Susan C. Rempel, Ph.D.

Apr 212012
 

You may recall that in a previous article*, someone prompted me to step back and examine my own pattern of behavior. Well, this time I managed to figure out something all by myself. I had been hemming and hawing about what to do about a particular situation. Last night, I woke up from a sound sleep. I sat up in bed and said to myself, “What exactly are you waiting for?”

Have you ever asked yourself the same question? Has there been something in your own life that you have repeatedly postponed. It seems to me that everyone has something they want to do in life, but it just never seems to be the “right time” to do it. It may be changing jobs, getting married, going back to school, having a baby, buying a house, or one of a million different decisions. There always seems to be a good reason to put if off. “I’ll just wait until after the holidays.” “I’ll start just as soon as I finish that big project at work.” “When I’ve saved a bit more money, I’ll be ready to jump right in.” “I’ll do it when I have more time.” Do you hear the open-ended nature of these responses? There is no deadline. In each of these cases, taking action may be postponed indefinitely. Actually, let’s call those statements what they really are: excuses. Each of these statements emanates from reasoning that is passive. The speaker is waiting for something else to happen. Action is required only after that something else has occurred.

The problem with living your life in a passive stance is that the world around you is not going to wait for your “right time.” Time does not stand still and neither does your life. A passive stance in an active world only results in someone or something else dictating the course of your life.

The notion that life should be lived passively is something that we learn as children. Anyone who has children, or works with them, will tell you that children are naturally egocentric. When a baby is born, all of his** needs seem immediate. If you do not change his diaper immediately, feed him when he is hungry, or dress him suitably for the weather, he begins to cry. He will not stop crying until his need is met. As he gets older, “no” may become his favorite word. Some might say this is simply a continuation of an infant’s egocentrism. I would venture to add that “No” may also be a learned response. Why? Because that child might often be told “No” regardless of whether he is voicing  a need, desire, or want. “No, you can’t have that.” “No, we can’t do that right now” “No, we’ll do it later.” What message is being sent to the child? “Your need will be postponed because it is less important than mine.” I have come across many parents who seemed to use “no” as a default response rather than out of necessity. Although the child in my example will benefit from understanding the importance of being patient and following rules, he also may learn the unintended lessons that authority figures make decisions haphazardly and someone else is in charge of determining when his need will be met.

When the child enters elementary school, he receives further training. His teacher tells him to follow the rules, to speak only when it is his turn, and his individual needs are less important than the need for group order. Again, these premises are good and necessary for conducting oneself in an orderly society. Yet, they are often taught with such fervor at home and at school that the child begins to wait for a signal from an authority figure that it is time for him to take action so that he can meet his own need. Consequently, a child who is a natural leader may learn to take charge of a situation only when approval is granted by an authority figure. It may take years for this child, who may potentially be a fantastic entrepreneur or dynamic corporate executive, to unlearn these lessons of postponement and conformity.

The damage done by internalization of the principles of conformity and postponement is compounded by another principle that is often taught by parents: “be safe and don’t fail.” Parents want their children to be happy, healthy, and safe. Additionally, children today are subjected to more pressure to succeed and excel than at any other point in history. Consequently, parents tend to teach their children to play it safe, take fewer risks, and not make mistakes. The internalization of this principle together with those of postponement and conformity may produce a child who learns to live in fear. That child also learns it is safer to allow someone else to make decisions because he cannot be held accountable for any failure that occurs as a result of the decision..

I like to the term this behavior as “passive decision making.” You make passive decisions by your own inactivity, passivity, and ambivalence in a particular situation. Passive decisions are often caused by the actions of others. They result from your decision to allow life to happen to you. Do you have a history of passive decision making? Do you wait for an authority figure to tell you when it is time to take action. Unfortunately, those who taught you in your youth have all retired. Your parents have lived their lives and cannot make life-changing decisions for you. Also, they have not changed their desire for you to avoid failure. Your friends are comfortable with the predictability of your actions (or inaction). Passive decision-making is especially problematic if you are a corporate executive, small business owner, or entrepreneur. Other people, and your livelihood, depend upon your ability to make decisions. Those around you may see you as a strong person with great creativity. Yet, you may feel weak and look for a signal from someone else as to when it is time for you to step-up and take action.

It is up to you to decide to abandon the principles of passivity, conformity, and living life without risks that you internalized as a child. You are the only one who will live your life and you are completely responsible for your own actions or inaction. No one else will be sorry that you did not act decisively at any particular time. You are the only one who can take charge and live the life you desire. It is up to you to make the most of the opportunities that are presented to you each day.

My friend, today is the day to ask yourself: “What am I waiting for?” Decide that you will no longer be satisfied if life happens to you because of your passive decisions. Refuse to allow mundane tasks and your own inaction to dictate the course of your life. Set goals that will maximize your personal satisfaction and reach the new levels of success that you set in each of the five key areas of your life.*** Choose to be the captain of your own ship rather than allowing fate to seize the rudder from you and direct the course of your life!  

* please refer to Prioritizing Your Life is a Continual Process

** I am using the male pronoun for the sake of simplicity.

*** For more information about the five key areas of your life, please read The Personal Pinnacle Of Success: Defining Success and Climbing the Mountain on Your Own Terms

Copyright © 1998 – 2012 Susan C. Rempel, Ph.D.  All rights reserved.

This article (including the copyright notice) may be reprinted with the following the following attachment:

© 1998 – 2012 Susan C. Rempel, Ph.D.  All rights reserved.

Bingo Games, Motivational Material and More at www.UnCommonCourtesy.com! More than 200 holiday, religious, educational, and diversity bingo games and concentration sets available . Bingo games for adults and children to play at home, school, church, corporate meetings, and just about anywhere you can imagine. Games made to order for every occasion. Motivational articles and personal growth exercises too! Join Susan Rempel, Ph.D.’s blog: Seek THE Positive.

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Apr 212012
 

Last week, I wrote about Pollyanna’s decision to play “The Glad Game” (http://uncommoncourtesy.com/PlayTheGladGame.htm). This week I had the opportunity to play the Glad Game myself. My son, who tends to bring home more than his fair share of viruses, was sick again. One of my daughters was sick as well. That left my husband, my other daughter, and myself all in the line of fire to catch a nasty cold. The bug seemed to be going around my daughters’ school, and I couldn’t help but notice that the variety of responses to the prospect of being ill by those around me. A negative thinker in the bunch used it as another occasion to complain about yet another cold being passed around, as well as other aspects of her life that she viewed negatively.  My husband, who is very easy going, adopted a “What will be, will be” type attitude about the possibility of being infected by my germ laden son. The ever enthusiastic optimist in the crowd, that would be me, tried to act as if the illness did not exist and kept mumbling, “I am not getting sick. I am not getting sick. I’m sure I’ll feel better tomorrow,” while consuming heavy doses of a variety of vitamins and supplements.  

