Tag: control your thoughts

No One Can Take Away What You Put In Your Mind

I recently finished reading The Choice. The author, Dr. Edith Eva Eger, spent part of her teen years in Auschwitz. She shares things she learned while there, after she left, and while working as a psychiatrist with other trauma victims. It was gut-wrenching and not a pretty read. I had to endure a bit of foul language. It went with the territory.

I could relate to many things she shared, as I have also experienced trauma. I could affirm many of the healing tools she spoke about because I have used them.

One that has made ALL the difference for me in the latter part of my life is encompassed in a phrase Edith’s mother shared all the time and which Edith carried into the concentration camp – “No one can take away from you what you put in your mind.”

I know from my own experience that this is true. We can choose our story no matter what is happening. We can choose to forgive. We can choose to love. We can decide how to respond. We can think negative thoughts or positive. We can choose. Our ability to choose what goes into our minds is the greatest gift we have been given on this earth. It makes ALL the difference.

We don’t need to be dealing with trauma for this to be true. It is true every day, in every situation. It is true as we deal with friends, family, and even enemies. It is true in abundance and scarcity. It is true in sickness and health. It is always true. What we think about and how we frame it determines our lives, whether we are growing or dying, whether we are happy or dissatisfied, whether we are contributing or not.

You change your story by controlling your thoughts. You manage your emotions by controlling your narrative. When you do this, you take more positive actions, and you get better results.

Tips for Better Thought Management

Here are some tips to begin to master your thoughts and hence, your responses. I have been using these tools for the last fifteen years, and I can promise that it will change your life if you use them.

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

TIP 2—Decide to think the best of others
The key to overcoming the natural man’s tendency to assume the worst about others’ motives is not to polish our apology skills nor learn to control our anger and frustration. Rather, the key to overcoming this destructive behavior is to question our story. Examining the negative story we tell ourselves . . . causes us to consider alternate explanations for their apparently hurtful behavior. To accomplish this, ask yourself one question: “Why would a reasonable, rational, and decent person do this?” Or, if this is too unwieldy, ask, “Why would a decent person act this way?” (McMillan, “Master Your Stories and You Master Your Life”)

TIP 3—Choose words wisely
Dr. Wayne Dyer has said, “What’s in you is what comes out” (“Why the Inside Matters”). 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.

TIP 4—Keep practicing
Managing your thoughts and putting good things in your mind 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.

Dr. Eger was able to survive the concentration camp because she controlled her thoughts. She held on to the good and let go of the bad. She remembered the joy and dismissed the pain. It all took time. Some took a lot of time, but as she persisted, she was able to heal.

Thoughts and the resulting stories are powerful in determining our happiness level. When my granddaughter, Mary, was six, she loved 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!” Like all of us, Mary gets to write the story, and her story makes her happy. And for all I know, her story may be as valid as mine.

You can find more tips and some amazing true stories in Chapter Five of my book Becoming A Present Parent: Connecting with Your Children in Five Minutes or Less. It is worth the read!

Keep Your Hand on the Helm of Thought

You Have Control Over How Your Life Feels!

I’ve written many articles on the power of accepting that you have control over how your life feels. This control comes from learning to manage your thoughts. I write about it because, for three decades, as a mom, I didn’t believe this was true. I felt hammered and blown about by life. Then one day, I came face to face with the truth – I had control of my life through how I thought about my life.

I didn’t want to accept this truth. It was a heavy burden, too much responsibility. I fought against believing this truth for over a decade. Then one day, I came to know it was true. When I accepted that I was 100% responsible for how my life felt, I discovered that it wasn’t a heavy burden at all but one of the most freeing truths I had every embraced.

Planting Seeds

One of the earliest books I read that talked about the power of controlling our thoughts was As a Man Thinketh by James Allen.

“Yes, humanity surges with uncontrolled passion, is tumultuous with ungoverned grief, is blown about by anxiety and doubt. Only the wise man, only he whose thoughts are controlled and purified, makes the winds and the storms of the soul obey him.

