There are things that happen in life that hurt. Things that make you extremely angry, sorrowful, distraught, bitter, and filled with grief. Things that tear you up inside and change your life forever. Sometimes life just isn’t easy. And that’s ok.
These painful experiences, though, do not have to define you. They don’t have to consume you. They don’t have to make you lash out, retaliate, or turn you into someone you don’t want to be. Even when these intense feelings are legitimate and it feels like you should hold on to them for dear life because you deserve to feel the way you do, you should let them go. Holding on means these emotions will haunt you forever, they will dull the light that shines within you, and they will etch away at your wellbeing and perhaps make you flat out miserable.
So how do you let go?
Write Out Your Feelings
Writing is incredibly therapeutic and can help you articulate feelings you may not be able to verbalize. When I find myself spinning in anger and negativity, I journal. Put pen to paper and describe what happened and why, the specific emotions you are feeling, and ideas on how you can move on. Imagine what you would to say to the person; yell and scream through your written words so you can fully express yourself and start the process of letting go.
There isn’t a person on the planet who hasn’t done something to hurt someone else, intentionally or not…including you. Everyone deserves to be forgiven. That doesn’t mean you have to forget (although I believe there are benefits to doing so). It doesn’t mean that you condone or excuse the behavior. It’s truly about reconciling what happened and forgiving so you can move forward. Holding on to intense emotions is a big burden to bear…a burden that will most likely all fall on squarely on your own shoulders. You can bet the person who hurt or angered you reflects on what happened far less than you do, if at all.
Or perhaps it’s yourself who you need to forgive. Even when you make hurtful decisions or terrible mistakes, you deserve to forgive yourself. Beating yourself up does no good as it doesn’t change or undo the situation. Plus, much unnecessary pain is created by holding onto the past. The biggest battles I have fought have been with myself and there is no way to win this kind of battle. Reflect on what happened and why, accept responsibility for your part, apologize if you need to, and then let it go.
Stop Being the Victim
No matter the situation, you have a choice on whether or not you are going to be a victim or be responsible for you own life. Shit happens. Sometimes it’s really bad shit. The kind you don’t deserve. Maybe you were in the wrong place at the wrong time or the situation was completely out of your control. Or maybe the decisions you made up to that point created your own circumstances. If you don’t want to be a victim, take charge of your reactions and choices. You can decide to hold a grudge, stay angry, retaliate, lash out, or fall apart. Or you can make a different choice. It’s up to you.
One of the most powerful tricks I have learned is from the book “The Art of Possibility: Transforming Personal and Professional Life” by Rosemund and Benjamin Zander. In it, they describe the practice of ‘being the board’ which is done by visualizing your life as the board (think chess) on which the game of life is played upon rather than being a piece (think pawn) that moves along the board based on the rules of the game, or as the person who is masterminding the game, trying to win (but may lose). When you are the board, life moves beyond winning, losing, or limiting your opportunities because you can’t move where you want to move, be what you want to be, or because you are afraid (therefore playing defense) that the bishop is going to take your queen. Being the board opens you up to endless possibilities because it allows you to take full ownership of everything…EVERYTHING…that happens in your life. For me, this has been incredibly powerful. Whenever I find myself feeling like something is impossible, getting defensive, or wanting to blame someone else, I ask myself “how am I the board?” This phrase triggers me to think bigger, allowing me to see my role in the situation and take responsibility for my decisions and actions. Note: this is not about blaming yourself when truly terrible things happen to you that are completely out of your control…it’s about fully owning your life so that you can let go, heal, and live a happy life in the wake of these types of events.
Be More Present
I personally live by the mantra forgive and forget, but I recognize forgetting can be difficult and not always appropriate. But focusing on the past means you are not living your life right now. When memories of your anger or pain creep in and you find yourself taking a deep dive into the past, take a few deep breaths and say to yourself, “That was then and this is now. Today, I am focused on my happiness and doing my best in this moment.” As Eckhart Tolle so articulately puts it, “You cannot be both unhappy and fully present in the now.” Don’t know how to be in the present? Here are some practical and easy tips.
Ask For Help
There is nothing wrong with asking for help if you find yourself stuck and miserable. In fact, it’s the bravest, most honorable thing you can do. Seek counseling, coaching, group therapy, or simply talk it through with someone who you trust is going to give it to you straight. Remember, this life is your life. If you are miserable, don’t keep doing the same things that aren’t working. Take charge, get support, and start the process of letting go.
Letting go isn’t easy, especially if your anger or pain has been your dearest friend for a long time. But it’s unhealthy to live your life being defined by these deeply felt emotions. It not only impacts you but everyone around you. When these kinds of emotions take up space in your heart and head, there is no room for happier, lighter, more freeing ones to enter. The biggest gift you can give yourself, those around you, and the future people in your life is to find a way to move past the experience and live a more fulfilling life.
