Did you know that being kind inspires kindness in others? Numerous studies show that when someone shows you kindness, you are likely to pay it forward. Think about it…when a person holds the door for you and smiles warmly, you tend to want to reciprocate. You find that the next time you can hold a door open for someone, you do so with pleasure. It feels good to be kind.
While it seems unassuming, being kind is truly powerful. Think what we could achieve if we chose (yes, it is a choice) to be kind to everyone with whom we interact. The world would immediately be a better place for each of us. Rather than feeling judged, shamed, shunned, or ignored, we would feel seen, appreciated, accepted, and respected. Since our moods and emotions tend to be contagious, we would be spreading happiness rather than yuckiness.
Always being kind, no matter the person or situation, is a simple way to dramatically improve our world. The best thing about it is that being kind requires no rules, laws, or government regulation. It’s a way for humanity to take back…well…our humanity. We as individuals can lead by example and maybe, just maybe, those who lead our communities, organizations, and countries will follow suit, showing that in the end, all that really matters is how kind we are to each other.
Here are some easy ways to start being more kind. They take no extra investment, just a conscious mindset shift and purposeful interactions.
Smile and Make Eye Contact
Show people that you see and appreciate their humanity no matter where they come from, what their belief system is, or what the situation they find themselves in. Smile and make eye contact with everyone…your coworkers, your children, the homeless guy on the corner, the clerk at the grocery store. You’ll receive smiles in return and you’ll instantly feel better, as will the people you smile at.
Being polite is simple yet respectful. Say “yes please”, “no thank you”, and “I’m sorry” often. Let someone else go first, hold the door open for others, and acknowledge people with a smile. When conversing with another, be positive, refrain from gossiping, and for goodness sake, put your phone away.
Random Acts of Kindness
I’ll never forget one morning when I walked into my office and found a little slip of paper with the words “You Have a Nice Smile” typed upon it. This little slip of paper made my day; I had a spring in my step for weeks because of this simple, anonymous acknowledgment. It’s still taped to my monitor today. Spread joy by doing small things for the people around you. Buy a stranger a cup of coffee, leave a note of appreciation on a coworker’s keyboard, send flowers to a friend, randomly leave Hershey’s Kisses on peoples’ desks, pick up litter in your neighbor’s front yard…it’s the little things that can make a person’s day and performing a random act of kindness increases the chance that others will pay it forward, too.
Being helpful is an easy way to show kindness. Take a moment out of your busy day to give a stranger directions, aid someone in picking up the papers he dropped, make eye contact and engage when a coworker asks for your assistance, and help your spouse load the dishwasher. It only takes a few moments to be helpful and it can make a big difference in a person’s day.
Reach Out to Someone Who is in Need
We all go through tough times and it’s nice to receive kindness when you’re down in the dumps. Call a friend going through a divorce, hug a coworker who just lost a loved one, send a note to someone going through a hard time to let her know you are thinking of her, or give a tissue to a crying stranger. Don’t be afraid to reach out; just a simple acknowledgement of someone’s pain can help ease the feeling of loneliness and despair.
Send a Nice Email to Someone Everyday
It stakes 60 seconds to send an email expressing gratitude and appreciation; those 60 seconds can go a long way to spread kindness in the world. Make sending a sincerely kind email to friends, coworkers, community leaders, etc. a daily habit.
Drive with Kindness in Mind
Be a kind driver; let some enter the lane in front of you and don’t tailgate or speed up quickly behind a slower driver. Don’t get angry when someone cuts you off; instead smile and wish him a nice day. Choose to be a non-aggressive driver. You’ll not only be happier but you’ll also inspire others to be kinder drivers and you’ll improve the safety of everyone on the road.
Find Something to Appreciate About Those Who are Different Than You
I like Heineken’s “Worlds Apart” commercial; it shows how two strangers with very different views can find commonalities that unite them rather than divide them. Yes, this ad simplifies the issues causing the mass polarization of humans today, but if you pause to consider that those you dislike may not be all that different from you, you might be more inclined be kinder to everyone. And really, what life improvement comes from hating someone who believes differently than you? All it does is bring self-pain and self-suffering while the rest of us go on being who we are, not really thinking too much about why you hate us; we are too busy focusing on our own life issues such as why it’s so hard to find a good paying job, affordable housing, a loving relationship, and someone to watch our children without breaking the bank. Sound familiar? Yeah, I thought so. We aren’t so different after all.
