Archive | February, 2012

Sparks of YES experiment… are you In?

23 Feb

Have you ever noticed how just one small “YES” can totally transform your day?  

When your day is filled with so many “NO’s”, even just one “YES” can make the difference and allow our spirit to soar.  Just one “YES” can make your heart skip a beat!

Imagine how transformational millions of  “YES” sparks could be!  (And that’s going to be my challenge to you at the end of this post – would you be part of a Sparks of YES experiment and spread the word?)

One YES can inspire another, and hopefully in turn inspire two others, and two more and so on and so on…until the collective inertia of the NO’s is overcome by what I call “The Sparks of YES” experiment.

Sound hokey?  Maybe… but whatever, I still think it will work.  Please read on.

The Culture of too many NO’s…

We live in interesting and perplexing times:  unemployment is at an all time high, more people have given up looking for jobs (why bother?)”, suicide rates are soaring, the divorce rate in Florida hovers at 75% (really!) and millions are easing their pain with everyday addictions (Florida leads the nation in oxycodone abuse)… Damn it, failure is (again!) the soup of the day.

What is puzzling is that we are the same species as we were before the banks plunged us into chaotic recession.  We are the same people who made this nation great, before the greed of Wall Street and the 1% took over.  It is NOT up to the 1% to take care of the 99% – they never have and never will.

What’s my name, do I belong ?

As a county (and  a state and a nation…) we have the same potential for success as ever, yet millions of our fellow citizens walk through their days feeling beat up, spit out, knocked down, and depressed.  They’ve sent out hundreds of resumes, knocked on countless doors, worn out pens filling out job applications, hit “apply” on computer screens – all without success.  We make millions of phone calls begging for mortgage relief, plead for food stamps, appeal to utility companies – and swear at more “automated”  voice response systems than we should in a lifetime.  And it all seems to come down to the same thing – no one seems to care, there’s so little forward movement, and every step we take seems to take us backwards.

UNTIL that one day-changing moment when someone says “YES”!

  • Yes, I can give you more time to pay that bill.”
  • “Yes, you can come to work for me.”
  • “Yes, your resume looks good and we will call you for an interview.”
  • “Yes, I gave you extra whipped cream on that latte for no charge.”
  • “Yes, you deserve my time.”

YES changes the world from shades of gray to Technicolor!  YES gives us hope.  A bit of YES spells potential success… (at least until the NO’s overwhelm us again.)  But I believe that we can overcome the inertia of so many NO’s, with lots of Sparks of YES!

My “YES” today came from my friend Steve…

I found a YES in my inbox today and it inspired me to write this post. (The second post in one day!)

I’d like to share my YES with you — My friend Steve took the time to send me this card (click on the link below and you can enjoy the experience yourself!). Thank you for inspiring me to create YES’s for others,  Steve! (Here’s the link: http://www.jacquielawson.com/viewcard.asp?code=3382268653748&source=jl999 )

JacquieLawson.com

Overcoming Collective Inertia

I sometimes wonder “Where have all the caring people gone?”

The answer is that they have gone “underground” because they are also beat up, kicked down, and feeling sunk.  Why bother caring when no one else does?

A fire starts with a single spark – and can grow into a magnificent fire… a locomotive starts moving with a single burst of electrical ignition… we can become a positive society again if we convert our culture of NO into a culture of YES.

The Challenge…The Sparks of YES experiment

“Let there be peace on earth, and let it begin with me…”

Where can you begin in your life to inject more “YES’s” ?  I challenge you to double your YES output – first, notice how many times you say or meet with a NO response, and second. respond to it by giving two YES’s to people in your day.

This is not going to be easy!  If you meet or hear “NO” twice today, that means your challenge is to give out FOUR YES’s.  They don’t need to be big or monumental YES’s, just enough to build momentum against the mountain of NO’s!  Double your YES output and watch what happens…

WILL YOU SAY “YES” TO SAYING “YES” ?

PLEASE let me know if you take up the challenge and what are your results…

Have an inspiring weekend!

Carol

We don’t “attract” the wrong people…

23 Feb

I am living proof that the Law of Attraction (Think and Grow Rich, The Secret, etc.) combined with The Four Agreements and other philosophies work! My life is moving in the right direction with the right people around me, but my happiness journey has not been without its detours and potholes.  My divorce was the beginning of the journey, although I didn’t realize it at the time.  After a quarter century with a self-absorbed husband, I found myself alone with an out-of-control 17-year-old son (his father was my ex who moved away immediately), a stalled career, and ruined finances.  I could only imagine a better life – and today, just six years later, I am finding happiness.  My son is healthy and thriving, my daughter has found a great career, my career is back on track, I have found true friends, and life is good.