“The tempest-tossed souls, wherever ye may be, under whatsoever conditions ye may live, know this-in the ocean of life the isles of Blessedness are smiling, and the sunny shore of your ideal awaits your coming. Keep your hand firmly upon the helm of thought. In the bark of your soul reclines the commanding Master; He does but sleep; wake Him. Self-control is strength; Right thought is mastery; Calmness is power. Say unto your heart, “Peace, be still!”

Pretty deep. I was in high school and borrowed the book from my dad, who had gone back to college when I was in 10th grade. I didn’t understand it fully then, but a seed was planted.

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 reminds 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). I would add their ability to control their thoughts, which leads to the best response. Isn’t it interesting that I read this book back in those high school days also?

Negative Thought Narrows, Positive Thought Expands

A couple of years ago, I read an article by James Clear in the Huffington Post – “Research has shown … negative emotions narrow your mind and focus your thoughts.”

Your brain shuts everything else off and focuses on the negative emotions of fear, anger, frustration, or stress. You can’t see other options or choices. On the other hand, positive emotions do the opposite.

From a research study by Barbara Fredrickson, a positive psychology researcher at the University of North Carolina, “When you’re experiencing positive emotions like joy, contentment, and love, you’ll see more possibilities in your life. Positive emotions broaden an individual’s momentary thought-action repertoire: joy sparks the urge to play, interest sparks the urge to explore, contentment sparks the urge to savor and integrate, and love sparks a recurring cycle of each of these urges within safe, close relationships. The broadened mindsets arising from these positive emotions are contrasted to the narrowed mindsets sparked by many negative emotions.”

It is a Daily Practice

I have to work on controlling my thoughts every day. It’s easy to fall back into old patterns of blame and complaint. But I do work on it every day.

The result – I stay in blame and complaint for less time than in the past. Days have become hours, and often hours have become minutes.

If you’re feeling some push back to this idea, I understand. I’ve been there. But if you’re struggling to feel joy in your life, give it a try. Please take responsibility for your thoughts and your responses. Stop blaming. Take responsibility for your words, which are your thoughts in concrete form. You’re in control. Knowing this gives you all the power.

Help Other’s Know that there is a Way to Take Back Their Power. : ) 

Welcome To My Morning

Recently I was taken back in time as I listened to a soundtrack by John Denver. He was a singer-songwriter from the1960s through the 1990s. I was a young teen when he began his career and I enjoyed his music.

One song, that I listened to on this day was particularly meaningful – Welcome to My Morning. Look at the opening stanza.

Welcome to my morning
Welcome to my day
I’m the one responsible
I made it just this way

Many years ago, I finally understood and came to believe that I was truly responsible for how my days look. That belief can be a bit intimidating because if it is true then we must take 100% responsibility. Yikes! We must give up blame. Double yikes! We must stop being victims. Triple yikes!!!

But it’s true. And here is why. We cannot control other people or their actions. We cannot always control the circumstances that we find ourselves in. But we can always control our response to them. That is the key to the tenor of our days – our response.

Make Controlling Your Response a Daily Practice

It isn’t always easy to stay in control of our response but there are a few things that we can practice daily that will help us get better at it.

• Pay attention to your thoughts – Thoughts generate emotions and emotions move us to action. Our action will trigger a result, either positive or negative. So, it’s important to monitor your thoughts. Make the effort to keep them positive. Don’t let your mind make stuff up which it will try to do. Our mind wants to make sense out of things and sometimes we put our own spin on the facts.
• Think the best of others – It is easy to have negative thoughts about others and their motives, but if we make it a practice to think the best rather than the worst it goes a long way to helping us control our response. When someone cuts us off in traffic we can think, “That dumb jerk.” Or we can think, “She must be in a real hurry. I hope she gets there safely.” We get to decide how we will view the actions of others. When we decide to think the best of others, we can manage our thoughts better
• Give up blame. Blame is always an indicator there’s a problem with our way of being or how we perceive what’s happening. Taking responsibility for how we perceive what’s happening can and does make a difference in our outcomes.
• Practice gratitude. It’s remarkable how thought shifting gratitude can be. For many, it doesn’t come naturally because life is hard. People are rude and inconsiderate. Bad things do happen to good people. But gratitude is something we can cultivate and when we do, it goes a long way to helping us have more positive thoughts. That leads us to better responses, and we have better outcomes.

