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 C Rempel, Ph.D.

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

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Mar 142012

In “Avoidance May Actually Be An Opportunity In Disguise (Part 1)”, I talked about how mundane tasks are often avoided out of fear and/or boredom. What about those unpleasant encounters that you would like to avoid at your work place? Have you avoided a discussion with your boss about one of the aspects of your job that you would like to change? How about confrontations with your employees? Possibly, you have avoided introducing a client to a new idea or product. Each of these avoidance situations is really an opportunity to become more successful!

Employees frequently are reluctant to discuss new ideas with their employers. This reluctance stems not only from the fear that their idea will be rejected, but also out of their fear of being ridiculed. “What a stupid idea,” your boss will say. Really? If your boss rejects ideas in that manner, perhaps it is time to look for a new job! More than likely, your boss will take part or all of your idea and seriously consider implementing it. In most companies, managers have become managers because they are assertive, were successful in previous work-related positions, or have focused their talents and energies on the success of the company. Managers are (or should be) constantly looking for new ideas! That’s also true for company assistant vice presidents, vice presidents, presidents, and CEOs. Anyone in a position of authority and responsibility within a business entity should always be interested in ways and ideas that can make the company more successful and profitable.

Have you been avoiding a confrontation with an employee? One client recently told me about his difficulty in dealing with subordinates who seem to enjoy being confrontational or challenging her authority. We talked about her approach to dealing with such employees. She consistently went head-to-head with these people trying to match their level of energy. Although she always won each battle, she felt that she was losing the war. “I’m tired,” she said, “and sometimes I just feel like taking the day off.” The problem wasn’t that she disliked her job. It was that the confrontations consumed all her time and depleted her energy. I suggested that she consider using a different strategy for interacting with difficult employees. Instead of coming to logger heads, she should try to listen to what the employee is saying. Then, she should reframe what was said in the most positive light possible from her point of view.

Another approach is based on the notion that most people have patterns of interaction. An employee may begin with a minor complaint and continue complaining until everyone in the entire corporate hierarchy is miserable and tired of hearing from him or her. Why not put him or her to work changing the situation? For example, try responding to an employee’s complaint by saying, “OK Nick, if you see a problem here, then I want you to come up with three strategies to solve it.” Not only will Nick stop complaining to you, but he may just come up with a new and more productive solution, to a problem that you didn’t even know existed in the first place! Regardless of why a confrontation with an employee has occurred, the next step should be to consider changing the process that underlies your future interactions with that person.

The biggest problem for most business people is introducing new ideas and products to clients. After all, the client holds the power in most situations. He or she can reject your idea on a whim or without any basis. The easiest thing for you is not to make the pitch in the first place. After all, it is difficult to face rejection from a client after you have put forth the effort which is necessary to design and implement a fantastic presentation. I must admit that I have experienced this problem in my own life. As a novice therapist, I sometimes was hesitant to suggest a new behavior pattern to a client because I “knew” that my suggestion would be rejected. As I have become more experienced, I like to think that I have also become more fearless. If the worst thing that can happen is that the client will say “no,” then I am no worse off than before. What I have discovered is that “no” often leads to a very interesting discussion spawned by my follow-up question: “Why not?” Although you cannot just ask a business client “why not,” you can move past the first “no” and explore how you and your product or service can be helpful to the client. Possibly, there is an alternative use of your product or service. Maybe they will be more useful to the potential buyer in a few months. You might even uncover a suggestion as to how you could improve your product to better meet the needs of others. Whatever the response, there can be a positive outcome. If you avoid the interaction altogether, it can only result in maintaining the status quo which is really a failure to move forward. Each interaction with a client can be viewed as an opportunity for success, even though it may not be the same type of successful outcome that you had originally intended.

Now is the time to examine your patterns of avoidance with others in the work place. By implementing a proactive stance with others, you may help turn your avoidance into a successful opportunity to improve your company or career.

