Archive | January, 2011

Dear Daughter, Lessons from a female engineer (part 2)

31 Jan

You might be hearing many people saying that these times are not “normal”, and if you listen to the media, you know that predictions say things will get better, get worse, or stay the same. No one has any idea what will happen, but because bad news sells newspapers, gloom and doom prevails.

Today is the “new normal”. It doesn’t matter what anyone says was normal before or what might be tomorrow. Your life is a combination of your environment, attitude, background, personality, and luck/opportunity and it is as unique as you are (I love that!)

This does not mean that life is easy as every generation faces new challenges.  You will emerge from today’s economic instability with renewed energy and vitality – the universe never throws anything at you that you cannot handle (even when things seem overwhelming).

Carrying on from last week’s post (part 1) I hope you will let me share a few more tips from my life as a female engineer:

  • Listen to unsolicited advice (but you do not have to take it). Advice is worth what you pay for it, and when it is unsolicited, that tells you something right there.  Take it or leave it, just listen and then decide for yourself if it has any merit. Most people (with a few exceptions) throw out unsolicited advice hoping it will help you – but only you can decide whether to pick it up. When someone tosses you such advice, thank him or her, and then consider the source.

  • Be proud of you! (And your accomplishments.) You deserve praise from yourself.  I can tell you that I am proud of you, as can your friends, but the most important is when you are proud of you!
  • Patience and tolerance can be a double-edged sword. Practice patience with people – especially when it comes to situations out of your control (delayed flights), children, the elderly, and anyone who may not be as adept as you are.  The double edge comes when people take advantage of your patience in business or your personal life. When this happens, remember the adage:  fool me once shame on you, fool me twice shame on me.  If someone takes advantage of you for being patient, learn from it and don’t let it happen again.

The same goes for tolerance.  Start out by being open and tolerant to people whose beliefs or behaviors may be different from yours.  This has paid off greatly for me in my international work on ISO software standards: I have many global friendships and enjoy cultural adventures everywhere I travel.  The double edge comes when one is too tolerant – such as being tolerant of verbal or physical abuse.  When someone says or does something that makes you feel uncomfortable, your intuition may be telling you that your tolerance is set too high.  Abuse and bullying is beyond anything you should ever tolerate.

 

  • There are consequences to every action and no matter how much you plan, not everyone will agree with you. Always do your best – with decisions, work, and relationships.  By doing so, you reduce your regrets because you took action based on the information you had at the time. This does not guarantee that others will agree, but at least you can look in the mirror at the end of the day and take comfort that you did your best.
  • It is better to face conflict than to live a lie. Everyone faces times at work and in personal life where we avoid creating conflict with bullies, controlling people, and people who disrespect us for our opinions.  Of course I know that you already choose your battles wisely (why create conflict when it is over something trivial), there are also times when given conflict is important.  When you have to suppress saying what you feel for fear of an outburst or tantrum from someone you love, consider that it might be a toxic relationship. We do not choose who we fall in love with and there is no guarantee that your love will be emotionally healthy.  While another’s emotional health is not your responsibility, yours is.  Better to be yourself and face conflict than to sacrifice your emotional health and live a lie. It’s not always easy, but you deserve to be happy as you.
  • Always be authentic. I thought that I knew what this meant when I read it in author don Miguel Ruiz’s book, The Four Agreements, but I did not.  Being authentic and living with integrity means never saying anything to yourself that you would not say to your best friend.  Our inner critic can be cruel and treat us with total disrespect (telling us that we are stupid or fat or naïve or a host of other harsh words). When we allow our inner critic free reign over our intellectual real estate (our mind) – we are not being authentic!  Make sure you treat yourself with the same level of respect you afford your best friend, and you will soon find that you have a brighter outlook on life.
  • Everyone carries baggage. Even the most gorgeous, thin, young, rich, poor, or athletic people carry baggage and you may never know to what degree.  Life is not fair in terms of who experiences what and when, but life guarantees everyone his/her own story.  Rejection, ridicule, embarrassment, failure, success, pain and joy are sprinkled in every life – some get more of the good or bad than do others.  However, no one escapes feelings of inadequacy or self-doubt.  Be kind to strangers (unless there is danger) – you just never know how much a kind word can mean to a person living with pain.

