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December 2013
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February 2014

13 entries from January 2014

Points to Ponder (100 Words or less) Facebook style

The web seems to be flooded lately with articles titled "(# of) Things Never To Say To (someone of a particular profession/situation in life)."

It seems there are two lessons we need to learn: 1) Choose your words carefully. Our words can hurt others, especially when we're careless with them. 2) Start with the assumption that people are NOT trying to offend you. People are going to say potentially irritating things. You have the choice to read offense into it or to write it off as a harmless misunderstanding. You'll probably be a lot happier if you do the latter. (97)

~Steve Surine

Points to Ponder (100 words or less)

“When you assume negative intent, you’re angry. If you take away that anger and assume positive intent, you will be amazed.… You don’t get defensive. You don’t scream. You are trying to understand and listen because at your basic core you are saying, ‘Maybe they are saying something to me that I’m not hearing.” Indra Nooyi   (54)

You are ridiculously in charge...or so I read

I read a book this weekend that's basic assertion was that almost everyone is "ridiculously in charge" of their life.
I tend to agree with that sentiment. I realize people get stuck in jobs that are terrible, marriages that are dying and face other sundry difficulties in life.

But I think most of the time they give up the control that they do have over those situations. They stop fighting for their marriage. They refuse to risk going back to school or applying for new jobs.

I think for most of us, it's easier being a victim than it is to actually engage the change process.

If we are truly going to change anything we have to be willing to risk, and pay. What about you? We're almost done with one month in January. Do you remember those goals you wrote at the beginning of the month? How are you doing on them?

What will make 2014 different than 2013 for you?
Desire alone will not bring change to your life. You need more than desire.

You need a comittment and a plan. Do you have those? How often do you look at the plan?

You can improve your marriage by keeping an appreciation journal

If you haven't read the book Decivsive yet, you should get it and make the time to read it. I read it last year and started giving it away to people.
The book deals with better ways to make decisions. I tend to think that most people underestimate the value of looking at the system that they use to approach decision making.

The book challenges a lot of commonly held ideas about how to make decisions that are actually flawed. It gave me one of my favorite questions when making a decision (what would have to be true for _______ to happen?) and it spent a few pages dismantling the idea of references as a productive manner to learn about potential candidates. 

It also helped explain a great technique for marriage counseling that I absolutely love. I'm just going to let the authors word speak for them by pasting the entire quote below.

Think of a couple in a troubled marriage: If one partner has labeled the other’s shortcoming— for instance, being “selfish”— then that label can become self-reinforcing. The selfish acts become easier to spot, while the generous acts go unnoticed. In situations like this, the therapist Aaron T. Beck, the founder of cognitive behavioral therapy, advises that couples consciously fight the tendency to notice only what’s wrong.

To avoid that trap, he advises couples to keep “marriage diaries,” chronicling the things their mates do that please them. In his book Love Is Never Enough, he describes a couple, Karen and Ted, who kept such a diary. One week, Karen noted several things that she appreciated about Ted: He sympathized with me about some bad behavior by one of my clients. He pitched in to help clean up the house. He kept me company while I was doing laundry. He suggested we go for a walk, which I enjoyed. Beck said, “Although Ted had done similar things for Karen in the past, they had been erased from her memory because of her negative view of Ted.”

The same effect held true for Ted’s memory of the nice things Karen had done. Beck cites a research study by Mark Kane Goldstein, who found that 70% of couples who kept this kind of marriage diary reported an improvement in their relationship. “All that had changed was their awareness of what was going on,”

Beck wrote. “Before keeping track, they had underestimated the pleasures of their marriage.” As in the marriage situation, our relationships at work are sometimes corrupted by negative assumptions that snowball over time. A colleague speaks out against our idea in a meeting, and we think, He’s trying to show off in front of the boss. If this happens another time or two, we might conclude he’s a “brown-noser,” a label that will become self-sustaining, as in the marriage situation.

Heath, Chip; Heath, Dan (2013-03-26). Decisive: How to Make Better Choices in Life and Work (Kindle Locations 1670-1685). Crown Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.


What makes sex good? What makes it great?

Come on, I had to get your attention. It's Thursday and we're getting more snow, which is good because the 4 feet that we have on the ground was starting to look a little sparse with the heatwave we had move through town last week.

Seriously, what makes sex good? This is one of the questions we'll be looking at this weekend. Have you ever wondered why two couples can have practically the same fight and one couple be perfectly fine, while the other couple seems paralyzed by it?

What makes for solid relationships? While, I believe that all couples need to find their own way as they process through events, I also believe that there are some common denominators that all healthy couples have as part of the DNA in their relationship.

If you haven't registered yet, click on the Hopes and Dreams tab now. We're almost full.

3 Ways to build others up

Is it just me or do you think that assumptions get a bad rap?
I'm going crazy busy preparing for this week's Hopes and Dreams Marriage conference and seeing clients, so I don't have a lot of time to flesh this idea out but I want to share something that I am convinced is true.

A number of years ago a man shared this truth with me. It has changed the way I interact with others and I believe it can improve any relationship in your life. 

The assumption is this:

Almost everyone you meet is desperately insecure and in need of affirmation.

I suppose there is no way that I can empirically prove this assumption but I think it is true and I imagine many of you do as well.

The question is do we live it out as truth?

Here are three ways that I have found that help me live this out:

  1. Intentionally make eye contact in a congenial way with the person.
  2. Intentionally offer them a sincere compliment.
  3. Tell the person that you appreciate them.

I have found that these work for me. What have you found that works for you?


Four Questions to ask during a conflict

Four questions you should be asking when you find yourself in conflict with a loved one (or anyone for that matter).

1. What do I want in this situation?

This one seems so obvious, but I have found many times that people cannot articulate what exactly what it is that they want in a given conflict. They can't explain what would satisfy them. When this is true, it is obviously difficult for the other person to know how to help the situation move to that place.

2. What does the other person want in this situation?

Again, seems obvious but so many times, people think they know what the other person wants and are quite frankly, wrong.

3. Is is possible that we can both get what we want?

Usually, we'll have to move on to number four, but sometimes it is possible for both people to get what they want. This is why the first two are so important.

4. What is a possible compromise for us in this situation?

Giving a little for both people is a great and healthy way to build a positive relationship.

Dealing with the winter blues

Did you know that yesterday is supposed to be the most depressing day of the year?

At least that is what I read on Facebook.

I was thinking about the lack of sunshine as I was driving to an appointment today. It's bitter cold, there is little sunshine, the wind is blowing almost non-stop. It's little wonder so many people struggle with feeling depressed this time of year.

But what can we do about it?

Here's three ideas that I have found helpful.

1. Write out a list of things for which you are thankful.

This one seems so simple, but making a list of those that we are thankful for forces our brain to look away from the negatives. No one likes being constantly cold. When bad things happen around us, we can be tempted to focus on them and ignore the positive things in our life. Our thinking is a key component in our feelings. Focusing on the positives in our life can increase our happiness by physically increasing our "happy" chemicals in our body.

2. Do an intentional act of kindness for someone else and keep it a secret.

Focusing on other people can help us not think about ourselves. Once again, we're releasing the happy chemicals in our brain when we do things for others. If our life is going to have true meaning, it must be about something bigger than just us. This is true in every day life as well. Sometimes, the best way to beat the winter doldrums is to simply look around and find someone who has a need and meet it.

3. Brew a hot cup of coffee and read a book

Ok, this is my comfort idea but there is some really good recent research to suggest that reading stories or watching them unfold does positive things for our brains. Take some time to unplug and unwind. Get lost in a good story for a moments or hours.

These are my ideas, what are yours?