I love this example from my friend April Hiatt, who had attended a class I taught on this topic. She was practicing giving up blame, thinking the best of others, and being grateful.

“I opened the dryer door to discover wet clothes. Jonathan (my 14-year-old) didn’t press the start button when he transferred loads. I was three words into my grumble when I heard myself say out loud “Oh, I’m so glad I checked the dryer.” The next words were of understanding, with a deep feeling of love . “I’ve done this same thing before .” This whole cycle took under 3 seconds, and it happened without me really thinking about it. Wow, I’m amazed.”

We need to make setting our intention for the day a practice. We will have to do this our whole lives. Eventually, it does become easier, but it is a life-long work. We must decide that we’re going to have a good day. We must decide that people are basically kind. We must decide that life is good. These daily decisions help us respond better.

When you wake up and have a headache you can roll over and think, “This is going to be a lousy day.” Or you can close your eyes and think, “I’m glad I have something I can take for this.”

I know, it feels irritating to even think about it. That’s exactly how I felt when I first learned this principle, that I am responsible for how my life feels. But I want you to know that as I embraced this truth it changed my world. It gave me all the power!

You can listen to John Denver’s beautiful song HERE. Enjoy.

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.

 

Complaining and Charity-The Connection

There is NO silver bullet for change

Simple things done consistently over time are what bring the changes that matter in our lives. Often we look for a silver bullet but time, increased understanding and practice are what are required for lasting change. Here is an example.

The 1% Principle

I learned about the 1% principle way back in 2011. It basically states that when you work on the one most important change you need to make it exponentially expands that change for good in your life – it affects not only the 1% you were focusing on but all the rest of your life as well. That sounded really important to me and even true.

But it wasn’t until the fall of 2013 that I put it to the test.

I wanted to flow into 2014 gracefully and make needed changes. So I began taking that desire to the Lord (my chosen source for information) and asking him for some guidance. I phrased it this way, “What is the one action step I could take in 2014 that would make the most significant change for good in my life?”

You will notice I asked for an “action” step and only one of them. Remember the 1% principle.

God must have wanted to see how serious I was about the question because I prayed that same prayer every day for three months! Then one night I knew the answer – stop complaining!

That response shocked me because I certainly wasn’t a complaining person. However, over the next few weeks, as I watched myself, I found that I did a fair amount of complaining.

• Can’t you put your socks in the hamper?
• This meat is so tough.
• I can’t believe the city decided to fix the road now!
• Stop being so noisy.

I worked on this one thing for the next couple of years but eventually, I went back to my knees because I didn’t feel that I was making much progress. This time the response came immediately and was just as shocking. Be grateful! I have worked on that for three years now. I have used gratitude journals, better prayers, more service, and I have become more grateful and I do complain a bit less.

But this year I felt the need to understand this whole complaining thing better. I recall a conversation I had with a friend not too long after I was counseled to stop complaining. She said, “You’re not a complainer. Everyone says stuff like that. It’s just talk.”

Words are Powerful!

One of the topics that always comes up with families I work with is how powerful that ‘talk’ or our words and thoughts are. They carry enormous weight.  I understand that subject well and I have used a number of exercises over the years to get a handle on my own words and thoughts. In fact, there’s a whole chapter on the topic in my book Becoming a Present Parent. 

So although I am aware of when I complain and work to keep on top of my thoughts and the words I use I still felt that something was missing because I still complain. There seemed to be a gap in my understanding that if understood would radically assist me to complain less and be more grateful.

I have to take a short detour here in the narrative. At the same time I began working on complaining less I made a serious decision to become a more charitable person, less judgmental. That has been a work in progress too. Here is how they’re connected.