Science and psychology show that humans tend to mirror each other; we reflect what we see in others. This is especially true of our leaders as we tend to emulate them the most. Choose your actions and your corresponding reflections carefully as they can make a profound difference in the happiness, kindness, and generosity in others. Choose to use this wonderful superpower we all carry within us to change the world for the better.
Thanks for reading. As always, I appreciate comments, likes, shares and retweets; please do so if you are inclined.
Whether you are a leader, manager, or an employee who wants to be a high performer, there is almost nothing more important than creating more time to think. It may seem next to impossible in this fast paced, constantly-plugged-in world, but it must be a priority if personal and professional growth are important to you. Why? Because if you aren’t making time to think through problems, the future, and your role in what comes next, you will always be reacting. If you are constantly reacting, you aren’t giving yourself time to see the possibilities, think through potential consequences, calm down, and ultimately, make better decisions. I don’t know about you, but I like making good decisions, therefore I make time to think.
Respond vs reacting
First, let’s consider why responding is so much better than reacting. When you find yourself in a situation where you must react, fight or flight mode kicks in. Stress hormones wash through your body and you feel compelled to say or do something that you may later regret. Reacting is a natural urge, it happens automatically and it must be consciously resisted. Instead of reacting, choose to respond. You can do this by taking a breath (literally) and giving yourself time to reflect on what’s happening in the moment. This pause can be a few seconds, a few minutes, or a few days and it will allow you to observe what’s going on inside and out, making it easier to gain control of your emotions and decision making process.
Stop Wasting So Much Time
Facebook, Twitter, news feeds, television and other distractions should be reduced to a minimum if you want to create a more time to think. These things diverts precious time and creates background noise that clogs your thinking. Do you actually do anything with the steady stream of content that comes from these sources anyway? When was the last time you had a profound, personally life changing realization from a tweet or an Instagram post? Never? Me, neither. So shut it down and fill your new found time with things like reading thought-provoking writing, writing your personal vision, thinking about how to best achieve your goals, and brainstorming ways to improve your relationships. There are so many meaty things to think about…things that could change your life…if you would just stop and think about them.
"The difference between successful people and really successful people is that really successful people say no to almost everything." This quote by Warren Buffet pretty much sums it up. The busier you are, the less time you have to think. The less time you have to think, the harder it is to be really successful. Buffet continues, “I insist on a lot of time being spent, almost every day, to just sit and think.” It’s hard to argue with one of the most successful people on the planet. Simplifying will help you focus on what’s most important. Here’s an exercise: write down all the things you feel are priorities in these categories: work, family, personal wellness/fulfillment. List at least 20 items in each category. Then force yourself to pick the top three in each category. Don’t do anything else but these 9 things until you’ve mastered them. Now that’s simplifying! Focus is the key to success.
Another way of simplifying your life is to delegate. Are you really THE person who MUST do all the tasks on your list? Hire a someone to clean your house; have groceries delivered to your door; make your kids ride the bus to school; ask a coworker to help you with a task; approach your boss about getting administrative support on a big project. If you are a manager or a leader, make sure you hire people you can delegate to and empower them to take on challenging assignments. Give them projects that you might normally do yourself. When you find yourself performing tasks that are in the weeds, ask yourself, “should I be doing this or managing this?” If the answer is managing it, delegate it.
Being disorganized is a time suck. Plan your day so you don’t waste time looking for items that should be handy, doing things twice, and working on unimportant tasks. Be disciplined; make a daily agenda that lines out your day. This list shouldn’t be too long and should include a block of time used to think as well as the three things you must do to move the ball down the field on your most important priorities. I love this new Self Journal; I just started using it and it’s working well for me. I also you Evernote to track my to-do lists.