As I thought about the spectrum of reactions, I began to also think about the glasses that each of us wears.  No, I am not referring to corrective lenses. Perhaps you recall the phrase “seeing the world through rose colored glasses?”  It is very much like Pollyanna’s decision to play the Glad Game even when presented with the possibility that she might never walk again. Well, you, and everyone around you, view the world through a set of glasses. Your “glasses” are the outlook that you have adopted toward life.  They dictate how you respond to any given situation, and your overall perception of reality. You may not have voluntarily chosen the glasses you wear. That is, you were born with a particular temperament.  Then you spent years being part of a family that lived life in a certain manner.  These “family themes” are sometimes easier to recognize in other families than in your own.  Consider what we know about the famous Kennedy family of Massachusetts.  The children in that family were taught to take risks and have high aspirations.  Now consider the type of themes that your parents indoctrinated into you as a child. Were they positive themes (e.g., you can be successful) or negative themes (e.g., don’t make a mistake or you will fail)? Were they enabling or disabling? Finally, consider whether you have incorporated those themes into the outlook that you have as an adult.   

As you think about the theme that you live with and by, note how those around you employ themes in their lives. For example, consider how you, your family members, your boss, your employees, and your friends might react to a particular situation.  Imagine being stuck at a railroad crossing waiting for a long freight train to pass while you’re enroute to see a movie.  If there are several people in the car, there will undoubtedly be a wide variety of reactions.  Some people will be angry that they might miss the movie. Their theme focuses on the unfairness of life, or that life can become negative at any time. Others will see the same situation as a good excuse not to sit through all of the trailers that are shown before the main feature. These are people whose theme helps them to adapt or “go with the flow” of life. Still others will begin looking through the newspaper to see what other movies are available or even suggest just stopping off for coffee and dessert at that new restaurant in town. These are the individuals who view any situation as an opportunity to have something positive happen. Each of these individuals is reacting differently to the situation, in part, because of the theme that they have chosen to adopt.  It is clear that each one of these people wears a different set of glasses.

No doubt, you’ve read many articles about how your unconscious attitudes or themes affect your life.  However, I would like you to consider two  ways in which the glasses that you have chosen to wear affect your life.  First, they impact how those around you function.  Second, they also impact how others choose to view you. In order to explore these ideas further, allow me to introduce you to two imaginary individuals who wear very different sets of glasses: Ned (the negative thinker) and Oscar (the optimist).

Ned is a nay-sayer.  He can find the negative aspect of any situation even if it requires looking all night long.  Ned even found a negative point about winning the state lottery when he said, “imagine the taxes, the financial planning, and all the additional telemarketing telephone calls that I’d receive night after night.” Ned views the world as a dark and dangerous place.  Every decision is monumental.  Each life choice must be painstakingly scrutinized.  Consequently, Ned spends much of his free time worrying about the 1001 bad things that might happen to him at any time.  Ned’s brother was surprised when Ned actually had no reaction to a newspaper story that an asteroid might strike Earth within the next 100 years! 

Oscar, on the other hand, is an optimist.  He sees each day as another opportunity to be successful and help others.  The idea of doing something new and different excites Oscar because he likes to contemplate and explore all the interesting possibilities in life that are placed before him. He views life as a journey.  Even the setbacks that Oscar faces now and then are nothing more than life lessons that will ultimately help him to become more successful.

It may seem obvious to you how the glasses that Ned and Oscar wear impact how they function and perform in life.  What may not be so obvious is how others react to Ned and Oscar because of the glasses that each one has chosen to wear.  Ned and Oscar are supervisors at the same company.  Each is responsible for managing a large group of employees.  The people who Ned supervises don’t often approach him with new ideas.  They know that he wants to “stick with what works.”  He leads with an iron fist because controlling others gives Ned a feeling of security.  He sometimes micromanages situations and instills fear in his staff.  Ned’s entire work group has adopted his tentative attitude and is constantly concerned about the possible pitfalls that may result from their decisions.  While Ned’s supervisor views him as a dependable employee, she also sees him as a bit of a “stick in the mud.”  She has given up on passing along motivational material to Ned because she knows he will only see the negative aspects of the information.  At home, Ned’s family is well aware of his penchant for negativity.  His constant ruminations and worrying cause unnecessary tension and anxiety at home.  His wife is afraid to tell him about her problems because he will become upset.  His children have learned that he will be unresponsive to them as he lies on the couch and considers his negative fate.

There is quite another atmosphere in Oscar’s house. Oscar’s offspring can’t wait for him to get home.  He always has a great story to tell them and has time to help them work through their problems.  Oscar and his wife enjoy talking about things that they would like to do in the future.  They also try their best to enjoy each day as well.  Oscar is like a beacon of light at work.  His outlook inspires his employees to do their best.  He is interested in new ideas, strategies, and technology that will help his employees to meet and beat anything that their competitors might be doing.  Oscar has a plaque on his desk that reminds him of the benefits of persistence and a positive outlook. Oscar’s boss doesn’t bother giving him motivational material either.  However, unlike Ned, motivational material is unnecessary because Oscar is always bursting through her door with motivational material of his own to give to her.  Oscar’s employer sees him as a go-getter who will someday be running the whole company or forming an innovative company of his own!

As you can see from this example, the glasses that you put on every morning impact how you view the world, and how you will function in it. Additionally, the glasses that you wear directly impact how those around you behave and react to you.  Consider the overall impression that your boss, your spouse, and your friends have about you.  Are you a fun person to be around?  Are you always down in the dumps?  Do they think of you as one of the most energetic people in their lives?  Have they written you off of their “people who like to try something new” list? If you wear glasses that are similar to Ned’s, you may not realize the opportunities that you have missed, the relationships that have been damaged, and the potential successes that have not been realized merely because you wear a negative set of glasses much of the time. Although everyone has a “dark glasses day” now and then, it is up to you to choose to wear the clear and sharp glasses of an optimist. It is those glasses that will help you to see the opportunities around you and seize success in your life at home and work.

Today is the day to step back and examine how you view the world.  Ask others how they perceive you.  Evaluate how your actions communicate your view of the world to others.   When you get up tomorrow morning, make the choice to put on the bright sunny glasses that Oscar wears.  Then, go out there and have a great day!  Oh, how did I choose to play the Glad Game? I decided to be thankful that I did not get nearly as sick as my kids!

Copyright © 1997 – 2012 Susan C. Rempel, Ph.D.  All rights reserved.

This article (including the copyright notice) may be reprinted with the following the following attachment:

© 2012 Susan C. Rempel, Ph.D.  All rights reserved.

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Bingo Games, Motivational Material and More at www.UnCommonCourtesy.com! More than 200 holiday, religious, educational, and diversity bingo games and concentration sets available . Bingo games for adults and children to play at home, school, church, corporate meetings, and just about anywhere you can imagine. Games made to order for every occasion. Motivational articles and personal growth exercises too! Join Susan Rempel, Ph.D.’s blog: Seek THE Positive.

