Susan C. Rempel, Ph.D.

Apr 222012
 


“Defining Success and Climbing the Mountain on Your Own Terms”

How many books have you read that trumpeted the message: becoming tremendously successful is simply a matter of making the commitment to be more successful, becoming more focused on your goals, or renewing a passion for your chosen field of work?   The number may be 2, 20, or 200, but undoubtedly you have read them. Unfortunately, those type of books often only convince those people who are already hardworking, diligent, and successful that they could be even more successful if they just became fixated on their work. Paradoxically, people who internalize any of these messages often become disenchanted with their career, feel burned-out, and come to view themselves as inherently unsuccessful. Why?  Their definition of “success” is limited, and their obsession with their career causes their lives to become out-of-balance. The good news is that “success” really is yours for the taking.  That is, success, as you choose to define it.

The first step in defining what your Personal Pinnacle of Success will be is to think about what “success” and being “successful” really mean.  Webster’s Online Dictionary (www.m-w.com) defines “success” as a “degree or measure of succeeding,” a “favorable or desired outcome; also: the attainment of wealth, favor, or eminence,” or “one who succeeds.”  “Successful” is defined as “resulting or terminating in success” or “gaining or having gained success.” 

I believe that most people decide whether or not they are successful by focusing on reaching one particular objective rather than assessing if they are leading lives that are rich in a number of areas. Usually, the objective is a substantial amount of wealth or fame.  At least, they categorize someone else as “successful” because of that person’s observable power, prestige, fame, or wealth. Yet, when I work with people who others consider to be highly successful, I often find that they do not share that perception. In fact, they perceive themselves to be quite unsuccessful. They think of themselves as failures, even though they have met or exceeded their own goals, because the amount of wealth or fame that they obtained was their singular measure for determining if they were indeed successful.  The lesson to be learned is that fame and fortune are only one component of how success should be determined.

Before sliding down that slippery slope of unsatisfactory self-worth, I encourage you to adopt a new and powerful plan for successful living: the “Personal Pinnacle of Success.” This model expands the definition of success. Rather than measuring success in terms of a desired result in one area of your life (e.g., becoming president of a corporation), the concept of success is expanded to include the notion of “successful living.” What does “successful living” mean?  Rather than focusing the majority of your time and effort in one area of your life, your energy is distributed between five key areas. This multifaceted approach significantly impacts how you organize your life, set your priorities, and ultimately define your goals. Each area is important in and unto itself.  However, if any of these areas begins to monopolize your time, it can have a toxic effect on your effort to live successfully.

The five key areas of the Personal Pinnacle of Success model are outlined below:         

Career: The scope of this area includes not only your chosen vocational field or profession, but also your educational background, relationships with your colleagues and clients, affiliation with professional organizations, and any other relationships that you have associated with your career.

Community: This area encompasses your friends, acquaintances, religious affiliation, neighborhood organizations, and any community group in which you actively participate.

Conduct of Life: This area includes your moral, value, and belief systems that cause you to conduct your life in a certain manner. It also includes the important aspect of extending courtesies to people you interact with, professionally and socially.

Family: This area includes your spouse (or significant other), children, and extended family.

          Personal Satisfaction: Happiness, inner peace, spirituality, a feeling of wellness, maintaining a positive outlook toward life, the ability for introspection, and other factors all are components of the area of personal satisfaction.

In order to understand the significance of each these five key areas in your life, draw an analogy to the elements and preparation that are necessary for a successful mountain climbing expedition. Behind every good expedition is a support group of sponsors and facilitators.  Your nuclear and extended family serves as the support group in your own life. In order to endure the physical stress of climbing a mountain, you must have a certain level of training. In life, your value and belief systems assist you in carrying on in spite of the stress placed on your character as you move toward greater heights of success. In order to for your to scale a mountain and reach its summit, you must have premium equipment and superlative technique.  In conquering your Personal Pinnacle of Success, your education, career experience, and aspirations for future success will enable you to reach the summit on which you have chosen to focus.  Any arduous expedition requires a partner or team that you can depend on when your equipment fails or a boulder obstructs your path. A life journey also requires a connection with supportive friends and community members. As you achieve increasing greater levels of personal satisfaction in the course of your own life, compare that to reaching plateaus and ultimately the summit of your Personal Pinnacle of Success. This design for living successfully assures you that your life will be rich in a wide variety of areas rather than having depth in only one and shallowness or emptiness in others. This model also allows you to define on your own terms what it means to be successful. 

          If you suffer from “chronic career over-focus,” you may be concerned that bringing the five key areas of your life into balance may be detrimental of your career.  My response is simple: don’t be. Living successfully allows you to enjoy many aspects of your life.  That enjoyment will likely have several unintended, but positive, consequences.  For example, the plan that you create to balance the areas of your life may lead you to invest more time and energy in your own community.  Think of all the potential business related networking contacts that you may make while donating time at your child’s school or to a community service project.  Bringing your life into greater balance will energize you, expand your opportunities for success in all five areas, and lead to many exceptionally interesting and beneficial unintended consequences!

