can print the recipe HERE.

Now all of this wouldn’t have been too bad, but we had a double doctor’s appointment in the afternoon, we had to stop at two stores on the way home to get some items we needed to finish the above projects and that whole thing took three hours.

I was still trying to get my Christmas items packed and shipped but found that I needed one more tent kit. Long story. And I also realized that I needed a formatted document to include with a special framed family genealogy chart we are sending to our children. We are direct descendants of William Brewster of the Mayflower and I wanted to help each family understand who he was, what his family was like, and why they came to America.

I was able to create and format the document but never made a dent in the gift wrapping or the tent kit making. I did get mom bathed and her hair trimmed. Big woohoo!

It’s Saturday morning now. The church breakfast is done. The chili pancakes were a success. Everyone loved the pies which have been eaten and I am heading off to do the tent kit and get the rest of the stuff wrapped and shipped. My house is a disaster and the kitchen cabinets can’t even be seen. I haven’t vacuumed, dusted, or cleaned anything. Laundry is piling up but I did get one load in before the breakfast. Another big woohoo!

Here’s my point – life can be overwhelming even when we don’t plan for it to be. Sometimes we get stretched out, tasks bunch together and it feels heavy. In those moments, in my past and younger life, I would go to bed feeling like a failure. I would wonder why I couldn’t get more done. Why wasn’t I like so and so who not only gets more done but looks great too and on and on!

Here’s what I don’t do anymore:

  • I don’t compare myself to anyone! Really everyone has their hidden disasters!
  • I don’t beat myself up because I’m not perfect, slow, behind, didn’t plan better, start sooner, stay well, look put together, etc.
  • If I find myself having a hard time managing my thoughts about myself I pray. Find something that works for you!
  • I work diligently to refrain from blaming anyone, or anything for my slowness, tiredness, lateness, etc. I don’t blame! Sometimes it is what it is.

Here’s what I do to manage those times when life is just too much:

  • I practice remaining calm and if I need to I go to the bathroom and read a few paragraphs and breathe
  • I do what I can and I let it be enough
  • I remember to do the few things that make me feel cared for (my nightly shower and reading in the bathroom)
  • I make an effort to get enough sleep even if it means not getting as much done in a day
  • I take time to remain Present – at least once a day. Being Present happens in 5-minute chunks. This takes practice, even for me
  • I pray a lot! and I force myself to smile : )

I hope that this holiday season you’ll work on being your own best friend. Say no a bit more. Compare less. Talk nicely to yourself. Remember small moments of self-care. Smile even when you don’t feel like it. Be Present at least once a day with someone you care about. It can take 5 minutes or less!

Your shares are the best compliment! : ) 

7 Tips for Controlling Your Response When Things Go Wrong

Last week I shared two stories about how our perception of what is happening fuels our response; that paying attention to our thoughts and the stories and emotions they generate is important when parenting and is a skill which can be learned and practiced.

Yeah right!! There was a time when I didn’t believe that I could control how I felt let alone that it was a skill which could be learned. Many of you may also have a difficult time accepting that you can control how you feel and respond.

CAN CONTROLLING YOUR STORY MAKE A DIFFERENCE?

I was a reasonable person, and I lived a good life but, darn it, stuff was always happening. I mean, if the kids are acting crazy, it’s going to make you feel crazy. If milk keeps getting spilled, if the house is getting trashed, and if grades are down, you feel down yourself. When money’s tight or your spouse isn’t helping you out, you feel overwhelmed. If you feel unsupported or if you have a health issue, all of this is going to mess with how you feel and respond, right?

Back then I knew the answer was a big fat yes! But time and experience have proven to me that you can control how you feel by taking control of the stories you tell yourself.

THOUGHTS CREATE OUR STORIES

Perspective is an amazing thing. It is, simply put, the story we tell ourselves: what we think is happening or has happened. It all begins with a thought. Once we have a thought, if we hold it in our minds, it becomes a story because our brain does its job and goes to the files and finds evidence that our thought is correct. This process takes fractions of seconds and this scenario repeats itself hundreds of times each day.

You change your story by controlling your thoughts. You manage your emotions by controlling your story. When you do this, you take more positive actions and you get better results. It is a skill and the more you practice it the better you get!

TIPS FOR HAVING BETTER STORIES

TIP 1—Take responsibility and stop blaming
When we choose to tell ourselves stories that blame others, we decide to become victims. Victims parent poorly. I hear parents blame their kids all the time for how they’re feeling.
• You make me so mad.
• You have ruined my day.
• I can’t think straight because you’re so noisy.
• I wouldn’t be yelling if you would listen.

Blame is always an indicator there’s a problem with our way of being or how we perceive what’s happening.

TIP 2—Decide to think the best of others
A father expected his 16-year-old daughter home at a certain time but she was late, very late! He began writing a mental story. He imagined all sorts of scenarios for why she was late. She lacked respect for family rules. She was thoughtless. She was irresponsible. The later she was, the bigger the story grew and the angrier he became. As she opened the door, he exploded with, “You’re late! You know the rules, and you broke your promise. You’re grounded, young lady.” Of course, his daughter ran to her room crying.

To let you in on the facts, the girl’s date had taken her to a drinking party after the movie. When she asked him to take her home, he refused. She had tried to call home, but the line was busy. So she called a friend who got off work at midnight and came and got her. In the meantime, she sat on the curb in the dark because the party was out of control and not safe.

