Jul 29

WORK IDENTITY

How does your identity at work impact your relationships at home?  Our work identity and role often fit with our personality type and character.  For example, a surgeon or pilot may be a perfectionist which is rewarded in their job and appreciated by those they serve.  Most people define themselves and find purpose through their work.  For some, work is the primary or even only way they find meaning and fulfillment in life.  Many feel secure, confidant, and comfortable with their work role but uncomfortable outside of their work persona.  Their career gives them a sense of  achievement, admiration, and even adoration that they might not receive elsewhere.  Can work meet all of your needs?

The problem with relying exclusively on work to meet many of your needs is that you may neglect other aspects of life.  Or you may find that your work persona is so comfortable that you bring it home.  Being unemotional and an exceptional problem-solver in your profession is highly valued and respected, yet your spouse values something very different.  We need to recognize that our work and home personas should be different since the relationships in our personal lives should be more intimate and connected.  Do you have a difficult time transitioning from work to home?

Sometimes having some time to decompress upon arriving home from work can help with the transition.  Many people bring work home with them or respond to calls/emails that are work-related which keeps them stuck in the work persona.  Engaging in conversation that is relational oriented and not about work can make it easier to get into the home persona.  Turn off electronics at dinner time or designate a time to shut down all technology to shift the focus to your relationships.  Find value in your home persona role and work on sharing power, control, responsibilities, activities, and emotions with your partner.  Lastly, maintain healthy boundaries with work through delegation, saying no, and being assertive.  Don’t get so busy making a living that you forget to make a life.

 

Jul 22

FROM TIGER TO LAMB

What has happened to arguably the greatest golfer of the century?  Tiger Woods’ game is worse than ever and everyone is trying to understand why.  It’s simple; his head has not recovered from the self-induced trauma.  Golf, from what I’ve been told, at the top level is primarily mental.  It appears that he has lost the prerequisites to winning: confidence, focus, and desire.  I’m not a golfer, but I do recognize when a person’s attention and self-assurance are gone due to a string of self-destructive choices and behaviors.  Negative thoughts and emotions can wreak havoc on a person’s life impacting their performance, concentration, and attention.  You don’t have to be a professional golfer to be overcome by bad choices which can lead to a spiral of perpetual pain.  While some attempt to deny, repress, or avoid the problems with distractions, others try solutions without much success.  Like Tiger, many of us have been lost at some point in our lives. What enabled us to find our way back?

Are we even aware that our life is spiraling out of control?  First we have to recognize that we’re on the wrong path and need to ask someone for guidance which can be very difficult, especially for men.  Acknowledging that we have veered from the healthy life path is hard to admit even to ourselves.  We don’t want to appear weak, vulnerable, or inadequate.  I often worry more about those who aren’t seeking professional help, but need to, than those who are in counseling.  Fear, pride, arrogance, and loss of control all contribute to avoidance of help.  It takes courage and strength to admit your problems and seek help.  Change is especially challenging if you’ve been successful in one aspect of life (professional) yet are failing miserably in a different area (personal).  Some don’t seek help until a crisis impacts every aspect of life.

None of us can avoid trauma, pain, suffering, and hardship but our resilience can determine the impact and magnitude of our agony.  We bounce back by dealing directly with our emotional pain, surrounding ourselves with a healthy support system, reframing our experiences, and taking charge of situations over which we can control.  Healing from bad choices requires consistency in choosing healthy behaviors, repentance, and an ability to forgive oneself.  Believing in a God of grace and mercy can help with self-forgiveness.  Lastly, set goals, persevere through hardship, and never give up on yourself.

 

 

Jul 15

ATTRACTION AND FRIENDSHIP

Do you find that people are more or less physically attractive once you get to know them?  How did physical attraction play a part in choosing your partner?  A recent study from Northwestern University published in Psychological Science found that couples who become romantically involved soon after meeting tend to be more alike in their physical attractiveness than those who get to know each other ahead of time.  Physical attractiveness appears to be a major factor in determining relationship formation unless we are friends first or know the person awhile before dating.  The researchers hypothesized that choosing a mate of similar attractiveness comes from a competition-based perspective while the length of acquaintance between partners can shift this dynamic.