I will always be proud to be your mother no matter what you do and no matter where you live.  You have only one life  — do all you can to make it a happy one!

Love and hugs,

Mom

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80/20 in life is PDG (Pretty Damned Good)…

25 Jan

8020You may have heard of the 80/20 rule – and it is applied to business and life situations where 80% of problems are attributable to 20% of the causes, or 20% of effort leads to 80% of the profits. There are many variations on the theme.

When I was talking to my friend Karen last week, she spoke of one client whose negative energy was bringing her down.  After regaling about the problems, I asked her what percentage of her income he was generating and the answer was small.  We purposely misapplied the 80/20 rule and concluded that out of her total client base, 80% of her clients were wonderful, yet the other 20% brought her down.  For some reason, negative people and situations, even when they account for a small percentage of our life, can dominate our day.

The 20% or less of our life that is obnoxious, monotonous, boring, or downright unpleasant should never steal our happiness with the remaining 80%!  Maybe it is our negative press (80% of front-page news is negative) or our upbringing (the word “No” dominates childhood) – but we need to get over this preoccupation!

Consider how much brighter your life would be by focusing on the good 80% and forgetting the rest?

Imagine for a minute an open meadow of gorgeous wildflowers – what do you see?  It is easy to see that the flowers are beautifully enhanced by the greenery and weeds.  If the field had entirely weeds or entirely flowers, the beauty of the flowers would be diminished.  It is the greenery that makes the flowers stand out.

wildflowers

Now, what if you only looked at the green and saw that it was a mismatch of greenery and weeds?  With such a focus, you might even miss seeing the flowers all together.  We do this when we miss the beauty in life in favor of the crap.

If you don’t believe me, start tracking what happens to you during your day – how many neutral events happen that you don’t really notice (these are like the greenery), how many truly negatives occur (these are like the noxious weeds), and how many joyous moments (the flowers) are in your day?

Rebalance your day

If the balance is off, and you see more weeds than flowers, what can you do to do about it?  Think of ways to increase the moments of joy in your life? Did you miss counting some of the joyous moments once a negative came into play?  Maybe you could frequenting positive eating places where you feel good, drive to work via the scenic route, or rearrange your day to enjoy more of the sunset.  Anything that increases the positive moments is good.

At the same time, figure out if and how you can reduce the negative moments in your day.  By changing the balance of positive to neutral and negative is enough to change your entire outlook.

Most of life ranges on the neutral to positive side and we need to recognize them. Just like my friend who fixated on the one negative that brought down her otherwise positive day, we need to focus on being grateful for the good.

Do not extend a negative by “bringing the negative person home to dinner” figuratively (sometimes we dedicate more time to reliving the event than it took in the first place)!

A wise man told me years ago – never waste even a single precious heartbeat on anyone who does not matter.

The story of two monks
(paraphrased)

I am reminded of the story of two monks from an order that banned contact with women. As they were walking by a pond one day, they came upon a woman crying on the shore.  She was finely dressed in a long dress and was despondent that she could find no way to the other side where there was a family wedding. The first monk expressed sadness and said there was nothing he could do. The second monk picked up the woman and carried her across the pond holding her high enough so her dress stayed dry.

For the rest of the day, the first monk scolded the second about how he had broken his vows about touching a woman, and would owe repentance on their return.  Once they reached home, the second monk finally had enough of the tirade and said to his friend, “sure I made a choice to touch the woman by carrying her across the pond for 10 minutes. I can live with that.  But how can you live with the fact that you carried her around with us for the entire day?”

Even though the 80/20 rule refers to inputs versus outputs in process, (eighty percent of results come from 20% of the efforts) – the idea to focus on 80% of our day that is good, and disregard the other 20% is a valid concept.

