Monthly Archives: August 2014

Yet another area for me to work on … Defensiveness.

When someone questions me I often find that I don’t like my reaction.  Sometimes I get defensive, sometimes I retreat or sometimes I even ignore the comments.  I want to do this better.  I want to come up with my own strategies for being less defensive when I’m questioned about something … anything!

I’ve watched those people in my life that I see as leaders and I’ve distilled their actions, when questioned, into the three ways to be a better leader and less defensive:

1. Make sure my decisions are well thought out and have integrity.

If I’ve made a good decision – full of integrity, I should not be afraid of someone questioning me.  It’s when I’m not comfortable with my decision or it was made in haste, that I become defensive.  Being a leader means, by definition, that you will frequently be questioned about decisions and judgement.  Being less defensive about my decisions means I have to be operating at the moral level that I expect from myself.

2. Make sure I don’t confuse my worth and value with my decisions.

This is big for me.  I have a tendency to worry that if I make a decision people don’t like, that my value with drop.  If I’m questioned, I wonder if I am a worthy leader/person.

We have to remember that our worth and value is much more than a decision or two that we might make.  We set our own mind-tapes.  When we listen to someone questioning us, if we have a negative tape going, we will hear it as criticism and it will affect how we view ourselves.   If we set the tape on positive play, we will hear it much differently and or inner and outer value will be enhanced as we listen openly and show a willingness to go in a direction we hadn’t anticipated.

3. Make sure I’m humble.

I once read an article on humble leaders.  They are the strongest leaders because “humility is strength.”  My kids constantly tell me not to take myself so seriously and I think that’s critical to being less defensive and being more open.   Being humble helps when we are making decisions that affect others.  The most narcissistic people I know have no idea how to spell humble.  Everything is about them.  And, they have no strength.  Those who have humility – are the most incredible people I know.

So, our goal should be to ensure we feel comfortable with our life decisions and know that we’re making the best decision at the time and with the information we possess at that moment.   If we are able to do that, we will be comfortable when we’re questioned, we’ll have our listening ears open, and maybe we’ll learn something new!

Have a great weekend!

“Mean people suck”

I saw someone wearing this shirt yesterday and I thought, “Yea, you’re right!”  It’s not hard to figure out why people are mean. Here’s the short answer: They’re hurt.  Here’s the long answer: They are very hurt.  For them, they see life as one big blow after another.  This has cause pain and fear, which causes meanness.  Which causes more pain and fear … It’s like a bad Groundhog’s Day movie.

Look, we’ve all been hurt.  But we aren’t all mean in our daily lives. Some of us realize that how we write our “story” is within our control and retaliating back in the same way will only make it worse.  We all have the capacity to do better.

A typical mean person’s story sounds like this: “I am a victim.  People are out to get me.  I need to fight back first.”  These people hear, “Can you pass the salt?”  As an attack on their cooking.  They just keep rewriting what they hear rather than looking at it without the color of their pain.

If we react to this type of meanness with cruelty of our own, we get right into behaving just as badly (something I’ve done in the past).  Such behavior changes minor skirmishes into wars.  In other words, “You’re mean to me or hurt my feelings so I’m going to do the same to you.”  These are the most unhealthy interactions in life.

Most mean people also try to build themselves up to feel better.  In fact, they think they’re better, more right, more pious, than anyone else.  Sadly, they are just the opposite.  But we don’t have to be that way.  Their “better” ignores the feelings of everyone around them.  I’d prefer to not be “better” but to have the freedom to be who I am.  I can grow, learn succeed and not at the expense of others.

Mark Twain once wrote, Anger is an acid that can do more harm to the vessel in which it is stored than to anything on which it is poured. Well said.

I do want to thank the mean people in my life for the following lessons:

  1. How not to be as a person;
  2. How being mean will bring you nothing but emptiness – even if your life is filled with people and money … it will still be empty;
  3. That I choose my reaction and “story” to life’s inevitable blows; and
  4. That being you mean to me will only cause me to be stronger and you to be weaker and continually hurt.

I also need to thank these mean people for saving me money because to learn these life lessons in therapy would have cost me at least $150+ per hour!

Have an amazing day!

 

What to remember for school today (and every day).

I’m asking myself, “How is it she’s starting her senior year today?  Where did the time go?”  This last week I’ve spent a lot of time with my kids and oddly enough, time with someone who really does not appreciate life in the same way I do.  As I thought about these two parts of my experience this week, I realized that we can’t judge other people.  We are all different.  Brought up by different people and consciously choosing different paths for our lives.  We should, however, figure out who we want to be and focus our energies in that direction.