How can you use this model to assure that you will be successful and live successfully? This question can be answered by preparing for and embarking on an expedition to your Personal Pinnacle of Success. During the initial planning and mapping phase of your expedition, you will set a series of goals or benchmarks to be achieved in each of the five key areas I have discussed. The goals that you set in each area should be related to either improving how you function in that area or the level of connectedness that you have with the area’s other group members. You should expect to make periodic adjustments to your plan throughout your journey to your Personal Pinnacle of Success. Just as a planned course must be altered due to a rock slide or weather change, so too may you alter your objectives within each area as you meet a goal or find that a life change necessitates an adjustment in your plan.

Another required element of insuring your future success is designating the balance that you want to achieve between the key areas. In making that determination, you must ask yourself whether each area is of equal importance to you, or if the areas will have varying levels of importance. Please remember that successful living depends upon being connected with each of these areas. As with most teams, each area will have its own strengths and weaknesses for you.  Each area will have its moment in time when it is the most important member of your team. Many experienced mountain climbers will tell you that climbing requires more balance than strength. As with climbing, achieving and possessing strength in only one of the key areas of your life may cause the other areas to atrophy and become dysfunctional. You may then be left with the feeling of failure that some outwardly successful people experience that I described earlier. Attaining and maintaining a balance between these five key areas of your life will assure that you live successfully.

In your quest to reach your own Personal Pinnacle of Success, I encourage you to periodically obtain the assistance of a success coach. Like an expert guide, a coach will help you navigate the difficult straits along your journey and help you to live more successfully.

          At this point you may be thinking, “It seems that there will always be something to work on. The journey to the peak of a mountain concludes when you reach the summit. Does the journey to my Personal Pinnacle of Success ever end? ”   It is true that there will be things for you to work on throughout the course of your life. Just as you would not attempt to climb Mount Everest when you are a novice mountaineer, you will not immediately reach your Personal Pinnacle of Success.

Having a successful career, maintaining a successful relationship with your family, conducting yourself in a manner deserving of people’s respect, becoming a productive member of your community, and feeling satisfied all require planning, hard work, and perseverance. Success is not a static event or single goal to be met. There will always be a higher mountain to climb. Today you begin your training to commence the greatest expedition of your life.  Charting the course and scaling the mountain that is your Personal Pinnacle of Success is a life-long process. If your definitions of success and successful living evolve throughout your lifetime, you will ultimately derive a sense of satisfaction with your achievements as well as a feeling of being successful.

          Undoubtedly, you have thought of additional questions such as:

          “How do I achieve success in each area?”

          “How do I determine what the balance I would like to achieve between the key areas should be?”

          “How do I move toward that balance?”

Those, my friend, are topics for other articles!  I hope that you look forward to reading about them in future issues of The Pinnacle Perspective.  This philosophy will be more fully described in my upcoming book: Your Personal Pinnacle of Success: Balancing Your Life and Achieving Success.

Until then, may you soar toward your dreams and achieve balance in your life.

Apr 222012
 

Do you play “The Glad Game”? That describes the philosophy of that the main character, Pollyanna Whittier, of the book Pollyanna[i]. Pollyanna was taught by her father to find the good side in every situation. Her optimism was so entrenched that she found something good to focus on she was struck by a car and faced with the possibility of never walking again. She eventually taught a whole town to look on the bright side of life.

If you think that positive thinking does not impact your health, think again! Trindle et al[ii] studied almost 100,000 women for approximately 8 years. The researchers found that women who were judged to be the most cynical and hostile were at an increased risk to develop cancer, cardiovascular disease, or die during the research period. Interestingly, the researchers found that the effect of cynical hostility (which might also be thought of as the level of anger toward others) and optimism were independent of one another. In other words, you may think brightly about the future, but you can also harm yourself by choosing to carry anger, resentment, and even rage toward those around you. Conversano et al.[iii] reviewed the literature and found a wealth of studies validating the positive impact of optimism on mental and physical health. Interestingly, I came across a fair amount of research and editorials in the medical literature which carried the tone that people “better face reality” in relation to illness, but that is the subject for a future article. Gilhooly et al[iv] compared “healthy” and “unhealthy” pairs of people who were 70 to 90 years of age. The total sample size was more than 200 individuals. They found that people who “endorse an internal locus of control” (believe that they have some control over the course of events) and were less neurotic tended to be categorized as being more healthy. They concluded that personality traits were linked to health status.