If you can imagine every day being an 80/20 day – that is pretty damned good!

Have a happy, productive day!)

Carol

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Dear Daughter, lessons from a female engineer (part 1)

21 Jan

It is amazing how life turns out… who would have guessed that growing up as the oldest of five children in Alberta, Canada that I would find myself today as a middle-aged, divorced mother of two adult children, in Florida and reinventing my career to set up the financial independence I dream of.  Even though I have spent my career in male-dominated industries, I am most proud of my children, who are living happy, healthy, and independent lives as 20’somethings in Brooklyn NY and St. Petersburg, FL.

worldMy life so far has been nothing short of extraordinary – I have enjoyed a great career as a professional speaker, author, engineer, and IT expert with two passports (US and Canadian) bulging with international stamps.  I love to travel and it has been a joy to share international and domestic business trips with my children. Over the years, they have been to Brazil, Australia, Holland, Germany, South Africa, Ireland, and India in their travels. There are so many places I still want to visit – and I hope to share future travel with family and friends. I have co-authored books with experts in Finland, Germany, the US and Australia, none of which has given me financial freedom (a 2% royalty from one book and none from the others), but provided me with great experiences.  I married too young, and moved directly from my parents’ home at 22 (it was expected in my family to live at home during college) and into a marriage.  Twenty three years and three degrees (his) later, I find myself happily divorced, but with encumbrances of a hefty refinanced mortgage, real estate downturns, medical bills, unemployment and disillusionment.  Nonetheless, today I am much more fortunate and grateful than many others around me – I have optimism, good health, and a vision of the future that includes a fully booked keynote presentation calendar for years to come. I am learning that there are many things more important than money (even though money pays bills!)

I grew up in an era when women did not go into Engineering, let alone Mechanical Engineering, and in my class of 65 ME’s at the University of Calgary, I was one of five female graduates.  I keep early lessons from growing up in Canada, relocating to the US, competing in a male-dominated field, and figuring out what life and love really is all about.  I am grateful to learn something new every day…

I read a blog yesterday by Jean Hsu on the Experience of Being a Female Software Engineer, and I realized that the more things change (technology and advances), the more they stay the same.  It made me realize that maybe you and other young women could learn from what I went through, and maybe avoid some of the missteps I made.  Hindsight is 20/20 and even though my daughter’s passion is English and Poetry, and not technology, I hold out hope that she will gain a nugget of insight somewhere in my words.

So, here goes, Dear Daughter (part 1)

Dear Daughter,

I remember growing up and wanting a daughter like you and a son like your brother, with a fairytale nuclear family, but life just does not turn out exactly as we plan.  While your father and I were not the right life partners for each other, we were together for your formative years and I hope you know that there was love – at least from my side.

I admire your strength and I envy your youth – you have an entire wonderful career and love life road out in front of you as it should be.  I remember the altruism and zest that I had at your age and I wish you all the excitement and great experiences that life can hold.

Here are a few things I have learned along the way that I hope may help you:

  • Take care of yourself first – you are the only you that will ever be. Nurture your feelings and respect your intuition because they are keys to the real you.  I taught you to take care of others first as I was taught, but if you do this, you will end up losing yourself in the process. After taking care of everyone for so many years, I found out late that no matter how much I gave to others, I was empty inside because I was not taking care of me.  It is not selfish it is good self-care.  As they say in the airlines, put on your oxygen mask first before helping others. In this way, you will survive so that you can then help others.  You deserve a great, long life.
  • Never allow anyone to impede your dreams. Safeguard your dreams from negligent, but well-meaning others who do not share your journey or passion in life.  Your dreams are yours not theirs, and no matter how much they might purport to know what is best for your life (including me) – follow your heart and your dreams.
  • Life is not fair, but you still can achieve greatness. It is still an inequitable world out there. Growing up in a male preferential family (Boys have to run out and play, girls do dishes and cook), I faced many obstacles based on gender. However, it is only a barrier if you let it be. You will face many men and women alike who will tell you that you cannot do this or that, but as long as what you are doing is not illegal or immoral, you have every right to take your place in any profession  regardless of your gender (construction, engineering, etc) – go for it!  Do not waste even one precious heartbeat on anyone who does not make a difference in your life – even if they get in your face!
  • Never make anyone a priority for who you are only an option. This was a quote on Facebook from a self-professed dating expert and while it pertains specifically to dating, it applies to all relationships.  You can avoid toxic friendships, work relationships, and heartbreak when you keep this point in focus.  If you are not good enough to be a priority in someone’s life, they should not be occupying a place of preference in yours.
  • Opportunity may come disguised as hard work or a gift horse. When I graduated from engineering school in the 1980’s, I had a few job offers extended solely because I was a female engineer.  The big oil companies needed to hire women and fast track us into management, so they made outrageously generous offers to us.  At the time, my ethics (and the influence of peers) were too high – so high in fact, that the mere suggestion that I would be perceived as getting the job immorally (people would invent rumors involving indiscretions for any female given perceived “unfair” advantage) prevented me from taking such jobs.  What a mistake! Those jobs might have given me a gender preference and put me ahead for the first few months, but I have faced far more discrimination from being female throughout my career since then.  I should have taken the opportunities at the time with a genuine thank you for the leg up.
  • Fall in love with yourself first. Self-love and self-esteem are two things you can never have too much of.  When you are healthy and happy with the person you are, you can give love freely and unconditionally to another.  With the amount of negative influence and reinforcement in western society, it takes at least a couple of independent living years to discover and accept who you really are.  Only now am I discovering and unconditionally accepting the true me, and it is a pleasant surprise. It was naïve of me to think that anyone else could love me as unconditionally as I deserve to love myself.
  • You are always worth it! You are unique, complete and perfect just the way you are. You do not have to change for someone else.  If you want to change, do it for you because it is you who must live with the changed you no matter what.   If someone wants you to be someone else (to please them) they do not deserve you.
  • You deserve to be loved unconditionally. You will find that if you wait for the right person it is worth more than if you settle for the first person you fall in love with. Red flags include having to couch your words (in fear of another’s response), unwillingness to do things alone, having to give up your friends in favor of theirs.  Life is too short to be with someone who does not love you for you.
  • Smile – a lot. A smile is the most inexpensive and powerful thing you can give to a stranger or friend.  You never know who will be affected positively by this simple random act of kindness.
  • Always be yourself. If you spend your life being someone else, you are depriving the world of the wonderful you.
  • Keep your girlfriends for life. Life can be lonely when things are tough.  There is no substitute for empathetic girlfriends who accept you just the way you are.  Your friends will outlast boyfriends and husbands. Never take them for granted or ditch them for a “boy” — they deserve your respect and will always be there when the boy is long gone.
  • Pursue your passion. A coach told me just this week to keep two things in mind for your career:

1. Choose a profession where you like the people in it (if you don’t trust lawyers, don’t become one); and

2. Choose an industry that has money to pay you.

He recommended that I get out of the business now, because only #1 is true.  The IT field has great people, but with rare exceptions they do not pay their conference speakers.  I have a choice to leave the business (I am not making enough money) or stay and go broke.  I love to speak to large audiences and would happily represent a company on a speaking or conference circuit, but my current business model is not working.  It is never too late to reinvent yourself.

Pursue your dreams, be yourself, and never be afraid to feel what you feel.  The present is the best gift you can ever give yourself, and is only rivaled by the joy that you have brought to my life.

I love you,

Mom

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Do social media kill social skills?

17 Jan

In this day of social media and instant messaging, I think that people are forgetting how to be social.  People everywhere seem more direct, curt and intolerant – and I believe this increases both our personal and societal stress.