Take a Lunch Break
Resist the temptation to work while you scarf down a sandwich; lunchtime is the perfect time to ponder. Step away from your desk and breathe deeply. Jot down new ideas in a notebook; reflect on your day and come up with ways you could be doing things better; consider what you might be missing when tackling a big problem at home or work. Better yet, take a walk and let your mind wonder; be curious as to where your thoughts take you. Use this 30 minutes to get away from the grind and think.
Find Your Method
There are lots of different ways to do your best thinking. Mine happens when I am exercising. The trouble is that I forget everything as soon as I stop, therefore I use notetaking and audio recording apps so I can capture ideas as I work out. Pausing during a run to type out a few ideas isn’t ideal but it works for me. I also frequently read and listen to audiobooks and I use the same apps to record ideas sparked from consuming thought-provoking content. Writing is a great outlet whether it be expressing an idea to a colleague via email, journaling, outlining your thoughts on paper, or writing a draft memo to your boss. Other people do their best thinking in the shower, while walking the dog, during long flights, or when laying on the beach starting at the ocean…find yours and do it as often as possible. The outcome will be better decisions, more intentional responses, a clearer pathway to a fulfilling life.
As always, thanks for reading! Please like, share, and comment if you are so inclined. Click here to sign up to receive my blogs in your inbox.
“You're always you, and that don't change, and you're always changing, and there's nothing you can do about it.” - Neil Gaiman
There is only one thing that’s certain in life and that is that things will change. No matter how much you deny, resist, or ignore it, the unfolding of life brings new challenges and experiences that you must adapt to, one way or another.
Each of us experience change constantly yet react to it in many different ways. While some of us embrace change and even drive it, most fall into the “change resistant” category. Our brains expect certain things to stay the same and when they don’t, the information we trusted breaks down causing us fear over what comes next. What we don’t know tends to scare us and change creates a lot of unknowns. Even positive change comes with challenges and discomfort. Change. Is. Hard.
In today’s fast-paced, quickly-evolving world, it’s important to develop your ability to handle change effectively. While it’s never easy, here are somethings you can do to adapt to change with a bit more grace.
Freak Out For a Minute, Privately
There’s nothing wrong with being scared of change, especially when it blindsides you, so go ahead and freak out for a minute. Just do it privately. Negative reactions on public display almost never produce good outcomes. Go for a walk alone, vent to someone you trust, write in your journal, scream into your pillow…let it out in a private place to release pent up emotions and then start focusing on how to deal with the change.
Give Yourself Time to Process
When change hits hard and fast, it can feel overwhelming. Your brain starts racing, making up a story which usually concludes with the world as you know it ending. But if you think back on all the times you freaked out over change, how often did the story end the way you first imagined it? Probably never, if you are like me. That’s why it’s good to give yourself time to process the change. I can promise that tomorrow, it won’t seem nearly as bad as it did today, so think it through and come up with a plan after sleeping on it.
Be Honest About Your Feelings
It’s easy to focus on the situation or person, blaming and barraging the bringer of change or the change itself. Don’t do this. Be accountable and own your fears and other feelings. Look inside to understand your resistance so you can clearly articulate why you have such strong feelings. Put words to your feelings by asking yourself questions and answering truthfully. Why do I feel this way? What am I afraid of? Why am I resisting? If I embrace this change, what’s the worst that could happen? What’s the best that could happen?
Get More Information
Don’t assume the story you told yourself about why the change is happening is true. It’s probably not. Ask questions and do more research so you understand why something is changing. The deeper your awareness, the faster you can settle your mind, fine tune your response, and adjust to the change.
Give Your Opinion
It’s okay to want to influence the outcome, especially if you feel passionately about something. Consider what you want to achieve, be conscience of your tone, listen to others, and then give your opinion. Always look for a positive solution; a win-win may not be possible, but you’ll feel better once you’ve expressed yourself.
Accept the Change
Life is so much easier when you stop resisting every little change, so pick your battles carefully. Sometimes change is worth resisting and sometimes you just have to accept things as they are. Resisting can make you miserable and you risk damaging relationships and your overall happiness. Take a deep breath and give yourself permission to surrender every now and then. Stop complaining about it to others. Look for the positive and give it some time. Before you know it, you’ll have adapted to the change and it’ll be a distant memory that doesn’t seem all that bad.
