Jan 11

EVERYBODY IS NOT A WINNER

Why do athletes today slap each other even when they miss or mess up?  It is one thing to be encouraging and supportive, but how can we distinguish praise for something good versus obligatory.  Even in our children’s athletics participation alone is rewarded.  Today everyone receives a trophy, regardless of skill or what place the team finished.  I’m left wondering why we are so afraid to let our children experience failure.

This is just one example of an alarming trend in society: overcompensation by parents who want their children to have more opportunities and resources than they did as children or who are trying to make up for lost time, a lack of connection, or an abundance of guilt. We shower our kids with praise, attention, stimulation, and material possessions in an effort to differentiate ourselves from our parents’ strict, sometimes emotionally and financially sparse upbringing of us. However, we have inadvertently swung the pendulum from one extreme to the other by giving our children more than they need and sometimes more than they even want. We’ve become too emotionally invested in our children’s lives and this excessive care-taking prevents our children from experiencing the satisfaction of learning self-care skills.  What happened to responsibility?

Every day in my practice, I see young adults who have not learned responsibility. They are emotionally immature and underdeveloped and feel entitled to special privileges. Some of them have alcohol and drug problems, fail at college, and are unable to support themselves financially. They rely exclusively on their parents to provide both financial and emotional support. Sadly, many parents assume this role, creating a codependent relationship. We are raising self-absorbed children who spend most of their energy justifying their actions to escape consequences rather than figuring out how they have contributed to their problems and learning from their mistakes.

Avoiding responsibility is rampant at all ages in our society. You don’t have to search very hard to find headlines in the newspaper about people who blame others for their mistakes. A classic illustration is the drunk driver who kills an innocent pedestrian and turns around and sues the bartender with no acknowledgment of his own wrongdoing. It is time for us to accept responsibility for our actions, hold our children accountable for their actions, and not reward inappropriate behaviors by eliminating consequences. It’s never too late for change. Children are highly adaptable. Try incorporating the following tips into your everyday life to restore balance in your family.  Next week I will provide additional solutions to help with accountability, ownership, and managing stress.

Provide structure and consistency
Children crave structure and routine even if they appear to resist. This provides stability and security.

  • Set a consistent mealtime and bedtime schedule.
  • Assign chores for each day and have a written grid that clearly shows your expectations.
  • Establish consequences for incomplete chores and rewards for completion.
  • Provide a reasonable allowance at the end of each month or week based on task completion, and dock their pay for an incomplete job.
  • Award age-appropriate responsibilities and privileges, such as preparing their breakfast/lunch, waking up to an alarm clock, and staying home alone.
  • Be consistent with rules and discipline even when it’s not convenient.
  • Praise specific behaviors to reinforce them.
  • Model self-worth, responsibility, and healthy relationships.

As you make changes in your family, remember to take time out for yourself. Children need to know that while they are very important, they are not the center of the family. Parents are the leaders and children are the followers and learners. As such, children need to see you nurture yourself by taking time away from them without guilt or promises to “make it up” to them.

 

Jan 04

LOOKING FORWARD

Are you glad to see the election over or for that matter 2016 behind us?  We’re all exhausted from the year of negativity, cynicism, and blaming.  We’ve been splintered and torn apart by our views, opinions, and perceptions, but we need to figure out a way to reduce the chasm and intense polarization.  What will it take to bring the country back together and find unity? Maybe by listening more, talking less, and finding common goals we can work towards compromise and resolution.  Our country first needs to heal, let go of the anger and fear, and take action to positively impact family, community, and our own sphere of influence.  We need to figure out a way to build back trust and confidence in our leaders and our democratic system.  Although these seem like insurmountable tasks, we can affect change by focusing on one person at a time.

The greatest gifts we can give to others are compassion, grace, and acceptance, starting with our most influential group which is family.  If we want to move forward we first need to let go of emotional pain from the past and choose to forgive instead of allowing our disagreements to fester.  In our efforts to look forward we can focus on how to encourage, motivate, and respect our family members through our words and actions.  We can be intentional by setting aside time to care for, connect, and communicate with our loved ones without the distraction of technology.  Offering to help before being asked expresses emotional maturity and selflessness.  Finally, appreciate different perspectives, manage conflicts constructively, and build trust through consistency in words and actions.