It has not been a “cakewalk” – my journey is ongoing, frustrating (at times), lonely, enlightening, exciting, and disappointing, but I am happier than I have ever been. Along the way, the books mentioned above gave me great insight about life when taken in moderation.  However, with books like The Secret, there are overzealous supporters who believe (and spout) myths about the law of attraction.  Believing these myths can actually set you back in your quest for success and happiness.  I would like to debunk two of these “myths”:

Myth #1: You attract everyone into your life with your thoughts.
Truth #1: The world is like a pile of metal shavings… you attract who you attract based on magnetism

In the same way that you cannot choose who you fall in love with or to whom you are attracted, you cannot change this in others.  Humanity is like a mismatched pile of metal shavings (people in the world), where some will be drawn to you and some will not. I believe that attraction between people is fundamentally physiological – either someone is attractive to you or they are not; it is that simple.   The adage of “people like people like themselves” seems to prevail.

What we CAN control:  We CAN change our attitude and presentation to the world and thereby increase our potential attractiveness to other types of people, but our inner beauty and personal magnetism will not change.  What this means is that no matter how hard we “wish”, we would still attract a motley mix of good, bad, toxic, sociopathic, kind, narcissistic, damaged, wholesome and mottled people into our lives. Magnetism is not selective, but allowing them to stick to us should be VERY SELECTIVE! (If only we could buy mosquito repellant to keep away dysfunctional people!)

What this means to your psyche:  When you meet someone who says that you are attracting the wrong people into your life, remember that attraction is not a choice, but selecting who you allow into your life IS A CHOICE.

It helps me to remember that the people who are in my life (through either blood or they were attracted to me and I allowed them to take part in my life) do not have a lifetime pass.  It is my right (and choice) to end or suspend relationships with people who have become toxic to me — even if they passed the screening and selection process long ago.  Even if they are blood relatives, if they inject poison (through verbal or other abuse), we need to safeguard our emotional health and keep away.  We all have the right to positive influences and people in our life!

While you cannot change who you attract, you CAN increase your screening and selection criteria for who you allow to be in your life.

 Myth #2:  Life is a culmination of everything you manifested with your thoughts.
Truth #2: SHIT happens to good people all the time, regardless of their THOUGHTS

Another “rabbit hole” that trips up people who embrace the law of attraction is that “everything in your life you made happen through your thoughts”.  What utter rubbish!

For example, I can tell you that I NEVER wished for – or even thought about – having emotional abuse in my life.  I also did not wish for years of strife with a teenage son.  Nor did I wish for an aneurysm at age 40!  Moreover, I know that whatever strife you have in your life is probably not something you wished for or thought about.  Crap happens and you did NOT manifest it into being WITH YOUR THOUGHTS!

Certainly, our life is a culmination of our actions and beliefs, but circumstances, events and “shit” simply happens, regardless of how much we wish and pray and want something else.  Yet there are those who believe they can control the world with their thoughts and want to convince you that you can too (hmm… was not there a German leader who managed to manifest his thoughts of superiority into world domination?).

I met one of these such people several years ago and it was a downright “scary” experience.  “Mark” was an organizer of a self-help cult-style weekend called Landmark. (Note, I did not realize it was a cult until I saw their abusive and brainwashing at work.) “Mark”  convinced me to attend the seminar (against my intuition) and promised to make it more affordable by picking me up at the airport.  When I hesitated, he convinced me that this was my “ego” trying to keep me from growing and learning. When the weekend arrived, my flight was delayed and Mark reneged on his promise to pick me up.  I ended up taking expensive taxis because there were no rental cars available.  When I arrived at the site, he had lost my paperwork and I had to spend an hour completing new forms.  Strangely, Mark “justified” his poor behavior and the missing paperwork because (in his words) I made all of it happen with my thoughts.  WOW!  Somehow, I had the power to delay the plane, tie up all the rental cars, and psychically destroy paperwork.  When I laughed at his audacity, Mark insisted that even catastrophes like plane crashes are the result of “a group of people whose thoughts are harmonically aligned to bring the plane down.”  Can you imagine believing in such crap?  I left the weekend knowing that insanity is available for anyone willing to embrace dysfunctional thinking, like Mark.

What we CAN control: It is said that life is mostly attitude combined with your circumstances – but at times of strife, it can become so imbalanced that we lose control.  (In statistics, an “average” is the sum of all the events (good points + bad points + all in between) divided by the number of events.  As such, there has to be some great wins to balance out great losses to end up with an average somewhere in the middle!)

We cannot control the crap that happens in our life – bad things happen to good people all the time – but we can choose how we respond to it.  We can stand around the “pile of burning crap” when it lands in our life and make a choice!  We can watch it and wail that it is awful as it burns stronger… we can step in it and get covered in it (i.e., it can consume us)… or we can grab a bucket of water and douse the flames… or we can do any number of other actions.  The reaction and response IS OUR CHOICE, the burning pile of crap that landed IS NOT.

What this means to your psyche:  Stop listening to people who tell you that your life is the way it is because YOU CHOSE IT to be. This is NOT true and you know it! People do NOT choose to be unemployed or lose their home or have loved ones die… it JUST HAPPENS.  These things happen to good people all the time!  Change the things you can, wish (and envision) a better future, and adopt a healthy attitude.  It will not stop things from happening, but hopefully what doesn’t kill us makes us stronger.