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Apr 212012
 

I am always fascinated by how people choose to respond to various situations. Quite often, an individual’s response gives me a clue about who the person really is, and what that person thinks about himself or herself.

I was quite interested in the response that I received concerning the “success stories” column in the Pinnacle Perspective (http://www.uncommoncourtesy.com/newsletter.htm). For the past few weeks, I have made it a point to ask each new subscriber to send me his or her own personal success story. I also posted a notice in the previous edition of the newsletter asking for people to send me success stories. I received quite a few responses, but they all seemed to indicate that the writer did not think of himself or herself as “successful.”

These responses reminded me that many people view success as something that will occur in the future. It is something that will be bestowed upon them after reaching their ultimate goal. Such a definition of success is self-defeating. It requires that a person postpone a positive definition of the self for years and sometimes decades.

If you think that you are someone who will be successful at some time in the future, then by necessity a small part of you must think that you are unsuccessful at this time. This is not true! The way that you should view success is as a process that you engage in throughout your life, not as a singular outcome that will happen in the future. That process is the road of success that you travel upon while climbing toward your Personal Pinnacle of Success.* Allow me to point out a few aspects of success and being successful which will reinforce the notion that success is a life pattern rather than an outcome of achieving a singular goal:

In actuality, you are successful at this very moment. If you examine your life history, you will be able to identify many moments during which you felt successful. Each of these moments were what I refer to as “experiences of success” or “successful experiences.” Additionally, each of these moments adds to sum of the successes that you experience during your lifetime.

Your definition of what it means to be successful will change over time. With each successful experience, there will come an adjustment of your definition of success. Most successful people will set a new, and higher, goal for themselves immediately after achieving a previously desired goal. You may sometimes forget how successful you have become because you have lost sight of all of your past experiences of success.

Becoming successful is a gradual process. Each new successful experience in your life increases the total of your successful experiences. It is easy to forget how far you have traveled along the road toward your Personal Pinnacle of Success* unless you take the time to write a performance evaluation for yourself that encompasses the past five to ten years. This exercise is well worth the time and effort because it will help you to see the success that you have experienced, and thereby enhance your confidence level and the probability of experiencing future successes. It will also help you to develop a list of achievable goals for the next five to ten years of your life.

Your next successful experience is often hiding just behind the roadblock that you think stands before you at this moment. Developing creative strategies to solve a current problem will often result in an avalanche of positive unintended consequences. Some of the best ideas in human history have been developed in the face of adversity.

Your next successful experience may also result from assuming a flexible or adaptive stance in response to a roadblock. As the old saying goes, “When life gives you lemons, you must make lemonade!”

You must begin to intrinsically think of yourself as a success in order to become more successful in the future. If you adopt a mindset that you cannot achieve something or are ultimately doomed to failure, you will fail. If you decide that you will find some how or some way to achieve your goals, then you will move forward in your life and experience a large number of successes.

The pattern of success in your life directly results from your own dogged determination and will to overcome any obstacle. Time Magazine’s recent article about exceptional students** noted that a key quality of many talented students is persistence. They set high goals for themselves. They keep working at a project until they are satisfied with the results. Their drive inevitably propels them toward a future filled with successful experiences. Those same qualities are clearly visible in most successful adults.

Successful experiences will occur in different areas of your life at different times in your life. So many people limit their definition of success to the area of work. As I noted in “The Personal Pinnacle of Success: Defining Success and Climbing the Mountain on Your Own Terms” , there are five key areas in your life. If you develop each area fully, you will have successful experiences in each area. However, it is unlikely that you will be highly successful in each area at the same time. Therefore, when you feel that you are not making progress in one area at the break neck speed that you desire, consider the progress that you are making in other areas. Allow yourself to savor successful experiences in each area of your life, rather than over-focusing on your career.

Success comes to those who seek it. Your future experience of success is, in part, determined by the road map that you develop. If you travel through life without an action plan, it is almost assured that you will experience frustration and a sense of failure. In order to achieve the success that you desire, you must determine where it is that you want to go and how you will get there.

Success is a pattern in your life rather than an outcome of it. If success was determined merely by reaching a single goal, then why would you continue on in life after you have reached that goal? Living a full and successful life is a process of setting, achieving, and setting new goals in each of the five key areas of life. In that you can never achieve perfection in any area of life, there will always be something to work on, something new to achieve, and new experiences to enjoy!

Today is the day to begin viewing yourself as a successful person. Consider your past experiences of success. Savor your present successful experiences. Develop a plan to expand your life to include more success in the days to come. The challenge for every human being is to make the most of the time that has been granted to him or her. There will never be another opportunity to rewind your life and experience it again. You cannot correct past mistakes or opportunities that have been lost, but you can decide to use them as stepping stones to future successes. You can also make the decision that you will begin to view yourself as a successful person. You can also challenge yourself to live a full, satisfying, and exciting life in the years to come.

* Please refer to my article: “The Personal Pinnacle of Success: Defining Success and Climbing the Mountain on Your Own Terms” at http://www.uncommoncourtesy.com/personal1.htm

** Wallis, Claudia (1998). “Their Eight Secrets of Success.” Time Magazine Vol. 152, No. 16. pp. 80-86.

Copyright © 1998 – 2012 Susan C. Rempel, Ph.D.  All rights reserved.

Celebrate Life today and everyday!

Susan

Susan C Rempel, Ph.D.

Do you like this article? Reprint it (with the following attachment of course) on your site or in your ezine!!

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© 1998 – 2012 Susan C. Rempel, Ph.D.  All rights reserved.

More than 200 holiday, religious, educational, and diversity bingo games and concentration sets available at http://www.uncommoncourtesy.com. Bingo games for adults and children to play at home, school, church, corporate meetings, and just about anywhere you can imagine. Games made to order for every occasion.Motivational articles and personal growth exercises too! Visit http://www.uncommoncourtesy.com today!

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Apr 212012
 

Do you remember when you got your first car? You may have been 16. You may have been 36. No matter what your age, I’ll bet your feelings were the same: pride and excitement. I remember how I felt about my first car. It was like my baby. I washed it. I waxed it. I carefully rubbed out any blemish in the wax and applied touch-up paint every time someone had the nerve to put a scratch on it!

Now, let me ask you a question: how do you feel about your work product? Everyone has a work product. Even as a therapist, there are times that I leave my office thinking, “Wow! I was really good today!” I have a sense of pride and excitement that is similar to my feelings about that new car. Then, there are the other times. The times when I walk out thinking: “Why am I doing this?” That’s when I have to take out my “positive polish” kit. That is the kit that helps me to focus on the good things that I have done, and plan how I can do other things better. Consider the process of washing and waxing a car. You don’t just glob on a bunch of wax and buff it out. No. No. No! First you must carefully wash and dry your car. You have to scrub using a liberal amount of elbow grease to get the dirt off. Then, you must dry off every inch and check to see if it is clear and ready for the wax. Likewise, you should also take out a recent piece or example of work product and examine it. How well did you run that meeting? Was your last memo well written? How about your most recent conflict with your adolescent? Did you react as you should have, or do you wish that you had responded differently? No matter whether you manage 1000 employees or a household of 2, you have some type of work product to examine.