© 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:

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Bingo Games, Motivational Material and More at www.UnCommonCourtesy.com! A multitude of holiday, religious, educational, and patriotic  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.  Read Susan C Rempel, Ph.D.’s blog about Patriotism, First Principles, and American History. Follow Dr. Rempel on Twitter: SusanRempel or LinkedIn

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

Mar 142012

I have a list. You probably have one, too. It’s that list of things to do that is sitting on your desk. Some of the items get done quickly and are scratched off the list. Then, there are those other things. Those pesky or unpleasant tasks that just don’t seem to get done. These tasks get copied from list to list. They may include mundane things that just take time and effort to complete or maybe a new task that you are just a little bit afraid of tackling. Whatever they are, you do not want to do them and you avoid doing them at all costs!

I have a suggestion: start thinking of your approach to those tasks differently. Your response should be an indication that something needs to change. You see, avoidance may actually be an opportunity in disguise! I spend a great deal of time telling my clients that they need to trust their own instincts. If it doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t right. Your avoidance of a task may be the signal that you need to seize the opportunity to change the task.

I’m not suggesting that you can just stop doing unpleasant or difficult tasks, but you may want to change the way that you handle them. A prime example would be some of the organizational tasks that are associated with any job or home environment. Your job may require you to fill out the same boring sales projection form at the beginning of every month. You have come to intensely dislike filling out that form. Have you ever stopped to consider how you could make the form more useful? Maybe this is your opportunity to change that form and impress your boss at the same time! If you are self-employed, it may be more difficult to see how mundane tasks hold you back from being more productive. Following the old adage, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” may keep you from seeing that something could be done more quickly and with a more beneficial outcome.

Home is the place where mundane tasks are most prevalent but most often questioned. Has your child ever asked you why he or she must do a certain chore? It might be time to write out a list of all the chores that everyone does on a weekly basis. Then, ask if anyone would like to trade one responsibility for another. You might find that one child would much rather take out the trash, while another would prefer to sort out the laundry. Don’t forget to try this type of chart at work! I often find that juggling tasks and responsibilities can result in a fresher and more creative environment.

Although repetitive tasks are often avoided out of boredom or distaste, sometimes tasks are avoided out of fear. If you have just received a promotion, a new task may be avoided because of your fear of failure. How many of us know someone who avoids using a computer because he or she is afraid of “messing everything up.” In reality, it takes quite a bit of effort to do real damage to a computer, but it is the fear that will stop someone from trying to use it.

Other tasks are avoided out of the fear of embarrassment. For example, you have just been promoted to run the new employee orientation program at your company. You attend the program and listen to the speech given by the person who has run the program for several years. His speech is terrific! Of course, he thinks the speech is boring because he has given it countless times. As you prepare to begin running the program, you develop a strong case of stage fright and avoid setting the date for your first speech. In this example, I would suggest that you recognize that you should not compete with the “ghost of successful presentations past.” Instead, you should develop a speech that is uniquely yours. For example, you could add in a prop, such as a chart, to make your presentation more visually stimulating. You could reorganize the speech so that it flows smoothly for you. Maybe it is time to think of new and interesting examples. Whatever you do, take this opportunity to put your personal stamp on the presentation!

Could it possibly be that you are avoiding a task because of the fear of success? Many potentially successful ideas, projects, and products are left sitting on someone’s list because of the changes that success would bring. The good thing about mundane tasks is that you know just what will happen when you do them. Changing that task may result in being responsible for a new and more difficult task. What will happen if you leave your job in order to start your own company? You may put off that decision for months and years because you sense how much effort will be required to succeed. Conversely, you may be one of the fortunate souls who begin a new venture and are overwhelmed by great success. Of course, that type of success brings its own set of problems! Remember that success is a blessing and the opportunity to be successful will only present itself a few times over the course of your life.