Anyone who knows me will tell you that I wholeheartedly embrace pollyannaism. When I have found myself in the darkest moments of my life, it seemed to me that it was obviously the time to look up and go forward. That is not to say that I never experience anger, frustration, or those negative feelings that can dim the brightness of life. However, I decided long ago that I am going to search for the bright side of every situation. To me it is really the only choice. “Choice” is the key word in that sentence. My parents and brother all died after developing cancer. In retrospect, each one of them had long term battles with the demons of frustration, anger, anxiety, or depression. Of course, some people have chemically based disorders, and there has been research indicating that personality traits are genetically influenced. However, I am living proof that you can choose to be an upbeat, optimistic, and positively focused person. I choose to play the Glad Game as much and as often as possible!

Do you play the Glad Game? If so, great! Keep it up!! Would you like to start playing the glad game? Let me help you. Begin by ending your day with a review what has “gone right” today.  Your challenge should be to increase the number of things you have on your list until you can routinely get over 20 items on the list. Focus on the little things. Did your alarm go off on time? Was the sun shining? Did the kids remember to brush their teeth on their own? Was traffic just a bit lighter? The possibilities are endless! Make a list for a minimum of 14 days, and then assess whether you have begun to notice the little things that are going right during the day. If so, then it’s on to the next Glad Game exercise. If not, continue to create a list until you notice a change in your perspective.  I will be posting more glad game exercises via my blog (Seek THE Positive: http://www.bingoforlearning.com/healthblog/). In order for you to create a more positive outlook on life, play the Glad Game today and every day. I’m committed to being a life-long Glad Game player. Won’t you join me?

 




[i] Porter, Eleanor. (1913) Pollyanna. L.C. Page publisher.

[ii] Trindle, et al. (2009). Optimism, cynical hostility, and incident coronary heart disease and mortality in the Women’s Health Initiative. Circulation. 2009 Aug 25;120(8):656-62. Epub 2009 Aug 10.

 

[iii] Conversano, et  al. (2010) Optimism and Its Impact on Mental and Physical Well-Being. Clin Pract Epidemiol Ment Health. 2010; 6: 25–29.

Published online 2010 May 14. doi: 10.2174/1745017901006010025.

 

 

[iv] Gilhooly et al. (2007) Successful ageing in an area of deprivation: part 2–a quantitative exploration of the role of personality and beliefs in good health in old age. Public Health. 2007 Nov;121(11):814-21. Epub 2007 Jul 2.

 

Apr 222012
 

The Shoes that you Choose

 

          This edition of the Pinnacle Perspective was delayed a bit due to the overwhelming amount of email that I received concerning the recent personal growth article.  The issue of having empathy for others has touched a nerve in many subscribers, and I received many emails that asked the basic question: “How can I become more empathic?”  The first step toward having greater empathy for those around you is to understand why someone behaves or feels as they do.

          Please allow me to issue a challenge to all of the subscribers of this ezine. I would like you to try a basic empathy-building exercise for at least five days.  Then, spend a bit of time reflecting on how that experience might change your view of the world.  What’s the exercise? I call it: the shoes that you choose.  Here are the directions for the exercise:

  1. Each day I would like you to “try on” another person’s experience of life. The person might be a store clerk that you interact with frequently, your boss, a neighbor, your child, or anyone else that you interact with frequently. 
  2. Observe that person for about 30 mintues. 
  3. Try to put yourself in that person’s place.  What is he thinking?  What is she feeling?  How is that person reacting to something that happens to him?  What has that person’s day been like? What problems might this person have in her life? Why does that person experience the world in the manner that he or she appears to do so. How does his experiences shape his overall temprement and the way in which he interacts with you?
  4. Now, put your own shoes back on and think about the people who you observed.
  5. Did any of your observations surprise you?  Can you understand why behave in the manner that they do after watching them in action? Do you feel differently about these people after having “tried on their shoes”?
  6. How will you alter your interactions with these people as a result of your observations of them?
  7. What did you discover about yourself and how you behave as a result of trying on each person’s shoes? 

Next week, I’ll be discussing how and why you should respond to people in an empathic manner. I can’t wait to hear about all of the things that you learn from this exercise.  Please email your comments to me at susan@uncommoncourtesy.com

 

 

 

 

Apr 222012
 

 

 

I’m big on basics! “Basics” are nothing more than fundamental building blocks. For example, think of all the  building blocks that go into a child learning to walk.  A child must learn to sit, crawl, stand, and walk with assistance before a first individual step is taken.  It’s a lot of work to walk, but as soon as a child begins walking all the building blocks fade in comparison with those first steps.  When interacting with others, we often get so wrapped up in finessing the fine point of a given situation that we

 

Although network marketing makes some people a bit sqeamish, it is based on a great concept.  You select a product that interests you or that you believe has some inherent value. Therefore, you naturally have great enthusiam when you talk about the product.  Then, the magic happens.  You tell your friends about the product.  Your friends hear your enthusiasm and agree to try the product because you have credibility with them. Your enthusiam for the product is contagious and they have an expectation that the product will work for them.  Low and behold: it does.  Those two factors combine to sweep many of your friends into the program.  That is how great products are marketed by many companies.  The problem comes in when you run out of friends or aquaintences.  Although you still have unbounding enthusiam for the product, you no longer hold that magic that existswith your friends.  What is the magic?  It’s all the factors that you think of when you think of a good relationship.  Credibility, confidence, repour, and a history of trust are just a few of the factors that go into a good relationship. 