So, now 13 years after she started kindergarten, here’s my list of things for her to focus on and remember today as she starts her last year of high school:

  • This is your life: Be present today, this year and every year.
  • Care for others: We are here not just ourselves, but for others.  Fight for them.  They need your help and you will need theirs someday.
  • Your sacrifices today will pay off in the future:  Working hard now will only help in the future.  Don’t shy away from difficult situations, they will help you become who you are.
  • Don’t procrastinate:  What’s the point?  You’ll need to do it someday.
  • Fail:  It will teach you success.
  • Hope:  Good things come to those who have hope – even when you were disappointed yesterday.
  • Love:  Love yourself for sure.  You are your most important relationship.  But love others and let yourself be loved. I can’t say it enough – it is the single most powerful thing in life.
  • Actions speak louder than words:  Don’t be fooled by those who can’t act as they speak.  They are a dead-end.  Pay attention to what people do.  It will tell you all you need to know.
  • Random acts of kindness can make the world a better place: Even a random smile will do.
  • Behind apparent beauty is often pain: We make mistakes, we are not perfect. Some times the outside masks our hurt. Heartache will be sure to find you.  Keep stepping forward when you’re hurt.  It will carry you to the rest of your life.

So take time to figure yourself out.  Take time to realize what you want and need. Take risks. Take time to love, laugh, cry, learn, and forgive. Life is shorter than it often seems.  This year, lovie, it will go all too fast for us.

XO  Mom

“You are beautiful.”

Last week I was waiting to be seated at a restaurant when a man walked up and handed me a piece of paper and walked out.  I opened it up and it said, “You are beautiful.” As embarrassed as I felt, I must admit it made me feel good.  A few days ago a friend send me an email and wrote, “You are a beautiful person.” How lucky am I? 🙂

Beauty is a word with endless descriptions. It means a lot to us.  But let’s remind ourselves that beauty is a positive energy that should come from within ourselves, not a state achieved by make-up, clothes or money.

If we want to feel beautiful, we need to feel it about ourselves.  But, some days it’s hard to feel beautiful.  When you have those days (or you see someone having a day like that) remember this:

1. Have confidence:  Those people in my life that seem to have the most confidence, always appear beautiful to me.  I admire those people, no matter what they look like.  It’s all about how we carry ourselves.  So, on a day you’re not feeling great – hold your head up high.  You are beautiful.

2. Focus on what you have not what you don’t: Focus on your features.  Don’t feel like you need to have the whole picture – no one does.  Maybe today it will be a special piece of jewelry you’re wearing.  Maybe it’s a note you are carrying in your pocket from someone you love that will make you feel good all day.  It’s not always the sum of the parts.  Sometimes it’s one part that will give you beauty for the day!

3. Smile:  There is nothing more beautiful than a genuine smile that is filled with happiness.  Think of a baby’s smile.  Does anything bring more pleasure than those spontaneous toothless grins?  No.  So, smile today.  You will feel beautiful.

4. Leave the competition outside:  There is no competition when it comes to beauty.  I’ve found myself judging couples where one is attractive and the other isn’t.  How dumb of me. If someone loves me, I hope it’s because of what’s inside.  And those people who have loved the surface stuff – I’ve long since left them (they usually are empty on the inside too).

5. Be flexible:  As we get old(er) beauty moves from something outside to more of what’s inside and how we live.  It’s in feeling healthy, eating well, spending time with those who fill us up.  That’s what makes us feel beautiful.  Fit those things into your every day life.

Beauty is not (and should not) be reserved to physical appearance. Everyone has the ability to be beautiful, it is simply a matter of allowing it to shine through.

“People are like stained-glass windows. They sparkle and shine when the sun is out, but when the darkness sets in, their true beauty is revealed only if there is a light from within.” ~Elisabeth Kubler-Ross

Tell someone they are beautiful today.  You will make their day!

Have an amazing Monday!

The wrongs were not his focus, and as a result – he made a difference.

Every day, we have abundant opportunity to recognize injustice, on large and small scales.  You could find out you make less than someone who has the same job.  You or a loved one could be financially taken advantage of.  And this doesn’t even touch upon the massive injustices happening all over the world, far outside our every day life.

Some people may tell you that being positive will fix everything! But how can you be positive when you’re feeling negative? When you see the horrors in the news?  How can you forgive and move on when you feel anger and resentment?

I’ve got a friend who is dealing with a big wrong.  And his focus is on the injustice  and fighting the problem … and I totally get that feeling.  But let me tell you a story about why I don’t think that always works:

A professor draws a small dot on the white board and asks his students what they see. Everyone, shouts, “A dot.” The professor asks them to look again.  They do and all have the same answer.  Then, the professor asks his students, why they couldn’t see the white board or the wall it hung on.  Or even the table next to the wall.  Why?  Focus.  They were focused on the problem.  So much so that they couldn’t see anything else.

When we feel wronged, we become obsessed with the problem.  But, the solution is not going to be the problem. The solution will be outside the problem.  When we are wronged or see a wrong, we have to stop focusing on the dot and look at the white board.

I watched a friend be honored yesterday.  He’s done amazing things.  He’s taken cultural wrongs, focused on the bigger picture (outside the wrongs) and made them right.  So cool!

Those people who don’t let unfairness take them down, aren’t better than us. They’ve just found ways to handle the unfairness of life – to take action.  How?