Leadership in our community can happen through a church, civic organization, volunteer work, and/or local club.  While serving others we demonstrate our humility and desire to positively impact others’ lives.  Our society as a whole needs to shift from self-interest and self-absorption to consideration for the needs of others and learning to be sacrificial at times.  Instead of having the “what’s in it for me” mindset we might shift to “how can I help others” mentality.  Something as simple as complimenting a person or acknowledging a positive behavior can make a huge difference in a person’s day, week, maybe life.  Try smiling and engaging more with people and asking them about themselves.  When we acknowledge people and validate their feelings a greater connection is made.  Make a difference in 2017 in your family, community or both.  Look forward by recognizing and appreciating those around you.

Dec 28

GENDER DIFFERENCES

Are there differences in how men and women view life?  A recent study published in the Journal of Vision found differences in the way the genders absorb visual information.  In other words, women and men look at faces differently and understand visual cues in a different way.  The study used an eye tracking device to monitor the amount of eye contact for each participant.  As it turns out, women focused more on the left side of the face and explored the entire face much more than men.  Men and women look at things differently and perceive visual data in different ways.

An experiment that I created when meeting with couples for an initial visit involves them looking at a framed picture in my office and sharing what they first identify in the picture.  I’d estimate that about 90% of the time they observe something different.  The picture is of the Miami skyline from thirty years ago and typically the husband notices the tall buildings while the wife identifies the reflection in the water.  Unfortunately I don’t have statistical data to support my claim, but base these findings on my observations. When I ask the couple which one is correct they realize that this is a trick question and that they are both correct.  The couple views this picture like they view life, through a different lens.  Unfortunately many couples don’t accept or respect their partner’s perspective when it’s different from their own.  Ultimately they have to decide whether they want to be right or happy.

How can you appreciate and respect your partner’s perception?  First you have to make sure you understand where they are coming from since we often assume without clarifying.  Sometimes we have to paraphrase what the other person is saying to make sure we heard it correctly.  Simply accepting that other ways of looking at things are plausible and have value will enable a person to appreciate their partner even if it means agreeing to disagree.  I encourage couples to practice stepping into each other’s shoes when they disagree and try arguing the opposing side.  Remember that having a different perspective is not about being right or wrong; it’s just different.  Trusting each other and avoiding defensive or justifying responses can help the process move in a positive direction.  As the New Year approaches, decide that seeing things differently broadens your perspective while rejecting others’ opinions keeps you stuck in a narrow focus.  When we avoid over personalization and need for control we are more open and receptive to other people’s opinions.  Decide today to appreciate the different ways to approach and perceive life.

Dec 21

RETAIL THERAPY

With the holidays approaching, have you found yourself shopping to distract you from emotional pain?  Or have you used shopping and spending money as a form of retaliation?  Some people use shopping as an avoidance of pain or to find comfort in what they purchase.  Others feel a rush from finding a bargain and getting a deal, which may explain why Black Friday is so popular.  Shopping doesn’t have to be a negative; some people make shopping a social event and a way of connection, similar to sharing a meal.  But it is detrimental if you are using it to fill a void, deal with conflict, or cover insecurities.

You may be surprised to find that shopping can be an expression of frustration in your relationship.  A recent study by the Society for Consumer Psychology found that people vent their frustration by choosing opposite retail brands from their partner.  In other words, consumers are making brand choices to deal with relational conflicts. The researchers describe people with less power in a relationship as those who have difficulties confronting their partner with conflict and subconsciously seek other ways to express their emotion by selecting a brand that their partner dislikes.  People higher in relationship power are more inclined to deal with the conflict directly and express their feelings.

What are some other, better ways to deal with relationship stress?  How about talking to the person directly, sharing your thoughts and feelings constructively and being assertive.  If after expressing yourself you do not feel heard, you may need to write it instead of speaking it.  Another option is to substitute shopping with a different activity like exercise, reading, gaming, or spending time in nature.  Happiness is a choice so working to change our thinking and attitude can be healthy ways to deal with conflict.  In addition, identifying our good traits and focusing on ways we positively impact others can be helpful.  Digging a little deeper, we need to learn that passive-aggressive behavior doesn’t change the situation, but keeps us stuck.  As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, conflict that remains in your head will never be resolved; it needs to reach your lips.  Of course we have no control over how it will be received, but can take responsibility for expressing ourselves constructively and directly.  Lastly, finding purpose through volunteering, giving back, forgiveness, and faith can be powerful sources of personal fulfillment and peace.  May you all experience joy and peace during this holiday season and throughout the year.

