A Valentine’s Day for All!

Valentines blog

Valentine’s Day can be a joyful, celebratory time for many happy couples.  Often it is a time to rejoice about the wonderful relationship you share with your partner.   Unfortunately, the media has pivoted this day into one that is often filled with pressure to perform for our lover via making sure we get the right card, gift or proper festive event.     However, this year my hope is that you will keep this day in perspective.  It is fine to honor your love on this designated day, however, know that the relationship requires honoring and work every day.

And let us not forget those who may not have a special someone in their life.  This day can be about the many that touch our lives, not just someone we call our “lover.” Reach out to someone you care about and let them know they are special.  Send a valentine card or note to your friends, family, children or anyone else that you appreciate.  Reach out to that person who recently lost their loved one or is experiencing difficulty in their relationship.

With the “hype” that goes into this day it can have a significant negative effect on those that do not share a loving relationship with a partner.   I encourage each of you to reach out beyond just the traditional notion of Valentine’s Day and spread the feeling of appreciation all around you.  It has been said, “The more you give, the more you get.” Give on!

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Are You Proactive or Reactive?

Proactive

There seem to be many people these days that express a general dissatisfaction with their lives. Often they seem unclear about how to change or even wonder if change is possible. We all get into “ruts”, however, I am speaking more of a perpetual feeling of discontent. If you are struggling with this feeling you may be living in a reactive versus proactive manner.

What do I mean by the above statement? You are being reactive when life happens and you ebb and flow wherever and whichever way it takes you. Life and all of its circumstances control you. When you approach life more proactively you are alert and consciously aware of the direction you choose to move with the circumstances life brings. When you are proactive you take the initiative and responsibility for directing your life. Of course there are many aspects of life one cannot control (natural disasters, deaths, etc.), but I am talking about being proactive in attitude; a general stance towards life. A proactive person will not let life and its happenings win.

In what areas of your life do you need to take more responsibility and ownership? I have developed what is called “The Circle of Life” which describes various components of your life. These areas are: emotional, social, physical, spiritual, occupational and intellectual. Emotional entails your emotional and mental health. Social includes all aspects of your social lives, such as, close friends, acquaintances, lovers and family. Physical includes your physical health and also your need for physical touch and your sexual self. Spiritual is about seeking your highest level of spiritual truth and growth. Occupational involves all aspects of occupational well-being and balance including one’s financial security. Intellectual has to do with your mind’s need to be stimulated and enhanced.

The “Circle of Life” is best when seen as a whole. If you are lacking in any area and especially if you have a deficit in several areas, then you probably feel unsettled or discontent. I find it useful to review this “Circle of Life” at a minimum every six-months as a ‘self-check’ on how you are doing. It is meant to help you take responsibility for the areas that are out-of-balance so you can feel more fulfilled. Balancing your life so you can be more fulfilled is a constant challenge!

If you allow yourself to stay stagnant and do not take responsibility for the areas in which you are most lacking then you will usually feel like a victim. Victims generally feel powerless and unable to succeed. It’s unlikely that anyone would feel fulfilled with this kind of outlook or approach to life.

 

Four Sure Ways To Sabotage Your New Year’s Resolutions!

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Sabotaging method number one:  Aim High!    While aiming high can be advantageous in many endeavors I find that New Year’s resolutions stand a better chance of succeeding when they are more specific and realistic.  After all, the goal is to succeed at achieving these resolutions, correct?  The popular resolutions often involve losing weight and exercising more.  Aiming high might be saying “I am going to lose 60 pounds by summer.”  Or “I am going to work out six days a week.”  I would recommend you set smaller goals such as committing to losing five pounds at a time until you get to a weight you are comfortable with.  Or committing to working out a minimum of three times per week.  These are very attainable goals that you are likely to achieve.