I am sorry that the crap in your life happens to you… it is temporary and you have a choice about your future.  Life can always be better tomorrow, and even in the darkest moments, all you really have to do is make it through the next 5 minutes…

Have a great week and do the Royal We (me, myself, and I) a favor and stop allowing crap to invade your psyche.  YOU are a good person who deserves happiness.  We can all choose happiness and success – but sometimes the universe has a convoluted way of bringing it to us.

Carol

Don’t take ANYTHING Personally…

21 Feb

The Four Agreements a book by don Miguel Ruiz, and the Four Agreements Companion Guide outline an incredibly powerful philosophy that can revolutionize one’s life.  My insightful daughter gave me the first book as a gift when she was only a teenager and I was still married to her father.  At the time, I took a lot of criticism and verbal abuse personally, and The Four Agreements gave me solace and started me on the journey of not taking anything personally (the Second of the Four Agreements).

Now, almost 8 years later, I am in a better place, happily single, and optimistic about whatever adventures lie in my future thanks in part to the teachings of don Miguel Ruiz and the Four Agreements.

Agreement #2: Don’t take ANYTHING Personally

For me, this is THE single, most difficult agreement to master – and the one that allows me the most freedom and solace.   When we realize that other people’s behavior has NOTHING to do with us and is not our responsibility, it allows us to be truly ourselves.  We should not take anything personally whether it is POSITIVE or NEGATIVE.

This is not easy to do, especially if it was ingrained from an early age to do just the opposite!

I grew up learning to take everything personally whether it was from family, friends, strangers, or even strangers who cut me off in traffic.

My mother is now over 80 and is a master of taking everything personally.  I recall many occasions where she would remark that she couldn’t understand why a friend would treat her so poorly and intend to hurt her.  When I tried to console her and tell her that it might simply be a matter of circumstance or misunderstanding on someone’s part, she would chide me by saying “of course she meant to hurt me – she does this on purpose!”

I also remember many times coming home from school and talking to her about some family occurrence (she was one of 9 children) that seemed to be blown out of proportion.  I remember my cousin choosing to attend another church (heaven forbid!) and hearing  “O M G! can you believe that my niece left the church?  How can her mother allow her to do that to her?  I don’t know what I would ever do if one of  you kids ever did that to us!”  And so it went… every time anyone, me, or my siblings did something of which my mother did not approve the response was the same:  “How could you/they do that … to me?”   At the time I simply observed and was confused.

Personally, none of my choices or behaviors ever had anything to do with my parents, yet they took every move personally.  I cannot imagine making a decision about my life and having to consider how everyone in the world might react, especially when it is not about them.  When I realize that I believed what I was taught, I can understand why it is hard to NOT take things personally.

Despite this realization, the second agreement is difficult to put into practice – but I am determined to make it work! Today don Miguel Ruiz posted:

Write this agreement on paper, and put it on your refrigerator to remind you all the time:
Don’t take anything personally.

So I did, and in a matter of hours, I had to stop myself three time from taking things personally. Here’s what happened:

1. A potential contract on hold:

I received an email from a company with which I am a candidate for an upcoming contract  (I interviewed with them twice last week.) The email said that the company has decided to consider a few internal people for the position before moving forward with me.

My gut first reaction:  I felt that I might not be qualified enough or that I did not make a good enough impression on the recruiting manager (who I only spoke to once).  It felt like it could be a personal slight against me.

Reality:  The hiring manager does not know me. The decision to consider internal candidates has NOTHING to do with me. It is NOT personal!  If the company decides in a few weeks to move forward with me, again it is not personal to me.

2. Email from my father:

My father sent me an email in response to photos I sent of my newborn granddaughter, ignoring the photos but saying how I am hurting my mother by not renewing ties with a toxic relative.  He cited religion as being the reason I need to go back to fix the relationship and said that whatever caused the rift should be ignored as irrelevant.

My gut first reaction: This felt like a personal affront.  My first reaction was to think that “there is nothing I ever do or not do that is good enough for my parents.  Unless I follow their edicts exactly, they will always reject me.”  The accusatory words and religious “guilt-mongering” from someone I love further made it feel personal.

Reality: The email is not really about me at all.  My choice about whether to embrace a toxic relationship is my choice and it has nothing to do with my parents.  It is purely an extension of the childhood “how could you do xxx TO US?”  and is a pattern.  It’s not personal.

3. A kind gesture from a stranger

Someone let me go ahead of them into the single merge lane in a construction zone; an act of small kindness.

My first gut reaction: S/he let me in because of all the times I have let others in. Maybe s/he liked my smile and realizes (?) that I am a good person.

Reality: This was NOT personal. When someone does a random act of kindness their behavior is purely a reflection on them, not me.