The next step in a good wash and wax job is the application of the wax. Again, you can’t just throw globs of wax carelessly all over the car! You have to lovingly apply it in circular swirls all over the vehicle. Great care must be taken not to get wax on any of the rubber or glass surfaces. Just as you carefully apply the new coat of wax, you must also carefully consider how to lay the groundwork for improving your work product. How exactly could you add zest to the meal you regularly prepare for your family? What can you do to add spice to your relationship with your spouse or significant other? Is there something that you could do to make your next sales campaign more inspiring for your sales representatives? How can you communicate more effectively with your clients? This step requires both thought and planning, but as with the application of wax on a car, it is the most crucial step toward having an optimum final product.

Last, but not least, your car will not look fantastic until the wax is buffed to a glossy shine. Would you really drive your car down the main street of your town with a white coat of unpolished wax there for everyone to see? No way! To avoid that embarrassment you rub and rub until all the wax is polished, and your car is shiny bright. Your revised work product won’t be ready for viewing until you’ve applied substantial amounts of mental elbow grease as well. This is the time that you pull out all the stops and put together a thoughtful, fabulous presentation! It’s the time when you show your child that you’ll be more involved in his or her life by taking time to volunteer at his school. It’s the time that you stay up all night to finalize the details of the new employee manual for your company, so it will be the best one ever written!

The next time that you feel a bit glum about your work or work product, don’t forget to pull out your positive polish kit. Examine your work carefully. How can it be improved? Remove anything that prevents it from shining. Plan how you can make it better. Lay the foundation for improvement. Work like crazy to implement your plans. Then, step back and experience the pride and excitement in your work product that you once felt for your first car!

Celebrate Life today and everyday!

Susan

Susan C Rempel, Ph.D.

Do you like this article? Reprint it (with the following attachment of course) on your site or in your ezine!!

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© 2007 Susan C. Rempel, Ph.D.  All rights reserved.

More than 200 holiday, religious, educational, and diversity bingo games and concentration sets available at http://www.uncommoncourtesy.com. Bingo games for adults and children to play at home, school, church, corporate meetings, and just about anywhere you can imagine. Games made to order for every occasion.Motivational articles and personal growth exercises too! Visit http://www.uncommoncourtesy.com today!

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Apr 212012
 

 

Have you experienced one or more of the following scenarios?

Scenario 1: It’s 6:00 a.m. I open one eye as I hear the dogs moving around downstairs. I become aware that my muscles still ache from the cleaning project I just had to get done.  Next, I hear my kids stomping around to let me know “it’s time for breakfast.” Then, even though I close both eyes again in hopes it really isn’t time to greet the new day, the alarm clock goes off. I drag myself out of bed knowing that in the next two hours a meal must be made, the house must be picked up, everyone needs to get to school on time, exercise needs to get checked off my list, and so on before I am ready to begin working. Of course, there are all those commitments that I made to friends, teachers, and colleagues that that loom in the back of my mind! The daily household routine that I refer to as “the road rally” has begun.

Scenario 2: I stroll into my office, pour myself a cup of coffee and casually flip on my computer. After settling into my comfortable chair, I hop onto the Internet and start my e-mail program. My heart begins to race as my inbox starts to overflow, a plethora of Facebook friends have sent me wonderful messages that I want to respond to, and then there are the orders, questions, and so forth that need to be addressed immediately. My workday has officially begun.

Scenario 3: My brother used to comment: “You are never happy unless you are riding around with your hair on fire!” My life has been filled with taking extra classes, holding multiple jobs, trying to be a full time volunteer and business owner, and then throwing in family, friends, and interests into the mix. I just can’t seem to help myself, and I have the energy level necessary to believe that I actually can do everything all the time. My husband often asks me, “Really? Do you REALLY need to do all of this?” Lately, I’ve been trying to develop a series of satellite sites with theme specific content, blog about improving health and well being**, create new bingo games, expand my business, and a host of other things that create endless lists all over my desk! That doesn’t even scratch the surface of all the “Mom, can you help me with….” issues that go on from day to day in my life.

If you have experienced something similar to one of these three scenarios, you undoubtedly have felt tired and stressed. The three scenarios represent three variations on the same theme: too much of a good thing can be overwhelming. Everyone experiences periods when one or more aspects of their lives seem to be overwhelming. However, feelings of stress and pressure may begin to accumulate if multiple parts of your life start moving at a fast and furious pace! In my own case, these three scenarios (plus other stressful events) have been present in my life for the past few weeks. When I recently stepped back and examined my own life, I determined that I am a prime candidate for the “too much of a good thing” syndrome.

How you respond to the simultaneous appearance of multiple stressors in your life depends on several factors. The first factor is the image that you try to present to others in response to a stressful situation. Can you acknowledge that something is difficult for you? Do you have a support network in place to help you through tough times? Conversely, is it your desire to behave as if no amount of stress bothers you? In general, people who need to present themselves as being able to handle any stressful situation that occurs in their lives without a hitch will respond to the stress psychosomatically (i.e., an ulcer) or in a way that is unintentional (e.g., getting into a car accident because they are not paying attention to what is happening around them).

A second factor in responding to multiple sources of stress is how you internally deal with stress. Are you able to deal with chaos, or do you have the need to only tackle one problem at a time? Do you feel it is acceptable to postpone things that are not critical at any moment, or must you complete every task in your life according to a rigid schedule. Let me analogize how you internally deal with stress to how you might respond to a large wave that is approaching you while you swim in the ocean. You could choose to fight the wave by swimming over it, or try to swim faster than the wave is moving toward shore so that you would escape being impacted by the wave. You might even choose to keep swimming as if nothing is about to happen. If you have ever tired any of these strategies, you know that the consequences of your actions will not be pleasant. You would probably end up lying on the beach with your mouth full of sand. However, if you take a deep breath and dive to the ocean floor, the wave will most likely wash over you with only a small amount of pull on your body. This strategy acknowledges that you can’t get out of the way and can’t ignore the situation. Your choice acknowledges the stressor’s presence and deals with it in a realistic manner. Further it is both an active and a positive response to a potentially problematic situation.

A third factor that impacts your response to stressful situations is how those around you respond to your statements and behavior. While you may receive some amount of empathy for a hectic home life, you should anticipate that the majority of the responses will be different from what you would like. Some people will tell you, “that’s what happens when you have children.” Others will explain to you that all families go through periods which result in parental stress and exhaustion, but someday those periods will be fondly remembered. The third general type of response will be advice about how to minimize the stress or deal with the situation. Of course, there are as many different ways to parent children as there are children to parent. Consequently, you may interpret the advise as an irritating directive which cannot be followed rather than the helpful hint in which it was intended. The response that you will receive if you are “too successful” in business is more than likely going to be less empathic than if you appear to be overwhelmed by your home life. “Awe, gee, that’s too bad” may be a common response because others will wish that they had that type of “problem” to deal with.