During the upcoming month, I would like you to make another list. It is a list of boring, repetitive, time consuming, or distasteful, tasks or situations. Then examine how each item on the list could be made more interesting, useful, productive, and beneficial. It is time to begin thinking of avoidance as an opportunity to make your life more interesting and successful!

© 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:

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Bingo Games, Motivational Material and More at www.UnCommonCourtesy.com! A multitude of holiday, religious, educational, and patriotic  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.  Read Susan C Rempel, Ph.D.’s blog about Patriotism, First Principles, and American History. Follow Dr. Rempel on Twitter: SusanRempel or LinkedIn

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

Mar 142012

Here is the question that was sent to “Ask Dr. Rempel” at susan@uncommoncourtesy.com : “How do you keep your dreams and goals alive in the face of adversity and depression?”

A Sense of Purpose

          The question from our subscriber is one that is commonly asked of motivational coaches.  Everyone has dreams. You may have formulated achievable goals based upon your dreams. However, you will undoubtedly face stumbling blocks (both internal and external) enroute to realizing your goals.  Therefore, the question arises as to how you can maintain a focus on and move toward your goals when you encounter an obstacle?

From my perspective, the most interesting aspect of the question is that the questioner noted that it is difficult for her to move toward her goals “in the face of adversity and depression.” I have met many people who will encounter an obstacle, feel frustrated and depressed, and then give up. Why do they give up so easily? Most motivational “experts” will talk about feelings of depression stemming from a lack of focus. I suggest, instead, that obstacles may sidetrack a person from achieving his or her goals, and indeed cause a sense of frustration to arise on the road toward achieving those goals, for two reasons. First, the goals you have set are arbitrary, and second, you may not have defined a sense of purpose in your life.

          Most of us have thought about the direction in which we want our lives to flow.  Common aspirations include becoming well-known and earning a significant income. The question is, however, will those goals cause us to have a sense of fulfillment with our lives? One of my favorite authors, Dennis Prager, said in his book Happiness Is a Serious Problem: A Human Nature Repair Manual

that in order to be happy, a person must have both personal meaning and believe that life itself is meaningful. I agree with that premise and would add that feeling satisfied with one’s life directly corresponds to having a sense of purpose in life and moving toward goals that are connected to the person’s mission in life.

How did you develop the goals that you have set forth for yourself? All too often people develop their goals with the underlying belief that they will be satisfied if they achieve a certain amount of money and power. Consider three titles of junk email that recently arrived in my mailbox:  “Have a six figure income in 30 days”, “earn $100 to $1500 per day”, and “are you serious about making money?” Those ads were designed to appeal to the person who believes that having a sufficient amount of money will give meaning to his or her life. In reality, money can make your life more comfortable, but it will not give it meaning. It’s more than likely that when you continue to search for a sense of fulfillment even after you reach your monetary goal, you will decide that a true sense of satisfaction has eluded you only because you did not set your goal high enough. Unfortunately, It is unlikely that you will ever feel that your life has meaning, no matter how much money you have.

Another goal that you may have set for yourself is to become the president, CEO, or leader of something. This goal may also carry little meaning because you will probably feel only momentary satisfaction once you have reached it.  People who reach this type of goal often go on to aspire to control and direct an even larger enterprise or entity. The problem with both of the goals discussed above is that they carry little meaning in and of themselves. They carry little meaning because they do not enhance your sense of purpose. 

What is your mission in life? The objective of acquiring money and power is no different from a child’s desire to collect and control all the tokens in a game of jacks. Those may be goals that you set as part of a master plan for living a successful life. However, you must also ask yourself what you can do to make a difference for others.  What or who will be changed by your presence after your life has ended? How can you positively impact your family, your community, and the society in which you live? There is no time to lose! Life is indeed a gift that has been bestowed upon you, and it is imperative for you to make the most out of each day that you spend here on Earth.  Now is the time to define your sense of purpose and pursue it to the fullest.