On Becoming a New Person

September 30, 2014

During my undergraduate days at Winona State College (currently named ‘Winona State University), I needed to enroll in one class during those times when I was working on the ‘basics’ – the classes in general education necessary for moving on into the more important classes associated with my major area of study.  I chose (probably more out of the convenient time than anything else) ‘Music Appreciation’.  The instructor, a nearly blind fellow, came into class on the first day and announced:  “Into Every Life A Little Rain Must Fall – – – And, I’m Your Rain This Morning”.  (Turns out that this statement was a prophecy and living now in South Central Texas, I appreciate the precious rain!) 

The first music we would consider as in coming freshmen was to learn the school song.  He emphasized that the last line was: “Hail, Winona, Hail”, not the more commonly sung:  “Hail, Winona, Ale”.  Now, I don’t remember any of the music he emphasized, but he certainly provided us a fine education, about living away from home for the first time in our lives, about self-control, about managing resources, about handling accidents (mistakes/failures) and about life in general.  

One day in particular, he told us to leave our books and stuff at our desks that we were going to go for a walk.  Our building was a square with a courtyard in the center, and we walked around in the hallways of this grand old school completely around that square.  I enjoyed the walk – Pat was my walking partner and she was pretty, smart, and I asked for permission to contact her out of class – she agreed to that.  When we returned to our room, our instructor said, “Now, take one sheet of paper and list everything you observed while we walked” – noting that observation was a key to appreciating classical music.  Well, I had noticed her eyes, and her smile, and her perfectly pitched speaking voice, and . . well, you get the idea.  I heard him say: “This list will be the first examination to determine your grade in this class!”  Oh, dear!  (One month to the day later, Mr. Grimm – his real name! – said “ . . . leave your books and stuff at your desk . . “.  I took my little notebook and one pencil – and on that second walk I don’t remember if or not Pat was along – I suspect she was taking notes, too.

Mr. Grimm taught us about life –  –  – and a little bit of music.  He was in my mind today when I found this quote by A. Einstein: “The only thing that interferes with my learning is my education.”

Mr. Grimm was in my mind today as I reviewed the last few days of my life here in South Texas.  To have someone break into our home and steal property can be unpleasant, to say the very least.  I’ll have to give up some things as I grow through this unpleasant episode – among those lessons will be one I also found in Einstein’s work.  He told us: “I must be willing to give up what I am in order to become what I will be.”  On one morning, Mr. Grimm walked into the classrom late – he was never late.  His first words as he addressed us that day:  “On the way to work this morning, I met a total stranger.  He was very unpleasant at first, but in a short time after I proved my worthiness to him and my willingness to agree to some of his demands, he calmed down and became very nice.”  And, our class resumed its course.  That afternoon we heard on the daily news reports that Mr. Grimm had been involved in what could have been a very serious car accident – He Was Nearly Blind, for goodness sakes!!

So, I’m in the process of making some changes in my life at this time and I’m going to be aware of Einstein’s advice:  “I must be willing . . . . “.  And, at the same time, I’ll be aware of the words of a genius the world has recently lost, Steve Jobs: “Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma – which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of other’s opinios drown out your own inner voice. And, most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.” Could he be saying:  “Because I don’t want to”?  We can choose to be ourselves!

Time to change for you?

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The Importance of ‘ME’ -just me!

September 25, 2013

     In this morning’s Express/News I read a column by my favorite ‘advice’ columnist – Carolyn Hax – who sends advice to people – advice which can be transferred to many of us even if we’re not in the life-position of the questioner.  Carolyn relates a sad tale of a woman who was married (even though she knew at the time this was not a good fit and she admits this was a ‘ . . huge mistake’) for four years and now when she dates, she finds characteristics of her former husband in her dates and feels a huge ‘NO!’ sign go up before her like a red flag and she can’t seem to shake this.  Carolyn gives good advice suggesting that her earlier relationship was as if ‘ . . she dived into the deep end of pool without knowing if she could swim and now when she dives in all she can think about is the last time she dived in and sank like a stone’.  And, then adds this little gem:  “ . . please find you before you go looking for someone else”.  