I have been out with more than a few colleagues who hate Facebook and Twitter, yet they are increasingly direct to the point of rudeness in their demeanor.  If a “barista” or sales clerk makes a mistake, the error is quickly noted and announced.  Is it just me or is the world becoming “too honest”?

rudeHave you noticed how much more direct people became since text messaging got popular?  People don’t talk naturally in 140 character sound-bites (the Twitter limit) – yet that seems to be the way that interactions – even in person – happen today.

I could chalk this behavior up to age (most of my friends are over 40 and proudly assert their new-found intolerance to things on which they stayed silent on in the past) – but it seems to pervade age and culture.  While Andy Rooney (of 60 Minutes fame) calls this “refreshing” in his discourse about why he likes women over 40 (because they speak their mind), it also opens the door to sometimes abrasive behavior under the guise of integrity.  When someone follows up a searing statement with “I’m just being honest” you know that they said something heavy on opinion and low on substance.

I believe that language erosion due to text and twitter shortcuts increases stress in our everyday lives. I hasten to add that the adage of “if you have nothing good to say, say nothing” is extinct.

The range of observations go from extreme (out-and-out public displays of anger) to mild (restaurant conversations that leave one dumbfounded).  Let me share with you what I’ve seen lately:

  • Public Facebook quarrels with ex-partners/spouses/former friends.  No longer are disagreements between two people, they are displayed for all to see and live on in cyberspace indefinitely.  What people cannot say in person gets blasted to the world with amazing venom and speed.
  • Road rage and text rage (the worst part is that this is often done while driving) – it is one thing if the offender is a passenger, but when they are operating a 2000 pound piece of dangerous machinery at 70+ miles an hour, the person should be cited for WMD (weapons of mass destruction) violations.
  • Public displays of anger where people yell, berate, pout, and otherwise demean another human being they choose to be out with.  Is love gone from our world between husbands and wives, boyfriends and girlfriends?
  • I hope you don’t mind but… table talk where a friend or colleague feels compelled to be “brutally honest for your own good” and spouts out why you do not have a spouse, significant other, job, money – you name it.  Whatever compels someone to say what they do in direct sound-bites and then top it off with “I just thought you should know” is beyond me.  Most often it is a pure opinion piece with little substance and illustrates the intolerance to accept you as you are. (Sidenote – when this happens, remember the song line: You are amazing – just the way you are! – BECAUSE you are.)

We need more patience, tolerance and understanding in our world today.  Good, hard-working and honest people are facing stresses beyond those ever faced since the great depression.  Work is scarce, real estate is shaky, the rich get richer, and the middle class is disappearing. Each and every one of us has (in my opinion) and obligation to practice self-love, self-respect, and respect for all living things – including those you meet during your day.  How much better would things be if we held our tongues when it does not matter, and instead focused on the strengths of others and not their weaknesses?

On that note, who have you shared a kind word with today?  Thanks for reading – have a happy, healthy, positive week!

CarolkindnessShare
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Let Go of Letting Go…

16 Jan

Does this sound like a circular reference to you?  It is not if you let me explain how it makes sense to “Let Go of Letting Go”…

circleSo many self-improvement, positive thinking, psychology, and other books today talk about how important they feel it is to “let go” of things that hinder our lives:  past experiences, toxic relationships, negative people, poor choices, mistakes we have made.

Typically, the experts support a three-step letting go process along the lines of

  1. Identify what you need to let go of;
  2. Do some sort of “root cause analysis” (in the hope of avoiding it in the future); and
  3. “Burn” (either figuratively or literally) the issue to let it go from your past and present.

I do not know about you, but I find that this process is good in theory — but does not work in practice!  When I focus on that which I need to let go, it exacerbates the issue at hand (akin to rubbing sand in a wound) and does not get rid of it.  I am finding that the best way to really let go of something is to let it flow – in other words ride the waves of emotion and let go of the need to formally let it go.  Somehow the process of letting things flow (i.e., letting the waves roll over my subconscious and not giving them focus or concentration) seems to dissipate their strength – and the next time the same wave comes (it does not magically go away) its amplitude (size) is less. Before long, I know the wave will be a mere ripple.  By letting things flow instead of forcing the memory out (letting go), I also feel more open to the possibility of new better memories.