This study provides some interesting thoughts about relationship formation.  It is interesting that physical appearance becomes less important as two people form a friendship and that the importance of equal matching fades based on the level of connection.  Becoming friends first and learning more about an individual prior to developing a romantic relationship can be beneficial for the strength and sustainability of a relationship.  Our personality and behaviors can impact our level of attractiveness and can only be explored over time.  In working with couples, I find that the “like” part of the relationship can impact their desirability and level of connection.  Building the friendship aspect of the relationship before or after marriage will enhance the level of intimacy.

Intimacy comes in many different forms, such as shared recreational or work activities, intellectually stimulating discussions, spiritual connections, and even going through a crisis together that pulls you closer to one another.  We sometimes take for granted and/or neglect the friendship aspect of our relationship.  Create opportunities for connection, take time for fun, and take action instead of just talking about change. Just do it!  Decide today that you’re going to grow and nurture the friendship part of your relationship and see what a difference it makes.

 

 

Jul 08

THE PRICE OF SUCCESS

Most people strive to be successful in life, but few recognize the cost.  Often success comes with power from personality traits that don’t bode well for relationships. Many highly successful people are praised at work for their drive, intensity, perfectionism, and risk taking nature, yet condemned for these traits in their personal relationships, especially when taken to the extreme.  Do you recognize any of these traits in yourself or others?

An article written by Trish Regan for USA Today discussed this very issue. She mentioned CEO Dov Charney of American Apparel and his reportedly inappropriate behavior that eventually was reprimanded. The writer concluded “the very personality traits that enable entrepreneurs to thrive early on – self-confidence, charisma and a willingness to be controversial – often prove to be their undoing.”  I couldn’t agree more with this analysis and personally witness in my practice the destruction to relationships. Often the increased power and control associated with success combined with a sense of entitlement and arrogance prove to be a volatile formula for failed relationships.

Not only can our own personality traits impact our career success, but also our spouse’s personality traits can influence our  accomplishments at work. A study conducted at Washington University in a forthcoming publication in the Journal Psychological Science found that the personality traits of our spouse play a role in determining our workplace success. The study assessed participants on five broad measures of personality and found that workers who scored highest on career success had spouses who had high scores on conscientiousness. Spouses with this personality trait took some of the workload off their partner, emulated good work habits, and helped keep their spouses’ personal lives running smoothly. The authors concluded that this personality trait reduced overall stress levels and allowed for a better work-life balance. This study also suggests that people who are success-driven may be better served to seek supportive partners with highly conscientious personalities.

The ways to prevent “success driven” traits from negatively impacting relationships come from maintaining humility, accountability, and respectability.  Leading a balanced life, giving back to others, and focusing on gratitude can keep us centered on others not just ourselves.  Also nurturing faith and accepting that there is a power greater than you will help you stay grounded.  Recognize the strengths in your personality, but don’t allow them to be become weaknesses.  Living a good lifestyle is not necessarily living a good life.

Jul 01

COMPETING EMOTIONS

The new movie “Inside Out” is getting a lot of attention and seems to be educating many on the purpose behind all emotions.  In the movie, “Joy” competes with “Sadness” and looks for ways to contain, ignore, or shut out that negative emotion.  Without ruining it for all who haven’t seen the movie, there is value in sadness too.  When we suppress our negative emotions we also subdue our positive feelings.  If you haven’t experienced sadness then you can not fully appreciate or value happiness.  Although everyone feels emotions, some choose not to share their feelings which limits their connections to other people.  As with most things in life, we only recognize the benefit of those connections when we either lose the person or experience the opposite feelings.

Often we grow, mature, and heal the most during those dark and difficult times.  The realization that negative emotions motivate and/or require change often creates new habits and behaviors.  All emotions are good, the question is what do we do with our feelings?  Can we allow both sadness and joy to have a voice and be heard?  What value can sadness have in your life?  Having lost both parents at an early age and experienced much sadness, I’ve appreciated joy even more.  I’ve also been able to use my sadness to understand and have increased compassion for others’ loss.

When we share our feelings with others we also enable them the opportunity to comfort, help, and connect with us.  Ironically the more we self-disclose and allow ourselves to be vulnerable, the greater the likelihood that others will share about themselves.  Of course, we have to be selective about who we share with and our level of openness depending on the relationship.  The bottom line is that talking about our feelings, both good and bad, will allow for a fuller breath of experience.  We connect with others through our emotions, so decide to share your feelings to increase the depth of your relationships.

