Tag Archive | health

Eliminate the Number One Relationship Killer

Communication is an important part, if not the most important part, of any relationship. The way you communicate has a major impact on your ability to get along with the various people in your life – spouses, children, coworkers, friends, and neighbors. When communication breaks down, relationships suffer. According to recent research, poor communication is the number one reason why couples (and friendships) break up.

Any relationship worth having experiences conflict at some point. The conflict isn’t the problem (conflict is a natural part of intimacy), how the situation is handled is the determining factor in whether the relationship will deepen or be torn apart.

Interpersonal communication styles are developed from life experiences. Your responses are often so automatic that it’s easy to fall into the trap of using ineffective communication. Being an effective communicator requires some work; it requires being mindful about your style and being honest about your role in the conversation. As George Bernard Shaw stated, “The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.”

While there is a long list of behaviors that lead to ineffective communication, below are a few that may be the biggest culprits. Do you see yourself in any of these scenarios?

Making Assumptions
A big mistake that can shut down communication is when one person makes an assumption about what another person has said or done. You’ve heard the old saying, when you assume, you make an “ass” out of “u” and “me”. While corny, the saying holds true. Assuming is a prescription for trouble.

Recently, I heard a story about one friend who blocked another friend on Facebook because she assumed the person made a post about her. Without discussing it, making her feelings known, and hearing what the other person had to say, she accused, tried and convicted the person, all the time the accused had no idea why she was being sentenced. This person offers more courtesy to someone in the judicial system (innocent until proven guilty) than she did to someone she “cared” about. This is an example of what happens when we assume to know a situation or create our own version of it instead of finding out the truth.

As Miguel Ruiz wrote in The Four Agreements: A Practical Guide to Personal Freedom, “If others tell us something we make assumptions, and if they don’t tell us something we make assumptions to fulfill our need to know and to replace the need to communicate. Even if we hear something and we don’t understand we make assumptions about what it means and then believe the assumptions. We make all sorts of assumptions because we don’t have the courage to ask questions.”

More times than not, nothing people say or do is about you. When you remove the assumption that something is about you, you stop taking it personally and open the door for honest communication.

Projecting
Projection involves projecting undesirable feelings or emotions onto someone else, rather than admitting to or dealing with the unwanted feelings. When you project your feelings onto another person, you give your voice to the other person and create a scenario that may not actually exist.

For example, if you have done something to a friend for which you feel guilty, your friend may not agree with your feelings or be upset with you, but you project your guilt onto that person and then believe he or she is angry at you. Anything that person says or does leads you to believe he or she is acting from a place of anger and you respond to the imaginary situation. This is a distorted vision of reality that will undoubtedly create a communication issue.

Mental Telepathy
How often do you believe someone should know what you are thinking or what you want or need without telling him or her? This is a common complaint when discussing communication issues – the expectation that he should have known. How could someone know what you want if you don’t tell her? Stop expecting and start stating!

Keeping Feelings to Yourself
Do you believe that it is better to keep your mouth shut and avoid conflict? Keeping things bottled up inside is not the way to develop or sustain a loving relationship. If you have something to say, say it. Effective communicating means just that … to communicate. I pride myself on my ability to let people know how I feel. Friends and loved ones may not necessarily like to hear my expressions, but like it or not, no one can ever say that I didn’t communicate my feelings. Open communication also shows that you love and respect someone enough to trust them with your deepest thoughts.

Just as important, if you have something good to say about your partner, say it often. Praise and appreciation are usually unspoken and they go a long way in cultivating a relationship.

Good Listening
In addition to discussing your feelings, you must have the ability to enable others to talk about theirs. Stop worrying about what you are going to say next and listen to what is being said to you. Listening, empathizing and sympathizing are skills that can strengthen a relationship. Really hearing what someone says and then being able to put yourself in his or her shoes may create an understanding that can diffuse any situation.

Own Up to Your Part
Two of the most powerful words are “I’m sorry” and yet so many people have trouble saying them. Admitting the error of your ways does not make you weak, to the contrary, it shows your strength. People twist stories, shout louder, and reject others simply because they can’t admit they are wrong. Don’t be one of those people.

The importance of effective communication becomes obvious when you see all the ways ineffective communication can harm a relationship. Taking the time to recognize your style and improve your interpersonal skills is definitely worth the effort. As Anthony Robbins said, “The way we communicate with others and with ourselves ultimately determines the quality of our lives.”

For Big Change, Think Small

It’s the end of another year (how is that possible?). The time when we reflect on the past 365 days, take stock of where we are, and decide the path of our life moving forward. We make a list of things we want to change and create resolutions to get the job done. We start the year off with a bang moving full force in the new direction, and then boom… a different bang, we hit a wall. Everything we strive to accomplish with such passion slides to the side and we fall back into the routine of the behavior we know so well.