These were three minor events where my “gut reaction” (my ego) was to take things personally.  It takes conscious thought to overcome this tendency – especially when it is part of our family behavior.  With effort, we CAN overcome the old programming that causes us to take things personally.

Remembering not to take ANYTHING personally is a hard thing to do…
but mastering it brings power, peace, and freedom!

What do YOU think?

Have a great week!

Carol

Women who know too much…

20 Feb

On Valentine’s Day I listened to a radio poll stating that most men find intelligent women attractive.  Perhaps this is true in some markets, but the places where I go it seems to just the opposite.  What has been YOUR experience?

As a confident female with good communication skills, I find that I need to “dumb down” most conversations when meeting men for the first time.  When I neglect to do so, men walk away as soon as they find out I “know too much” (in their opinion).  Whether the conversation is about travel, work, or beverages, women who “know too much” often find themselves alone with their thoughts.

I often see attractive, confident, smart women doing this same thing – pretending not to know about common topics of conversation simply to keep a man’s attention for any length of time.  (Note, that inebriated men don’t seem to care if a woman is intelligent and don’t seem to be intimidated.)

Intelligent women may be attractive to others, but only if they keep their real IQ a secret.  Simply talking about foreign travel or world events (non-politically charged!) seems enough to intimidate most men.

Does it make sense to do this; to dumb down conversations and mask the real you?  Is it worthwhile to forego intelligent conversation to adopt people-pleasing behaviors just for the sake of meeting new people?  Having said this, men still pay more attention to “dumb blondes” than smart ones.

What does it say about equality when we have to pretend not to be smart if we want to be noticed?

I spent my high school years lying to classmates about my test scores (lopping off a full grade to fit in).  At home I met with an opposite reaction when my father chided me for missing an “extra credit” question and getting too low a test score.  It seemed (and seems) like being educated just doesn’t pay off for women when it comes to men.

Referring back to my opening statistic, I agree that men probably like to know that women are intelligent, but only to a certain extent: there’s too smart (a turn-off) and too dumb (also a turn off) and everything in between.  Regardless, I contend that cosmetic beauty still wins over smarts in terms of attractiveness.

Conversation starter

Knowing a bit about a subject can be a good conversation starter, but to keep the flow of words going, women need to step back and allow men tell us how much they know (even if it is made up crap!)  Sweet smiles work far more magic than trying to add to the conversation, especially if it is something you know.  Here’s a case in point:  if you talk about a traditionally male subject, such as microbrew beer (confession: I know a fair amount about craft brews), men will feign interest for 30 seconds and then turn to talk to someone else.  The choices are: 1. Dumb it down or change the subject; 2. sit facing the guy’s back; or 3. Talk to someone else.

Perhaps women do know too much… but it does not seem to take much to intimidate a guy these days. What is YOUR experience?  How do you react when you meet a woman who is intelligent and confident? ?  Half of the world would like to know.

Have a good week!

Carol

Need more hours in your day? 3 Easy steps…

16 Feb

I remember days gone by when I wished for more hours in my day… no matter how I tried to rearrange things, I just couldn’t find all the hours I needed to get everything done. By the end of the day, I was exhausted and spent, and my kids did not get to see me at my best on many occasions.

These days, my children are grown and I watch around me as more and more people are in the same predicament that I was – and are equally harried and stressed.  For them and you, I present “3 Easy ways to create more hours in your day”.

1.   Reduce your load…Stop doing things that do not really matter

While you may feel that everything you do during the day from paid work to laundry to helping with homework to driving to soccer practice to …. (100 other things!) are essential for you to do, I disagree.  When I recall everything I did for so many people, I realize that they might have seemed essential (especially to me), but I know that there were things I did simply out of a sense of duty.  One way to figure out what you can stop doing that does not really matter is to stop doing something and then see if anyone misses it.

For example, I call several friends many times before they return my calls (if they ever do).  Once I stopped calling them (which I had done more for myself if the truth be known), some did not call me at all – I discovered that the “friends” do not miss me, and as a result, I can spend my time pursuing relationships that really matter.

For another example, tasks like dusting are one of the “mom” type duties that we often think must be done to avoid what others might think or say (such as a mother-in-law).  But if you stop doing dusting or do it only 1/2 as often, the results may not be noticed.  Voila!  Time saved!  Make a list of everything you do on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis and see if there is anything that is non-essential, immaterial or that you can cut back on the frequency with which you do them.  You may be surprised to find out that there are things you do to satisfy your inner critic and no one else really cares.  So, stop doing these things!

A friend once told me “You can come over to my house and even write your name in my dust, as long as you don’t date it!”  I realized then that the process of dusting was less important than spending time with my children.  I stopped dusting so often, and surprise, no one noticed!

2.   Outsource what can be done more cheaply by someone else (and help another person in the process!)

Once you have pared down your list in #1., figure out what other things could be better done (from both a financial and emotional standpoint) by someone else.  You can outsource and win just like the big corporations!

