Wednesday, August 28, 2013

The Dangers of Tolerating or Accepting What You Can't Change (and the Surprising Alternative)

Years ago, there was a major campaign in schools teaching children to tolerate the difference of others. It was an attempt to create a more comfortable and conducive environment for children of all cultures and ethnic backgrounds to coexist peacefully. I suppose some good came of it but still kids had difficulty being forced to put up with others whom they did not like, understand, or care to associate with. Even in the adult world we very often feel we must tolerate the behaviors, attitudes, and differences of others. We may have a boss who is demanding, a mother-in-law who meddles, a spouse who has annoying habits. While we would much prefer to change them or get away from them, we feel trapped in an unhappy relationship and for whatever reason must learn to simply put up with what we don't like. 

Some, as they evolve in life, become enlightened and discover a better way to coexist: acceptance. It is a acquiescence to that which we cannot alter. We even have a prayer (The Serenity Prayer) which advocates accepting that which we cannot change. We try to find peace with a situation or individual we are not happy with. We resign ourselves to not complaining but simply letting it be. "It is what it is" becomes the mantra for many.
While each of these approaches offers some relief to an unpleasant circumstance I have an issue with both. Tolerating has an element of suffering to it. We must put up with that which we are unhappy with. We feel trapped and powerless. The very definition of tolerating lends itself to feeling hopeless, resentful, bitter, and angry. While outwardly it appears to be a viable solution, it can have troublesome consequences.

Moving on to acceptance - the choice to endure without protest what we cannot change. Yet within acceptance lies the potential for sadness, resentment, self-pity, loss, and anger. Striving to attain inner peace under less than desirable conditions, we run the risk of repressed anger and bitterness.

What, then, is the solution? Imagine reaching a state of heightened enlightenment whereby you come to see everything and everyone who enters your life, regardless of the differences or challenges they present, as a gift, a blessing, a valuable part of your life's journey? What if you could actually appreciate each difference rather than simply tolerate or accept them? The word appreciate means "to grasp the value and significance of, to be grateful for." How would the quality of your life improve if you embraced this simply shift in perception and attitude?

In my own marriage (as in many) the differences between us that initially attracted me to him became the very source of irritation after we exchanged marriage vows. His spontaneity clashed with my scheduled life-style. Putting up with his unpredictable behaviors left me frustrated and annoyed. However, once I saw this as a quality to admire, as an opportunity for me to learn to be less rigid and more flexible, to learn to love and admire him for being a free spirit, for exposing me to a new way of being, I felt deep appreciation for the gift he brought into our marriage.

In each of life's challenging circumstances, we have several options. If there is something that I cannot, will not, or must not change, I can choose whether or not I wallow in resentment and frustration or embrace it as a blessing.  Living in a state of appreciation alleviates personal suffering, allows for individual growth, and blesses my heart with joy. What an effortless way to live!

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Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Pet Peeves: The Things That Anger Us the Most

I frequently receive emails from people upset about something in their life that is not going according to their plans.  They scrutinize the behaviors of others and complain because people are not doing what they are supposed to be doing according to their standards. Some of the most frequent complaints I hear are:

Lying - this ranks as one of the top pet peeves for most of my clients. Those who deliberately mislead or withhold truthful information with the sole intent of harming another, protecting themselves or creating drama in your life. While some like the delusional sense of power associated with lying, not all misinformation is an actual fib. Sometimes, people share information they believe to be true for a variety of reasons. Either way, one must confront a deliberate untruth, ask questions to gain a deeper understanding of what really transpired, take into consideration the nature of the one relaying the information, and ultimately draw their own conclusions.

Hypocrites - those who talk and good talk but fail to live up to their own standards of excellence. Based in feelings of insecurity, hypocrites feel they must project a certain image in order to be admired, loved, or accepted by their peers. Many live in denial of the truth about themselves because facing it is too painful or frightening. Being transparent about your own imperfections helps them to feel more comfortable opening up about their own. Whether or not they are ready to face their own insecurities, it can prove beneficial to call them on their pretense and encourage them to be more truthful. Whatever the case, refrain from judging them. They are struggling with their own personal demons.

Unfairness - wherever did we come up with the notion that life is supposed to be fair? It isn't. If I do good I'll be rewarded. If I'm kind people will like me. If I work hard I'll get ahead in life. No one is exempt from injustice and unfairness. We learn nothing from a life that is balanced and just. Inequity teaches us valuable lessons such as forgiveness, determination and fortitude, assertiveness, and much more. The concept of justice is irrational because we are a world of imperfect, troubled people making decisions that impact others. By that very fact alone, life cannot and never will be fair and balanced. Acceptance of that simple reality can alleviate a lot of frustration and anger associated with life's inequalities. 