There’s a familiarity about the promises we make to ourselves each year. You can easily ask yourself: Didn’t I make those self-same promises last year? And maybe even the year before?

So why, if we are so determined to make change, do we fall short of our goals?

According to experts, one of the main reasons New Year’s resolutions are so hard to maintain is because the thing we want to change is a habit – behavior that comes from the subconscious part of our brain that is done automatically, without conscious thought.

Typical resolutions like eating healthy, quitting smoking or drinking, increasing physical activity, or spending more time with loved ones, are designed to change routines that have been around for many years. While it’s easy to assume that we should be able to willfully make long-term changes to established patterns, desire alone is usually not enough.

According to Charles Duhigg, in his book, The Power of Habit, there is a three step loop that occurs: A cue or trigger, which tells your brain to go into automatic mode. The routine, which can be physical, mental or emotional. And the reward, which helps your brain determine if this loop is worth remembering for the future. Over time, this loop becomes more and more automatic.

While wanting to change is the first step, experts say that the key to enacting lasting change is understanding the process and identifying your triggers. For example, if you want to quit smoking, you can quit cold turkey, but understanding what triggered your smoking will give you a greater chance of success. When you recognize what situations trigger your current habit – having a morning cup of coffee, stress, drinking alcohol, going out with friends, driving, etc. – you can create a positive habit that you are going to do instead.

So, when you wake in the morning and have coffee, instead of smoking, what will you do? If you’re stressed or out with friends, what will you do? Replace the old habit with a positive one. Be mindful and consistent. Create the new routine that results from the trigger and your brain learns the new reward.

Don’t try to change your life all at once. Some people decide that they are going to lose weight, exercise every day, quit smoking, get a new job, and spend more time with family. A complete overhaul will lead to overload and you will give up. Work on one habit at a time and take baby steps. Lean in gently. If you usually leave work at 7 pm and want to spend more time with family, go home at 6:30 pm for a few weeks or even months. Then gradually make it earlier. Once that becomes a new habit, work on something else.

Lasting change won’t happen overnight. But with mindfulness, determination, consistency, and patience, you can achieve any goal you desire. Remember for big change, think small. As Mark Twain said, “Habit is habit, and not to be flung out of the window by any man, but coaxed downstairs a step at a time.”

If You Have Nothing Nice To Say…

If you have nothing nice to say don’t say anything at all. Ah… a mother’s wisdom. I’m sure most of us have been told this many, many times. But, how many of us actually follow this sage advice?

Words are a powerful force and the powerful effects of negative words cannot be underestimated. Words are remembered long after they are spoken. They have the power to destroy one’s self-esteem and self-confidence, making someone feel less than adequate and fearful. Words leave invisible bruises that can last a lifetime.

Most of us understand that negative words hurt, and yet, how many of us actually stop and think BEFORE making a negative or disparaging comment? Do we ever think about the impact our message has on the recipient or is it so important for our opinion to be heard that the consequences are insignificant to  us?

And it is not only personal comments from others that can be damaging.  Being in the company of people who frequently complain or see the bad in everything can be just as emotionally detrimental.  Such people project a negative energy that soon infiltrates everything and everyone around them.

Case in point. My 18-year-old son recently completed a certification course at our local fire academy and is currently working toward becoming a fireman. This is his dream and he is taking the appropriate steps to that end. He is attending college to earn a degree. He has been a volunteer for two years. He strives to learn everything about his chosen profession. After he completed the certification test, I posted on my personal Facebook page about his status. Someone immediately commented that her son took the test a few years back and is number 5,000 waiting for a job. She went on to say that it is impossible to get a job and anyone who goes into the profession is crazy.

I’m not sure why she made that post. Perhaps she was trying to relay information. Maybe she is upset about the fact that her son has not been hired. Maybe she was having a bad day. I don’t know her motive, but I do know that a comment like that has the power to cast doubt in a young man’s mind, cause him to question his direction, and possibly even shatter his dream.  Once a statement like that gets planted in someone’s thoughts, it’s more difficult to stay on course. How often does this happen to you? How often are you the one making this type of comment or how often are you the recipient?

A new year is approaching and this is a time when many self reflect and try to enact positive change. I encourage you to become more cognizant of what you say. Stop and think BEFORE the words come out. You have the power to impact another positively or negatively. You have the power to be a mentor or cheerleader of a dream, or the destroyer. Remember that mother always knows best and if you have nothing nice to say, pray one of my favorite prayers: “Lord, put your arm on my shoulder and your hand over my mouth.”