Change is what makes life interesting and amazing. It teaches us profound lessons and promotes growth and wisdom. It can take us to faraway places or deep within ourselves. It creates exciting opportunities and yes, sometimes it breaks our hearts. It’s what weaves the tapestry of our lives together, creating a colorful patchwork of experiences, emotions, thoughts, and relationships that make up our existence. Embrace it and do your best to enjoy the ride; if properly harnessed, change can inspire you to be the greatest version of yourself.
“The only way to make sense out of change is to plunge into it, move with it, and join the dance” – Alan Watts
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Recently, I was on a panel at a trade show discussing women in the industrial cleaning industry. One of my fellow panelists, Abby Zaffuto, who is the president of a company that owns and operates eight Rotor Rooter franchises in South Carolina, spoke about how to achieve work/life balance. She gave a brilliantly funny talk and what she said hit home…
There is no such thing as work/life balance; throw that idea out the window. What’s key is integration.
There is so much buzz around work/life balance, especially these days where it’s getting harder and harder to disconnect. And there should be; it can be easy to forget that there is life outside of running around trying to cram a million things into the day; when we hardly have time to take a deep breath, how can we truly engage with the world around us? That being said, finding balance is hard, so hard that the thought of attaining it makes us more anxious. Perhaps balance isn’t what we should be in pursuit of; maybe it’s integration?
So what’s the difference between balance and integration?
Balance is defined as a condition in which different elements are equal or in the correct proportions. Integration is the combining of two or more things so that they work together effectively. It’s the process of attaining close and seamless coordination between several departments, groups, organizations, systems, etc.
Integration is not the same as balance.
I don’t know about you, but my life is not filled with elements that are in equal or correct portions. Sometimes I am traveling for two weeks. Sometimes I have to work late. Sometimes I take a 10 day vacation and don’t answer emails. Sometimes I have to take the day off to care for my sick child. I get up early to work for a few hours so I have 20 extra minutes to take my son to school every day. Some nights I have the energy to cook and other nights it’s take-out. This is not balance…this is making it work. That’s why the idea of integration appeals to me.
Perhaps it’s just semantics but for some reason I feel like I can do integration; there’s a chance I can succeed at combining the complicated aspects of my life so that all the pieces work together….at least most of the time. Balance on the other hand is a much more difficult concept. Trying to find balance in my life is like doing backflips on a balance beam with your eyes closed; next to impossible unless you are a world class athlete.
Good or bad, the line between work and the other parts of life is blurred. It’s hard to truly disconnect from the 24/7 aspect of global business. This is why successful integration is so important; you can easily get sucked into the vortex of endless work if you let yourself. So what can you do?
Here are three tips to help you successfully integrate work and life…
I’ve faced the fact that, for me, work/life balance is unattainable. Truth be told, I don’t even know if it’s what I want…and I’ve made peace with this. My goal is to be and do my very best and sometimes that means I have to work more and sometime it means I have to play more. And it always means being a good role model for my son. Blending your aspirations, responsibilities, duties, and some downtime is the key to living a successful, engaged and fulfilling life. It’s the definition of work/life integration.
So here’s to integration, may you achieve seamless coordination in all aspects of your life; it may not be easy but it’s certainly a worthy goal.
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One of most important attributes to becoming successful is self-discipline. It’s almost impossible to achieve excellence without it. Self-discipline helps you stay focused; it gives you the gumption to stick with something even when it’s difficult. It helps you choose winning the long game over short term gratification. Self-discipline allows you to overcome obstacles and deal with the discomfort of pushing yourself to new heights. With enough self-discipline, you can form life-long, positive habits; once you form a habit, it no longer requires discipline and you propel yourself towards success because it’s what you do day in and day out.
What is self-discipline? Essentially, it’s the ability to control your impulses, emotions, reactions, and behaviors. It’s the ability to forego short term gratification in favor of long term satisfaction and gain. It’s basically saying no when you really want to say yes.