For example, if mowing the grass is on  your list of “must do’s” and it takes you 2 hours to do it weekly, consider that a neighborhood teen may charge as little as $10. a week to mow your grass AND clean up the clippings!  Are your two hours worth more than $10. (let alone the sweating and stress it may cause you?) If the answer is yes, do yourself a favor and give the teen a job to mow your lawn – you will both benefit.  This single act gives you 2 hours to do something else!

If, however, you love to mow your lawn (I know people who do!), then find other tasks on your list where it might be more efficient to outsource the work to someone who wants and needs the work.  You will both benefit and be happier!

3. Accept help when it is offered

Too often those of us who are self-reliant and independent “cut our noses to spite our face” by not accepting help when it is genuinely offered.  Our misplaced sense of pride and feelings that we might “owe” someone who helps us – can actually work to our detriment!

When someone offers to aid you with something that would help you stretch your day, accept the help!

As I mentioned in a earlier post (The more you give, the more you … give) – the acts of giving and receiving  are not coupled.  So, if you feel that you would owe someone when they give to you, think about all the times that you give freely to others.  It is about time that you allow others to give back – especially when they are not the same people who have received from you.

These are three easy steps to more hours and more happiness.  Best of all, they come at little or no cost (especially when you factor in the price of your own heartbeats and hours you save!)  Prioritize your time, follow the steps, and let me know what happens in your life.

Have a great weekend!

Carol

In honor of Valentine’s Day… Fantasy BINGO

14 Feb

On this V-Day – wishing you love and happiness no matter who you are or what relationship status you may have!

As a single who spent 1/2 my life married, it is interesting to watch the explosive growth of dating and matchmaking websites (Match.com, eHarmony.com, POF, golfmates.com, and a myriad of specialized sites!)  USA Today cites that 49% of adults in the US today are unmarried, and the Florida statistics say that over 75% of marriages here end in divorce!  Is love dead or have we become too narcissistic and self-centered as a society?

Matchmaking experts recommend that single (or even married) people write down their list of desired and undesirable traits in a partner, should the right person happen to come along.   I thought about this and realized that a creative and light-hearted way to do this would be on a  B I N G O card – something familiar to North Americans.  For me, I do not expect anyone (let alone in Florida!) to measure up to my stringent BINGO card (I should have done this years ago!) – but it was fun to fantasize.

What would you put on your BINGO card?

p.s., This photo depicts an attractive male who approached me on Sunday. (No he didn’t score a BINGO!) Life in Florida is always a pleasant surprise.

The Royal We (me, myself, and I) wish you a wonderful Valentine’s Day no matter what your status.

The more you Give, the more you… Give

13 Feb

As a classically trained engineer, I know that there are some immutable (unchangeable) laws of physics such as:  an object at rest remains at rest unless acted upon by a moving force; an object in motion remains in motion unless acted upon by and equal and opposite force; the law of gravity (gravity works); etc.  These are guaranteed laws that hold true no matter the where or when.

When it comes to people, however, there are few immutable laws. People behave well or badly often without logic.

Nonetheless, there are marketers who promote their workshops and profess networking prowess based on what they tout as an immutable law:

The more you Give, the more you Receive…

What a nice momism (things moms say to make the world seem nicer!)  Certainly the world could be more harmonious if this was a law of nature, but the two concepts (Giving and Receiving) are not coupled.

This causes undue stress when we believe that Giving and Receiving are related because it gives rise to unrealistic expectations.  Giving does not necessarily have anything to do with increasing the amount one will be given TO.  It is simply a fallacy to relate the latter as a natural occurring result of the former.  The truth is simply that the more you give, the more you, well, give.  Nothing more.

The expectation of reciprocity implies balance, of give and take in equal amounts, and when it comes to human beings, this simply is not the case.

There are those who give and give and then give some more, while there are those who readily take and take and take.  In between the two extremes are those who give and take and take and give in equal measure, but the two are still not related concepts.  There is no guarantee that giving will result in reciprocal giving – it might be a nice bonus if this happens, but that’s it.  A bonus.  If you are a frequent giver, there is nothing that says you will ever receive anything in return, nor should it ever be associated with the giving.

Now before you cite me as being critical and negative, think about this for a minute.  If you give unconditionally and altruistically, why is it that if you gain nothing, ever, in return do people get upset?  It is the anticipation that there will be giving and receiving in some equal portions – and this is simply an unrealistic expectation (leading to disappointment).

There is no relationship between giving and receiving, and it is about time that society (and parents) realize this. These are two separate concepts:

  • Giving is sharing and providing something to another without strings or conditions.  A giver that gives freely should never anticipate or expect anything in return – ever!  This is the simple concept of giving.
  • Receiving is a completely different concept and is the opposite side to giving.  Those who give need to give up the notion that there is a relationship here.  What you get has no dependence on what you give.  If someone decides to give something to you, they may associate it with an action you took, but it really is an independent self-contained action on its own. One can give without receiving, but one cannot receive unless someone else gives.  Giving is an independent, receiving is a dependent action.

