Tag: you can change

We All Need More Light

The other day when I went out to water the garden,

I had an interesting thing happen that reminded me that sometimes, we can be blind to what is right in front of us.

The backyard hose is attached to a faucet that uses groundwater. Then the hose snakes across the lawn, over a small fence, and into the garden where it connects to another faucet that waters the garden. When I water the garden, I do the same thing almost every day. First, I walk out to the back faucet and turn on the water. Then I go through the garden gate and turn on the second faucet which lets water into the garden.

On this day, Doug had unhooked the groundwater hose the day before to fill the swimming pool. He had connected it to the house faucet so that city water would be in the pool. I knew he was doing this. I saw the hose hanging over the side of the pool. Yet, I went over to the faucet, turned it on, and got a face full of water. What! I could see the hose wasn’t connected, but my brain did not switch gears from what I do almost every day to what was happening this day.

How can that even happen?

But this kind of thing does happen in everyone’s life. There are times when we don’t see what is right in front of us. We may behave in unhealthy or damaging ways to our family or ourselves and not even know it. We do what we have always done.

When we moved with Jodie’s family this last time, we had to build a kitchen for my family, where a storage room had been. Everyone tried to talk me out of the light I choose to go over the kitchen sink. After all, it was a bathroom fixture. I didn’t care, I loved how it looked, and it was so illuminating. Every time I use that light, I am amazed at how much better I can see. The odd thing is that I don’t always use this extra light. Sometimes I will be washing potatoes or doing dishes and think, “I have enough light.” And I do, sort of. Then I will have a change of heart and flip the switch that is right in front of me, and voila! I can see so much better. There are other times when I know that I need more light, and I hurriedly flip the switch. I am always shocked at how much better I can see and how much more efficiently I can do whatever job I am doing because the details are more apparent.

This happens in life, in parenting. Wouldn’t it be nice to have all the information and knowledge we need no matter what came up? But we don’t. Often it takes time for us to determine that we lack the knowledge we need to do a better job of whatever it is. It can take a great deal of time before we realize that something we are doing may be harmful or counterproductive. For example, it took me almost ten years to understand that raging wasn’t a great way to manage problems and another ten to find the resources and support I needed, the light, to make a permanent change.

Often, when we realize that we have a lack of knowledge or skill, we beat ourselves up. When we find that our behavior is harmful, we feel tremendous guilt and shame. That is as foolish as me berating myself because I didn’t turn on my sink light right away or because I didn’t ‘see’ that the hose had been disconnected. Beating ourselves up and wallowing in shame and guilt for not having needed knowledge and resources is counterproductive. Instead, we should search for whatever resource will help turn on the light and make the details for change clearer.

‘Seeing’ Clearly Can Make ALL the Difference!

In my life, there have been times when I have said, “I can see fine.” I would keep moving forward and struggling because the truth was, the hose was unhooked, but I didn’t see it. Sometimes we cannot see what is right there in plain sight. We need help. It isn’t that we are inadequate, or stupid, or uncaring. We lack the information we need. Eventually, I would reach out for help via a friend, a book, or other resources. Sometimes it would be a class. Then the details became more evident, I made changes, and life got better in that one thing.

When I finally understood that I should stop yelling I didn’t know how. I couldn’t just stop. I needed to ‘see’ what was causing me to rage and how I could make a change. The first resource came in the form of a neighbor who offered me a pamphlet on anger management. That was very embarrassing but was the first step in changing my life and the lives of my children and husband.

Now, when I realize that I have a weakness or am erring somehow, I rejoice. I do not allow guilt to crowd in. I do not wallow in shame. I do not beat myself up! After all, I can’t change what I cannot see. When I do finally ‘see,’ I reach out. I look for the switch I need so I will have more light. I begin with prayer. I ask for help, and resources always come.

When you find yourself in the dark or semi-dark, STOP feeling like a failure. Instead, look for the switch, which is never too far away, and flip on the light. If you find yourself with a face full of water, so to speak, look for the hose and get it connected.

We do not need to be sprayed in the face over and over again. We do not need to work in darkness where we cannot see the details. Light can be ours, and it will lead us to change and growth. Really!!

Help a friend to ‘see’ more clearly.

Share the light. : ) 

I Am a Pathmaker and So are You!

I was afraid of everything!