As always, thank you for reading. I appreciate your comments, likes, and shares. Sign up to receive my bogs in your inbox by clicking here and scroll to the bottom of the page. You can subscribe by entering your email address.
Candidness is such a rarity today; maybe it always has been. We say we want it but tend to become defensive when we get it. Fear of negative reactions, conflict, and hurt feelings cause us to not want to be candid. But without it, so much goes left unsaid leaving missed opportunities to see new perspectives, course correct, and improve.
What exactly is candidness? Merriam Webster Dictionary has a simple yet articulate definition: the free expression of one’s true feelings and opinions. Candidness is the quality of speaking with honesty, authenticity, and directness.
But in my (candid) opinion, what’s missing from these definitions is the fact that effective candor is a two way street. It not only involves expressing your true feelings and opinions, but also listening (and considering) what others are saying. It’s not about “just telling it like it is” and walking away. It’s about engaging in meaningful conversation or debate about topics that matter to those involved. Candor is a dialogue, not an opportunity to stand on one’s soap box pontificating, lecturing, or spewing hurtful opinions (think Donald Trump). When candor moves away from individual points of view, it opens the door to honest communication where you can explore meaningful, opposing, even uncomfortable, ideas and perspectives.
It’s simple…without direct, honest feedback, no one and no organization can improve. Smart ideas are left unexplored when people are too intimated to speak up and share their thoughts. Assumptions go unchallenged leading to poor decision making and failure to anticipate what might go wrong. A lack of straightforward communication affects every relationship and every organization. Candidness is essential to solving the problems we face on a day-to-day basis.
The Decision to be Candid is a Personal Choice
No one can make you be candid. It’s 100% up to you to decide whether or not you are going to engage in thoughtful, honest, mutually beneficial communication. Sure, some people make it easier to be candid than others, but ultimately, it’s your responsibility. It might be messy at first…there is always a learning curve when you are figuring out how to effectively communicate with those you live with and work with, but it’s worth the effort (and pain). Like any skill, candor takes practice and self-evaluation. When the delivery of your message isn’t well received, it may seem easier to shut down and clam up, vowing to never give feedback again, but this is the opposite of what you should do. Evaluate yourself. Was your tone to harsh? Did you have poor timing? Did you try to sugar coat the message? Which leads me to…
How to Be More Candid Without Damaging Relationships
We all fear being too candid. We don’t want to hurt people’s feelings or make them mad, we don’t want to be viewed as a jerk, we fear that our words will be held against us, or that we may be passed up for a promotion because we shed light on a problem. These are all excuses. Candor can be done in a way that improves relationships, builds trust, and helps you be more successful. Here are some suggestions…
Candid feedback does not mean cruel feedback. Remember that the person in front of you is a human being (rather than an obstacle) with hopes, dreams, fears, and feelings…just like you. Being direct can be (and should be) done with compassion. Candor is not about attacking, blaming, shaming, or finger pointing. It’s about authentically sharing your thoughts and feelings to improve a situation. This means being clear on your intentions, motivations, and objectives. Make sure they are in the spirit of building up rather than tearing down. That being said…
2.Don’t Beat Around the Bush
Candor requires direct, straightforward speaking. Say what you think, say what you mean. Sugar coating the message minimizes your impact and it leads to misunderstandings. But…
Remember that what you are about to say is your opinion and as much as it feels like the absolute truth, you might not have the whole story (read my blog on not believing everything you think here). You may be flat out wrong. Being candid is about creating a dialogue; remaining objective helps to keep the door open rather than slamming it shut. To do this…
4.Have Specific Examples
The worst kind of feedback is unanchored feedback. Without specific examples to support your opinions, it’s hard for anyone to gain deeper insight or take you as seriously as they could. Plus without them, immediate defensiveness is created. I’ll give you an example: “I believe this this is a bad idea” vs. “I believe this is a bad idea. We don’t have enough information to proceed. Recall the last time we made a knee jerk decision…we had to undo 6 months’ worth of work and start over.” And when it’s over…
5.Ask for Feedback
As I mentioned above, being effectively candid takes practice and the best kind of practice involves analyzing what went well and what went wrong. Plus getting the opinions of others on your candidness gives you the opportunity to get better at receiving feedback, showing that you truly value candor, even when it’s directed at you.
Make no bones about it, candor doesn’t come easily. As Jack Welch, the former CEO of General Electric, states in his book ‘Winning’, “we are socialized from childhood to soften bad news or to make nice about awkward subjects… people don’t speak their minds because it’s simply easier not to. When you tell it like it is, you can so easily create a mess –- anger, pain, confusion, sadness, resentment.” We must let go of these fears to become truly effective communicators. We must be willing to the hard work.