There are a myriad of possible responses to feeling overwhelmed by the combination of stress and responsibility from several different areas of your life. The least desirable is to adopt an “I can handle it all” attitude. This is a very tiring approach to life. Eventually, any human being will become weary from living life at the pace of an Olympic runner. Trying to do too much too fast will not only result in mistakes but possibly accidents. It also often results in an ill advised decision to stop doing everything at once. Let me suggest that you step back for a moment and gain some perspective on your life. Now is the time to analyze the choices that you have made. Are you trying to do too much at once? Think about the priorities and values that you have about living life. What do they direct you to do? Is that what you are doing, or have you adopted the priorities that have been set for you by someone else? Now may be the time to focus your attention on your family or seize the opportunity to make your business a success. Is there something you are doing that can be postponed, or is it possible to delegate a time-consuming task to someone else. I often tell my clients that life is like a train. It doesn’t stop moving along the track just because you would like it to slow down. However, you do have the choice of what your destination will be, what line you will ride on, and whether you ride first class or coach.

When you begin to feel overwhelmed by your life, take a moment to step back. Examine the course that you are on and decide whether it is time to alter that course. Also, consider whether you are carrying extra baggage that can best be dealt with by someone else. It may be that you are on the course that you desire, have minimized excess baggage, and life’s stresses and strains continue to overwhelm you. In that case, it is important to carve out a small portion of time each week that is devoted solely to caring for yourself. I practice yoga everyday and find it is invaluable in helping me cope with the life I choose to live. There are a wide variety of things you can choose to do to take care of yourself. Take a long bath. Set aside one hour each week to read a book or the Sunday paper. Begin a workout program that helps you to better tolerate the stress. Have lunch with a friend. Take your children to the park and watch them play with other children. The possibilities are endless. In the midst of a hectic life, it is important to occasionally take a deep breath and remind yourself that there is a reason why you are working so hard. The most important thing to remember is that when your life is at an end, you will want to be satisfied with how you have spent the time that you have been given. In my case, I hope to be able to look back and feel that I have not wasted a single minute of my life. It is my goal to live the fullest and richest life that I possibly can. Take a moment to consider your life course, and what you would like to have accomplished by the end of your time here on Earth. However, you must also take steps today so that you live life at a tolerable pace and minimize your risk of suffering from the “too much of a good thing syndrome.”

Celebrate Life today and everyday!

Susan

Susan C Rempel, Ph.D.

* If you have ideas for my satellite sites, please let me know. Visit them at: bingoforhalloween.com, bingoforchristmas.com, bingoforparties.com, bingoforleanring.com, bingofordiversity.com, bingoforchristians.com, and bingoforcatholics.com

** Read and subscribe to my blog at: http://www.bingoforlearning.com/healthblog/

 

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Apr 212012
 

Remember the slogan from President Clinton’s 1992 campaign: “It’s the economy, stupid?” That slogan was posted in each campaign office to remind the staff what Bill Clinton wanted them to focus on, and what was important to the voters. Analogously, I have heard from many subscribers that what they were interested in, and what was important to them, were articles pertaining to forming and maintaining a relationship with others.

Connecting with people is really the cornerstone of success. “It’s the connection, stupid!” may be a sign that you want to place on your desk or bathroom mirror in order to remember the importance of forming and maintaining good connections with others. However, this skill is not something that is specifically taught to most children. Often, it is not until a person reaches adulthood that they realize some people have an easier time making friends and working with others than they do. How many people do you know who are intelligent, maybe even brilliant, but are unsuccessful in their careers and/or family life? Why? Because they have difficulty maintaining warm and meaningful connections with others. The following is the first in a four part series that focuses on connecting and improving relationships with others.

FORMING NEW CONNECTIONS

Although you did not realize it at the time, you learned how to form connections with other people as a child. One of the most important lessons that you learned from your parents was about forming and maintaining relationships with others. If your parents had a large circle of friends, it now probably comes naturally for you to interact socially with others. If your parents had only a few close friendships, you may find that you form strong attachments with friends but have difficulty interacting with others (e.g., if you enter a room filled with people you don’t know). If you were taught by your parents to never talk to strangers, you may have problems talking to them now. You may also have trouble interacting with authority figures. It is important to consider the manner in which these lessons that you learned from your parents may continue to affect how you form and maintain connections with others.

If you spend some time on a playground, you will soon notice that children generally have less fear about playing with, talking to, or beginning to form a relationship with other children than the most aggressive salesman has about striking up a conversation with a stranger. Children naturally want to interact with other children. Although many of these initial relationships flounder and disintegrate, children are fearless about forming new relationships. However, if you followed the same child from his or her play in the sandbox with other 3 year olds to adolescence, you would see how that child’s socialization experiences impact his or her ability to form connections with others as an adolescent. Along with the lessons that you learned from your family, you also learned many lessons from your early social interactions with others. Did you frequently become the leader among your peers? Were there a series of negative experiences in your childhood (e.g., being picked on by a bully) that led you to be cautious about interacting with other children? Were you frequently in the “popular” clique, or did you always find yourself the object of other children’s taunts?. The lessons that you learned from your family and your experiences with other children likely will dictate how you connect with others as an adult. Therefore, it is important to examine how these socialization experiences impact and shape how you function in the world today.

When assessing your ability to connect with others, you should first examine your patterns of interaction with strangers. Do you avoid eye contact with people that you do not know? Are you reluctant to place yourself in a room full of strangers? Can you easily strike up a conversation with someone that you have just met? Forming connections with others can be quite difficult if you’ve lost (or never had) the reckless abandon about interacting with peers that comes naturally to most children.

If it is difficult for you to form new relationships with others, here are a few suggestions to help you form new and better connections in the future:

Decide that improving your ability to connect with others is a priority in your life. This ability is critical to success in your social, business, and family life. However, you will never improve your ability to connect with others unless you decide that it is time to make changes in your life.

Take the time to consider the lessons that you learned from your parents about interacting with others (particularly strangers and new friends). What positive and negative lessons did you learn? How have these lessons impacted you as an adult? Were there influences from authority figures in your childhood and adolescence that conveyed different messages than those you learned from your parents (e.g., a teacher that helped you work out problems with other children)?

Examine what your socialization experiences were with other children. Did you make friends easily? Were you popular or did you often feel isolated and on the outside? How did you cope when your attempts at friendship with another child? If you still maintain friendships with people that you grew up with, ask them to describe your behavior. It may prove to be an enlightening experience.

Keep a journal for several weeks that focuses on your interactions with people you don’t know or have just met. Do you maintain eye contact with others? Can you engage in “chit-chat” with store clerks? How do you begin and end conversations with new business contacts or parents of your child(ren)’s friends?

Divide these observations into “successful experiences” and “areas that need improvement”.