        I thought, “Wow!  How many people plunge into a situation, experience failure, and then hang onto that failure for the rest of their lives?”  So, how do we ‘find ourselves’ enough that we can let go of these mis-steps and get back to living fulfilling and comfortable lives?  Some thoughts occurred to me and I’d certainly like to have your reaction to and responses to these thoughts:

    *“Our dependency makes slaves out of us, especially if this dependency is a dependency of our self-esteem.  If you need encouragement, praise, pats on the back from everybody, then you make everybody your judge.” -Fritz Perls.  All of us know people who cannot function without the praise or approval of others never realizing that at some point they will probably want to decide for themselves the degree of their self-worth.   Successful parenting means ‘freeing’ your children to live happy and productive lives while deciding for themselves what level of achievement is desirable.  Helping them to evaluate themselves will allow them to ‘walk with’ and ‘work with’ others knowing all the time that they are not dependent on approval from their bosses, directors, principals, or department heads. Should you believe that you cannot function without the praise of someone else, you will indeed remain a slave to that person.
    *“I’m OK; You’re OK!”  This piece by Thomas Harris was popular from 1967 when it was published and lasted for two years on the Best Seller List.  Harris identifies four life positions:  1) I’m OK; You’re OK; 2) I’m not OK; you’re OK; 3) I’m OK; You’re not OK; and 4) I’m not OK; You’re not OK.  Those living in the first of these do not need continuous pats on the back from others – they have learned that they’re OK without that.  Those who remain needy of that praise from others, start in the life position of “I’m not OK . . “.  And, referring back to Hax’s advice to her writer, we might want to find ourselves as someone who knows ‘I’m OK!” and I will live my life is such a way that I can recognize others’ OK’ness as well.
    *“The Gestalt Prayer”.  This little piece expresses the idea that it is by fulfilling their own needs that people can encourage others to do the same.  When we enter into relationships knowing that our own needs are met, we can concentrate our energy and efforts toward appreciating the reality of walking with someone with no need to become dependent upon us. When people find each other from this life position (“I’m OK; You’re OK!’), it’s beautiful.  The Gestalt Prayer (Fritz Perls:  1969): 
I do my thing and you do your thing.
I am not in this world to live up to your expectations,
And you are not in this world to live up to mine.

You are you, and I am I,

and if by chance we find each other, it’s beautiful.

If not, it can’t be helped.
(Fritz Perls, “Gestalt Therapy Verbatim”, 1969)
 
    *“On Marriage” by Kahlil Gibran.  So, let us look once more at the advice of the author of “The Prophet’ who tells us regarding one of our most important relationships – marriage that we must stand together, yet . . . well, let him speak to you:
                   On Marriage
 Kahlil Gibran
You were born together, and together you shall be forevermore.
You shall be together when the white wings of death scatter your days.
Ay, you shall be together even in the silent memory of God.
But let there be spaces in your togetherness,
And let the winds of the heavens dance between you.

Love one another, but make not a bond of love:
Let it rather be a moving sea between the shores of your souls.
Fill each other’s cup but drink not from one cup.
Give one another of your bread but eat not from the same loaf
Sing and dance together and be joyous, but let each one of you be alone,
Even as the strings of a lute are alone though they quiver with the same music.

Give your hearts, but not into each other’s keeping.
For only the hand of Life can contain your hearts.
And stand together yet not too near together:
For the pillars of the temple stand apart,
And the oak tree and the cypress grow not in each other’s shadow.

Saying No Says I Care!

September 13, 2013

     I’ve had some time to think in these last couple of weeks, have worked with a few groups of people who work hard to create a better world for themselves and those around them.  And, I’m going to just chat with you a bit today on a  thought which pops up often in my work with ‘helpers’!  This train of thought started for me when my daughter Katie wrote on her ‘Father’s Day Card’, ‘.  .  .  you taught me the importance of saying ‘No!’.  .  ‘.
   