Last week I was sitting in my office pondering what I knew about complaining, thoughts and words and how they affect our lives. In that moment a light bulb went on in my brain. Complaining was more than just being bugged about something or someone.

Complaining is actually any negative thought we have. Any negative thought. And in that same moment I came to understand that when you are having a negative thought, even before the thought becomes words or action, you step back from charity. You cannot be negative and charitable at the same moment any more than you can experience fear and faith at the same time.

I have been embracing this new information for a week now and it has radically changed what I allow into my mind and out of my mouth. It’s a simple concept but it isn’t always easy to implement. Entertaining negative thoughts and speaking complaining words are as my friend said, “What everyone does.” It is a bad habit!

What You Get if You do the Work

But here is what can change in your family and life when you change the habit of entertaining negative thoughts and speaking negative words:

• You get better and more inspiration. You cannot hear God (your Higher Power) when you are listening to the negative

• Your relationship with yourself will improve. You cannot be charitable to yourself and your weaknesses when you use unkind words about yourself.

• When you truly love and accept yourself, warts and all, you will love your family better. You will be more charitable when someone messes up.

• Your family relationships will improve. You cannot be charitable, teach effectively or build up those you love when you hold negative thoughts about them or their actions or speak negatively to them.

• You will be a more effective example and teacher. Children learn better when there is less yelling, tension or judgment.

• You will yell less. If you hold negative thoughts and emotions long enough the complaining words will come out and spill onto others, despite your best intentions

• You will grow as a person. The process of learning to control your thoughts, words, and stories will teach you new things and elevate your way of being. That is what happened to me last week.

• You will be more charitable and less judgmental

• You will feel more gratitude, even for the hard things, because you will recognize them as opportunities for growth.

I have been working to lessen my own complaining for five years. Yet just last week I got another part of the puzzle and it’s exciting.

Sometimes we equate the time it takes to make a significant change in our lives with failure; “If we were really any good we would have gotten a handle on this by now.”

But that’s a lie. Simple things done consistently over time (whatever amount of time is required) is what bring changes that matter and adjust our lives for the better. I have been working on becoming a more grateful, non-complaining, charitable person for five years and I just had a new lesson. Thank goodness time spent does not equal failure. It equals eventual success no matter what it is we’re working on.

So don’t get discouraged. Just keep working on whatever is your 1%. When you don’t quit, change is guaranteed.

• It took me eight years to learn to sew well.
• It took me over fifty years of singing to be able to read music.
• It took me ten years to stop raging and yelling.

Simple things done consistently over time are what bring the changes that matter in our lives. Don’t Quit!

Want a clearer view of what change in real life looks like and tips to make changes that stick?

 

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Why Think The Best of Others?

I was helping an older woman take a shower. She wasn’t able to stand so she sat. She wasn’t able to wash and so I lathered up the washcloth and helped her out. This was the mother of a dear friend. I had been serving her and her husband for quite some time but bathing his wife was his job. However, on this day he had another obligation. So I was filling in.

When I turned off the water I got a fluffy towel and began to dry her body. When I reached her feet I carefully dried between her toes. I was unprepared for her abrupt response.

“Oh, you dried between my toes, how wonderful!” I looked up and asked, “Doesn’t your husband dry between your toes.” She replied, “No, he doesn’t.”

Here is what I thought in my mind. “Well, that old coot. He should dry between his wife’s toes. He dries his own toes and he should dry hers. He is just being lazy and in too big of a hurry.” I thought he was doing just a tad less than a loving husband should do.

This experience took place well over 25 years ago. But I always remembered it because I love drying between my toes. Wet toes are gross toes.

Recently, Don and I had a conversation about this very subject. I know, I know, who talks about toes. But it came up in conversation when I was putting lotion on my feet one evening. I mentioned how much I like having my feet dried, especially between my toes. Then I told him the story of my friends and how inconsiderate the husband was of his wife. I said, “After all everyone dries between their toes and he should have done that for his wife.”

Don looked quizzically at me and there was a long pause. Finally, he said, “Mary, I never dry between my toes.” And at that moment the light bulb went on for me.