In my experience, the deepest, most valuable relationships I have are with those who are candid with me and whom I am candid with in return. Effective candor = effective relationships.
Thank you for reading and as always, please feel free to share, like, and comment. You can also sign up here to receive my blogs in your inbox…just scroll down to the bottom of my home page and submit your email address.
On January 1st, 2016, I embarked on a ‘31 Day Stop Complaining Challenge’ in an effort to better understand why I feel the need to complain (read my original blog post here). The goal was to be more mindful of my words thereby reducing my contribution to the negative cycle of energy that complaining puts into the world. It was an eye-opening and not-so-easy challenge and I’m glad that I did it, even though I still found myself complaining from time to time. Here is what I learned:
1. There is always a more positive way to say something
The key to reducing voiced complaints is to think before you speak. As you know, this is incredibly difficult to do, especially when you’re angry and getting ready to rant about whoever just did you wrong. I found that if I gave myself even a split second to say “Is this going to be a complaint? Yes? Ok, say it differently,” I was able to change my words to ones more positive.
Examples of this are…
2. It’s easy to jump on the “Let’s Complain About This” band wagon
I found that most of the time I complained, I was commiserating with someone. It’s human nature to want to connect with others and one way to do this is to console and sympathize. When someone is complaining, it’s easy to add fuel to the fire in an effort to show that person that you care and support him or her. This went both ways for me…I sucked people into my own complaining and I allowed myself to be sucked into theirs. And 99% of these complaints were about other people, which is embarrassing and small-minded, to be frank. When I found myself complaining about others, I tried to stop myself in the moment. Sometimes it worked, sometimes it didn’t as venting can be a powerful force to overcome when stress is high and you are on a roll. When I was commiserating with someone else who was complaining, I tried to gracefully redirect the conversation to something more positive. Due to this challenge, I am much more aware of how easy it is to jump on the bandwagon which allows me to stop it before it starts. That being said…
3. Sometimes it’s ok to complain; just come up with a solution
As much as I would love to live a Zen-d out life, always going with the flow and letting things slide off my back, it’s not realistic. There are things that happen that upset me and rightfully so. Bottling these emotions inside won’t solve the problem nor is it healthy. But complaining just to complain doesn’t fix anything either. When I found myself complaining about something that was important and within my control, I challenged myself to come up with a solution and then act upon it. Solving problems are what humans are designed to do and it’s empowering to say, “I am not happy with this situation and I am going to change it.” Assess your complaint, come up with a way to solve the problem, take action and you won’t have to complain about it anymore!
4. I am teaching my son to complain
Listening to my three year old son, Jack, complain was probably the most eye-opening aspect of this experiment. Early in the challenge, Jack and I were waiting to make a left turn on a green arrow when a large tour bus blocked the intersection. Five words into my grumbling, I stopped myself, remembering my commitment to complain less. Soon after the bus cleared the intersection, Jack proclaimed, “That stupid bus. That bus did that on purpose. I am so frustrated.” The most important job I have is raising my son to be a happy, resilient, positive person whose heart is full of love. Complaining about things, especially things that don’t matter, doesn’t model any of these traits. I am much more cognizant of everything that comes out of my mouth when I’m with Jack.
5. I can turn my complaints into statements of gratitude
It’s very simple to turn a gripe into something you’re grateful for if you’re paying attention. When a complaint escaped my lips, I quickly added a ‘but’ to the sentence.
This challenge was difficult and quite revealing. I’m almost too embarrassed to admit it but I found that I kind of like to complain about certain things…things that either make me take action or that make me laugh. That’s not to say that I think that it’s ok to complain about these subjects…this is just an interesting (and honest) self-observation. I also experienced a sense of satisfaction when I stopped myself from uttering complaints poised to leave my lips, choosing more positive ways to state my thoughts. It felt good to have the self-awareness and self-control to recognize it and stop before the damage was done. Lastly, I learned that not all complaining is bad. Some of my complaints led me to take positive action that changed my life for the better. Could I have handled each of those situations more positively? Yes. Do I regret expressing my thoughts and feelings? No way.
All in all, though, I learned I like being around myself a lot more when I’m not complaining and I am sure others feel the same way!
Thank you for reading! I hope you have a wonderful day filled with a little less complaining and a lot more action,
If you like what you read, please feel free to like, share or sign up to receive my blogs in your inbox here.
A Quick Blurb on what this blog is about.
Welcome to my blog! My name is Kerry Siggins and plain speaking, honest leadership is my mantra. My intention is to help those who lead (or want to lead) become better at saying and doing what needs to be said and done in a way that it can be heard and seen, one person at a time.