How does self-discipline lead to forming habits? If you do something over and over again, it eventually becomes a habit and once something a habit, life gets easier; you no longer need willpower to force yourself to do it. For example, last year one of my goals was to do more yoga. I made a commitment to do it 30 minutes every day for 30 days. I felt so much better that I continued for another 30 days which turned in 6 months, etc. Now I get up an hour earlier to start my day off with 60 minutes of yoga. I don’t have to set my alarm anymore and I do it EVERY day. If you would like more insight on how to use discipline to form habits, read the Power of Habit. It’s a fantastic book.
The word self-discipline makes most people shudder just uttering it but being self-disciplined isn’t about leading a restrictive and boring life void of enjoyment, relaxation, and fun. In fact, it’s next to impossible to be self-disciplined in all areas of your life and I don’t recommend it. Instead, you should use self-discipline to focus your energies on what’s most important to you. Let it help you make the tradeoff between the short and long term so that you make better choices. In the long run, you’ll be happier when you have formed habits that make your life better.
So how do you become more self-disciplined? Here are my tricks:
You are the master of your destiny, the creator of your life. If you want your destiny to look, be and feel a certain way, then you have to develop the discipline to form habits. Vigorous habits will help you get to where you want to be. While it seems counter intuitive, I have found that I am happier and healthier the more self-disciplined I become. I think you will find the same thing, too.
Thanks for reading and as always, I welcome and encourage comments, likes and shares. Click here to sign up to receive my blogs in your inbox.
It’s hard to believe that another year is in the books; 2016 flew by and it will go down as one of the most intense years in history. I for one am glad it’s over, as I imagine many of you are, for a plethora of reasons that really need no explanation.
Now, 2017 is here and as with any New Year, we will be filled with the excitement of all the possibilities it brings. Perhaps we mistake this magical feeling for the deep sense of relief of having made it through the year; another trip around the sun and we are still here! Let’s raise our glasses and celebrate! We are sure that when the clock strikes midnight, our lives will change for the better. This year will be different, we just know it. We make resolutions to ensure that we will become the future versions of ourselves we so long to be. And then January passes and we realize that it’s just another day, week, and year. Sigh.
But it doesn’t have to be that way….
I think that in 2017 we all should throw caution to the wind. We should make a bold, courageous resolution and pursue it with gusto: we should commit to becoming really great at something that makes the world a better place or that brings great joy to our lives. Can you imagine how much better we would all feel if we pursued something that brought about real, positive change to our lives?
Sure, it may seem like a chasm to get from here to there, but it’s all in how you look at it. There is almost always a path; you just have to create the steps to get there. And you have to being willing to do the hard work. The first step is overcoming inertia; once you have momentum, it gets easier.
If you need some inspiration (or a good kick in the butt), I suggest these books to help overcome inertia and create a plan of action.
“The Compound Effect,” by Darren Hardy
“The ONE Thing: The Surprisingly Simple Truth Behind Extraordinary Results” by Gary Keller
"The 10X Rule: The Only Difference Between Success and Failure," by Grant Cardone
Remember, your dreams won’t happen to you unless you make them happen. Go for it.
Happy New Year,
Despite what the media sells us, there are more good things happening on this planet than bad things. There are beautiful people doing beautiful things with the goal of helping human kind advance into the brilliant, beautiful creatures we have the potential to be. Every day, each one of us has the choice to evolve or devolve. I choose evolve; I hope you do, too.
NOW is the time to change the world. So I am taking Gandhi’s words to heart, “be the change you want to see in the world.”
I believe the world needs leaders who can bring people together; thoughtful leaders who truly listen to what people have to say even if it’s not what they want to hear; leaders who are honest and transparent, who take action and ask for feedback; those who explain the why behind decisions and who are willing to change their minds. I am going to be this kind of leader.
I believe the world needs more businesses that give back to their employees; ones that believe in spreading the wealth by paying people decent wages and providing good benefits; businesses that allow employees to partake in the success of the company through employee ownership and profit sharing; ones that treat their employees with respect and dignity and who actively help their employees improve their own lives and those of their families. I am going to create this kind of business.