I had few boundaries! There were good reasons that I found myself in this place as a mother; sexual abuse, controlling adults, fear brought on by the cold war, and the upheaval of civil unrest, a belief that I shouldn’t have been born. Life and the future felt uncertain. I had no way to make sense of what was happening in my world and the larger world, no one to talk to about it, and it added to the fear I had held inside since I was a toddler.

Although I was a good driver, I was too afraid to drive myself to college in Utah and home again to Colorado. I hired friends to drive. I worried about getting a ticket because I was afraid of getting in trouble. My experience had taught me that getting in trouble on any scale brought painful consequences.

Because of fear and boundary issues, it was challenging to advocate for my children in school and elsewhere. In addition, it was hard to discipline correctly. I believe this was one reason I raged. Anger helped mask the fear so that I could stand up for myself and my rules.

I had never felt like an adult. I couldn’t call any adult by their first name, even if I was older than they were. I had no confidence in myself, which was a tragedy of sorts because I was quite an extraordinary person.

That was a boatload of stuff to carry

into parenting.

How does a person parent when they are carrying so much baggage? Well, you do your best, and you run away a lot. I did that by becoming an excellent cake decorator, I taught community classes, I was president of the Band Parents and other groups, I served on boards, and I traveled the state teaching for the Girl Scouts. These activities masked my sense of worthlessness, but my emotionally running away wasn’t healthy for my family. As my children entered their teens, they were also wounded. We all suffered.

Recently, Don and I were having a conversation about my college years and the challenges of being so afraid and lacking any belief in my ability to make good choices. He said, “Well, you are more than over that now.” Truer words were never spoken.

How did I heal? How did I begin to understand boundaries and put them into my life? How did I stop raging? How did I cast off victimhood and begin to believe in myself?

I prayed a lot! I sought resources, and help came. I read books, lots of them, and attended classes. I looked for friends who were healthier than I, who had healed. I practiced what I learned. I was consistent in my efforts. I began speaking to and about myself with charity. I made a list of all those who had ever hurt me, and I forgave them, even my abuser. I asked them to forgive me for holding on to the pain for so long. I stopped being a victim in my mind. I began to believe that I was 100% in control of my responses. I’ll never forget the day that this truth finally sank into my heart. It made ALL the difference. The day I knew this was true, I had my power back.

While Reading Isaiah, the Light Came On

One day, early in my healing, I was studying Isaiah in the Christian Holy Bible. At the time, I was very new to the idea that I could heal, that I wasn’t a victim, that I had worth, that I was the mother of my children by design and not by accident, and as imperfect as I was, it would be enough. I read these verses – “And the Lord shall guide thee continually, and satisfy thy soul in drought, and make fat thy bones: and thou shalt be like a watered garden, and like a spring of water, whose waters fail not. And they that shall be of thee shall build the old waste places: thou shalt raise up the foundations of many generations; and thou shalt be called, The repairer of the breach, The restorer of paths to dwell in. Isaiah 58: 11-12

These words burned into my heart and soul – this was my mission in life – to heal myself and help others heal. I was a pathmaker. This knowledge was life-changing for me, and I stopped feeling bitter; I stopped feeling angry. I stopped being a victim, and I began my search for healing in earnest.

Some years later, when things got tough in our family, and I felt as if we would fly apart at the seams, I had a dream. I was flying over a beautiful valley. I was dressed in white, and my skirt was flowing in the breeze. My hair was blowing back, and I felt free and happy. Eventually, I noticed that boxes, bags, satchels, and trunks were falling to the earth from my body. Then I awoke.

I immediately knew the interpretation of this dream. I was being reminded that I was a pathmaker. I was healing myself with the help of Christ, and it would heal my family going forward and backward. I knew this with every fiber of my soul. It didn’t make the journey easier, but it kept me on the journey. I had my license plates changed to say Pathmaker.

Each day I recite these words – The Savior is healing me as I release old wounds and baggage. He softens my heart. As I heal, I am healing generations. I feel blessed to be helping free my family, myself, and others.

A year ago, I met a relative I didn’t know existed. She is a painter, and I told her about my dream. She painted it for me, and it hangs on my office wall. Every day I repeat the above words out loud, and I look at my painting.

I have made enormous progress. I am no longer afraid; I am brave; I can stand up for myself and others. I have boundaries, and I keep them. I know when to sacrifice and when to walk away. I know who I am and my value in the world. I trust myself to make good choices and to help others do the same.

We can change anything!

I am living proof of this.