Not everyone dries between their toes. Maybe my friend’s husband didn’t dry between his toes and if so it would never have occurred to him to dry between his wife’s toes. The poor old coot was finally off the hook after more than 25 years.

I had misjudged the situation and I had held a negative thought about him all this time.

Why does this matter?

• Because negative thoughts that we hold about another person are unhealthy in our own body.
• Because energetically I was periodically zapping that old coot whenever I remembered the story that I held in my heart about him.
• Because I judged wrongly.

And there is the crux of the matter. More often than not we judge wrongly because we just don’t have enough information. This is important as we work to control our own negative thinking. There are a number of ways to control the story we tell ourselves about others, their motive, and our circumstances. Here is one of the number one ways:

Decide to think the best of others

 

When we have conflict in our relationships whether it’s with our child, a neighbor, our spouse, our boss, the checker at the grocery store, or even ourselves, our story is usually at the heart of the problem.

In a wonderful article by Ron McMillan, in an online magazine, he told the story of a 16-year-old girl and her father. Because of the story the father was telling himself about his daughter’s behavior he was challenged to respond well and it damaged their relationship. This is what McMillan had to say –

“The key to overcoming the natural man’s tendency to assume the worst about others’ motives is not to polish our apology skills nor learn to control our anger and frustration. Rather, the key to overcoming this destructive chain of events is to question our story.

‘Examining the negative story we tell ourselves . . . causes us to consider alternate explanations for … apparently hurtful behavior.

‘To accomplish this, ask yourself one question: “Why would a reasonable, rational and decent person do this?” Or, if this is too unwieldy, ask, “Why would a decent person act this way?” (McMillan, “Master Your Stories and You Master Your Life”)

It isn’t what happens that makes us mad it’s the story we tell ourselves about what happened that makes us mad.

It wasn’t that my friend didn’t get her toes dried that made me feel irritated with her husband it was the story I told myself about why he didn’t dry her toes.

When we decide to think the best of others, we can manage our thoughts and the resulting story more effectively. This will help us have better relationships with our family and more happiness in life.

By the way, you might be interested to know that a few weeks after my conversation with Don, as we were sitting together on a quiet evening, he looked at me and said, “I thought you would like to know, I dried between my toes.

OK, do you dry between your toes. Inquiring minds want to know. : ) 

 

GROUP MENTORING

I will be hosting a four-week GROUP mentoring session and you’re all invited. If you really want to take your parenting and family happiness up a notch then this is something to consider.

Calls will be held bi-weekly on Thursdays. They will be recorded for later playback. Each call will consist of training on a personal growth as a parent topic and then will have a Q&A. Calls will last from 1hour to 1 ½ hours depending on the Q&A.

Join the Group

 

I can help you experience less resentmentenjoy being with your children more, have more connected relationshipsless stress, less overwhelm, and greater inner peace. I can help you become more of the person and parent you really want to be.

“I so much from you…I wish you knew…the difference you are making. It really feels like deep, sustainable changes. I am enjoying more happiness…I’ve done plenty of mentoring/classes/energy work/ self-help, etc., and my husband told me a few months ago that this was the best I’d ever spent.”   Stefanie Miller

 

You can learn more about writing better mental stories in my new book Becoming a Present Parent, Connecting With Your Children in Five Minutes or Less. Knowing the difference will help you let it be enough. You can also receive a chapter from the book on Touchpoints, creating points of connection rather than having points of contention, FREE by visiting becomingapresentparent.com It can be life-changing for your family. I promise!

STOP Living in the Fog of Ignorance

One morning a woman arose early and sat by her large front window and watched an incredible sunrise as it lit the valley in gold. She observed the shadow of the night moving out of the way of the suns rays as it rose slowly over the mountains. She could feel that it was going to be a beautiful day and it filled her heart with gladness.

But as she looked across the valley she noticed that there was a thick blanket of fog covering most of the city. She realized that despite the promise of a beautiful day none of those living in the valley could see it. They had no idea that the sun was beautiful and the air was clear and the sky was blue. All they could see was the grey fog that surrounded them.