Dec 14

A BOX OF EMOTIONS

Why do some people keep all of their emotions inside?  Some learned early on in life to hold emotions inside because when they did let them out, the outcome was negative.  They never saw anything good come from airing emotions and they assume that keeping them inside is safer and reduces conflict.  When people grow up with an overabundance of negative emotions, they may choose to internalize their feelings because they don’t want to re-live their childhoods.  Many people perceive sharing emotions as a weakness and fear others will use their feelings against them.  Ironically there are certain professions that reinforce keeping emotions inside since they can be a detriment to job performance.  For example, we wouldn’t want our surgeon or airline pilot to be very emotional when they are actively engaged in their job.  People get very good at compartmentalizing emotion as a means of coping.  Unfortunately, some professionals can’t separate their work persona from their home persona.

So what happens to those feelings?  Sometimes they pop out at times when you least expect it or get buried so deep that numbness is the only feeling you are cognizant of.  Holding emotions inside can be damaging both to your physical health and emotional well-being.  Some emotions can fade over time, but more significant feelings don’t disappear on their own.  Talking about feelings, writing about emotions, and actually experiencing them can help in the process of letting them go.  While some people struggle with identifying their feelings, others have a difficult time verbalizing them.  Of course like anything else it takes time and practice to get better at naming and sharing feelings.  Can you name ten emotions?  Most people (especially men) struggle to name even five feelings.

There is great value and benefit in sharing our emotions with others. Of course we are talking about appropriate, healthy and constructive expressions of emotion.  Our ability to talk about what we feel enables us to release the emotion and let go of the internal conflict.  Emotions connect people.  So when we share feelings with others we actually have deeper and more intimate connections.  Ironically when we try to suppress our negative emotions, we also suppress our positive emotions resulting in a muted emotional experience.  Allowing ourselves to share feelings also frees us and reduces the internal burden that many carry.   Sharing our feelings makes us more human, humble, and approachable which has a positive effect on our relationships.  This holiday season give the gift that keeps on giving.  Unpack your box of emotions and share your feelings so that loved ones can deepen their connection to you.

 

 

 

Dec 07

WORK-RELATIONSHIP BALANCE

Busy is the new normal.  Especially at this time of the year we are incredibly busy and often neglect our basic needs.  We are rewarded for being workaholics and accomplishing great things, but the consequences can be damaging to our health and relationships.  Some have become accustomed to putting themselves last and neglecting their own self-care.  Others prefer to be in charge and have difficulties trusting others and delegating responsibilities.  Some people’s identity and self-worth are tied directly to work.  Others seek approval and acceptance which they relate to their work accomplishments.  Still others struggle with FOMO (fear of missing out) or feel overwhelming guilt when they set limits on work and don’t meet others’ expectations.  If you can identify with anything I’ve mentioned then chances are your life is out of balance.

So how do you balance work with life and relationships?  It starts with unplugging from the digital world by picking a time while still awake to turn off all electronics.  In addition, setting boundaries with people and being able to say no can be incredibly empowering.  Set aside 5-10 minutes per day to vent about work, but be able to stop after the self imposed time limit.  Of course self-care is vitally important to maintaining balance, which includes exercise, sleep, and a healthy diet.  We all need alone time to meditate, pray, reflect, or do nothing.  Many of us are guilty of overcommitting ourselves and poor at delegating, but prioritizing activities and letting others assist can help with balance.  It is helpful to have transition time to move from work to home mode both physically and mentally.  Sometimes we also have to be intentional about scheduling and planning fun time with family and friends.  Lastly, keep work responsibilities in perspective and have an identity outside of work.

While having a strong work ethic is admirable, it shouldn’t be the most important thing in life.  Are you working to live or living to work?  We can easily get consumed with our job, but finding other things that create happiness and fulfillment will help us diversify our ways of experiencing joy.  Based on my personal and professional experience, our greatest joy and fulfillment come from positive and healthy relationships.  My challenge to you is to pick one tip mentioned above to work on over the next month and share it with someone who can hold you accountable.  Doing nothing guarantees things won’t change, but doing something offers hope for better times.

Nov 30

CRISIS MOTIVATES CHANGE

Why do people wait until a crisis hits before taking action?  Often people assume the problem will go away or get better with time.  Sometimes denial overpowers any effort to make a change and people live more comfortably in a state of repression.  In other cases people are too lazy to change or feel incapable of making the necessary changes.  Other times individuals test the limits and see how far they can go before change is required.  Change is scary and can be challenging for most of us.  We are creatures of habit and many prefer to live with the status quo until they are pushed by circumstances to do something different.