 

The key is telling one friend at one time.  Spreading your enthusiasm one person at a time.  Telling your message and enlisting the participation of one person at a time.

 

This may sound odd, but business people would be well served by reading a few books about the foundations of good relationships and marriages! 

Apr 222012
 

What Did I Learn? (Part 1)

          I received so many important thoughts from subscribers over the past two weeks! For those of you who did not read the previous two issues of the Pinnacle Perspective, here are the questions that I asked:

(From issue 34):

  1. Who has been the greatest source of inspiration for you in your life?
  2. What has been the most meaningful experience in your life?
  3. What have you done for someone else that has caused you to feel very good about yourself?

(From issue 35):

If you knew that you had only a few weeks left to live . . .

  1. Would you lead your life differently?
  2. What would you say to your family and friends?
  3. What do you think they would want to say to you? (You might even ask a few of them this question!)
  4. What aspects of your life would you give more attention to?
  5. What aspects of your life would you accord less importance to than you do now?

 

Each of those questions is important in its own right.  I suspect that your responses to the questions included a wide variety of topics. However, do you know what was topic was ”mysteriously” absent from all of the responses? I’ll bet you could guess.  The answer is: “work.” It’s hard to believe, but the following responses just did not make it into my box:

“I would like to spend more time working. In fact, I would feel better about myself if I worked harder.”

“I want to spend less time with my family and more time working.”

“If I only had a few weeks to live, I would throw myself into my work.”

“The most influential person in my life was my boss.” (E-gads, my own crack staff will be reading this article!)

          I did, however, receive many responses indicating that they would not get mired down in the details of their job.  People also reflected on how they spent  less time with their family and friends than they would if they knew that they only had a few weeks to live.

          You may think that I am about to give you the standard lecture about the importance of giving your loved ones more attention than your job. Actually, I am not. I also will spare you the textbook advice that, at the end of your life, you will feel more satisfaction if you have placed your family ahead of your work on the list of your priorities in life.

          Instead, what I would like to suggest is that you consider the meaning that your work adds or does not add to your life. Like it or not, work constitutes a large part of our waking hours each week. Unfortunately, many people “just fill the time” with work.  Others view their work as a means to fund the other aspects of their lives. They do not believe that it matters how that they support themselves, only that they manage to do so. Still others do meaningful work, but they long to do something else that they believe will give their lives greater meaning. As a member of that third category, I can tell you that I spent many years longing to broaden the scope of my practice to include an area through which I could positively impact the lives of others. Fortunately, I was able to seize the opportunity to do so after the birth of my first child!

     If you fall into any of the above three categories, I strongly suggest that you make changes to your job or career immediately! Every job can be meaningful. For example, if you serve coffee to over-worked individuals each morning, think about just how much your attitude, and the product that you serve, can brighten  up the start of someone’s day. A career can also include facets that add meaning to your life. Consider all of the people that you encounter during the course of your workday who could benefit from your positive attitude!

          Let’s take the questions that I asked you to consider and revise them slightly:

  1. How do you think your family and friends feel about your chosen career?
  2. What inspiration has your employer/employee(s) given to you during the past year?
  3. What has been the most meaningful experience you have had in the course of your job or career?
  4. What have you done for someone who you encountered through your job that has caused you to feel very good about yourself?
  5. How could you change your job so that it would add meaning to your life?
  6. How can you balance work and other aspects of your life so that you look forward to doing your job?
  7. How could you bring your family and friends into the excitement and meaning that you feel about your work?

     Take time today to find the meaning in your job, or decide to make your job more meaningful as soon as possible!

andar�) o����t there are a few other issues that I would like you to first consider in the upcoming weeks.

 

Apr 222012
 

Are You An Opportunity Seeker or Risk Reducer?

 

Many of us spend our time thinking of the desired destination of our life’s work. But have you ever considered how you reached where you are today? You reached the place that you are at now because of a series of decisions.  That also includes all of your “decisions” not to act or make a choice. It is a difficult decision to examine the road that you have chosen to travel thus far.  We have all made mistakes, not done things that we should have, and made poor choices.  I am asking you to engage in a bit of self-examination for a purpose: in order to get where you want to go, you must analyze how you make decisions.  

 

Consider the thousands of small decisions that you make each day. Most of your  decisions are mundane in nature (e.g., what to have for breakfast). Occasionally, you have the opportunity to make a big decision.  Your choices with respect to the big decisions not only chart the course of your life, but they also say a lot about your underlying philosophy of life. 