Pray for guidance to healing. Let go of victimhood. Seek good resources, and they will come. Practice what you learn. Speak kindly to yourself, and about yourself. Forgive others. Believe that you are 100% in control of how you respond. There is no timeline for healing. It will take what it takes. For me, this healing and change took decades. Change didn’t come easily or quickly, but it came just the same.

I am now 71. Am I done? No. Healing and helping others is like an onion. There is always a new layer. Find joy in this journey. You can do it. You can be whole!

What about your family, those who suffer because you have baggage

Well, as I see in real-time, they will do the same. Your children will follow your example, and they will heal faster than you.

One day, one of my sweet daughters, who was also sexually abused, talked about the healing process she was going through. She was barely in her 30’s. I was in my 50’s and all my children were gone from home. I wailed, “How did you do it. Why did it take me so long? Why couldn’t I get better faster, so you were safer?” I felt such grief. Then she said, “Mom, I am healing faster because you were healing first. It has made my way easier.”

So let go of your worry. Do the best you can. Trust yourself and God that you can be whole. Trust your children that they will also do the work we all have to do. Then keep changing and growing. Healing and growing are each of our ultimate missions.

Choose one thing to start with, just one.
•Pray for direction
•Seek useful resources, whether a person, a book, a class, etc. Then practice what you learn. Be consistent in your efforts.
•Practice speaking to and about yourself with charity.
•Forgive one person who has harmed you, and then ask them to forgive you for holding on to the hurt. (This process is not done in person with others. If this is the step you choose, reach out to me, and I will send you a free PDF giving you directions.)
•Accept 100% responsibility for your responses to whatever is happening. When you feel like a victim or lose control, and you will, forgive yourself and begin again.

It doesn’t matter which thing you begin with. Just choose one and begin. Then stay the course no matter how long it takes. When you feel more confident, not perfect but more confident, in that one thing, choose another. If I can heal, you can heal. If you can heal, your children and family can heal. Healing and growth are lifelong processes that we all have, no matter the extent of our wounds.

So, begin!

What does an algae-filled pool have to do with successful parenting?

This summer my grandchildren spent hours with their friends in the pool in our back yard. Sadly, the weather cooled and so the pool was drained for the winter. Due to the placement of the drains three inches of water remained in the pool. Time passed.

One morning as I went into my office, I investigated the pool. There were three inches of green, algae-filled water. I thought, “Man, this is going to be a project to clean.”

I returned to the office and completed my morning routine. Then I sat down at my computer to begin writing. Into my mind came a clear thought – “You need to clean the pool.” WHAT! I had a full day of writing. But it was a clear, good thought so I got up and left the office. As I stood on the patio, I wondered how I was going to remove gallons of water from the pool bottom.

I decided to sweep a 5-gallon bucket through the water, lift it and pour it over the side. This worked. However, that was a lot of stooping, sweeping, rising and tossing. I persevered. After an hour and a half, I had to stop for an appointment. I thought, “I’m done for the day.”

When I finished my appointment, I headed for the office but again had the thought that I needed to clean the pool. I rolled up my pants, got my crocks and resumed the work. Eventually, my daughter who was on a break came out and said, “Mom, you don’t have to do this. It’s not your job.” I assured her that I knew I was supposed to clean the pool. She suggested that I use the shop vac. What a great idea!

The shop vac sucked up the water well, but it was far too heavy for me to hoist and dump over the side. Even only a quarter full it was too heavy. I returned to bailing with the 5-gallon bucket.

I could see that I was making progress, but it was labor-intensive and taking a long time. If any fathers are reading, please don’t stop because this scenario is so stupid. I know it! : )

Eventually, I decided that I could use the shop vac, suck up the water, and then bail water from the vac and throw it over the side. Each load of water in the shop vac was three buckets to dump. I know it doesn’t seem like much of an improvement, but it was. It felt easier even if it wasn’t faster.

When my daughter had another break, she came out to help. By then I was almost done. Jodie sucked up water while I swept the algae and sand to the center of the pool. Then she and I together would hoist the vac and dump it. We did about 5 dumps. She returned to her work and I did the final sweep and vacuumed up the residue that was left.

It was done and it looked fabulous. When I began the job, it was intimidating. After all, I’m 69, it was a lot of work and took a lot of time. I didn’t know if I could do it. But I was determined. I did what I could with what I had and as I went along my resources and support improved and I was able to finish the job.

I know that a couple of men could have done it in half the time. If I had had better tools the whole job would have been faster and easier. But I only had what I had. I could do it or not.