A quote that feels right for me is

The past is our definition. We may strive, with good reason to escape it, or to escape what is bad in it, but we will escape it only by adding something better to it. – Wendell Berry

Wow!  To me, this means that when we try to let go of something or run from a bad memory, we can’t really escape it. Instead, when we add to our collective past with a positive memory, we escape what was there before.  The quote seems to give credence to my “Let go of letting go”  plus introduces the idea of adding on something better.

In my engineering, analogy thinking mind, it reminds me of a Lego house with eroding pieces…

instead of deliberately removing damaged pieces and leaving holes in the structure, I choose to allow new pieces to come in and thus, remove the old ones as a matter of course.  My life is like the Lego house.

This is a conscious choice – rather than trying to escape the past through concentrating on letting go, new positive experiences can replace the painful memories. 

As distance grows from the past, my new, positive experiences today replace (and add on to) my history.  Good memories enhance and build up on past good memories, and painful ones can be replaced with new adventures. This gives me hope!

In terms of relationships, now that I experience self-love, it adds on positively and I can escape the bad memories of love in the past. When my financial independence comes about with new employment and opportunities, my memory of the pain of financial troubles will ebb.  As I meet and engage with new positive people, I can escape the memories of toxic friendships of the past.

Let go of letting go – let flow…

Have a great week!

Carol

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Will work for…

12 Jan

I know that it takes fortitude to ask for support.

I don’t know about you, but the new millennium is strange:  everything I grew up to expect in life is upside down; jobs are not guaranteed, home ownership is no longer an investment, the middle class is shrinking, and homelessness is no longer the domain of a few downtrodden souls.  Here in Florida, the number of unemployed continues to rise monthly (Florida leads the nation in both unemployment statistics and real estate devaluation) and I am thankful to have a roof over my head.

While there are buskers who pretend along with others who may not deserve a handout, the benefit of the doubt has graced people I’ve seen with signs or an open hand.  Maybe it’s my upbringing, but I find it difficult to pass by without giving them something.  I often think “There but for the grace of God, go I,” were it not for good luck and education.

Have you seen how creative some of the signs have become?  It seems that today even the homeless compete for dollars (did you see the story about the New York person whose sign “Need money to buy weed” brings in close to $500 per shift?)  This was not the society I was raised to inherit – yet I find that there is little security today.  Here at the crossroads of mid-life, neither friends nor I wasted away savings or quit jobs; we are challenged because of downsizing and business cuts.  Do you see the same things occurring where you live?

As a young engineer who graduated in the 1980’s,

I was fortunate to have job choices and options – there were more jobs than applicants!  For years, I could move freely between jobs progressively up the ladder.  It was also easy to start my business in 1994 and to make a profitable living.  I had no idea how lucky I was then or over the next six years when I was able to support a freelance team of 5 people.  I kept my team gainfully employed with generous salaries for several years and life was good.  During this time, I could have advised other young women on how to build a profitable business easily and quickly — even though my secret was that I was in a niche and high demand market.

Since then, life has changed – business changed and contracts slowed, and today my clients want short-term (less than a week at a time)  project management and software metrics training.  I deliver high energy knowledge transfer in my speaking and consulting engagements, but the work “pipeline” remains low.  It is frustrating to have good health, an excellent reputation and skills, yet have open blocks in my calendar.  When I look at who I was with a highly successful business and who I am today, I am the same person of high integrity, but with more experience, credentials, and compassion.

Finding contracts online or via job boards is no longer a reality as anyone with a computer and a mouse can click their way to applying for technical jobs.  The key to finding work today is through connections – successful job seeking is based on who you know not what you know.

So, it is with humility that I say “will work for…”

I definitely need more speaking engagements and contract work!  Will you help me by referring me to your superiors, colleagues, and friends when you hear that they need a speaker or an instructor for their upcoming event?   I speak on topics ranging from project management to making technology a success to software measurement. In addition, I can be a spokesperson for your company at conferences to bring traffic back to the trade show floor.  My fees are reasonable and I am willing to travel internationally.