Why is it so important to separate giving and receiving?

Only recently I woke up to the fact that I am an obsessive OVER-GIVER, and this is as unhealthy as being an OVER-TAKER.  An over-giver gives of him/herself relentlessly and often at their own expense (the classic sign of an addiction).  Conversely, an over-taker is often a narcissist who simply takes and takes without notice or regard for anyone else – this is not an addiction as there is no victim when it comes to overtaking!

Problems arise when an over-giver succumbs to his/her addiction and wakes up to the reality that s/he gave away too much and it is too late.  Over-givers lose friends, family, and loved ones in the process because they do not give others the chance to make it independently (over-givers do not like to watch others struggle – especially when s/he could ease the suffering through sharing and giving).  Over-givers need to step back and take care of themselves first (see earlier post – Put on your own mask first!)

Confessions of an Over-giver

Being an over-giver came naturally and quickly took its addictive hold.  It started innocently and early: as the oldest of five children, I already had four siblings by the time I was seven.  I had to share everything with everyone, and then some.  Growing up I can recall my father emphasizing Matthew 19;24 “it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the Kingdom of God!” and once I hit adulthood it stuck with me. I recall feeling like every cent I ever made was destined for sharing with everyone around me, lest I be a bad person.

Naively, I trusted that those with whom I shared would in turn be kind or at least appreciative, and instead they responded with entitlement or worse.  I did not realize that there was no connection between giving and receiving.  I gave and gave to others before giving to myself.  It didn’t stop with money – my over-giving extended to time, energy, expertise, passion, kindness, etc. – even if it meant that others gained, and it was to my detriment.   Giving the shirt off of one’s back was my mantra.

Today, at mid-life, I realize that my current financial, career, and relationship situation is a direct result of my compulsive over-giving.  It has rendered me powerless, almost penniless, at times jobless (I would spend time finding work for others first), and it caused conflict with former friends and family.  I have a feeling today that over-giving is a common addiction, but it is seldom talked about because there are no obvious victims aside from the over-giver him/herself.  And those who are over-takers love to be taken care of!

I am not alone in Over-giving…

I take comfort that the author of Eat, Pray, Love, Elizabeth Gilbert struggles with her own over-giving and wrote about it in the December 2011 issue of Oprah magazine: Elizabeth Gilbert’s Confessions of an Over-Giver  (Dec, 2011):

(As a great British wit once quipped, “You can always tell people who live for others, by the anguished expressions on the faces of the others.”) All I know is, those friendships withered under a cloud of mutual discomfort, and now we cross the street to avoid running into each other.

Years ago, in India, a monk warned me, “Never give anyone more than they are emotionally capable of receiving, or they will have no choice but to hate you for it.”

The blog The Curvy Life, featured a post on May 4, 2010 called The Trap of Over-giving.

Here is an excerpt:

For many of us, giving comes so naturally and easily that we have to be reminded not to over-give, either by giving beyond our means, beyond our time constraints, or beyond our energy levels. While I think that over-giving is often motivated by a heart full of gratitude and love, I also think that giving to the point of discomfort or pain can be motivated by a feeling that what we have to give (within our means, time, energy) or even more tragically, who we are as a human being, is not enough…

Over-giving is a trap. What may start as heart-centered giving can become a burdensome obligation. Those around us can begin to expect and feel entitled to our over-giving, thus depriving of us our rightful recognition and further feeding our sense of not-enoughness.

Where do you fit in?  Are you a freely giving person who can accept that the more you give, the more you give?  Or do you expect some level of reciprocity with those to who you give?

Or are you a taker who revels in the fact that people routinely and happily give to you, without consideration of giving back?

A counselor once told me that my ex and I were polar opposites:  I was the classic addicted over-giver who “enabled” his over-taking.  Receiving remained an unfulfilled and unrealistic expectation on my part.  I know better now.

What has been YOUR experience?

Have a stress-free week ahead!

Carol

New Math: Subtraction can Add Years to your Life!

10 Feb

I love watching the late George Carlin‘s sketch about our Stuff where he describes how all of our stuff expands to fit into larger and larger areas.  No matter how much we upsize, we never seem to have the room we need.  Unless we have a garage sale or decide to downsize, many of us seem to collect until the day we die (and then others have to get rid of our “stuff”.)

I perused through Gail McMeekin’s The Power of Positive Choices: Adding and Subtracting Your Way to a Great Life yesterday where she describes the S in P O S I T I V E  C H O I C E S as the power of Subtraction.  It occurred to me that she is bang on with her assertion that the removal of unproductive factors from our life can be a positive thing.

That led me to ponder that human beings are not just “material” collectors, but also emotional collectors.  We collect people, experiences, and memories during our life – many of which we should have discarded long ago!  If we stopped to take an inventory of the intangible stuff we collect and store in our mental garages (our head), we would probably find a cache of garbage or things we no longer need.  Moreover, we might find things that actually work against us and no longer serve our best interests.