 

There are several ways to make a decision. It is always best to act decisively. Your decision can be made after carefully weighing your options.  It can be made with little consideration about the consequences of your actions.  It can also fall anywhere on a continum between those two extremes.

 

There is, however, a more passive, method of decision-making.   You can also reject the opportunity to make a decision.

 

 

So, now I have a question for you: Are you an opportunity seeker or a risk reducer. 

 

 

I’m not suggesting that you should go out and make wild or irresponsible decisions. 

 

My parents were children of the depression.  The mantra in our home as “work and save.” That philosophy is certainly sound, but my parents used it to the extreme.  They always planned to save their money and enjoy retirement.  The only problem was, they both died of cancer before they were able to retire and enjoy the fruit of their work. I have decided to use a modified version of that philosophy: “work hard, save for the future, but live in the present and enjoy each day.”  

Use the following decision making checklist

 

How you reached where you are today will impact where you will go tomorrow unless you decide to change the way that you make decisions.

 

Take time today to consider where on the continum you fall between being an opportunity seeker or a risk reducer. Then decide if your decision making pattern will help you reach your personal pinnacle of success.  If it is a road block rather than a ??, choose to change how you make decisions for the rest of your life.

agic �h g ����ortunity for growth and rebirth, or as an excuse to allow the gift that we have been given to slip through our fingers.  

 

ext-in{� :5���� style=’layout-grid-mode:line’>Second, think about what you do that reinforces your negative outlook on life. Every person has a series of habits that have become ingrained. Some habits, such as brushing your teeth twice a day, are good.  Others are bad. Do you set yourself up for failure? Have you decided to measure yourself by an unrealistic yardstick?

 

Apr 222012
 

My lifecourse is set (and other myths of negative thinking).

 

I suppose that you could say I take this issue personally.  In fact, there is no way that this issue could not be more personal.  The three most influential people in my life have all made the same statement to me, “Susan, my lifecourse is set.” Each of these people allowed their own negativity to literally eat them alive. While the story is sad, I believe that it offers a good lesson to each of us about the value of living positively and enjoying all that is positive around us.

          The first person on this list uttered that negative statement shortly before her death.  She had bravely fought cancer for two years. Then, she came to a crossroad.  She had quietly and carefully constructed things around her, so that the life of her family could go on without much disruption if she died.  It appeared to her that others could go on without her, as if she would not be missed. She was unhappy with many of her life choices and felt that she had no means by which to change the course of her life. “Go back to school or do something that facinates you,” I said.  “No.  My lifecourse is set.  I’m too old to change” was her response.  Shortly afterward, she died.

          The second person on my list uttered that statement approximately six months before he died.  He too had cancer.  However, he had passively allowed his family to direct his treatment.  He was depressed about his wife’s illness and eventual death. Without her, his life had no direction, and he believed that he could no longer find joy in living.  Unlike the first person on my list, he was told that he could live for many years with ongoing treatment.  The doctor even offered that perhaps new treatments would be developed that would result in complete remission.  It was at that point this man took control of his treatment.  “Susan,” he said to me, “I’ve lived my life and my lifecourse is set. There is little else for me to do, and I have nothing else in my life that I would like to achieve.”  He then decided to terminate his treatment, and six months later he died.

          This third person on my list recently said to me. “My lifecourse is set.  I’m in my mid-fifties and nothing will change from hereon out.”  “Why not,” I argued.  “There is no reason that you can’t decide to change your life and do things that you enjoyed.” “Well,” he said “I tried doing one thing, and it was too complicated. Nothing else will change, and I just have to be realistic about what will happen to me now.”

 

What did each of these statements have in common:  Passivity and negativity!

 

By the way, you might be wondering who those three people are.  Two of them are my parents; both of whom died because of cancer.  The third is my brother who was recently diagnosed with a rare and aggressive type of cancer.  My friends, I hope that my family can be a lesson to you.  Each of us will choose the path that we follow in our own lives.  Very few aspects of life happen to us.  We can decide to view things positively or negatively.  More importantly, we can choose to interpret negative and even tragic things as an opportunity for growth and rebirth, or as an excuse to allow the gift that we have been given to slip through our fingers.  

Second, think about what you do that reinforces your negative outlook on life. Every person has a series of habits that have become ingrained. Some habits, such as brushing your teeth twice a day, are good.  Others are bad. Do you set yourself up for failure? Have you decided to measure yourself by an unrealistic yardstick?

 

Third, take a look at the people who you have chosen to surround yourself with in your life.

Apr 222012
 

A question from one of our subscribers: “How do you keep your dreams and goals alive in the face of adversity and depression?”