Recently my keynote speeches included the International Project Management Association Global Congress (Nov 2010 in Istanbul Turkey) and the International Function Point Users Group annual conference (Sept 2010 in Sao Paulo Brazil).  I deliver workshops on software measurement and quality topics throughout the U.S., Canada, and Europe. Over the past 10 years, I have spoken in  25 countries including Asia, Australia, and South Africa.

Thank you in advance for your leads and kind help. My passion is speaking and consulting — I work best with companies who want to improve their business with technology. Please me email (dekkers@qualityplustech.com) or visit my other blog at http://musingsaboutsoftwaredevelopment.wordpress.com for more information.

Thank you, I am grateful for readers like you.
Carol

websites: http://www.caroldekkers.com and http://www.qualityplustech.com


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Getting rid of clutter? Start inside your head…

10 Jan

Are you surprised at the title of this post?

I was when a friend of mine suggested it to me one day this week when I mentioned how I want to simplify my life.  We were talking about how I felt disillusioned by someone I knew when she remarked “there’s so much clutter inside your head that I don’t know how you can see anything objectively.”  At first, I didn’t know how to respond but then I realized that there was probably truth in her statement.  When I asked her to explain, she responded by saying that my mind was filled with so many contradictory beliefs that she said it must be oppressively crowded inside my head!

That’s when reality hit… I realized that I am a hoarder of beliefs – what I mean is that new ideas and opinions enter my mind (like buying new clothing for my closet) and none ever leave.  As such, I carry around a motley mismatched collection of childhood learnings, adult beliefs, truisms from experience, and “truths” imposed on me by others.  Maybe you are like me – you take in new ideas but don’t make room for them by discarding beliefs that no longer serve you well.  By now, there is so much clutter that it is difficult to distill things objectively into knowledge and truth.  It is time to take inventory of what I keep in my head!

I know today that there are NO RULES OF LIFE (outside of legal or societal norms) – except inside my head which means that anything can be removed from my belief inventory without consequence.  To de-clutter my life, I realize that I must first discard flawed beliefs and childhood “rules” that no longer apply.  To do this I compiled two lists: the first is the list of “momilies” (things a mom tells you) that I ingested growing up (that now contradict what I know t0 be true) and other beliefs I can abandon; the second is the list of beliefs I choose to embrace.  This inventory exercise helped me to separate what I can discard (the first list) from my reality and experience beliefs.

List #1:  Momilies…

  • The Golden Rule – “do unto others as you’d like them to do unto you”  – a motherhood and apple pie servitude that is a good idea, but it can imprison those who are “givers” in life. I have held on to this belief for far too long and it has bitten me many times. Most of our society does not adhere to this “rule”  and instead opt to walk all over those who upheld it.  It is an altruistic but unrealistic rule intended for an ideal world.  I let it go.
  • Think of others before yourself (Girl Scouts remnant) also called “The more you give, the more you receive adage” – This is one of the cornerstones of organized religion and enlists people to servitude (which works for some people).  After years of giving unconditionally and getting doormat treatment in return, I’m ready to let this belief go.  In reality, we must give first to ourselves, and if there is anything left over, then give to society and others.  Certainly giving can be virtuous and good for society – but should never at the cost of one’s best interests or self-preservation.   The truth is that we should remember the airline practice:  Put on your own mask first before assisting others!
  • Share and share alike. Another motherhood and apple pie teaching that works to discourage narcissistic children, but it doesn’t apply in adult life.  Not every child in a playground will share and this makes the idea of sharing inequitable.  The takers of the world quickly learn how to take advantage of those who do share.  In our capitalistic society of “grab as much as you can while you can”, anyone who follows the share and share alike will be quickly left behind.
  • Life is fair. I have no idea why this misguided idea was still stuck in my head.  I can only surmise that it resembled truth while growing up in a family where everything had to be absolutely equal (even to the extent of cutting up two fruit cocktail cherries to be equally divided among 5 siblings).  Life is not fair or equal – and it never was.  I banish this one from my head!
  • What goes around comes around (or the rule of Karma). Okay, I cannot completely let go of this one – even though it is unproven and may be “new age”.   If you are like me, you have seen many people cheat, lie, steal and otherwise mistreat others to get ahead in life with few negative consequences.  However, I still believe that one cannot cheat and pillage others indefinitely – without Karma “what goes around comes around” catching up.  Call me naive.
  • Money can’t buy happiness. What a bunch of bs it was to believe this one!  Money buys comfort, relief from stress, financial freedom and independence.  While this may be a good adage to guide kids careers towards service, it simply is untrue.  Just look at the family struggling month-to-month to pay a mortgage or feed their loved ones – and then suggest that money doesn’t buy happiness.  Quite the contrary – a lack of money can definitely result in stress and unhappiness.