I believe the world needs managers who know how to hold people accountable while at the same time being compassionate to their employees’ individual emotions, experiences, and situations; managers who care about their people, wanting them to succeed; those who are willing to put the team first and who can admit when they make mistakes. I am going to be this kind of manager.
I believe the world needs smart people who are lifelong learners; those who challenge their belief systems and are dedicated to “never stop growing”; those who are committed to reading more books, becoming better writers, considering opinions that differ from their own, traveling outside their own little worlds, and letting go of fears that hold them back. I am going to be this kind of person.
I believe the world needs good parents; those who teach their children to be resilient, accountable, and kind; those who help their children learn the valuable lessons that failure teaches; those who model the value of hard work, honest communication, and perseverance; those who love unconditionally and discipline effectively. I am going to be this kind of parent.
The world needs more communities that are filled with people who are kind to each other, who give back and get involved, who support strong education, healthcare, and infrastructure systems, and who shop locally. I am going to be this kind of community member.
There are many ways to be the change you want to see in the world. Don’t just sit on the couch and complain about the way things are. Do something about it. I encourage you to take action with kindness, compassion, inclusiveness, and with an open-mind. Choose to evolve, not devolve. Choose to change yourself for the better and in turn you’ll change the world for the better.
As always, thank you for reading. Please feel free to comment, like or share if you are so inclined. Please click here to receive my blogs in your inbox.
As I sit here on my 38th birthday reflecting upon the past year, I feel a huge sense of gratitude for all that I have, for who I am, and for all the amazing people in my life, especially those who bring me so much joy. I am so glad to be here.
This past year has been fraught with challenges but the wins are far more overwhelming. There has been laughter, tears, hard work, 100K+ airline miles, grief, and joy. There has been spectacular moments and moments of panic and anxiety. There's been a lot of mountain bike riding. And most importantly, this past year has been filled with precious moments with my family, especially with Jack…my fast growing, highly evolved threenager; these are the memories I am trying to burn into my mind forever; I never want to let them go.
Life is what you make of it; there is no doubt about that. I am eternally grateful for all the amazing things and all the crappy things that flow through my life each day; all of these events, decisions, and feelings add to the rich tapestry of connections, relationships, experiences, and sense of self that are woven together to form the fabric of my life.
So what did I learn this year that's worth passing on to all of you? Perhaps nothing profound but that being said, sometimes it's the little things that mean the most.
First, it’s important to take care of yourself. Burning out does no one any good. Do yoga every day (seriously, it’s life changing). Get regular massages and/or acupuncture treatments. Eat well. Ride a bike. Take a day off to treat yourself. Even better, take a vacation, or my favorite…a staycation. You will be able to do more when you give yourself a break.
Second, spend more time with the most important people in your life; make it a priority. At any moment you could lose someone you love dearly. You don’t want to regret the choices you made on how you spent your time. Call your mom every day. Go visit your grandfather. Put your phone down and play with you kids. Eat dinner as a family every night. Life is too short to not be with the people you love.
Third, the things that seems like a really big deal today will be minor things tomorrow and forgotten about the day after. Do you remember what you were freaking out about last week? Yeah, me either. So don’t let yourself fall apart over the challenges life throws at you. Take a deep breath and let the situation play out. Life ebbs and flows and you’ll move on faster than you think.
Fourth, live outside your comfort zone for an entire year; it’s the fastest way to grow as a person and leader. I don’t think I have had a day this year (besides on the weekends) when I have felt like, “oh yeah, I’ve got this.” And even though I am exhausted at times, I have never felt so engaged and connected in my life. Playing it safe is not actually safe. Challenge yourself constantly…you’ll be amazed at what you can do.
Lastly, it’s a game changer to have high status on airlines, even if they are shitty airlines. Free upgrades to first class really do make traveling better. My goal is United Global Services baby!
Here’s to another amazingly fabulous trip around the sun. I am so glad I get to share the trip with all of you.
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.
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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,
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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.