Develop a battle plan for becoming more comfortable and successful in interacting with people that you have just met. It may start with simply maintaining eye contact as you pay for something that you purchase at a store. If conversation with others is difficult, develop a list of mundane topics (e.g., the weather or an upcoming event at your child’s school) that you could talk about with someone you have just met. Look for things that you can use as a compliment with someone you have just met. A compliment is a great way to strike up a conversation. “That’s a great shirt you are wearing. Where did you get it?” or “I really like what you have done to your house since you moved in,” or “I’ve always wanted a car like yours. How does it run?” Any of these comments and questions can serve as the launching pad for a brief conversation that may lead to the formation of a new relationship.

Think about the attitude that you generally display when you’re with others. Are you a “positive person” that people are naturally attracted to, or are you a “doom and gloom person” that most people would turn away from? Remember that a sunny disposition will cause others to want to interact with you. It will also have a myriad of other positive effects on your life and health.

Begin to look at people you don’t know as potential new friends or business contacts rather than strangers who you don’t need or don’t want to know. Everyone has an interesting aspect of their life if you take the time to ask them about it.

As your ability to interact and form connections with new people improves, you will want to improve your existing relationships as well. That will be the focus of my next article.

As always, thank you for subscribing to the Pinnacle Perspective!

Warmest regards,

Susan

 

Copyright © 1999- 2012 Susan C. Rempel, Ph.D.


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Apr 212012
 

* For those of you who did not read the first article in this series, the title of this article is drawn from the slogan of President Clinton’s 1992 campaign: “It’s the economy, stupid!”

In part 1 of this series, I focused on how to establish new relationships or “connections”. In this article, I’d like to focus on how to maintain and deepen connections with your friends.

Friends are a very interesting group of people. A “friend” can be defined on a continuum from a person who is only slightly better known to you than an acquaintance to someone who may be even more important to you than members of your family. Maintaining a friendship usually takes more effort than what is required to maintain a bond with a family member. I have had numerous clients tell me that they are “stuck” with their families but are willing to work hard to deepen and expand relationships that they value with friends.

As with your ability to establish new connections, your patterns for initiating, maintaining and strengthening friendships were initially formed in childhood. You may have always had a “best friend” or a series of “best friends” as you moved through childhood. You may have developed a set of friends that you still have contact with today. Adolescents often have a sense of “us” or “our group” that is connected with a close circle of peers. However, if it was difficult for you to form and maintain close friendships as a child, you may have felt like an “outsider”, or not at-ease, when interacting with your peers. As an adult, you most likely enhanced your ability to make friends and form professional relationships as you entered your chosen profession. No matter what type of patterns you have established for making and maintaining friends, it’s always possible to improve your skills as a friend. Does the idea of having “friendship skills” seem odd? Well, regardless of what type of relationship you describe (e.g., marriage, friendship, business associate, etc.), you unconsciously employ a set of skills to make those relationships work. The key to successful relationships of any kind is to continue to broaden and enhance your skills throughout the course of your life.

Although volumes have been written about how to make friends and friendships, I’d like to focus on a few points that are often neglected:

Continuity

Do you remember the old adage, “good friends are there through thick and thin?” That is an accurate statement. A good friend is reliable. If you make a commitment to a friend, you should make every effort to keep it. Friends are also consistent. You may have a wide variety of “friends” that are drawn from the different components of your life, but you will find that “good friends” interact with each other on a fairly consistent basis regardless of whether you only see them at work or just while leaning over the fence in the backyard.

Commonalties

Friendships often begin because of commonalties that exist between two individuals. These commonalties give people a basis on which to build a rapport and get to know one another. However, the initial commonalties may be short lived (e.g., working on a project at work or at your child’s school), so it is imperative for friends to continue to establish new commonalties and find areas that will enable them to deepen and expand their friendship.

Empathy

Empathy is the ability to relate to what someone else is experiencing. Friends are good at empathizing with one another because of the commonalties upon which their relationship is based. One problem that often arises between friends is when one friend expects the other to be empathic, while not having any interest in the other person’s life problems. If you find yourself repeatedly telling your troubles to a friend without hearing any of his or hers in return, you should consider your friendship to be in danger. Now is the time to ask probing questions and determine what your friend would like to talk about or do with you. Listening to others, as well as expecting them to listen to you, is a key component of friendship.

Treat Your Friends Well

Doing things for others, in addition to listening to them, is an important part of friendship. It is the unanticipated and thoughtful gestures that friends often do for one another that will lead to a long term relationship. Bringing soup to a sick friend, sending a card to say how important someone is to you, or extending a “just drop by for a glass of wine” invitation acknowledges someone’s importance in your life much more effectively than mere words.

Be Positive

It goes without saying that I would encourage you to generally maintain onto a positive disposition when interacting with your friends. As I said before, sometimes friendships can deteriorate into a “woe is me” type of relationship. It is important that the majority of your conversations with any friend contain some positive news or ideas. This is not to say that you should not talk to your friends during troubled times, but you should also not go out of your way to be a “Gloomy Gus” if things are generally going well in your life.

Maintaining and deepening the connections that you have with your friends is an important part of having a full, rich, rewarding, and exciting life. Take time today to examine how you interact with your friends and determine what you can do to be a better friend to others!

This article (including the copyright notice) may be reprinted with the following the following attachment:

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Apr 212012
 

Here is the question that was sent to “Ask Dr. Rempel” at susan@uncommoncourtesy.com :

I am the manager of a high school baseball team. The guys have a thing that they seem to lose every game because they go out on the field with the attitude “Well here’s another game that were gonna lose”. Is there a way that I can motivate them so that they might actually go out on the field with their heads up high and the attitude that there going to win?

** A note to all readers.  This article is written with masculine pronouns.  However, that was done to improve the article’s “readability” rather than because of any belief on my part that women can not make great baseball players and/or managers.

Here’s my response:

Give Me a “T” . . .

            Why, you might ask, am I writing an article about motivating a baseball team?  First, I am always interested in helping others to help children. Second, I am an ardent baseball fan. Third, and most importantly, managing a baseball team is a terrific analogy to use when thinking about managing any group.  The manager must deal with the players’ personalities and abilities, as well as the “personality” of the team itself.  He must also develop strategies to help his team succeed and win their games. It seems only natural to begin this new column in our newsletter by discussing this fascinating and timely topic since baseball season will be here before you know it!

We tend to think of a team as a group, but it is really a collection of individuals.  As with all groups, a team is a group of individuals held together by a unifying goal or a common trait.  The team’s short term goal is to win the game. Its long-term goal is to win the championship. Many management experts will tell you that a team’s success is reflective of its manager’s ability to help it focus on a common goal. However, I would like to suggest that you turn your attention towards the individuals that make up your team.