The Point of the Story

It’s a perfect example of parenting, my parenting. When I began, I had a pool of green scummy water to deal with that came from my growing up. I had a wonderful family, but like all families there was stuff. And my stuff had lain dormant for a long time. It was as nasty as that pool water.

Parenting for me was laborious because I lacked skills, had few resources and very little support. Don and I married and moved far away from family and friends. As the years passed, I tried different things. I learned new skills, found resources. Things got better.

Sometimes, I would look at how we were coming along, and it felt like looking at that pool job. It was hard. It was long. Frankly, I didn’t know if I could hold out to the end. But Don and I did. We actively parented for 39 years.

How Did It Turn Out?

As some of you know we had kids struggle with drugs, alcohol, dropping out of school and identity issues. It was tough. Our kids are all over thirty now and many are in their late forties. They’re smart, loyal, loving, kind, generous people. They can be trusted to do what is right.

I read a wonderful book, That We May Be One, by Tom Christopherson. His family had their share of trials, but his parents determined their success by how connected and bonded the family was. I have chosen to do the same.

My children talk to each other often. They gather at our family reunion regularly. This week one of my children found themselves in an unexpected financial bind. The word went out to the family and in less than 24 hours it was resolved with all of us pulling together.

It doesn’t matter what the water in the bottom of your pool looks like. It doesn’t matter how inefficient your tools and resources. If you will do what you know is right consistently, better tools and resources will come. You’ll get better. If you’re determined to parent as well as you can, to connect your family, to increase your skills and access the resources you need, then you’ll be successful. When you stay the course, no matter what you lack, what you need will show up. Simple things, done consistently over time, make all the difference.

If you relate to this article please share it with others. They will thank you for it. 🙂

 

Change Looks Like Failure First!

Change can be hard. One reason that change is so challenging is that we misunderstand what change actually looks like and we also misunderstand the time that is required for change.

I have read many books on change. There is the standard – it takes 30 days to create a new habit. If we are talking about making our bed daily or exercising every morning then that is probably true. But if we are talking about changes that involve our character or our ability to respond differently in times of stress then maybe, just maybe, it will take more.

When I wanted to stop yelling that required a huge mind shift. I had to come to believe that I could actually stop yelling, that it was in my power to make that change. Accepting that fact took a few years.

Then I had to figure out what to do besides yell because it’s easier to replace a behavior than to stop a behavior. Once I knew what I was going to do instead of yelling I had to practice, practice, practice.

And here is where it’s important to understand what change looks like. Change looks like failure long before it looks like success.

Steps to Change

Step One – Realize that you need to make a change.

Step Two – Begin to believe that it is within your power to make a change.

Step Three – Determine what needs to change. Let me give you an example. I needed to get a handle on my complaining. It wasn’t that I wasn’t happy but the words of complaint just kept falling out of my mouth. It’s just too hot! I don’t know why you can’t put your socks in the hamper. I wish the prices weren’t so high. Why won’t my hair just do what I want it to? This meat is overcooked.

When I had this conversation with a friend, she said, “Well, everyone does that!” She is right but that doesn’t make it a healthful or useful practice. I knew that if I controlled what came out of my mouth I would experience far more moments of happiness during the day.

I determined that I needed to express gratitude more often and I did this by using a small notebook where I wrote down what I was grateful for as I went through the day. I also had a second small notebook where I recorded my complaints. Then I would tear up those pages each night. These exercises may seem simple and even silly but they kept my mind on what I wanted to do instead of what I had been doing.

Step Four – Make a firm commitment to doing the work and giving it all the time required. I can always tell when I only wish I was different or hope to be different and when I am committed. That is key. You have to have a firm intention that no matter what it takes, how long it takes or how discouraging it feels you will keep going.

The Process of Change

A – Realize that you will continue to do the very thing you want to change. This is the step where change looks and feels like failure. When I was working to replace yelling with self-control I would often yell. Right after I yelled I would think in my mind, “Rats. I yelled. I don’t want to yell anymore!” I would feel bad and I would feel like a big failure at this self-control thing.

However, I eventually came to understand that every time I recognized that I had errored, gave up blame and took responsibility for my actions and then determined to do better, I was making progress.

B – Stop. Eventually, I would stop in mid-yell. I would mentally catch myself and reverse course. This entailed a fair amount of apologizing. It was uncomfortable but it was progress. I caught myself and made an adjustment.