Since childhood, I’ve also amassed a surprising amount of new (and often conflicting) beliefs that took up battle with the misguided beliefs above.  In light of the realities of life, I am willing to discard the unrealistic beliefs above.  In so doing, the mind battles will diminish so that peace and kindness can prevail inside my head!

Sunset

List #2: Truisms that I will keep

  • Don’t give away anything that you might need someday (especially money!)  When I had employees, I paid them the highest and most generous salary I could afford (far above the industry average) because I believed this was fair and the right way to run a business with high ethics (they were doing the work after all).  This was an altruistic and misguided choice as my employees abandoned me when the workload lessened, joined my competition, and I was left with a business without financial reserves.
  • Trust, but verify. This Ronald Reagan adage is a prudent way to protect your own interests from pillage.  I discovered the truth of this following a financially damaging divorce where I trusted the wrong people (without verifying) and I will pay for the oversight for years to come.
  • The best investment is you. This truism delivers a guaranteed high ROI.  School children should be taught self-preservation and self-love first. With so much negative thinking in our society today, a healthy self-image can be difficult to keep up yet it is a pre-requisite for success in life.
  • You are the best you’ll ever have – and that more than enough. You are whole, complete, and perfect just as you are – and deserve to be accepted and loved unconditionally just as you are.  In life, the only love you that you can be assured of reciprocity is from yourself. Everyone else is a risk.
  • A mother’s love is unrivaled. I would never have believed how much love I could have for my children and no matter their behavior, I will always love them unconditionally.  I would never change the experiences of the past because they are the rock of my life.
  • If it’s too good to be true, it probably is. I know that this defies the Disney or “Dream the Impossible Dream” wishful thinking, but if it is too good to be true, it usually is 99.9% of the time.  Sure it can be fun to dream big, but believing people or promises that contradicts our intuition usually bites us. Everywhere we read about ripoffs, opportunists, cheats, and yet we so often hope that we cad defy the odds in spite of our intuition telling us otherwise.  We need to trust our intuition to tell us the truth and listen — instead of listening to people who make promises to which they cannot deliver.
  • If you love something set it free, if it comes back to you it is yours, if it doesn’t it never was.  This is so true in life.  While  typically applied to unrequited love, it also applies to friends, jobs, opportunities.  When WE love someone or something, it can be difficult to let go of the wish to keep them in our life. The only person or situation where we can be assured that will come back to us in love is oneself.

Clearing out the clutter between my ears is my first step to simplifying my life.  It is a journey I am ready to take this year, what about you?

p.s., My bookshelf find:  See you at the Top by Zig Ziglar is going to be a keeper!  Zig opens the book with several chapters exploring the 15 steps to a healthy self-image.  He asserts that success in life starts a healthy self-image but due to an overwhelming abundance of negative beliefs we hold about oneself (imposed by others over many years), we have a lot to overcome.  See You at the Top is definitely a book that I will keep in my collection – one can never have too many positive reinforcement books on a bookshelf!

Wishing you a clutter-free week!

Carol
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