Maneuvering Through the Dark

A few weeks ago I had the misfortune (or good fortune) of injuring my foot. It is nothing serious – a torn tendon and minor fracture – but it has forced me to wear an air boot, slow down, and rest much more than I am accustomed to. I am a person that is used to being on the go, very energetic and independent, so, while it is not a life threatening injury, it is certainly a life annoying injury.

One day, about a week into my hobbling around, I had to visit the home of someone who has never been particularly supportive of me. This person lives on the second floor of a two family home and requires the climb up extremely steep, cement, outdoor stairs in order to arrive at the entrance. When I got to the home it was daylight, but within minutes the sun went down and it was soon pitch black outside.

I completed my business and said my goodbye. As I approached the door, I requested that the person turn on an exterior light, as the stairway was very dark. I was informed that the light did not work. This person did not offer to assist me in any way and I had to maneuver my way down treacherous stairs, with a wounded foot, in total darkness.

I made it home safely, but to be honest, I was quite upset. Initially I spent some time being hurt, feeling sorry for myself, wallowing in self-pity. I decided that behavior was not going to serve me well so I began to think about the situation rationally. I came to realize that this was a wonderful illustration of our relationship.  This person has continually left me wounded, in the dark, to maneuver my way on my own. I have been trying to hang on because I was afraid to let go. But, looking back, every time I made it through the dark alone, I emerged stronger, more self confident and self-reliant.

I am a firm believer that there are gifts and blessings in every situation if you take the time to look for them. Here is another example. Had I not injured my foot I would not have been able to see with such clarity. There was something in the situation that was so clear, such a vivid message for me. It is time to let go.

How about you? What have you experienced, good or bad, that can teach you a life lesson? I challenge you to put your emotions aside and allow yourself to see your situation clearly. It may not always be what you want, but the lesson is usually in full sight.

Follow Your Intuition…It Knows the Way

Throughout the last four years, my professional life has taken many twists and turns. There are times that I operate by the seat of my pants learning as I go along, praying for the best possible outcome, following my intuition and my heart.

Recently I began to work with a person that was assigned to my company’s account. From the moment I met him, my entire body screamed, “be careful!” There was something about him that told me not to be too trusting. All the warning signs were there – my intuition was on the job.

Now I’m the type of person who wants to trust everyone and I usually give people the benefit of the doubt many, many, many times. I want to believe that others have the same agenda and motives so I push my inner guidance aside.

This person dangled golden opportunities in front of me; he offered me more than I could have imagined – everything I wanted. It would be easy for me to get caught up in his promises. But there was always that nagging feeling inside of me.  Something didn’t add up. There was never a straight answer to my questions, always a tap dance.

After our first meeting, I couldn’t sleep for a few nights. Even though I was excited about what was to come, I felt sick every time I recounted the possible opportunities to my friends. My body tightened and sometimes I actually shook. My nerves were on end.

But because he was answering my prayers (or so I thought at the time), I pushed the warning signs aside and worked with him. I took what he said and turned it into what I wanted to hear, what I wanted him to say.  But there was always that nagging feeling inside of me.

As time passed, he began to request more and more from my company in return for the promised opportunities, which by the way, never materialized. I finally decided to listen to my inner guidance, which was SCREAMING by this time, and I called him out. Once I stopped taking what he said at face value and held my ground, all the promises immediately disappeared. He showed his true colors.

It took months of anxious moments and many sleepless nights before I found the courage to follow, what I knew from the beginning, to be the right direction. I knew all along what was right for me; I just chose not to listen. Thankfully I found the courage.

Does this story sound familiar? How many times do you make something fit the way you want it to while all the time knowing it’s wrong for you?

We all want to believe in others and try to please others, but at what cost? How long can you stay in a dying relationship or in a job that’s making you sick? How many times can you keep saying “yes” while inside you’re screaming “no”?

We all have inner guidance to point us in the right direction. The problem is, more often than not, we don’t listen. It’s not always easy to stand up for what we want – sometimes it seems impossible – but it’s always worth it. The moment I stood up for myself I began to sleep better and feel more relaxed – I could breathe. While I may not have gotten what I wanted at this time, I know something better will come.

Learn to trust yourself. Follow your intuition – it knows the way. You are stronger than you think and wiser than you know.

The Music Comes On And the Dance Begins

One of the questions that I am often asked by email, via Facebook, or during my lectures, is how to permanently end a relationship with someone that is a negative force in a person’s life. I have heard many terms to describe these types of people, but one of my favorites is energy vampire, because they zap the life out of you.

A relationship doesn’t have to be romantic to fall into the toxic category.

Ending a relationship can be one of life’s greatest challenges. We all have a few people in our lives that we allow to treat us in a manner less than we deserve. Cognitively we know that if we don’t change something, the result will be the same, but once that music starts, we jump right into the same old dance.