What a great metaphor for the lives of many parents.

When I began parenting it wasn’t exactly as I had envisioned. It was harder. I knew there must be a way to enjoy my children more, to feel less resentment. I knew that there must be a way to remain calm. But I was lost in the fog of ignorance.

I’m using this word in the classic sense – lack of knowledge, information or awareness.

At first, for me, it was absolute lack of awareness in the area of remaining calm with my children.

I grew up in a good family and we loved each other but the way we dealt with conflict was not healthy. We yelled. I watched my mom and dad yell and my aunts and uncles. It was what you did if you were angry, if kids weren’t complying in the way you thought they should, if money was tight, if a spouse made a mistake or if circumstances didn’t match what you expected.

It took me a full ten years to even come to an awareness that yelling might not be the best way to handle things. At some point, I began to suspect that there might be a different way as I observed other families. But it came to a head for me when my neighbor walked across the street and handed me a brochure on anger management!

 

After I became fully aware that I needed to change this particular behavior I remained ignorant for a time because I lacked knowledge and information on how it was even possible to manage your emotions. I believed at that time that responding to emotion as I did was normal. I believed that my yelling was caused by my kids, my spouse, money, other people and circumstances I couldn’t control. It had never occurred to me that how I responded was not determined by what was happening or who was involved but was totally within my control.

Fortunately, I heard this statement in a church class, “If there’s a problem, it’s your problem.” Let me tell you that made me so MAD and I didn’t believe it was true!! Over the next few years, I was fortunate enough to find other pieces of information that helped me begin to see that I could take responsibility for my emotions, maintain calm, and manage my response. The fog began to lift.

As I learned new things I applied them and my life began to change. The sun came out and I could see that it was going to be a beautiful day.

Many wonderful parents live in a fog-filled valley in one way or another.

How can you be sure you’re doing it right? How can you remain calm? How can you connect when life is so busy? How can you manage disappointment, frustration, and negative thoughts? How can you see your children in a better light? How do you let go of resentment? How do you get past so much family contention? How do you keep your home clean and orderly? These are just of a few fog-filled places in parenting and when we don’t know the answers to these and other questions it’s harder to see the sun and know that it’s going to be a beautiful day.

What I see many parents do as I mentor is to attach blame to themselves. They just aren’t good people in some way or they would know how to do it better. But they aren’t bad people; they are ignorant and need information and knowledge about what it takes to resolve their particular struggle. And then they need to implement that knowledge and begin practicing.

Sometimes parents blame their children. If they just weren’t so noisy, uncooperative, messy, naughty…and the list goes on. Sometimes they blame money or each other or their circumstances.

As parents, we need to stop assigning blame for the difficulties we have in our family and seek out information and knowledge that will help us manage better. We can get that information through good books, parenting events, social service organizations, and mentoring with someone who has accomplished what we want to be able to do better.

We have to choose to climb out of the fog-filled valley and into a brighter day. It is always a choice that we have and we can learn to make that choice more often.

Here is something you can begin to do today that will help clear fog out of your family no matter what your current struggle?

 

Take responsibility and stop blaming. When we choose to tell ourselves stories that blame others, we decide to become victims. Victims parent poorly.

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

One mom I worked with had this enlightening experience as she began taking responsibility for her own feelings and responses and stopped blaming.

She told me the following:

“I opened the dryer door only to discover wet clothes. Jonathan (my 14-year-old) didn’t press the start button when he transferred loads. I was three words into my grumble when I heard myself say out loud “Oh, I’m so glad I checked the dryer.” The next words were of understanding, with a deep feeling of love . “I’ve done this same thing before .” This whole cycle took under 3 seconds, and it happened without me really thinking about it. Wow, I’m amazed.” April H., WA

When you find yourself blaming something or someone outside of yourself STOP and ask this question – How am I choosing to respond and what would be a better response? As you practice you will get better and better at choosing your response no matter what the circumstances are.

April, who had struggled with negative thinking had begun to climb out of the fog of blame and she was discovering that the sun does shine and that it can be a beautiful day and you can discover the same thing for yourself.