Maybe it is time for a mental garage sale – or even a run to the dump… I realize that I need to learn the new math: subtraction can add years to your life!

I started by taking inventory of my mental garage and here is what I found:

1.   A pile of Toxic Relationships.

For the past six years (I call December 2005 my awakening), I knew that I was hoarding this “pile”.  While it is not as big as it once was, it still resembled a stack of old clothes that no longer fit and served as reminders of times gone by.  These toxic relationships were not always toxic, in fact they involve people who once served a purpose in my life (I understand some of them); some resembled friends or colleagues, while others were family. Nonetheless, the relationships were not mutually beneficial and no longer fit what I could tolerate in my new self-loving life. Typically toxic relationships involve verbal abuse, manipulation, coercion, guilt or other unhealthy factor, or it is parasitic (one being lives off the energy or health of another.)  Regardless, a toxic relationship is at a minimum unhealthy, or even deadly (over time) to at least one of the parties. Unless the terms can be altered to become a healthy relationship, it is not worth maintaining.  In the same way that closet space can be better used for well-fitting new clothes, the space left by removing toxic relationships leaves room for new healthy ones.

 

2.      A wall of old horror movies.

It was not long after finding the toxic relationships that I noticed this emotional space-stealer! The once valuable cache contained hours of painful experience “replays” (from every possible camera angle) dating from childhood to the present.  While these served a temporary purpose while a lesson was being learned, today they are nothing more than cruel reminders of past negative events. The contents ran the gamut of pre-K pants-wetting, taunts of childhood bullies, pain of unrequited love, outbursts of hormonal girls, sports and academic disappointment, scoldings of disapproving parents, and physical and verbal assaults. Some of the actors were no longer even familiar, but reliving the pain was real.  Through the years a particular set may have served a purpose when I hoped to avoid similar screenplays, but realistically their value is mostly horrific. Moreover, by occupying valuable mental “wall space”, there is less real estate available for the happy movies.

Figuratively “tossing out” the wall of movies was empowering and refreshing.  While I realize that each experience taught me something, I do not need to relive them.  It is more important to note how the collection contributed into making me the strong, independent, self-reliant woman I am today.

 

3.      Bookcases of obsolete encyclopedia:

Don Miguel Ruiz talks about how we are “domesticated” with lies during childhood -intended to nurture us into submission as safety-minded, cooperative, giving (and over-giving), “civilized” adults. Many of the agreements we unwittingly entered as children no longer serve us, and need to be severed along with the “encyclopedias” from the past.  Agreements such as “children should be seen and not heard” and “strangers are dangerous” can become debilitating in adulthood unless we rid them from our psyche.  I found several encyclopedia series on my bookshelf – all long outdated – with focuses on religion, geography (now obsolete), and rule books promoting decades old opinions and sexist attitudes. I had no idea I stored so many “textbooks” because they all blended into the mental garage. As I unload them to the trash, I am amazed at the beauty of the wood grain and thrilled to see how much room is left for new beliefs and fresh ideas.

4.      Outdated survival provisions.

Even though I live in a state where we annually stockpile provisions (water, batteries, and canned goods), I was surprised to find a cache of outdated provisions in my psyche.  I found torn “sandbags” intended to keep watershed tears at bay should there be another flash flood (a divorce or death); expired “cans” of justification to feed anyone if they exploit my vulnerability (“you’re too sensitive” or “you shouldn’t feel that way”); an expired “fire extinguisher” to combat verbal abuse (gosh I wish I knew this was when I needed it!); and tins of emotional “mace” to ward off intruders who don’t respect my boundaries.  All of these were at one time fresh and necessary to provide security, but their utility has since passed and they all need to be ditched and possibly replenished.  Wow, I am amazed at the space these took up!

5.      Luggage filled with emotional “stuff”.

When I “travel” outside my comfort zone, I have a few prized bags that serve me well. When I glance around inside my head, I notice so many nearly new pieces of luggage that I might have used once or twice, filled with items that are doubles of what I already have. It is like having a mismatched set of sports bags, suitcases, and backpacks – all beautiful in their own right, but they are “extras” and take up space. As an idea collector, this luggage housed concepts from self-help books, motivational speakers, “gourmet” lifestyle magazines, all good in their own right, but together they create clutter and take up space.  A cluttered mental garage is as dangerous as a real life counterpart – and could be fire starter to a misguided spark.  I commit all these orphaned ideas to the garage sale.

 

Now that I realize how much space emotional subtraction can add – I am on a quest to declutter and clean out my mental garage.

Next on my agenda will be to do the same (again) in my physical environment.   This brings to mind the idea of The 100 Thing Challenge, but that’s the topic of a future post.

Does any of this make sense to you?

Have a great week!