 

Here’s my response:

 

“That’s a Positive!” (Part 1 of a 3 part series)

 

          Are you one of them? I am! Who am I talking about? One of those people to painstakingly search to find the positive aspect of even the most dire situations. When a member of the UnCommon Courtesy & Coaching staff gave me a plot synopsis of The Hurricane, my response was: “Well, isn’t it great that the author is doing so well now as a result of his bad experience.”  Even for me that was a stretch! Are you a nay-sayer? One of those people who repeatedly focus on the negative aspects of any situation? Well, as irritating as that search may be for others to listen to, there are many benefits to developing and keeping a positive outlook in life.

The Need for a Positive Outlook

A positive outlook has many obvious benefits, but hidden benefits as well. It is well documented that a positive outlook is beneficial for your overall health, but think of the subtle benefits as well.  If you have a positive outlook, you will be able to calm yourself in anxiety provoking situations.  Consider how you might respond to an employment performance review. If you have a negative outlook, you will no doubt experience needless anxiety and depression by focusing on every “mistake” and “criticism” that your boss talked about during the review. You might even conclude that the things mentioned by your employer could be the basis for your eventual dismissal. If you have a positive outlook, you will decide that the “feedback” and “challenges” your boss gave your during the meeting are “opportunities“ to position yourself for greater success with the company in the future.

There are other, more unintended, benefits to having a positive outlook. People who hold a positive outlook on life tend to be happy and have a sunny disposition. It is easier to be around someone with a sunny disposition.  If you are an employer or salesperson, having a sunny disposition may make it easier for you to influence and direct those around you.  Consequently, you will be more likely to achieve your goals because people will want to work with you.  A person with a positive outlook is also more likely to be the one that everyone is drawn to at a party. Therefore, they are also the people who will form connections and freindships with people who can help them reach their goals.

Developing a Positive Outlook

Although the reasons for maintaining a positive outlook on life are clear, the method for developing such a view of life may seem as cloudy as a stormy sky. Allow me to offer three suggestions.

First, examine the mantras that run through your head day in and day out. What do they tell you. Do they say that life is good or bad? Do they tell you that you will succeed or fail? Do they focus your attention on good outcomes or bad ones? If your life is directed by a negative mantra, then choose a more positive mantra to live by.

Second, think about what you do that reinforces your negative outlook on life. Every person has a series of habits that have become ingrained. Some habits, such as brushing your teeth twice a day, are good.  Others are bad. Do you set yourself up for failure? Have you decided to measure yourself by an unrealistic yardstick?

Third, take a look at the people who you have chosen to surround yourself with in your life.

Part 3: Maintaining a Positive Outlook

          Reprogramming your mantra

                    Seeing the humor in life!

          The search is on! Remember to search for the positive

 

‘mso-sp� u:����/span>The newsletter will periodically continue to include articles of this length. However, I would also like to offer you something a bit different.  Issues of the newsletter that do not contain my articles will include what I like to think of as “personal growth exercises.”  Personal growth exercises will briefly discuss an area that many of us can improve in (i.e., communication skills, our interaction with others, or ways to improve our behavior), and then challenge the reader to grow in that area. The Pinnacle Perspective will continue to include motivational quotations and inspirational stories. I believe that reading inspirational stories can encourage you to positively change your life and the lives of those around you.  If you receive inspirational stories from others, please include me in your re-distribution lists!  There are so many great stories out there, and I aspire to make UnCommon Courtesy & Coaching a cornerstone for inspirational material on the Internet! I’ll be busy this week making up a list of personal growth exercises to pass along in the coming months, and I look forward to input from all of The Pinnacle Perspective’s fantastic subscribers!

 

 

Please send any articles, poems, or quotes that you have about changing your life, living life to the fullest, and personal growth to me at susan@uncommoncourtesy.com !




[1] Atkinson and Schiffrin (1971) “The Control of Short-Term Memory. Scientific American, 224,82-90.

: Ar�jmo����t-family:Arial’>4.     How often has my rush to get through my day caused me to treat people abruptly?

 

  1. Have I rationalized my rude behavior toward others as being what is socially acceptable in our society?
  2. Do I dismiss my critical comments toward and about others as my way of  “telling them the truth”?
  3. How do I react when other people treat me poorly?
  4. Do I have empathy for my acquaintances, friends, colleagues, and family members?
  5. Do I treat people around me in the warm, kind, compassionate, and courteous manner that I would like to be treated?

10. What can I do to have a positive direct and indirect impact on others?

 

Take time today to choose to have a positive impact on someone’s life! We’ll talk more about empathy building next week.

 

          Warmest regards,

 

          Susan

 

P.S. I will eventually address the issue of implementing a new standard of conduct, but there are a few other issues that I would like you to first consider in the upcoming weeks.

Apr 222012
 

I recently experienced a “wake-up call.”  I was surfing the Web and came across a crossword puzzle written for microbiologists.  I thought to myself, “Gee, I took a microbiology course in college. It might be fun to see how much of it I could fill in.”  So, I started to read the questions.  Much to my surprise, many of the words, terms, and phrases were familiar, but the answers seemed to be just beyond my reach.  Then, I began to think of all the concepts, theories, and formulas that I learned in the process of completing my Ph.D. program.  Many of those details had faded from my memory as well.