What is your experience with learning and implementing something new and then coming out of the fog? Please share because we are all looking for a new bit of information that can help us do the same. : ) 

 

GROUP MENTORING

I will be hosting a four-week GROUP mentoring session and you’re all invited. If you really want to take your parenting and family happiness up a notch then this is something to consider.

Calls will be held bi-weekly on Thursdays. They will be recorded for later playback. Each call will consist of training on a personal growth as a parent topic and then will have a Q&A. Calls will last from 1hour to 1 ½ hours depending on the Q&A.

Join the Group

 

I can help you experience less resentment; enjoy being with your children more, have more connected relationships, less stress, less overwhelm, and greater inner peace. I can help you become more of the person and parent you really want to be.

“I so much from you…I wish you knew…the difference you are making. It really feels like deep, sustainable changes. I am enjoying more happiness…I’ve done plenty of mentoring/classes/energy work/ self-help, etc., and my husband told me a few months ago that this was the best I’d ever spent.”   Stefanie Miller

Join me and experience a relationship transformation

 

You can learn more about climbing out of the fog in my new book Becoming a Present Parent, Connecting With Your Children in Five Minutes or Less. Knowing the difference will help you let it be enough. You can also receive a chapter from the book on Touchpoints, creating points of connection rather than having points of contention, FREE by visiting becomingapresentparent.com It can be life-changing for your family. I promise!

You’ll Jinx Yourself!

The flu season is here! So are the cold season and the pneumonia season. A few Sundays ago I stopped at a neighbor’s home to drop something off. We chatted at the door for a few minutes and guess what came up? You guessed it – how many people are sick.

As I was leaving my neighbor said, “Be careful and don’t get sick.” I replied, “I won’t. I never get sick.” Her immediate and emphatic reply was, “Don’t say that. You’ll jinx yourself!”

I’ve been thinking about that and here is what I know for sure – Our voice is the most powerful voice in the world, for us. What we say out loud to ourselves over and over again is what our mind and body begin to believe. I repeat whenever possible, all winter long, “I never get sick.” And you know what, I rarely do get sick.

Recently, I was at an event with almost 500 other people. Of course how much illness there was in the city came up a few times. In one particular conversation, one of the staff said, “Well I’m impervious. I never get sick.” I believed him because what we say to ourselves is really powerful.

You’ve all heard this old saying or something like it, “What you say is what you get.” It’s true.

If you talk negatively about your children you will see them in a negative light no matter what they’re actually doing. 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.

If you speak unkindly about yourself you’re going to feel bad about yourself. If you talk negatively about your circumstances and possibilities the outcome will be more negative than you would like.  “I’m bald so I look older.” “My hips, thighs, tummy, whatever, is too fat.” “I have so many wrinkles.” “I am not a fun mom/dad.” “People just don’t like me.” “Nothing goes my way.” “Life is so hard.” “I’m just no good at math.” “I can’t seem to hang on to a dollar.” “My families too poor, there’s no way I can go to college.” “I could never learn to do that.”

Many of you may have a difficult time accepting that we draw to ourselves the things we focus on and say to ourselves. I used to have trouble believing it myself. In fact, the thought that is was all my responsibility made me so mad! But I couldn’t shake this new idea and over time I came to know the truth of it.

If we want better outcomes, we need to watch our words. Say what you want, not what you don’t want.

Here are some steps to help you generate more positive outcomes in your life:

  • Take responsibility and stop blaming
  • Decide to think the best of others
  • Choose words wisely
  • Practice thinking and speaking in more positive terms, no matter how the situation looks.
  • Don’t stop practicing no matter how long it takes to see results.

There are others but these will get you started.

Know how we really jinx ourselves? We do it when we talk negatively about ourselves, our lives, our circumstances, our possibilities and the people we come in contact with. If you want better outcomes, if you want to be happier, if you want life to feel and be better then begin confessing what you want.

“I never get sick!”