Jun 24

PERSONALITY AND CAREER CHOICE

How do we decide what to do for a living?  There are many influences on which profession we choose, of course, but does our personality type play a role?  Furthermore, does our career choice influence our personality or do we purposely choose a career that fits with our character?  For example, are people changed by success or do their traits drive them to prosper?   Based on my clinical experience, personality characteristics often determine our career choices.  For example, those choosing to work with computers may not enjoy interacting with people and prefer dealing with machines.  Some people enjoy high intensity jobs like working in the emergency room, while others prefer crunching numbers and having a consistent routine.  Our personality can also contribute to the spouse we choose, friends we attract, and places we live.

People who select careers that match with their personality types tend to be happier, more productive, and receive greater fulfillment. However, there may be negative consequences when aspects of our personality are reinforced and rewarded at work, but have detrimental effects on aspects of our relationships.  For example, being driven, intense, critical, and perfectionistic may be positive characteristics for our job, but not bode well for our marriage.  In fact, the very same traits that  propel people to achieve success often create destructive patterns in their relationships.  Marriage and career require different attributes that are sometimes conflictual.

The key to healthy relationships is working towards a good work-life balance, finding the middle ground, and accepting differences in personality types.  It also helps to be able to successfully transition from work to home and avoid treating family like employees/staff or carrying home the office persona.  Recognize that aspects of our personality can be adjusted or modified in different environments.  Healthy relationships require teamwork, joint decision-making, and mutually agreed upon solutions to resolving conflict.  Even though our personality contributes to our career choice, we shouldn’t assume that it works in all situations.  Reflect on your personality and consider which aspects work only in your career and which ones enhance your home life.  Decide to bring those relationship building traits home and leave the others at work.

 

Jun 17

VALUE IN FRIENDSHIP

What value do you place on your friendships?  If you are like many, not enough.  Many of us don’t appreciate the value of people until they’re gone.  Sadly, my college track buddies and I lost a good friend about six weeks ago.  His energy and enthusiasm for life were contagious which accounted for his large friendship base.  He had been coordinating a track reunion with another member of the team, but lost his life before the reunion happened.  While we still went through with the gathering, as he would’ve wanted, his absence was deeply felt .  Over the weekend we shared stories of our friend and agreed that he found his purpose in helping and serving others.  His loyalty as a friend and integrity as a person garnered him tremendous respect and love from others.  He showed us how to be a good friend and is sorely missed by all of us.

Friendships take effort, energy, and time, especially when people relocate to far away places.  While social media can make staying connected easier, research has shown that we are more disconnected than ever before.  The problem with social media is the connections are often limited and superficial.  Friendships grow from face to face interactions with meaningful and significant conversations.  Sharing thoughts, feelings, and listening intently creates connection.  Real friends are there for the good and bad times, and know when to listen versus guide.

Sometimes we neglect our friends or harbor bad feelings, but like all healthy relationships, forgiveness and releasing negative emotions enables friendships to survive times of conflict.  Research has shown that the support of friends can add years to your life.  The benefits and value of having deep, personal, and intimate friendships strengthen our physical, emotional and spiritual being.  Decide today to develop, nurture, and grow your friendships.  Life is too short and our connections become our legacy.

Jun 10

MARRIAGE EXPECTATIONS

Have you ever discussed your expectations or needs with your spouse?  Did you discuss them before you got married?  Most couples don’t have this conversation until they are deep into the relationship.  We wouldn’t accept a job position without knowing the company’s expectations and reviewing the job description.  Why should it be any different in a marriage?  It’s good to know ahead of time whether our significant other can meet our needs and if our expectations are aligned.  Maybe physical intimacy is very important to one person while security and compassion are at the top of the other person’s list.  The issues that most couple have conflict over are children, money, work, chores, and sex, not necessarily in that order.  All relationships have conflict, but how you handle it determines the outcome.

Marriage is about giving and receiving, about “you scratch my back, I scratch yours,” but it’s important to know where each person’s itch is.  People tend to scratch the place that itches them without asking their partner what their they need, assuming that they both have the same needs.  Recognize that we all have different needs and expectations that should be shared openly so that our spouse can work at meeting those needs.  Ideally, before marriage we’ve established realistic and agreed upon expectations.  Better yet, healthy couples discuss their shared values, priorities, and provide each other with mutual respect.  The key is communicating directly, assertively, and honestly so that your partner doesn’t have to read between the lines and guess at your expectations.  Ask your partner “what are your needs or expectations in this relationship” or “describe the elements of a good relationship.”