    First of all when we care for our children we say ‘No!’ to let them know we care.  Saying these things to children communicates an important message and you’ll be able to see what it is immediately:
    -“I don’t care where you’ll be tonight.”
    -“I don’t care who you’ll be with tonight.”
    -“I don’t care what time you come home tonight.”
    -“I don’t care how you dress tonight.”
    -” I don’t care what words you choose to express yourself.”
Sure!! The message is contained in those first three words (four if you think of ‘don’t’ as two words!)  Is that the message we adults want to send to our kids, our grand kids, our students, our co-workers?  I don’t believe for one minute we want to send that message through to be repeated over and over and resulting in kids growing up with a belief that ‘ . . no one cares for me . . ‘.

    And, now, the unintended consequence:  Have you thought about this?  When we tell our kids ‘No!’, we teach them that when they are confronted with some of life’s most awful and unimaginable circumstances, they have our permission to say, “No!”  Growing up in this society our kids may be tempted to ‘join the crowd’ even if the ‘crowd’ is a gang or a cult – the invitations to belong are strong and we need empowered children to be able to say, “No, thank you!”  In today’s world many of our kids see examples of drug mis-use and abuse and may receive the invitation to ‘ . . try it, you won’t be unhappy again. . ‘.  Lucky are the children who have learned early on that it’s OK to say “No, thank you!”  Every television channel today shows scenes of sexual freedom – even the basic NBC, CBS, and ABC yield to showing much that leads our kids into the belief that ‘free sex’ and ‘hooking up’ and dressing in sexually explicit clothing is the norm, and the cable channels – – well, what can I say???  These are powerfully influential forces on our kids and are accompanied by friends inviting our kids into some behaviors which one day were thought to be inappropriate at a very young age.  Thanks be to God that there are some parents who believe that our children in the face of these influences can say, “No, thank you!”

    Parents teach much by their examples to children and in these areas where children have to decide important issues in the absence of the influence of parents. Won’t you rest more easily if you’ve armed your children with the knowledge and confidence that they can say, “No, thank you!”?

Musings on gratitude

September 4, 2013

Gratitude!    

    Have you given some thought to the importance of gratitude – the art of being grateful, thankful, showing appreciation for a kindness shared?  The words ‘Thank You’ are so important and still we often forget how important they are and today I’d like to encourage anyone reading this piece to find some way to demonstrate your gratitude to someone close to you, a child who will show much gratitude in return as well as learn from your example, or even to someone you barely know who deserves to have their actions appreciated.  This morning, as I do a couple of times each week, I shared a short time with my neighbor, Kevin, at a little ‘hole-in-the-wall’ Mexican restaurant.  We take turns (informally) picking up the check which is not very much and on this day it was my turn to pay the bill while he covered the tip for our waitress.  We chatted on our ways to our vehicles and parted – he to go to his work, I to go home.  I wasn’t even two miles down the road when my phone rang – it was Kevin:  “I was so busy talking, I forgot to thank you for buying our Tacos!”  Imagine that – what a nice gesture!
    So, do you say thank you often and to many people?  I remember a story I used long ago to make this point of being grateful for even the littlest things.  Seems there was a family who owned a cow and during a special time she gave more milk than her family could use and that family recognized that down the road, on their way to work, lived a very poor family.  “We get extra milk every morning and every evening, would you like to have the extra milk?  We could drop it off on our way to work.”   The poor family was ecstatic at this benevolent gift from a neighbor.
    Then, there came a time when the man  with the cow was laid off and instead of driving to work, he worked at home.  The poor neighbors were told that they could still have the milk, but that they would have to come to get it.  They were just incensed – the audacity, they said, that this rich family could no longer drop the milk off at their place and they refused to get it for themselves.
    And, then there are some who will say ‘thank you’ for every little kindness shown. As in this story which I’ve repeated many times and at times have been asked the point of the story – you won’t have to ask that. “Some neighbors of my grandparents’ gave them a pumpkin pie as a holiday gift. As lovely as the gesture was, it was clear from the first bite that the pie tasted bad. It was so inedible that my grandmother had to throw it away. Ever gracious and tactful, she still felt obliged to send the neighbors a note. It read “Thank you very much for the pumpkin pie. Something like that doesn’t last very long in our house.”– Krista Rose.
    So, my challenge to you today is that you’ll use the words ‘Thank You’ at least twice during this day and if you go well beyond twice, give yourself a pat on the back – you deserve more than that!!
    Thanks for listening! and, have a great day!