Being Spontaneous in and of itself is a wonderful ability.  However, when it comes to succeeding with your New Year’s resolutions you will need a plan.  The idea of losing weight or working out more or spending less money, etc. are just that:  great ideas.  To make them more tangible you will need a thought out plan of action.  How will you lose weight?  Are you going to use a certain diet program?  Have you researched the program and made sure it is for you?  Also, I suggest you have back up plan in case you don’t like the initial program.  Quitting isn’t an option so having a second choice gives you some flexibility!

Devaluing yourself is sabotaging method number three!  While it is true there will usually be too much to do and too little time you have to make a conscious decision to prioritizing yourself if you want to be successful with your goals.  You have to decide you are worth it!  No guilt tripping yourself!  You will have to make your new goals a high priority.  For instance, if you decided to start a diet program to lose weight then it is critical that during the first six weeks you arrange your life so that outside of work and family duties you will be focusing on making you and your program a top priority.  For example, I started on a new diet December 27 last year.  A friend of mine was having a New Year’s Eve party.  I chose not to go because I knew there was no way I could follow my strict food program there.  It would have been a quick trip down the failure road.

Lastly, the command “Be Independent” is another path to failing at meeting your new goals.  While learning to be independent in general is a good thing, when you are seeking to learn new behaviors now is the time to ask for help.  Find a partner or two who also want to achieve similar goals.  Whether it be diet buddies or workout partners reach out and ask for support.  It is important to have emotional support with your goals.  A person you can call or text who can encourage you and help you stay motivated.   Or maybe you need to ask for additional professional help such as hiring a personal trainer, using hypnosis, a life coach or even therapy.

Are You A Giver Or A Taker?

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While it is true that giving to others often brings more to the giver than the receiver and that giving is a lovely virtue; it is also just as gracious to be able to receive what others may want to offer to you! This could mean receiving a tangible gift and allowing yourself to enjoy the experience without any qualifications such as “you shouldn’t have.” However, many of the gifts others want to offer are gifts of encouragement, loving affirmations and help. Just as you feel blessed when you offer these to others it is equally true that the one offering you this gift will also feel blessed when you allow yourself to receive from them.   Remember this when you are hesitant to receive from someone: that you will be depriving them of a blessing!!!

Maybe you are reluctant to reach out to others you do sincerely care about. Maybe you don’t know what to say or what to do. For many this is very uncomfortable. My suggestion is that you don’t over think it. Most people will be grateful you even remembered them. If this person is someone close to you then pay attention to what is important to them. What do they talk about often? What activities are they involved in? For example, all my close friends know I collect cherubs. Try to be observant and you will see.

If you are struggling to reach out to someone who needs support I encourage you to allow yourself to be uncomfortable and offer that encouragement within a scope that you can tolerate. Maybe it will be sending a text or an email. Maybe you will mail a card. You might be more comfortable with “doing” such as cooking or cleaning for them. The important thing is to reach out and let that person know you are thinking of them.

Being able to both give and receive is important all year long, not just during the holidays. Each of us has a need for both!

Judge Thy Neighbor

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This judgmental, hurtful, rude way of responding is sure to win you the “Worst Listener of the Year” award.  The last thing someone needs to hear when they are opening up to you is your judgment of them.  Telling someone that what they feel doesn’t make sense or is stupid is an example of being judgmental.  Other examples are telling someone they shouldn’t feel what they feel or think; or one of the most shattering is “You don’t feel like that.”  This is a harsh response to the person sharing.  Have you experienced this from someone?  How did it make you feel?

If someone asks your opinion about what they are sharing it is fine then to give it.  However, that doesn’t require you to put them down or discount their feelings or thoughts.  If the person doesn’t ask for your opinion-don’t give it! When someone shares what they are feeling with you, try and remember that feelings are just feelings.  Feelings don’t always make sense.

It is also important to keep in mind that you don’t have to agree with the other person to be a good listener.  Good listening doesn’t require agreement.  It requires the sincere intent to understand the person from their point of view.  Perspective is everything. If he or she has a different perspective than you that doesn’t mean he or she is wrong. There is plenty of judgment in the world.  Please be careful not to perpetuate that trend.