            The individual members of the team are the building blocks of its success. I remember helping my son learn to read when he was three years old.  Working with him reminded me that the word “team” is nothing more than four individual letters: “t”, “e”, “a”, and “m”.  As each letter contributes to the formation of a word, each team member has something to contribute to the team’s success.  He will also have something that prevents him, and ultimately the team, from reaching his personal pinnacle of success*. A good manager will identify the strengths of the team’s individual members, help each individual to improve upon his strengths, and develop a team that takes maximum advantage of all of the assets that each member brings to the team.  However, a great manager will also challenge each member to learn new skills, reduce weaknesses, and gradually improve whatever holds him back from becoming a better player.

            When working with the individual team members, it is important to use and teach them “I think I can strategies.” Do you remember the 1999 World Series? The New York Yankees had an awesome team, but they also had a weak link. Their second baseman worked himself into the habit of overthrowing first base. His problem did not stem from a lack of skills or experience. His expectations caused the problem. He heard over and over that under certain circumstances he lost his focus and threw the ball poorly. Those predictions became a self-fulfilling prophecy. He anticipated that he might overthrow first base when those circumstances arose.  The manager, Joe Torre, was criticized for leaving him in the game. However, leaving the player in gave him the confidence that he needed to rectify his problem.  Each player on the team needs validation that he is talented and is of value to the team.  Confident players can often play above their actual skill levels when called to do so by an inspirational manager. There are an endless number of methods that a leader can use to improve the confidence of team members, and a great manager will have a large bag full of means by which to get that job done.

            Once the manager has worked individually with each group member, it is time to develop and inspire the team leadership.  After all, the “t” in “team” stands high above the other letters.  It is the manager’s job to identify and motivate not just a team leader, but also a leadership group comprised of a person from each segment of the team.  A baseball team needs to have a leader in the infield, outfield, and pitching segments of the team so that the manager has eyes and ears in each of the team’s units.  The manager should sit down with his team leaders and talk about not only how each component can work better within itself, but also how the components can work more cohesively toward the common goal. The team’s leaders can teach individual members to support one another. They can also work with players who don’t understand that their own negativity about themselves or other players can damage the team’s morale and performance. They can also identify problems for the manager that might be otherwise overlooked.

            Another good management technique is to consider how each member and each position could be used differently.  The four letters found in the word “team” can also be used to spell out “meat,” “mate, and “meta.” Think of all the great stories that would never have been written if every writer thought the four letters “t”, “e”, “a”, and “m” could only be combined to spell the word “team.” Casey Stengel was the master of mixing things up to improve his team’s performance. For example, he was among the first (if not the first) manager to use relief pitching. A manager needs to give new challenges to his players.  He also should consider how team members could be used differently in order to improve the team’s performance.  For example, a quick third baseman with a strong arm might trade positions with an outfielder who just isn’t fast enough to get in position to catch many fly balls.

            Of course, there are endless ways in which a manager can motivate team members. I would encourage you to examine the problem that is bogging down your team and work to facilitate a positive and productive process to enhance your team’s performance.

Celebrate Life today and Everyday!

Susan

Susan C Rempel, Ph.D.

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Apr 212012
 

 Let’s take a moment and think of them.  Think of some of the excuses that you can drum up to keep from trying something new, taking a risk, or doing something to change your life:

  •                    Something may go wrong.

  •                    Things may not go the way that I planned.

  •                    I tried doing something once, and it didn’t work out.

  •                    Bad things could happen if I am unsuccessful, so I won’t try.

  •                    It might upset those around me if I change my behavior.

            The list of possibilities is endless. There are so many reasons why you should not take any risks in life – except for one thing.  Living in fear is not really living at all! 

            Fear is a natural response to any dangerous situation. Fear is something that children naturally possess.  The fear of strangers, the fear of falling, and the fear of the dark are all fears that are routinely found in children. Being fearful can have a protective effect on a child’s well being.  For example, being afraid of loud noises could prevent a child from fearlessly running into a dangerous situation. However, adults sometimes generalize this “protective intuition” into a fear of trying anything new because they do not want to fail or make a mistake.

            Most people who lead full, rich, and satisfying lives will validate that personal growth is a very important aspect of their lives.  If you are the same person at 40 years of age that you were when you were 20 years old, you may very well be bored, unhappy, and feel that your life has gone nowhere. That very well may be the case! Every day that you waste will not be replaced.  Just imagine how you would feel if you woke up one day and felt that you had wasted 20 years of your life!  Living in fear will prevent you from growing as a person.  If you constantly second guess yourself, focus on your mistakes, and think about the downside of any new situation, you will never voluntarily choose to move forward with your life.  It will be difficult for you to be a “self-starter” or make any changes in your life because you will be afraid of all the possible negative outcomes of your decision.

            The fear of making a mistake also results in another sad situation: it is very unlikely that you will take advantage of all the opportunities in your life that present themselves to you.  You may choose not to make a change in your career, take a promotion to a different type of job in the same company, enter into a new business venture, enter into a new relationship, or have a child.  These are just a few of the decisions that may be put off and put off until you can no longer take advantage of them. There are, in fact, many opportunities in life (e.g., a career change or having a child) for which there is never a “perfect time.”   Waiting for that time is really making a decision not to move forward with your life. The majority of the opportunities that we have in life (e.g., beginning a new relationship or entering into a new business venture) are time limited.  Therefore, your paralysis about whether or not to take advantage of an opportunity will simply result in that opportunity being lost.

            Many of my clients who have repeatedly failed to take advantage of opportunities (especially business opportunities that have later proved to be successful ventures for someone else) experience a sense of failure or depression.  “Why didn’t I do that” is a question that may nag at them for the rest of their lives.  These feelings can only lead to unhappiness and the belief that they have wasted large chunks of their lives. Unhappiness or general non-enjoyment of life can lead to a plethora of unintended consequences including poor health, severed relationships, and depression or anxiety.

            My message to you should be clear:  while it is important to carefully weigh the opportunities that are placed before you, choosing to live a “safe” life with few or no risks may also be a choice to live a frustrating and unhappy life.  A certain amount of risk-taking is an important part of any full and successful life. Yes, there will be times that you fail.  Yes, there will be times when you wish you had made another decision.  Yes, hindsight may prove that waiting for a different opportunity would have been a better decision. However, each of your decisions that result in a successful experience will give you a general sense of happiness about your life.  They will also open more successful opportunities to you in the future.

            There are endless reasons to not act on a hunch, seize an opportunity, or live each day to the fullest.  However, the lost opportunities and the lack of enjoyment of your life will far and away outweigh any risk that you may choose to take.  When in doubt, just remember: living in fear is not really living at all!

 Copyright © 2000 – 2011 Susan C. Rempel, Ph.D. All rights reserved.