Making Our Dreams Come True

July 17, 2013

I’m continually seeking more practical and more usable assistance for all who love and are in the process of raising our children, and as I searched through several pieces last evening I found a statement by a man who many know as an Entertainment Genius to give me a helping hand – Walt Disney.  Yep, that Walt Disney, who gave us several theme parks in this world – parks which entertain many visitors the year around.  So, what would this genius suggest that children need as they grow into adulthood?  Read his words and then I’ll expand just a bit:

“Somehow I can’t believe that there are any heights that can’t be scaled by a man who knows the secrets of making dreams come true. This special secret, it seems to me, can be summarized in four C’s. They are curiosity, confidence, courage, and constancy, and the greatest of all is confidence. When you believe in a thing, believe in it all the way, implicitly and unquestionable.” -Walt Disney

The four ‘C’s’!  Makes sense to me!  Probably as important as the three ‘R’s’ – and modern research suggests, maybe even more important!

     1) Curiosity: Children are born curious, and in some places – in some cases – we do our best to stamp that out of them and force them into situations where they become like everyone else.  When we attend t0 the acts of curiosity demonstrated by our children, they tend to duplicate those creative activities. Some of you will remember the little story about the five year old boy was asked to draw a tree, and he drew ‘his tree’ – all covered with reds and oranges and yellows and many other colors.  When the teacher saw ‘his tree’ she said that wasn’t a tree at all and recommended that he make a trunk of grey/brown and with all of the leaves green.  And, he did!  And, by the end of his first year in school, he had been turned into everyone else his age – ‘trunk grey/brown’ and leaves green – just like all the other kids! Boring!

     2) Courage: So, we need to give our children the ability to confront: a. fear, b. pain, c. danger, d. uncertainty, and/or e. intimidation.  Our words can serve as encouragement in this area, but in reality children need to have experiences of their own to test their ability to face hardship, death, and acting appropriately when faced with typical moral questions. To shield children from these learning experiences is to handicap them in many ways, and, of course, we never want to expose children to those experiences we deem beyond their ability to conquer.  Are they going to fall short from time to time? – absolutely.  We might want to follow the advice I received from a colleague at the University of Wyoming while studying there:  “I want my children to stub their toes without breaking their legs!”  The presence and availability of a helping hand here will be essential to the child’s  growing with courage.

     3) Constancy: Living things find comfort and safety in knowing what will happen when.  My pets need have confidence that they will be fed at a certain time and in a certain place.  They’ll need to know there is a constant bedtime and a time arise.  And, our children also thrive on knowing what to expect when certain things are coming toward them.  Constancy becomes security!

     4) Confidence: If you’ve walked along with me at all during these chats, you won’t be surprised to hear me say that this might be the most important of these four ‘C’s’!  The basis of self- esteem and so many other positive qualities lie squarely in the knowledge expressed in these words:  “I CAN DO IT!”  and “I CAN DO IT BY MYSELF!”  Letting kids try new things and then struggle toward mastery is essential in this area!  They’ll skin their knees, they’ll tip over again and again, they’ll fall and fall again, they’ll get tired before they become skilled.  And, they will learn to ride that two-wheel bicycle.  And, do you know that you’ll never need to force them to practice this?  You’ll eventually need to call them away from this activity and into the house to eat their meals.  And, no sooner will the food be gone, they will be once again gaining this skill and the confidence in knowing – “I can do it myself!” 