          I then decided to peruse through a few of my old psychology textbooks and learned something about memory loss. One theory suggested that not only are there different types of memory (short-term and long-term), but that there are different reasons why we forget what we learned.[1] Decay, displacement, and interference with stored information all lead us to forget the knowledge that we so painstakingly learned during the years of our formal education. If you don’t think that is possible, just try helping a high school student with his or her math or science homework!

Although it may alarm you to think that you may eventually forget much of what you have learned, here is something that may be even more disconcerting.  If you have forgotten much of the information that you learned in school, what have you been filling all of the “empty space” in your brain with? Many professionals are required to take continuing education classes in order to maintain a license. However, those classes provide only a few hours of additional education each year. Even if continuing education is required to practice your craft, you may not routinely challenge your brain sufficiently to stay sharp. When was the last time that you decided to learn anything new? Do you spend your free time learning new skills or expanding your knowledge about a subject that interests you? I’m afraid that many of us spend a great deal of time in front of the television or skimming through magazines that do little to improve our minds. When was the last time that you engaged in a conversation that required you to really think about what you and the other person were saying? In an age when we are constantly reminded that we should maintain or improve our bodies, there seems to be minimal interest in improving our minds! While it is readily apparent that a lack of exercise will result in a loss of physical skills as you age, consider how your cognitive skills are impacted if you do not constantly strive to improve your mind. I am not suggesting that everyone needs to study physics in his or her spare time. What I am suggesting is that you must engage in an informal education process throughout your life. Not only should you attempt to learn new information, but also you should also strive to “grow” your values and be a valuable member of your family and community.   

          If you have neglected the issue of personal growth in your life, I would like to challenge you to begin a set of new and life-changing habits. After a great deal of thought about the subject of personal growth, I have decided to somewhat change the focus of UnCommon Courtesy & Coaching. It seems to me that the subscribers to the Pinnacle Perspective cannot “live life to the fullest” (the theme of our website) unless they are continually challenged to grow.  What can I contribute to that process? For starters, the Pinnacle Perspective will now be sent out on a weekly basis.  The newsletter will periodically continue to include articles of this length. However, I would also like to offer you something a bit different.  Issues of the newsletter that do not contain my articles will include what I like to think of as “personal growth exercises.”  Personal growth exercises will briefly discuss an area that many of us can improve in (i.e., communication skills, our interaction with others, or ways to improve our behavior), and then challenge the reader to grow in that area. The Pinnacle Perspective will continue to include motivational quotations and inspirational stories. I believe that reading inspirational stories can encourage you to positively change your life and the lives of those around you.  If you receive inspirational stories from others, please include me in your re-distribution lists!  There are so many great stories out there, and I aspire to make UnCommon Courtesy & Coaching a cornerstone for inspirational material on the Internet! I’ll be busy this week making up a list of personal growth exercises to pass along in the coming months, and I look forward to input from all of The Pinnacle Perspective’s fantastic subscribers!

 

Please send any articles, poems, or quotes that you have about changing your life, living life to the fullest, and personal growth to me at susan@uncommoncourtesy.com !




[1] Atkinson and Schiffrin (1971) “The Control of Short-Term Memory. Scientific American, 224,82-90.

: Ar�jmo����t-family:Arial’>4.     How often has my rush to get through my day caused me to treat people abruptly?

 

  1. Have I rationalized my rude behavior toward others as being what is socially acceptable in our society?
  2. Do I dismiss my critical comments toward and about others as my way of  “telling them the truth”?
  3. How do I react when other people treat me poorly?
  4. Do I have empathy for my acquaintances, friends, colleagues, and family members?
  5. Do I treat people around me in the warm, kind, compassionate, and courteous manner that I would like to be treated?

10. What can I do to have a positive direct and indirect impact on others?

 

Take time today to choose to have a positive impact on someone’s life! We’ll talk more about empathy building next week.

 

          Warmest regards,

 

          Susan

 

P.S. I will eventually address the issue of implementing a new standard of conduct, but there are a few other issues that I would like you to first consider in the upcoming weeks.

Apr 222012
 

Yes, I know. This week’s personal growth exercise was scheduled to discuss implementing your new standard of public conduct.  However, something came to my attention yesterday that you might want to consider as you develop your new standards for yourself.  I would like you to consider how you unintentionally impact others!

          Please allow me to share a story with you from my own life.  I have spoken at  the Los Angeles County Superior Court’s mandated parent education program for the past seven years.  My lecture is designed to help people become better co-parents after their relationship ends. I talk about how to develop conflict resolution strategies and emphasize that parents need to focus on their children rather than on each other.  Some people who attend the program take the opportunity to learn new ideas, but every group has a handful of people who are very angry about being forced to attend the lecture. Everyone who attends the program is required to complete an evaluation form.  I must say that I have always thought that the form is more of a popularity contest (i.e., how well did you like each speaker) than a tool to measure what the person has learned.