??? Feedback, please. Are you where I was some years ago. Does this make you mad? Or have you moved along this path far enough to have experienced what I am talking about? Let’s talk about it.

P.S. You can learn more about taking control of your self-talk in my new book Becoming a Present Parent, Connecting With Your Children in Five Minutes or Less. Knowing the difference will help you let it be enough. You can also receive a chapter from the book on Touchpoints, creating points of connection rather than having points of contention, FREE by visiting becomingapresentparent.com It can be life-changing for your family. I promise!

Want Better Relationships – Like Yourself First!

I keep thinking that I’ll switch topics from the power of controlling our story and response to another parenting topic but every day provides a new and powerful example of just what it looks like to control how we think and act.

Stories of real-life examples are impactful in helping us relate to principles in a way that allows us to get clarity on how to live them better. There’s value in ‘seeing’ a principle at work because it extends our knowledge of the principle and knowledge is power when it comes to personal change.

Here is an example from this week.

When I was writing the book Becoming a Present Parent I found myself constantly distracted and it was hard to make headway. So I pondered what I could do to find more consistent time to write. My most clear and compelling thought was to get up at four in the morning which would give me three uninterrupted hours. It was one of the most challenging and rewarding things I have ever set out to do. For over six months I got up early six days a week and wrote. It was exhilarating to see the book come together.

That was over 1 ½ years ago and a recent move. I have got to confess that I fell off that wagon and I’ve struggled to get back on. I’ve been making an effort to go back to my early morning routine because I have some studying to do that is kicking my rear and I need more quiet, focused time.

Each day since I determined to get up at four a.m. I have awakened to the alarm and then changed the time to 5:30 or 6. Of course, I want to get up, I know I should get up but when it comes to getting up I have an argument with myself and I lose. Here’s the story I’ve been telling myself about the situation: I’m just rebellious. I know I should get up but I just don’t want to. I’m being a lazy lump!”

On Monday I told my daughter how I was feeling. She replied, “Well mom, maybe you’re just being charitable to yourself. We’ve just moved, have been renovating every day and you are tired. Maybe you’re just listening to your body and taking care of yourself.” Wow, that felt a lot better than the story I’d been telling myself.

On Wednesday I helped my 95-year-old friend in her yard. It was laborious, to say the least. My back was sore and so were my legs. I felt very weary. In fact, I went to bed at 8:30.

Now, from 8:30 to 4:30 is eight hours, the amount of time I feel I need and want to sleep each night. But when the alarm went off I was still TIRED. I wanted to lie there and rest a bit more. So I did. The difference was this: I thought it over and made a decision. I didn’t argue with myself or feel like a lazy lump. I just decided to give myself an extra hour of sleep.

I know I need to get up at 4:00. I feel very strongly about that and I will. But while I’m getting back into the traces, so to speak, I’m going to be kinder to myself. I’m going to be more generous with the story I tell myself about the process I have to go through to make it happen.

Remember last week? I shared the idea that when we think positively about any given situation it increases our ability to come up with options for moving forward. With this in mind, I know that as I remain positive, continue in my efforts to accomplish a challenging goal and don’t quit, I will succeed more quickly.

The story we tell ourselves about ourselves, others or situations impacts how we feel and then respond. Getting control over our story and the ensuing response gives us greater power over our lives. It’s worth the effort!

If you want to begin taking control of your story, then I want to help you. I have an exercise that I want to share with you, FREE. It’s a simple PDF which will walk you through a 30-day exercise that will help you see patterns in your negative thoughts and will give you clarity on what you need to work on first. If you’re interested then click here. It will be available for download for one week.

I’d like to know what you’re struggling with right now and how changing your story could help you have a better outcome. Please leave a comment. I will respond. : )

Here’s to more joy,
Mary Ann

P.S. You can learn more about controlling your thoughts and emotions for better family relationships in my new book Becoming a Present Parent, Connecting With Your Children in Five Minutes or Less. You can also receive a chapter from the book on Touchpoints, creating points of connection rather than having points of contention, FREE by visiting becomingapresentparent.com It can be life-changing for your family. I promise!

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