Learning to ride the two-wheeler can provide the template for learning many other things, and our children will have the confidence to face anything which comes their way!

On Being Gentle!

July 13, 2013

On Being Gentle!    

I’ve always liked the word ‘Gentle’!  I suppose I learned to appreciate gentleness in modeling behaviors after my father.  This man seldom raised his voice, demonstrated strength beyond belief as he faced the blows life dealt him, and, even though he was very physically strong, he never raised his hand in anger at any of his six children even though there must have been times when he was tempted.  With four children already born, and another on the way, he was drafted into service to our country.  He never left the continental US, but was away for nearly two years during WWII.  Now he was home, he saw the birth of a sixth child, and just as it seemed he could just live without trauma in his life, within six hours on a summer evening, his wife died of a coronary thrombosis.  Struggling to keep his family together, Dad worked diligently on the construction jobs and at home, and fatigue contributed to his getting a respiratory disease. He was given the ‘miracle drug’, penicillin, only to discover that he was allergic and nearly lost his life.  And, through it all, he remained a ‘gentle’ person.

So, what does it mean to be a ‘gentle’ person?  This person would be kindly, amiable, not severe, rough, or violent, mild.  In today’s competitive world where the most aggressive and the most ambitious seem to have forsaken gentleness in favor of ‘win at all costs’. or ‘nice guys finish last’, or ‘I’ll get mine, now you try to get yours’, we are tempted to cloak ourselves in the armor necessary to survive and we build walls around ourselves to protect us from real or imagined dangers.  Sometimes if we listen carefully we almost hear the popular voices saying, “Gentleness is Weakness!”  We see the strong person cry or demonstrate sadness and we join the chorus of voices which indicate some weakness in those people.  And, even though many have learned in their religious lives the words – ‘. . blessed are the meek,’ or ‘. . blessed are the merciful’, or ‘ . . blessed are the peacemakers’, we seem to act in accordance with an entirely different values orientation.  We ask ourselves if we can afford to lend a helping hand to someone less fortunate and risk being thought to be a ‘softie’.  We ask ourselves if we can cry beside the parents who have just lost children in some horrific tragedy? Can we stand beside the aggressive, bullying, ambitious population with the confidence that our gentleness will prevail and will eventually serve us well?  Can we even find a way to be gentle to those who do not seem to be so?

Each of us in our own way has to decide the pathway which best suits our needs and we will  be known by those close to us by our behavior.  Han Suyin, a Chinese-born author best known for her 1952 book A Many Splendored Thing assures us that “There is nothing stronger in the world than gentleness.”  And none of us needs to accept that as truth unless we can place gentleness in our own lives and live the life of a gentle person.  Many times in my lifetime, I’ve been reminded that the human being may be the only living thing that has the ability of ‘self-examination’.  We have the ability to have our eye at the eyepiece and our ‘selves’ on the examination slide – we can look at ourselves in special ways.  And, based on what we see in ourselves, we – every one of us – has the choice and the ability to make changes in what we observe.  

So, now, as you look at yourself, what do you see?  A person who is kindly, amiable, not severe, rough, or violent,  and mild?   Would others looking at you see you in that same way?  Would you like to be known as a ‘gentle’ person?  In making that very personal decision, you might remember an advertisement that appeared in almost every magazine circulated throughout the ’90’s – an advertisement for Nicholson Files.  The tag line in these ads was ‘Tough, But, Oh So Gentle’!  Over many years the files of the Nicholson File Company have been used in the workplaces of America and many hands have skillfully used these files to finish beautiful pieces made of wood as well as metal.  Just as these files that have lasted through the years and are regarded by many as the ‘Premier’ file available, you, too, can live on into tomorrow with a reputation of being ‘Tough, But, Oh So Gentle’.  

Ready to give that a try???