I have noticed that the tenor of the comments on the evaluation forms have slowly changed over time.  When I first began lecturing for the program (known as the Parents And Children Together program), the parents provided comments and criticism that were given in a fairly courteous manner.  As time has passed, however, the comments have changed from being constructive to almost mean-spirited. It may come as no surprise to you that I am a very upbeat speaker who tries to put a positive spin on most situations.  Comments made about me, and my lecture, in the past tended to describe me as being “overly optimistic” about what people could accomplish, and that my suggestions were not applicable if an ex-spouse or ex-partner was unwilling to be cooperative. More recent comments referred to me as a “Pollyanna” or “Miss Happy-Face” and described my lecture as “What a joke”.  Let me assure you that I have thick skin, and I learned long ago that angry people say angry things.  However, this is not true of everyone.

          The person who presents her material after I finish my portion of the program is a lovely woman.  She is a skilled mediator.  Her soft-spoken style is very therapeutic. She builds rapport with the audience by leaning against the lectern and telling non-threatening stories about her own adventures as a parent. Unfortunately for her, she presents immediately after “Miss Happy-Face.”  In the past, people have commented that it was difficult to hear her. They also felt that there seemed to be some overlap in our presentations.  Recently, someone wrote that if she leaned on the lectern any harder, she and the lectern would fall over. But last night was the straw that broke the camel’s back!  That poor woman read comments including that she was dull, and that her stories were mind-numbing and irrelevant.  My heart broke as I saw tears form in her eyes as she talked about  what people had said about her. 

As I drove home, I pondered why people might be making such rude and mean-spirited comments.  My explanations included: the parents resented being forced to attend the program, they were too angry to hear our ideas, and that  people in our society generally seem to have an over-riding sense of entitlement these days. Then, it hit me.  The participants were indeed using the evaluation form as a tool to vent the anger that they had for a wide variety of reasons. However, the underlying reasons for their comments were unimportant.  What was important was their lack of empathy for the people who would review what they wrote. Not only had the authors not considered how their words would impact the people they evaluated, they did not care!

Why was my epiphany so important? Research regarding the treatment of domestic violence perpetrators indicates that one of the key ingredients which allows someone to behave violently with others is a lack of empathy.  While I am not saying that these comments were “abusive”, they clearly demonstrated the writers’ lack of empathy. These people did not know or care that my colleague is a loving wife, good friend, and doting grandmother.  They had no interest in listening to her sage advice that is based on 16 years of experience. I doubt that it would have impacted their responses if they knew she has been struggling with a life threatening illness for several years.  They were only concerned with their own feelings, their anger toward the system, and their belief that they were entitled to so much more than they were receiving.

As I began to understand what enabled these people to make such heinous comments, I began to think about my own behavior and how it might unintentionally impact others.  How many times had I said something without thinking how it might impact the person that I was talking to? How often had I been in such a hurry that I had not taken the time to thank the person I was interacting with for their help? How many times had I been in such a rush to get my son to school on time that I had forgotten to kiss him and make him feel special? How often had I not considered the impact of my behavior on those around me? I also thought about the recent question from a subscriber asking if it was really necessary to say hello to someone that she repeatedly passed in the hall throughout her workday.  My response had not addressed a critical point.  She could positively impact that man’s day by always acknowledging his presence, but she could also alienate (or even deeply hurt) that man by inconsistently acknowledging him.

Ask yourself these questions when considering how you unintentionally impact those around you?

 

1. Do I treat people who I do not interact with directly (e.g., telemarketers) with less respect simply because I cannot see their reaction?

  1. Would I treat those people differently if I knew that I would be sitting in the same room with them for 30 minutes after they heard what I had to say?
  2. Have I sent a callous letter to someone without thinking about how they will feel as they read the letter?
  3. How often has my rush to get through my day caused me to treat people abruptly?
  4. Have I rationalized my rude behavior toward others as being what is socially acceptable in our society?
  5. Do I dismiss my critical comments toward and about others as my way of  “telling them the truth”?
  6. How do I react when other people treat me poorly?
  7. Do I have empathy for my acquaintances, friends, colleagues, and family members?
  8. Do I treat people around me in the warm, kind, compassionate, and courteous manner that I would like to be treated?

10. What can I do to have a positive direct and indirect impact on others?

 

Take time today to choose to have a positive impact on someone’s life! We’ll talk more about empathy building next week.

 

          Warmest regards,

 

          Susan

 

P.S. I will eventually address the issue of implementing a new standard of conduct, but there are a few other issues that I would like you to first consider in the upcoming weeks.