Often we have spent many years with these people and the thought of letting go is frightening, so we hold on, even when the relationship no longer serves us well. We take the abuse, we allow ourselves to feel bad, and we compromise our self-esteem. It takes a tremendous amount of strength to release a person from our lives because in the process we encounter  many emotions: guilt at not being a compassionate, forgiving person; fear of being alone; the belief that we’re supposed to take care of others; feelings of inadequacy and of being unlovable.

Relationships should always be treasured and they should not be taken lightly, but after years of the same dance, for the sake of our physical and emotional health, we must recogize when it’s time to change the music and begin a different dance.

Ask yourself these questions: Do I feel energized or drained after being with this person? Do I look forward to spending time together? Do I keep looking for a response or change that I never get? Do I really like this person? Log your responses and emotions.

If you determine the relationship to be harmful then it’s time to end all contact with this person. This may be more difficult if children are involved, however, there are certain behaviors you can stop. Don’t Facebook stalk, drive past the person’s house, or find reasons to maintain contact. Every time you do, you reopen the wounds and make it difficult to move on.

Fill the hole. Find ways to stay busy. Join clubs, exercise, volunteer, or spend time with friends. Do whatever it takes to fill the time that would have been spent with the person.

Surround yourself with positive people. Be around people that support you, lift you up, and reenergize you.

Get help. Seek spiritual or mental health guidance. Join a support group – just make sure it is a positive group and not a bunch of people getting together to complain.

Give yourself a break. If in your heart you believe that you have done all you can to sustain the relationship, it’s time to release it. Don’t blame yourself. Learn from the experience, and wish the person well. You can’t make another person change.

Don’t wallow in hatred or negative feelings. Remember the saying, “Holding onto anger is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die.”

You are a child of God, a wonderful gift to this world. Don’t allow anyone to disrespect you or diminish your self-esteem. You have that power!

Live It, Feel It, Believe It

Napoleon Hill once said, “We become what we think about.”

It’s that time of year again when we sit down, pen and paper in hand and make a list of all the things we resolve to change. When we create our list, we are motivated and sure that this will be the year that we will achieve our goals.

“This year I resolve to lose 20 lbs.” “I will stop smoking.” “I am going to exercise every day.” “I will eat healthy food.”

These are noble decisions and we start off with a bang. But sometimes life gets in the way, and our decisions become our burdens. We slip back into our old patterns and what we set out to accomplish gets pushed to the side. We then feel guilty for not being able to achieve our goals, and thoughts of failure set in.

The problem with our resolutions is that they are usually made in response to something negative, such as a bad habit, or poor physical condition, and it is difficult to change a negative into a positive without a strong commitment and determination. It is much easier to move toward something than away from something.

This year, instead of making your usual resolutions, why not try positive affirmations? An affirmation is a positive statement or declaration of the truth or existence of something. Affirmations psychologically condition through repetitive, consistent self-talk. By repeating a positive affirmation over and over, you train your subconscious mind to turn the thoughts into realities. Make affirmations about yourself that will reinforce your intentions and better prepare you to accomplish your goals.

For an affirmation to be effective, it needs to be in the present tense, positive, personal and specific. “I am capable of accomplishing any goal I set for myself,”  “I am feeling more peaceful every day,”  “I am learning from my mistakes,” “I eat healthy, nutritious food every day,” are examples of positive affirmations.

Here are a some tips on how to make affirmations:

Determine what you want to improve. Be clear about your goals. Figure out what’s important to you and get to the heart of what you want to create in your life.

Create statements. Put your ideas into a few simple statements that reflect what you want to create. Phrase the statements as if they are already true, not that you would like them to be true. Tell your mind that your desire is actually already the reality. You are programming your subconscious to believe the statements; you’re not trying to want something, you’re trying to make it so.  If you use words like “I will” or “I am going to,” then what you are really doing is postponing the attainment of your goal.

Keep the affirmation focused and realistic. Don’t stretch the idea too far. If you make it too unrealistic your “inner judge” will step in and negate the affirmations.

Keep it positive. Say what you want, not what you don’t want.

Repeat affirmations daily. Say affirmations out loud, in front of a mirror. Write them down and refer to them often. Keep them in a visible place.

My challenge to you is to think about your new year resolution as positive affirmations throughout the year. If you want to lose weight, create affirmations that support weight loss.  If you want to lose 20 pounds and you now weigh 150 pounds, say “I weigh 130 pounds.”  Supplement with affirmations such as “I enjoy eating healthy foods,” “I can sense when I am full and I stop eating,” or “I enjoy walking two miles three times per week.”

In addition, visualize the positive thoughts as if they are already happening. How will you look and feel after losing 20 lbs?  Live it. Feel it. Believe it. You will be surprised how quickly you bring about true change in your life using the power of affirmations.

Happy New Year!