Pet peeves can seriously impact the quality of our lives. Here are some tips to lessen the effect they have:
1. Each of us is struggling with personal issues and unresolved agendas. Be understanding and compassionate.
2. Not everyone realizes they are lying, being hypocritical, or unjust. Don't be afraid to bring this awareness to them. Do so in a firm but gentle way.
3. Being transparent about your own issues allows others to feel more comfortable in your presence thereby encouraging them to open up about their own insecurities. Treat their act of trust with tender care. 
4. Take everything the person says with a grain of salt. To know the truth, one must often research independently from multiple sources in order to obtain it.
5. Life may not be fair but I must be. It is what God expects of me and will serve me well in all of my endeavors.

Keep in mind that all that occurs in life has a higher purpose. Whether it appears in the form of lies, hypocrisy, or injustice each life experience is here to benefit us and those around us. This one simple truth will alleviate the anger associated with each of the preceding  scenarios. No need to get upset over that which is here for our own benefit. 

My recommendation? If you want a pet, get a dog. Let go of the peeves. You'll be much happier. Trust me.

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Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Say What You Mean Without Being Mean

 (Excerpt from BUILT TOUGH? )

I often meet people who refer to themselves as tough. My perception, at times, is quite the opposite: I see them as mean-spirited. What exactly does it mean to be tough?

Ford Motor Company manufactures several size trucks. Their tag line is "Ford trucks, built tough". In the auto industry, tough refers to the ability to withstand more than the average. These vehicles have the strength to carry extremely heavy loads. They are built to withstand the elements, gripping the road even in inclement weather. They don't allow rocky, jagged terrain to slow them down nor do they break if they hit a pothole. And they outlast their competitors. What they (the trucks) don't do is run other cars off the road, drive recklessly or disregard the safety of other drivers.

In life, tough people have similar characteristics: they face difficult situations without falling apart. They persevere where others quit. They take on huge challenges without faltering. They carry heavier loads than the average person. And they out perform all others. They do not behave irresponsibly towards one another.

There are those who confuse being mean-spirited with being tough. They are proud to curse someone out; they brag about their eagerness to engage in physical altercations; they feel completely justified in blurting out whatever's on their mind regardless of how the other party may feel or react. They see nothing offensive about their behavior. They claim to have no fear.

But that's not tough. Tough is characterized by strength; meanness by malice. One who is tough has deep courage and conviction, an inner determination, an unwavering perseverance in the face of adversity. One who is mean-spirited lacks compassion and sensitivity and is driven by ego and insecurity (fear). There's a vast difference.*

Tips on how to say what you mean without being mean:

                Speak without offending, listen without defending

                Practice Heart/Brain Communication - use not only your brain and mouth but      allow your words to be tempered with compassion

                Positive communication is both Powerful (firm and confident) and  Polite (considerate and sensitive)

                Express your anger to the other person without taking it out on them.

                Utilize Polite Honesty (cares and respects) rather than Brutal Honesty (rude, mean-spirited)

                Address the issue. Don't attack the person.

Whenever you have the opportunity to be right or to be kind, always choose kindness. Both parties win. 

* To read the entire newsletter, go to

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Wednesday, August 7, 2013


People often ask me if they should say something to someone or make a particular life decision. My response to them is, "Why would you and how are you planning to?"
Motive (intent) is a key factor in determining the validity of any decision. "No one likes my sister-in-law and I'm going to tell her." While I'm not opposed to addressing this issue, I question the reasons. Is it to hurt her feelings, put her in her place, make yourself look wonderful? Or is it to help her understand why her relationships aren't working, thereby giving her the opportunity to improve them?

One must be totally honest with oneself. Too often we delude ourselves into believing our motives are honorable when in truth they are shady and deceptive.

Our voices are saying "I brought this to your attention because I care about you" while our hearts are secretly gloating over the hurt or shame being inflicted on the other party.

Assuming your reasons are pure, you must then consider your method (approach). How you choose to present information is equally important. I encourage a direct and honest approach. However, your choice of words and tone of voice must be carefully chosen. It is not ok to just blurt something out without taking into consideration how the other party might feel.

During college, I worked as an assistant manager of a small jewelry store. Our employees were all trained as diamond consultants. One day, a gentleman entered and inquired about a ring. I showed him our selection. A coworker promptly appeared and declared she was more qualified to assist him. I was mortified but quietly conceded. When I approached her later on, she innocently stated she was only trying to help. I was young but not naïve: she was jealous of my position and needed to put me in my place.

If she were truly concerned, she could have inquired as to how things were going and if we found what we were looking for. Then, if I needed assistance, I could have requested it.

Pay careful attention to motive and method before making every decision. Did you choose your career for the salary and prestige or because it's your passion? Do you get ahead in life at the expense of others or bring them along with you? Are you losing weight so others will admire you or because you value your health? And method: diet pills, or sensible eating and exercising?

Be brutally honest with yourself. Review your M&M's. Make the honorable choice.

The end result will reflect it. 

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