Are You Sure?

July 8, 2013

  In my reading today I found a quote by Bertrand Russell that ignited some thoughts and I hope you’ll take a look at this and share your response to it!

    “The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always so certainof themselves and wiser people so full of doubts.”  -Bertrand Russell

    As a growing boy I enjoyed reading and found many thoughts that caused me to form views of the world and the people in it.  I can still recall being really enthused about some ‘new’ idea, sharing it with my wise father, and hearing him say something like:  ‘Hmm!  I’ll have to think about that!’  I can still almost recreate the feeling of impatience I had with his response.  I thought, “Well, for goodness sakes – this seems so obvious to me, why can’t he see that.’  Years later I realized that my view was filled with the certainty of inexperience and his was based on a world of experience  – experience which caused him to doubt – experience that I could not have had at these tender ages.

    Years later I heard a speaker say:  “The people discovered a recurring problem in the workplace and they sent leaders to talk to one of the newest workers who was young and just starting his life in the world of work and with this company.  The ‘solution’ he offered was filled with certainty and the statement that if ‘ . . they (the top administrators) would only do this and that the problem would be solved’.  Another group of people went to the CEO of the company, described the problem, and heard the CEO offer this statement, ‘I really don’t know what the answer is.’  And, many came away with the conclusion that the newbie knew more about running the business than the CEO.”

    The voice of wisdom suggests that the newest employee might not be aware of all of the possibilities presented by the inquisitors and the CEO couldn’t come to a concrete solution filled with certainty until he had considered many things beyond the knowledge of the innocent new employee.

    I’m wondering this morning if there are times in my life even today when I’m absolutely sure of a pathway toward solutions of problems and I later discover that I really didn’t have enough information to come to that certainty. 

Lessons from being ‘naughty’

June 29, 2013

Little Jimmy Dickens, who is still alive today, I think, and 92 years old, was a regular for many years on the Grand Ole Opry!  He was four feet eleven inches tall and that earned him the word ‘little’ as people addressed him or introduced him on the Opry shows.  He sang this song and I’ve heard it many times – even sang along on occasion.
    I know there must be some kids somewhere who never did anything a bit naughty in those growing up years as they moved from year to year, from group to group, and from place to place.  I’m also quite confident that most young people at some time in their lives have been naughty.  And, at this advanced age, I know that the importance of a warm, loving and transparent relationship between parents and their kids can serve both well in helping kids move into adulthood with memories of those little transgressions, the lessons they taught, and the knowledge that they too, when they become parents, will need to work through those kinds of things with their own children.
    So, let’s take a short walk through these times to see if there might be a few lessons here for us all.  The lyrics:
 
My pappy used to tan my hide, Out behind the barn
He taught me to be dignified, Out behind the barn
But when he took that strap to me, and turned me down across his knee
He sure did hurt my dignity, Out behind the barn.

(So, this spanking issue will go on for many more generations and people will argue on each side its value and its detriment.  I don’t think I’d use spanking, now, as a control technique, as it may teach my children that it’s OK for ‘big’ people to ‘hit’ little people – I wouldn’t want to run that risk.  That doesn’t make my position right and all opposing views wrong.)

I got my education, Out behind the barn
Passed each examination, Out behind the barn
And i’m not foolin’ no siree
But it almost made a wreck of me, Out behind the barn.

(I am a firm believer in parents’ obligations to provide pathways for learning for their children – and that they do the controlling of inappropriate behavior in a loving way.  I would not want my children to grow up thinking those intersections in life containing conflict and/or disagreements would make a wreck of the kids, but rather that the parents would, could and should handle these moments in such a way that the children can learn how we resolve differences and keep our lives within appropriate boundaries.  I’m confident that our children learn to respect others and themselves when they are given a chance to learn from their mistakes and know that those mistakes in no way are determinants in what they will become – with their dignity intact.)