Maybe your job situation has become tenuous or your marriage rocky due to some poor decisions.  People often choose to make unhealthy choices which leads to destructive behaviors until they are forced into change by their partner.   Sometimes a trip to the ER due to some medical problem that you’ve been ignoring has intensified and denial is no longer an option.  We tend to respond reactively instead of proactively.  Although a crisis can be a motivator for change, fear or guilt cannot be the long-term sustainers of change.  Fear and guilt tend to be external motivators rather than internal drivers and their power fades over time, unless an internal buy-in occurs.  At some point, the person making the changes has to make the conscious choice to modify their behavior for their own well-being, not because others want them to change.  Change is difficult for most of us, but it’s tougher when you’re doing it only for someone else and you’re not convinced that the change is necessary.

If you are impacted by a crisis or relationship issue, does your partner acknowledge the problem and agree to do something about it?  If not, change may initially have to come from you.  Ideally we recognize problems before they cause significant damage and address them right away.  Let’s assume we don’t, now what?  The first step is to identify the problem areas and assess the damage.  People can change their thinking, feelings, and behaviors when they take responsibility for their actions. When you find yourself in the same situation over and over or have a recurring argument with your partner this may be an indication that change needs to happen.  Stop ignoring the obvious, take action and believe that change is possible.

 

Nov 26

SUCCESS DRIVEN SURVEY

Do you wonder what drives people to success?  Of course we all want to be successful in life, but some of us are obsessed with success.  I’ve worked with high-achieving people for years and have discovered some possible drivers for success, but haven’t developed an empirical reason.  I’m asking for your help in determining what drives success.  If you would describe yourself as success-driven, then please consider completing the survey below.  If you know of people who fit this criteria please pass the survey on to them.  It should only take a few minutes and will help me in working with people to identify their success driven factors and ways to help them achieve work-life balance.

https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/788F2PY

Nov 23

OOPS-Part 2-SECURITY TIED TO SLEEP

Starting with the third paragraph, this is a continuation of the blog mistakenly published before completion yesterday afternoon. Maybe this is telling me I need more sleep during this busy holiday time!

What causes people to have disruptive and restless sleep?  A recent study paper provided by Society for Personality and Social Psychology found that having a responsive and supportive partner directly impacts one’s sleep pattern.  Most of us spend up to one-third of our lives asleep, but the quality of our sleep determines how much restorative value we get from it.  Restorative sleep occurs when people feel safe, secure, protected, and connected.  The results suggest that responsive partners can lower anxiety and arousal, and improve sleep which leads to happier and healthier lives.  In other words, when you think your partner understands and cares for you, your sleep quality improves along with your well-being.

Many of the couples that I work with complain that their partners don’t listen to them, value their feelings, or have compassion for their circumstances.  In fact, many individuals feel invalidated by their partner and assume they don’t care about their feelings.  Obviously this creates anger, resentment, and eventually detachment.  Couples grow apart when they believe or experience either non responsiveness or verbal attacks from their spouse.  We all want to be heard, respected, valued, and understood, especially from our spouse.  When we connect with our spouse, we feel a greater sense of comfort and security.

Life is extremely busy and hectic in a normal week, but add the holidays and overload quickly occurs.  We can make sure we take care of our physical, emotional, and spiritual needs, but having a partner who steps up, helps out, and provides emotional support without having to be asked makes life a little easier.  Working as a team and knowing someone has your back can provide greater comfort and security, especially when they “get” you.  As we approach Thanksgiving, be grateful for the people who support, encourage, and validate you.  We are all in need of love and acceptance, especially when stressed out, overwhelmed, and feeling under appreciated.  Take the time to tell others how much they mean to you.

 

 

Nov 22

SECURITY TIED TO SLEEP

 

What causes people to have disruptive and restless sleep?  A recent study paper provided by Society for Personality and Social Psychology found that having a responsive and supportive partner directly impacts one’s sleep pattern.  Most of us spend up to one-third of our lives asleep, but the quality of our sleep determines how much restorative value we get from it.  Restorative sleep occurs when people feel safe, secure, protected, and connected.  The results suggest that responsive partners can lower anxiety, arousal, and improve sleep which leads to happier and healthier lives.  In other words, when you think your partner understands and cares for you, your sleep quality improves along with your well-being.

Many of the couples that I work with complain that their partners don’t listen to them, value their feelings, or have compassion for their circumstances.  In fact, many individuals feel invalidated by their partner and assume they don’t care about their feelings.  Obviously this creates anger, resentment, and eventually detachment.  Couples grow apart when they believe or experience either non responsiveness or verbal attacks from their spouse.  We all want to be heard, respected, valued, and understood, especially from our spouse.  When we connect with our spouse, we feel a greater sense of comfort and security.

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