Carol

Wisdom from Sam I am…

8 Feb

I don’t know if this happens to you, but once in a while a childhood story comes to mind with wisdom I never considered.  Today I read an article related to how we sabotage our or another’s dreams when we use the word “should” instead of “want” as in “I should do…” instead of “I want to do…”  It is a subtle difference but one that has an amazingly different results.

The word “should” casts judgment on an action or behavior whereas “want” suggests an openness.  I finished reading the article and was left with the encouragement to tell my inner critic to change its words from “should” to “want”.

That’s when I thought about the Dr. Suess story Green Eggs and Ham.. a childhood beginning reader of about 50 unique words written in the famous Dr. Suess rhyming style.  If you haven’t read the story or do not recall reading it, a refresher is in order:  the main character speaks in the first person and talks to a colleague or friend named “Sam I am”.  Sam I am is persistent in encouraging the story-teller to try a new dish he calls “Green Eggs and Ham” and through a series of creative rhymes finally persuades him to try the dish, whereby the story-teller ends up liking it and actually thanking Sam I am.

According to Wikipedia:

Green Eggs and Ham is a best-selling and critically acclaimed book by Dr. Seuss, first published on August 12, 1960. As of 2001, according to Publishers Weekly, it was the fourth-best-selling English-language children’s book (novel) of all time.

The wisdom that struck me today was the persuasive (and ultimately triumphant) technique used by Sam I am: it consisted of asking a series of “Would you, could you…” questions that allowed the narrator to respond in a non-defensive way.  By using open-ended “would you, could you…” instead of “you should…”, Sam I am established a mutually respectful dialog.

How often do we unconsciously close off communication using “should” instead of “would” or “could” and inject unwelcome judgment into what we consider encouraging words?

Consider the difference between:  “You should try…” and “Would you try” or “Could you try”.  At first glance, the differences are subtle, but the differences in response can be remarkable.

The former implies a duty or obligation on the part of the receiver and takes away the freedom of choice – something we may never have intended to do.  “Should” implies that there is a right way (and by implication a wrong way) to do things, the right way being whatever the questioner believes.  It implies that the listener “should” make a particular choice and does not leave options open.  How do YOU feel when someone tells you what to do without saying it directly?

Dr. Suess may or may not have intended to impart this wisdom on children, but may have hoped to suggest it subliminally on his adult readers.  Whatever the rationale, I appreciate the wisdom of Green Eggs and Ham.

As far as the Royal We (me, myself and I), we already appreciate that our Inner Critic learned this today and promises to use the word “Would” or “Could” or “I want” more often.  Removing the “Should” from its vocabulary is already having positive results.

Thank you, Dr. Suess!

Have a great week,

Carol

The Road to Hell is still paved with Good Intentions…

7 Feb

Have you heard the idiom:  “The Road to Hell is paved with Good Intentions”?  I grew up with it and today can digest it.  So often I see it in action:  good intentions without supporting actions really do not do any good.  Literally taken, people with good intentions (without action or whose actions contradict their words) do not make noble souls.

Our politicians and candidates are proof positive of people who are not accountable for their words. How often does an elected official (or TV ad-supported politician wannabe) feature advertising where they “say” what they will do if elected, then fail to deliver on their words? In this election year, we are bound to see a bounty of good intentions spouted daily.

True leaders follow-through on what they say!

While my father used to quote the subject line as a biblical truism, I forgot about it until this week when John Chappelear wrote a similar phrase in his Positive Thoughts blog:

“It’s Action not Intention… I judge myself by my thoughts but others judge me by my actions…”

If you reflect on this for a moment, what does it really mean?  If  judge ourselves by our intentions (our words), while others judge us by our actions, we had better be sure that our actions follow-up what we say!  We can have the best thoughts (and follow them up with words) that tell the world we intend to be kind, supportive, generous, virtuous, etc. — but if our actions are contradictory, our words mean nothing.  Actions speak louder than words!

Before we can judge others on their actions or lack thereof – or chide someone that his/her actions are contrary to what s/he says, we ought to take a look at our own behaviors.  Do I walk the talk?  Do I do what I say I will do?  Do my actions and behavior speak the same truth as I purport to think or say?  This can be an eye-opening experience, especially if you ask a trusted friend or confidante if this is true of you.  It may come as a surprise if your words say one thing as you do another!

This Valentine’s Day as you think about love, and life, (and if you are single like me the Hallmark commercial significance of Valentine’s Day), you may want to think about whether the expressions of love (through candy, flowers or food/meals) is consistent with how your beloved treats you all year.

If you are lucky enough to have a heavenly relationship with someone you love – AND their actions match their words of love, count your blessings!  Too often, this is not the case.  People generally say what they think is expected or that they think we want to hear, and their fall flat on the floor without action.

If everyone did their part to follow through with actions that match their (good) intentions, our world would be a better place, and there would be move love and truth for all.  AND, we could trust our friends, family, and even politicians to follow through with their intentions. Can you imagine a world like that?

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Have a good week,

Carol

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