The father’s story was at the heart of the problem, not his daughter’s lateness. When we decide to think the best of others, we can manage our thoughts and the resulting stories more effectively.

TIP 3—Choose words wisely
“What’s in you is what comes out.” It’s true! Pay attention to the words you say in frustration, sorrow, and anger; you’ll get a good idea of what you’re holding onto in your subconscious mind.

Our words reveal what we truly feel. The words that we allow to come out of our mouths are what ultimately drive feelings and the resultant actions and bring the results we live with daily.

Watch the words you use when thinking or speaking about your children and teens:
• Childlike vs. naughty
• Young vs. clumsy
• Needs more direction vs. oppositional
• Tired vs. grumpy
• Preoccupied vs. lazy
• Angry vs. rebellious
• Being a kid vs. messy
• Wants my presence vs. needy
• Has a need vs. is pushing my buttons

TIP 4—Check your core beliefs
We can get an idea of the beliefs we’ve formed growing up by paying attention to the stories we tell ourselves over and over again and by listening to the words coming out of our mouths. These beliefs may not be supportive or helpful in having good relationships with others or in our ability to be Present and parent well. Once we’ve found a core belief which is not helpful, we can get rid of it by rewriting the story.

TIP 5—Track your thoughts
Because thoughts are powerful, we need to gain control over them in order to stop getting more of what we don’t want. Once you’re aware of a negative thought, you need to capture it—write it down. You might be thinking it’s crazy to write down negative stuff, but I’ve lived this, and I know it works! So pay attention to your negative thoughts and write them down. Look for patterns, unsupportive and destructive stories and repeating themes. You can shred or burn your daily list periodically. Take control!

TIP 6—Teach others what you’ve learned
Teaching others what we’re learning and experiencing is a powerful tool that helps us make even greater changes. As we teach others, we clarify for ourselves. If we teach what we learn to our family, we’ll be heartened as we see them making changes also, and our whole family will be blessed.

TIP 7—Keep practicing
Keep working at controlling your thoughts. This is something you need to do daily. There isn’t a point when you’re so good at it that you can stop working on it

Would you like to know more about these seven tips on controlling your responses with your children, then check out the book Becoming a Present Parent: Connecting With Your Children in Five Minutes or Less.

Your Shares are the BEST Compliment. : ) 

When the Result Stinks You’re the Problem!

My mom, NaVon Cazier

My mother has come to live with us. She is eighty-seven and has Alzheimer’s. That makes every day an adventure.

My mother and my husband both go to bed a bit later than I do because they sleep in. Recently, early in the morning, I used my blow dryer for about a minute and a half. This is not an exaggeration as my hair is short and I do very little to it.

All of a sudden my mother appeared at the bathroom door demanding, “What in the H___ are you doing that in the middle of the night for!” Whoa, that took me back and I replied, “Well mom, it isn’t the middle of the night. It’s six forty-five and I am getting ready for work.” By this point, she was already heading back to her bedroom mumbling about the inconsideration of some people and having her sleep disturbed in the middle of the night.

My husband, Don

I have a wonderful pair of scissors. They cost a bit of money and I keep them in a drawer with my sewing supplies and I NEVER use them for anything but cutting material. Recently, I was sewing an item and left the scissors sitting on a pile of material scraps on my kitchen counter.

Later that day I found them outside, on the patio, in front of the door of our new office where my husband had been doing some electrical wiring. I knew that my husband, unable to find the pliers, had used my good scissors to cut his electrical wires! I picked them up and marched into the house, stood in front of my husband and said in a very irritated voice, “Why were my good sewing scissors outside by the office? These are expensive scissors and are only for cutting material!” Needless, to say he was taken back and replied, “I don’t know why they were outside.”

These are two really wonderful examples of how the story we tell ourselves can and does impact how we respond.

OUR RESPONSE MATTERS   

When we’re parenting children understanding the connection between what we think is happening or has happened and how we respond really matters.

It matters for two reasons:

  • What we think will determine if our response is appropriate or not
  • Our response will send a message to our child about how we feel about them and often about who they are regardless of whether this was our intention or not

Frequently, if our story is skewed, our response is harsh and inappropriate and the message it sends is damaging to how our children feel about themselves.

In the case of my mom, her story was that it was the middle of the night and so she felt that I was totally inconsiderate of the rest of the family and that fueled her angry response.

In the case of the scissors, my story was that Don was using them inappropriately and that he was an adult and should have known better and that fueled my accusatory and angry response.

In both cases we were wrong in what we perceived was happening.

My mom and I both sent a message that we didn’t really intend to send. My mom was bugged that her sleep was interrupted but she doesn’t really believe I am an inconsiderate person but if I had been an impressionable child or teen her response could have sent a negative message that could have been internalized as true.

I know my husband isn’t inconsiderate and inappropriate but my message implied that he was both. Often the message that we send to our children when we’re not in control of our response is that there is something wrong with them, not with what they may or may not have done.

Thoughts, perceptions, and beliefs create a story and based on those stories we feel an emotion and then respond. Our response generates a result which can be good or bad, helpful or unhelpful.

Paying attention to our thoughts and the stories they generate is important and is a skill which can be learned and practiced. As we do so our lives get better and happier because we have more positive outcomes for ourselves, our relationships, our children, and our family.

Next week I will share seven tips to help you begin practicing the skill of controlling your response even when you are angry, frustrated, irritated, etc.

Your shares are the best compliment.