A virtuous way to help you be less judgmental when you are listening to someone you don’t agree with or you don’t understand how they are feeling, is reflective listening.  As stated previously, this is when you confirm with the person that you have heard them correctly.  There is no judgment in this.  There is no opinion of yours shared.  It is simply hearing the other.

Are You There?

 

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Listening in body only is when you are talking and the person seems physically attentive, yet it is as if they are looking through you, sort of like they are in a conscious coma.  The person is physically present but is mentally elsewhere.  Have you had this experience before?   Usually after you have talked a little with no response you might wonder or even ask, “Did you hear what I said?”  Often the person will say “No, I am sorry.  Can you repeat that?”  The person truly was not mentally present for the conversation.  While I imagine this has happened to all of us at one time or another, it is an issue if it keeps happening with the same person.

Often the person who is zoning out while you are talking is preoccupied with something.  Life is overwhelming at times.  If you know you are overwhelmed and not able to give someone your attention who is asking for it, just let them know.  You might say, “I know you are really stressed right now and I do want to hear about it, however, I am too upset right now to focus.  Can we meet for lunch?”  This type of response is respectful to both self and others.  Or it could be that you have trouble with keeping up with what the other person is saying so it is easier to zone out and just do the best you can to give the appearance of understanding what they are saying.

Reflective listening is a wonderful skill to help you stay with the person mentally.  Reflective listening is simply repeating back what you think you heard the person say.  This is a very caring act.  It shows you are intentionally trying to hear what the person wants to tell you.  It is important when you reflect back what you think you heard that you do so without adding your own twist to it.

Think of this as if you were looking in the mirror.  What you see is your reflection.  No additions or subtractions; just you. With this type of listening that is all you do.  Reflect what you think you heard.  For example, you might say, “So you received exceeds expectations in every area but one and for the third year in a row you didn’t get a promotion?”  If you are correct the person will usually say, “Yes, and…” on they will go with more detail.  If you didn’t get it quite right the person can correct you so you understand what they meant.   “So you got exceeds in almost every area and they still did nothing to honor that?”  The person might say, “Well they did give me a good bonus, but I have been waiting for this promotion.  I am so frustrated.”   It is a wonderful gift to interact with someone who is sincerely trying to hear you.

 

 

Look Me In The Eye!

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Have you ever been talking to someone and they seem to be looking everywhere but at you?  This is a surefire way to make someone feel like you don’t give a hoot about what they are saying.  This is more than frustrating, it is downright rude.  Have you been at dinner with your partner or friend, just the two of you, and while you’re trying to have a conversation he may be looking around or watching the TV? Do you have to get right into the line of sight of your partner or friend and ask “Are you listening to me?”  It is curious when the person actually becomes frustrated with you for asking this question. Needless to say, eye contact is very important to attentive listening.

I have talked to many people who find eye contact uncomfortable.  They have said it makes them very nervous.  They can acknowledge that the poor eye contact doesn’t go over well with people even though they tell me they are sincerely listening.  Are you one of these people?   Ask yourself what it is about looking at someone when they are speaking that makes you so nervous? Working on your insecurities in this area will greatly help your connections with others. Practice makes perfect and I am confident that as you practice maintaining good eye contact you will gradually become more relaxed with this skill.

Poor eye contact is one form of negative non-verbal communication.  Looking distracted physically is another form of poor non-verbal communication.  Things like having your body turned away from the person; legs and hands crossed in a closed position; head nodding or turning in a disapproving fashion; grunting etc.  Back when I was in my undergraduate studies I was taught that 90% of communication is non-verbal.  What is your non-verbal language telling the person?  Is it showing the person that you are paying attention and interested in what they are saying? Or is it suggesting that you are disinterested and bored?

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