I smoked my first cigarette, Out behind the barn
And that’s one day I won’t forget, Out behind the barn
I got so sick, you should’ve seen, How that tobacco turned me green
I almost died from nicotine, Out behind the barn.

(The literal interpretation of this verse has little meaning to me – I have never taken even one puff off a cigarette.  I have listened to many of my friends while growing up describe their ‘first’ experience with this smoking – something which for some would become a very troublesome addiction – and many of them at some point learned the lesson that this is really a nasty habit and need not become a part of our behavior.)

I met a pretty girl one day, Out behind the barn
She wanted me to stay and play, Out behind the barn
She taught me how to kiss and pet, And that’s a game I won’t forget
Cause we still play the same game yet, Out behind the barn.

(In America this whole business of establishing and maintaining permanent relationships with the opposite sex (or with the same sex in some cases) is laden with potholes.  As time has passed and I’ve observed many changes in this dating, courtship, marriage process, and, I’m going to continue to advocate the traditional mores surrounding this process for those over whom I have any influence.  At the same time, I really want to respect the views and beliefs of those whose values differ from mine.  While I realize that there is really no such thing as a ‘test-of-time”,  I also know that as time passes, we’ll have multiple opportunities to examine and re-examine new methods in sexual and relationship areas).  

I wish I could go again, Out behind the barn
And do some things I did then, Out behind the barn
Now you think it ain’t no fun, To be a poor old farmers son
You just don’t know what all I’ve done, Out behind the barn.

Finally, I think we have all had private places where we had a chance to test our wings as we moved forth into new times-of-our-lives.  I, personally, will always be grateful for the influence of my grandmother who I’m sure didn’t approve of all the things I did (figuratively: Out behind the barn),  and through that loving relationship and openness I think she did me many favors and directed my life gently into many successes.  I’ll be forever grateful to her and to all who kept my eyes fixed on positive goals – and there have been many!

Be True To Yourself

June 19, 2013

    Professional coach, Betty Mahalik sends out in her communications, a brief note about the importance of “Know Thyself” in our own lives.  She makes the case that unless we know ourselves our professional and personal effectiveness can be severely damaged.  Betty suggests that we could ask ourselves simple questions, and answer them honestly, as we move to know ourselves better.  Three of the questions she poses for her clients are:  “1) What are your values?, 2) What do you fear?, and 3) How do you think you’re coming across to others?” She does go on to add the phrase spoken by Polonius in Hamlet – ‘To thine own self be true.’  Could it be that this second phrase dictates that we do not deceive ourselves – that we do not mis-represent ourselves?  
    I have met people (all of us have) who mis-represent themselves over and over again. Rather than putting forth an accurate and true picture of themselves, these people choose to state the most negative things about themselves and we are left to wonder if they really mean those things or if instead they might be trying to manipulate our response to them.  We hear someone say, “I’m just too fat!”  How are we to interpret that and how shall we respond?  Is it possible that this person would have us say, “Oh, you’re not too fat!”  Or, “I just can never get things right!”  Really?  Never?  Or, “I’ve always had trouble meeting people!”  Hmmm!  Am I to agree with you?  I’m sure you get the picture – what do we gain by frequently (or all the time) putting ourselves down in these ways?  This pattern of self-depreciating can result in our being judged dishonest, unaware, manipulative, and/or unsure of ourselves.  This pattern might also affect people near us to wonder what we are to make of this self-destructive talk.  And, it may be that those around us know that what we’re proclaiming about ourselves simply is not the truth – that in fact, the other is not ‘. . too fat.’, or does not continually get things wrong, or actually functions very well in situations where meeting others is necessary.  By serving as your own judge, jury, and executioner, you might be inviting failure, or worse – isolation from people you want to be near.  And, your predictions may become self-fulfilling prophecies – you may become what you believe.  Is it possible that we are often harder on ourselves than others would be on us?
    Now, if any of that sounds like you, some change could help you become more effective in all of your life’s elements.  What if, for example, we could start by being more kind to ourselves?  This does not assert that you must over-state your strengths and positive aspects – just ‘Know Yourself’ and ‘To Yourself be True’.  Leslie Michele who posted a blog on changing from being overly negative to realistically positive suggests this as a starting place and I agree with her invitation:  “Could you start now?  Right now.  It is never too late! I challenge you to make a list of all of the super awesome things about yourself! Have fun with it, and remember “Know Thyself”  and “To thine own self be true”.
    Once again, I leave you  with the Nike slogan:  JUST DO IT!