Listen and pay attention to your spouse’s needs since meeting each other’s legitimate expectations creates connection.  Accept that we are different people and can have different needs.  What’s important to you may not be important to your spouse, but remember that marriage requires sacrifice and compromise.  Often I encourage couples to select a need from their partner’s list and work on meeting it without telling them which one and see if they can identify the need you selected.  Lastly, discuss where your expectations came from and healthy ways to meet them.  Remember don’t expect what you can’t deliver.

Jun 03

ATTITUDE AFFECTS EVERYTHING

What impact does cynicism have on people?  Previous research has found that cynicism negatively impacts physical health, psychological well-being, and marital adjustment.  More recently, the American Psychological Association conducted national surveys on cynical beliefs and found that a high level of cynicism was associated with a lower income.  Our attitude can have a tremendous impact on our approach to relationships and people and even on our earning potential.  The researchers concluded that cynical individuals are less trusting and avoid cooperation opportunities which limits their collaborative efforts.  Cynical people are less inclined to ask for help, delegate tasks, and work as a team which can undermine their economic success.  They assume that others have mean or ulterior motives making it difficult to share ideas, visions, and goals.

Unfortunately, our culture and the media bombards us with cynical, negative and distressing news. This triggers fear which leads us to tune in more often, creating the illusion that security comes from knowing more news.  As I mentioned last week, information doesn’t always provide wisdom.  The problem occurs when we absorb and project the negativity onto others and create an “us against the world” mindset.  We also seem to be drawn to negative media for some twisted comfort in knowing that someone else is worse off than ourselves.

Negativity and cynicism are pervasive and feed off each other.  Our attitude can be contagious both at work and home.  The energy we project can influence others in a big way.  We can all benefit from checking our attitude and recognizing the ways we impact others with our words, actions, or inaction.  Our attitude is something we have control over, yet we tend to focus on the things we can’t control.  An attitude adjustment might simply be letting go of past hurt, forgiving a friend or family member, or deciding to stop trying to fix others.  Try focusing on the positive things and people you have in your life and be grateful for today.  Remember the past is history, the future a mystery, and the present a gift.  Focus on the gift of today!

May 27

KNOWLEDGE IS NOT NECESSARILY WISDOM

In today’s society information and knowledge rule.  Everyone seeks to explain, understand, and accumulate facts, but those things are not necessarily wisdom.  Some say that wisdom is applied knowledge, while others define wisdom as the synthesis of knowledge and experience which enables a deeper understanding and insight.  Maturity can bring wisdom since aging provides us with experience.  Unfortunately, many of us have access to an abundance of knowledge and information, but still lack wisdom.  Is there something that gets in the way of relying on wisdom?  Why is common sense not so common?

Often times clients of mine will suggest that my recommendations are just common sense, which at times is correct.  However their ability to apply wisdom and common sense to a situation doesn’t always work out.  What often gets in the way is negative emotion, conflict, and unresolved issues.  Finding the root of psychological issues and helping a client to confront and heal from the pain is what therapy is all about.  Wisdom can come from age, but it also comes from awareness and insight.  Knowing yourself and being sensitive to other’s needs and emotions can also increase one’s wisdom.

In practical terms, wisdom is knowing when to “shut up” and when to “speak up.”  Timing, tone, and tact can make or break a verbal exchange.  Being wise requires patience, self-control, and kindness, which are some of the fruits of the spirit from Galatians 5:22-23 and facilitates wisdom.  Seeking to understand others before demanding to be understood evokes wisdom.  When we communicate assertively and respectfully without interrupting or talking over others we are manifesting wisdom.  Author, speaker, and pastor, John Maxwell has a great quote, “people do not care how much you know until they know how much you care.”  Treating others with respect, even those that you dislike, takes humility and maturity which also breeds wisdom.  Learning to let go of the pain from the past can also promote wisdom.  Lastly, wisdom comes from the intangibles in relationships so pay attention to others’ non-verbal cues, trust your instincts, and rely on your heart not just your head.

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