  • They catch their emotional response before it leads to obsessive thinking;
  • They think before they act;
  • They recognize the difference between what they can control and what they can’t – and they change the things they can; and
  • They learn that compromise isn’t losing.

Wouldn’t it be great if we could collectively focus more on the white board?  To come up with creative ways to find solutions to the enormous wrongs the world is facing — and even those in our own backyard?

If you don’t like something, change it. If you can’t change it, change the way you think about it.  And once you change the way you think about it, you’re likely to see the solution.

Have an amazing weekend!

Dear Mom,

Fifteen years ago today, it was not raining as it is this morning.  It was warm and sunny with a gentle breeze so I could hear the soft rustle of the leaves.  My boys were six weeks old.  Your dream girl was 2 1/2.  I could feel my marriage falling apart.  You slipped into a coma and died. I miss you as much today as I did back then.

Thanks for helping me raise the kids.  They are amazing and being with them is the biggest gift of my life.

Since you left, I’ve learned so many lessons (although I bet you’ve watched them all):

1. Don’t look forward and don’t look backwards.  You never know if a missed opportunity today will bring something better tomorrow.

2. Never walk away mad from a loved one.  Why risk it?  Life is precious and in one second it can be gone.

3. Try not to let the little things get to you.  I was a mess when you died.  Three kids under 2 1/2, marriage falling apart, trying to practice law.  I’ve learned to focus on the big picture.

4. No one is perfect.  We all make mistakes.  Life.

5. Decide who you are and practice that no matter where you are.

6. Sometimes I just don’t know.  Bad stuff happens.  Sometimes life doesn’t make sense, in the moment.

7. Karma is real.  You were right there.

8. If you want to change your life, look at who you are spending time with.  Good people will rub off on  you.  It will make a difference.

9. Balance and moderation are the key to life.  Don’t obsess about everything.  Sometimes you just need to enjoy a treat.  I think I’ll have a cupcake!

10. I should never ignore my gut.  When I go against it, I’m most often wrong.

11. If you’re not happy with yourself, you’ll never be happy anywhere else.

12. People can feel your energy.  Negative energy can drain you and others.  Imagine what positive energy does!

13. When I get to the edge, something always saves me – a solution appears.  I’m not sure how or why it happens, but it does.

14. The attitude must be gratitude. Mom used to tell me that when you feel gratitude, everything else is OK.  You were right, mom.

15. Money doesn’t buy happiness and sometimes it buys unhappiness.  A focus on happiness (not money) will bring all that you need.

16. Vacations (and relaxation) are good.  Although I’ve never taken a 7-day vacation, I love the weekends I do get away. I’ve learned to relax (a little!).

17. Being fit is not just about your body.  Sometimes it’s a good idea to stay out of the gym and pay attention to the very upper part of your body.  Know what I mean?

18. Say Thank You.

19. Laugh – a lot!  We used to laugh so hard with my mom that I thought we all might pee our pants!  It’s worth it!

20. Learn to say no.

21.  If you find love – treasure it.

I miss you mom!

XO

This time I didn’t stop to help … and I’m still thinking about it.

Last week I was driving to work and in an area where the neighborhood is a bit rougher.  I was stopped at the light when I happened to see a city bus stopped on my right. On my left, I could see an older woman and what could have been her adult son.  He was disabled and she was pulling his hand to catch the bus.  I think she sensed that the bus was not going to wait so she started to scream and threw her water bottle (it didn’t go very far).  I could see the bus driver look toward her and as the light changed, he drove away.  I too had to go because there were cars in back of me.

I could see her frustrated look as I glanced in my rear view mirror.  She was raising her hands as if yelling at the driver.  Then I could see her walk away as her son just stood there waiving good-bye to the bus.

I was talking to a friend on the phone at that moment and told him that I needed to pull over or turn around. I felt worried. What if he was going to be late for work and one more late shift would get him fired? What if  he had no way to get to some doctor’s appointment?  What if? What if?

My friend said:  “Jessica, how you know you’ll be safe?”  “You’re going to take a strange guy in your car and bring him somewhere? Please.  Be realistic.”  He was right of course – well, intellectually I knew he was right.  But I felt awful and have thought about it ever since.

Of course we can’t help everyone (although I would if I could!).  But even more so than that, for most of us, a missing of a bus or a flat tire is just an annoyance –  something that can easily be fixed.  But for others, things like that can cause them to lose a job, an opportunity, an overdraft at the bank, a missed meal.

That little vignette reminded me to be thankful that I can help, in most situations and just how fragile life is for some many people.  But it also made me wonder why I ended up here and why he ended up there.  And, whether I’m really doing enough.  And, what is enough?

All this is to say, maybe we should keep our eyes open this week.  And, while this week is no more special than any other week, we might just be given the gift of seeing someone who needs a little something.

Let’s be honest: we really are fortunate enough to be able to help someone every day.  And, we all have something to give … even if it’s just ourselves.

Have an amazing start to your week!