C – Change. Finally, I would think about yelling and I wouldn’t. I would choose to respond differently. It felt wonderful when I began to experience this step more often. That didn’t mean that I didn’t fall back to step three and four; I did, for a long time. But eventually, I found myself staying in control more often.

It Takes Time to Change Our Way of Being

Here is another place where people in the process of change find themselves in trouble. We think that if it takes 30 days to develop a new habit then that should equate to change but it doesn’t. The kinds of change that I’m talking about, those that make us better people and parents, are changes not just in what we do but in our very being, our character and that requires time.

It took me ten years from the time I realized that yelling was not a good coping skill or parenting tool to consistently staying in control. And the truth is, I can, on occasion, still find myself yelling. It is a lifetime work for me. However, if I had bought into the idea that I needed to accomplish this significant change in 30 days or one year or even five years, well, I might have given up and never made it to where I am today.

My current project, giving up complaining, has been in process for over six years. Sometimes I feel discouraged. But I express gratitude more often than in the past, even though I still complain. I am making progress.

Changing our way of being, who we are, how we respond, doesn’t have to take ten years or even six. But if it does, hang on and keep working.

As Nelson Mandela said,

Your shares are the very best compliment. I also love hearing from you so PLEASE leave a comment.

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. : ) 

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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Set Yourself Up For Success

Choosing one ‘best’ thing to work on right now makes ALL the difference in how much success you will have in making changes in your life.

“I fight the 100% Devil constantly, daily, every minute of every day. In my head, I have a To Do list a mile long, and that doesn’t include the things I need to do that I forget are even on the list! I said to my husband the other night that I felt like I was drowning and that I just wanted to give in and sink to the bottom and find some peace.

‘I am still working on the same problems from over 20 years ago… I now know it is because I try to do too much at once and set myself up for failure.” Jody

“I keep saying to my husband that this can’t be the way it is supposed to be. Life shouldn’t always feel like you are always behind, always disappointing yourself and others, always with more to do. I feel like I spend my days just getting through the day, and that’s REALLY far from my larger view of what life is for. I deal with whatever is urgent right at that moment.” Shannon

I’ll bet this sounds familiar to you, this feeling of drowning and sometimes just wanting to give up and sink. I’ve been there, I mentor hundreds of parents who have been there and I’ll bet you’ve been there.

Life can feel as if we are spinning too many plates at the same time. There is a limit to how many plates we can spin at once. If we have too many plates spinning many end up falling to the floor and breaking.

It’s important that we decide which plates are vital and which are not. Some plates may be important but not at this time. We can spin them later when we take off some of the others that can only be spun now. Why not stop spinning plates and choose in, to the 1% principle. What one thing could you begin today or this week that would make a BIG difference in how you feel, how your family feels and in your overall sense of success and happiness?

How do you determine what the best 1% might be? Here are a couple of things you can do. There are others but this will get you started.

1. Personally, I pray. I ask, “What one thing could I do right now that will make the biggest difference in the quality of my life and my family. Then I pray that prayer until I have a very clear thought come into my mind. I have had to pray for as long as three months and as short as a few seconds. It all depends on how ready I am to hear the answer and respond to it.

2. Make a list of all the things that you think you need to work on or change. Then ask your self this question – What feels like it could wait. Then cross that item off your list. Repeat this process until you only have 2 items left on your list. Now take a day or two and see how each of those is manifesting in your life and how they make you feel. Then ask the questions again – Which feels like it could wait. This will leave you with the one thing that ‘feels’ as if it would make the biggest difference. Now do something to change it. Remember the steps to making lasting change and begin working on your best 1%.
REMEMBER – It’s by simple things, done consistently over time that BIG changes are brought to pass.

What is your current 1%? Mine is tracking daily successes. Every day I write down at least one thing that I did well. What we track we do longer, more consistently and get better at. I’m making good progress and I feel better about myself and my progress every day.

If you’re interested in learning more about the 1% Principle, I recommend Raving Fans, by Ken Blanchard.

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Want Lasting Change?

Over the years mentoring parents I have found that there’s one challenge that comes up over and over again. I call it the

100% Devil

 

This is the troublemaker who sits on your shoulder and tells you all your problems have to be fixed now; there’s not enough time to make the necessary changes; you have to do it perfectly, or not at all; there’s so much to do you’ll never get it done or you don’t have what it takes to make a lasting change. His purpose is to make it difficult for you to begin, let alone stick with it long enough to effect change. And he’s excellent at his job.