 

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Mar 222012
 

Recently, I wrote about Pollyanna’s decision to play “The Glad Game” (http://uncommoncourtesy.com/PlayTheGladGame.htm). This week I had the opportunity to play the Glad Game myself. My son, who tends to bring home more than his fair share of viruses, was sick again. One of my daughters was sick as well. That left my husband, my other daughter, and myself all in the line of fire to catch a nasty cold. The bug seemed to be going around my daughters’ school, and I couldn’t help but notice that the variety of responses to the prospect of being ill by those around me. A negative thinker in the bunch used it as another occasion to complain about yet another cold being passed around, as well as other aspects of her life that she viewed negatively.  My husband, who is very easy going, adopted a “What will be, will be” type attitude about the possibility of being infected by my germ laden son. The ever enthusiastic optimist in the crowd, that would be me, tried to act as if the illness did not exist and kept mumbling, “I am not getting sick. I am not getting sick. I’m sure I’ll feel better tomorrow,” while consuming heavy doses of a variety of vitamins and supplements.  

As I thought about the spectrum of reactions, I began to also think about the glasses that each of us wears.  No, I am not referring to corrective lenses. Perhaps you recall the phrase “seeing the world through rose colored glasses?”  It is very much like Pollyanna’s decision to play the Glad Game even when presented with the possibility that she might never walk again. Well, you, and everyone around you, view the world through a set of glasses. Your “glasses” are the outlook that you have adopted toward life.  They dictate how you respond to any given situation, and your overall perception of reality. You may not have voluntarily chosen the glasses you wear. That is, you were born with a particular temperament.  Then you spent years being part of a family that lived life in a certain manner.  These “family themes” are sometimes easier to recognize in other families than in your own.  Consider what we know about the famous Kennedy family of Massachusetts.  The children in that family were taught to take risks and have high aspirations.  Now consider the type of themes that your parents indoctrinated into you as a child. Were they positive themes (e.g., you can be successful) or negative themes (e.g., don’t make a mistake or you will fail)? Were they enabling or disabling? Finally, consider whether you have incorporated those themes into the outlook that you have as an adult.   

As you think about the theme that you live with and by, note how those around you employ themes in their lives. For example, consider how you, your family members, your boss, your employees, and your friends might react to a particular situation.  Imagine being stuck at a railroad crossing waiting for a long freight train to pass while you’re enroute to see a movie.  If there are several people in the car, there will undoubtedly be a wide variety of reactions.  Some people will be angry that they might miss the movie. Their theme focuses on the unfairness of life, or that life can become negative at any time. Others will see the same situation as a good excuse not to sit through all of the trailers that are shown before the main feature. These are people whose theme helps them to adapt or “go with the flow” of life. Still others will begin looking through the newspaper to see what other movies are available or even suggest just stopping off for coffee and dessert at that new restaurant in town. These are the individuals who view any situation as an opportunity to have something positive happen. Each of these individuals is reacting differently to the situation, in part, because of the theme that they have chosen to adopt.  It is clear that each one of these people wears a different set of glasses.

No doubt, you’ve read many articles about how your unconscious attitudes or themes affect your life.  However, I would like you to consider two  ways in which the glasses that you have chosen to wear affect your life.  First, they impact how those around you function.  Second, they also impact how others choose to view you. In order to explore these ideas further, allow me to introduce you to two imaginary individuals who wear very different sets of glasses: Ned (the negative thinker) and Oscar (the optimist).

Ned is a nay-sayer.  He can find the negative aspect of any situation even if it requires looking all night long.  Ned even found a negative point about winning the state lottery when he said, “imagine the taxes, the financial planning, and all the additional telemarketing telephone calls that I’d receive night after night.” Ned views the world as a dark and dangerous place.  Every decision is monumental.  Each life choice must be painstakingly scrutinized.  Consequently, Ned spends much of his free time worrying about the 1001 bad things that might happen to him at any time.  Ned’s brother was surprised when Ned actually had no reaction to a newspaper story that an asteroid might strike Earth within the next 100 years! 

Oscar, on the other hand, is an optimist.  He sees each day as another opportunity to be successful and help others.  The idea of doing something new and different excites Oscar because he likes to contemplate and explore all the interesting possibilities in life that are placed before him. He views life as a journey.  Even the setbacks that Oscar faces now and then are nothing more than life lessons that will ultimately help him to become more successful.

It may seem obvious to you how the glasses that Ned and Oscar wear impact how they function and perform in life.  What may not be so obvious is how others react to Ned and Oscar because of the glasses that each one has chosen to wear.  Ned and Oscar are supervisors at the same company.  Each is responsible for managing a large group of employees.  The people who Ned supervises don’t often approach him with new ideas.  They know that he wants to “stick with what works.”  He leads with an iron fist because controlling others gives Ned a feeling of security.  He sometimes micromanages situations and instills fear in his staff.  Ned’s entire work group has adopted his tentative attitude and is constantly concerned about the possible pitfalls that may result from their decisions.  While Ned’s supervisor views him as a dependable employee, she also sees him as a bit of a “stick in the mud.”  She has given up on passing along motivational material to Ned because she knows he will only see the negative aspects of the information.  At home, Ned’s family is well aware of his penchant for negativity.  His constant ruminations and worrying cause unnecessary tension and anxiety at home.  His wife is afraid to tell him about her problems because he will become upset.  His children have learned that he will be unresponsive to them as he lies on the couch and considers his negative fate.

There is quite another atmosphere in Oscar’s house. Oscar’s offspring can’t wait for him to get home.  He always has a great story to tell them and has time to help them work through their problems.  Oscar and his wife enjoy talking about things that they would like to do in the future.  They also try their best to enjoy each day as well.  Oscar is like a beacon of light at work.  His outlook inspires his employees to do their best.  He is interested in new ideas, strategies, and technology that will help his employees to meet and beat anything that their competitors might be doing.  Oscar has a plaque on his desk that reminds him of the benefits of persistence and a positive outlook. Oscar’s boss doesn’t bother giving him motivational material either.  However, unlike Ned, motivational material is unnecessary because Oscar is always bursting through her door with motivational material of his own to give to her.  Oscar’s employer sees him as a go-getter who will someday be running the whole company or forming an innovative company of his own!

As you can see from this example, the glasses that you put on every morning impact how you view the world, and how you will function in it. Additionally, the glasses that you wear directly impact how those around you behave and react to you.  Consider the overall impression that your boss, your spouse, and your friends have about you.  Are you a fun person to be around?  Are you always down in the dumps?  Do they think of you as one of the most energetic people in their lives?  Have they written you off of their “people who like to try something new” list? If you wear glasses that are similar to Ned’s, you may not realize the opportunities that you have missed, the relationships that have been damaged, and the potential successes that have not been realized merely because you wear a negative set of glasses much of the time. Although everyone has a “dark glasses day” now and then, it is up to you to choose to wear the clear and sharp glasses of an optimist. It is those glasses that will help you to see the opportunities around you and seize success in your life at home and work.

Today is the day to step back and examine how you view the world.  Ask others how they perceive you.  Evaluate how your actions communicate your view of the world to others.   When you get up tomorrow morning, make the choice to put on the bright sunny glasses that Oscar wears.  Then, go out there and have a great day!  Oh, how did I choose to play the Glad Game? I decided to be thankful that I did not get nearly as sick as my kids!

Copyright © 1997 – 2012 Susan C. Rempel, Ph.D.  All rights reserved.