On Sharing

June 6, 2013

   Some thoughts on teaching our children to share.  I’m suspicious that all parents at some time – especially during those very early years – become fearful that they are raising a very selfish and inconsiderate child – a child who resists or simply refuses to share.  And, so we parents often enter the fray by making our youngsters share with others not realizing that there are many issues involved here – some having little to do with selfishness, greediness, disobedience, or just plain stubbornness.  From a wonderful article by the publishers of ‘Growing Child’ comes this little toddler’s creed – you may have seen it before:
       “If I want it, it’s mine.
       If I give it to you and change my mind later, it’s mine.
       If I can take it away from you, it’s mine.
       If I had it a little while ago, it’s mine.
       If it’s mine, it will never belong to anybody else, no matter what.
       If we are building something together, all the pieces are mine.
       If it looks just like mine, it’s mine.”
    
    Sound familiar?  Have you sometimes worked to force your child to share so that they’ll take this into their tomorrows and become ‘the good child’?  Have you wondered if yours is the only child who does not learn sharing early-on?  Could it be that in your attempts to force a child to share, you may be doing more harm than good for/to your child?

    Dr. William Sears has offered many ways to teach your child to share, and I’d like to present some of them with just a word or two from Dr. Sears which he uses to support his position on these processes – (http:11 Ways to Teach Your Child to Share:  Ask Dr. Sears):

1) Selfishness comes before sharing:  ‘Mine’ is one of the first words a very young child uses and this attachment to things as well as people is an important element, necessary for becoming an emotionally healthy person.  The one year old has difficulty sharing her mommy – the two year old – sharing a special toy.

2) When to expect a child to share:  Dr. Sears hints that we needn’t expect sharing much before age three and maybe for several years after that.  And, even after four or five years, expect selective sharing.  Dr. Sears states:  “The child is no more likely to share her treasured teddy or tattered blanket than you would share your wedding ring or that heirloom shawl your mother gave you.”

3) Don’t force a child to share: Through various play situations, we would prefer our children to learn that ‘ .. life runs more smoothly if they share.’  (Dr. Sears)

4) Model generosity:  Share with your children – let them see you share with others – invite them into sharing situations.  We must never forget that children learn from us even when we think they’re not paying attention to us.

5) Play games which incorporate sharing:  Kids will probably learn more from a game-type activity than from all of our lectures put together.  About games, Dr. Sears advises:  “Consider the character traits that are fostered during a simple game: humor, fairness, honesty, generosity, concentration, flexibility, obedience to rules, sensitivity, and the all-American value of competitiveness. And, sorry to say, unhealthy traits such as selfishness, jealousy, lying, and cheating can also be experienced through play. Expect play time to reflect how life is to be lived, and tolerate only principled play.”

6) Plan ahead: When we know that a ‘non-sharing’ time lies ahead, plan some strategy to avoid the non-sharing: for example, have a guest bring some of his or her toys to your house, have your child take some of his/her toys to the other’s house.

7) Protect your child’s interests:  If a child has one favorite toy that won’t be shared, help your child to have it despite others’ attempts to take it away.

8) Give your child opportunities to share:  Once again from Sears: “To encourage sharing, Janet gave four-year-old Benjamin a whole cookie with the request, ‘Please give some of the cookie to Robin.”  He broke off a piece and gave it to her.”  

    Be aware that as you behave, so also will your children behave – you are one of the first and one of the most important influences on your developing child.  How do you rank in the area of ‘SHARING’?