BUT there is a cure for the 100% Devil. It’s called the

1% Principle

 

This principle states that if you focus on the best 1% of whatever it is you feel needs to be changed, corrected, fixed, etc. then success in that 1% will affect in positive ways, all of the other things you aren’t focusing on now. The 100% devil is the enemy of this principle: small and simple things, done consistently over time bring big results.

The 1% principle works because the results of focusing on the 1 thing that will make the most difference right now is exponential change.

When you work on the best 1%, other issues which you aren’t even looking at miraculously resolve themselves. If you splinter your focus the best you can do is to maintain mediocrity and at the worst move backward. Real growth comes from building on a solid, consistent, best 1% improvement.

When I was a young mother, I was a yeller. It kept my family walking on eggshells because they never knew when I would explode. It took a neighbor walking across my street and handing me a brochure on anger management to get me to look at what I was doing. It was a painful place to come to, and for a few months, I wouldn’t even accept I was there.

But as I observed myself it became evident it was true. I needed to do the obvious and simple thing and stop losing my temper. In our struggling family of seven children, five of whom were teens, there were many things I could have worked on. But my heart told me this was the best 1% at the time.

It took over ten years for me to conquer that demon. So what kept me going? How was I able to persevere long enough to make it happen? How did I dash the 100% devil to the ground so I wasn’t tempted to quit after a few months, two years, or even nine years?

I learned a lot during the time I worked to conquer my temper. Here are the steps that worked for me. There may be other possible steps, but this list is more than enough to get you going and keep you going.

1. CONCENTRATE on the one thing you need to do right now
Do you need to take a look at your current family culture and build a vision? Do you need to give up using technology when you’re working with your kids? Do you need to listen more, yell less, play with your kids, have more mini-conversations, eat dinner together, or go to bed earlier, control your money habits? What is it for you?

2. COMMIT to being consistent for as long as it takes
Some of our family goals will take many years to come to fruition. So will many of our personal goals.

3. REMEMBER being consistent is not the same as being perfect.
Never let the 100% devil remain on your shoulder for long. Dash him to the ground. Don’t believe his lies. Change takes time. Growth takes time. Perfect is not the goal; progress is!

4. BREAK what you want into smaller steps
If the goal is to stop yelling, how would that look?
• Accept that it’s about you and not the behavior of others.
• Commit to your family you’ll use a respectful voice—ask for support.
• Decide what you will do instead of yelling when times get tough.
• Get counseling if you need it.
• Practice, fail, practice, fail, practice . . . for as long as it takes

5. CREATE space
When I was working on controlling my temper, I had to create space for reflection, for getting help from others who had accomplished what I wanted to accomplish, and for nurturing myself as I did the work. Make a commitment to the change you want to see and then make space for the work that it will require.

6. KEEP your word
Do what you’ve decided to do. Be as consistent as possible. Track your efforts. I had to keep taking the steps to control my temper for ten years. Don’t quit.

7. MAKE CERTAIN the steps you take are in your control
When I was overcoming yelling, I was careful my goals were in my control. I couldn’t attach my success to someone else’s behavior.

For example, if a mother wants to have the kids’ chores done by nine, her actual goal might be to stay Present at chore time and move from child to child encouraging and helping them.

If she works with her children each day, supporting them, then she’s successful and reaches the goal even if they’re not completely finished with chores by nine. If success hinges on having it all done by nine, she has less chance of success because she doesn’t have total control over what each child does.

8. FOCUS on today—it’s all you have to work with.
Ten years is a long time to work on one thing. But as I focused on one day at a time, I was able to persevere. Do your best today. If you don’t do well today, then when tomorrow is today, begin again. Once today is yesterday, let it go! Don’t quit!

9. BELIEVE the end result will be exponential growth.
Believe that 1%+1% will not equal 2%, it will equal exponentially more. While I was working on overcoming my yelling what else happened.
• I learned to be more forgiving
• I learned to be more charitable
• I became more grateful
• I strengthened my relationship with my husband and
children
• I got control of my responses

I could list quite a few more but this will suffice as an example that when you focus on the best 1% you get exponential results.

Real growth and change come from learning to move toward your goals and desires one step at a time, consistently, for as long as it takes.

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 have to believe we can accomplish our heart’s desire. In fact, it has to be our heart’s desire.

Doing small and simple things, consistently over time, is what will ultimately give us the success we seek as individuals and as families.

Have you waged war with the 100% Devil? What have you done to win your personal war? Let’s share and help each other out.

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