Energy Management and Impact on Others, Part II

Does anyone want their legacy be to leaving their corner of the world worse off because of their presence?  Perhaps some of us may believe that this will inevitably be our fate, particularly on a bad day.  But is that ever anyone’s intention?

I’ve heard people say that when they’re in a bad mood, they want everyone to feel it.  I guess this is the ultimate misery-loves-company philosophy.  Question to those of you who feel that way sometimes:  On a good or normal day, would you say that this is the impact you’d really like to have?  Especially as this mood may be more pervasive than you wish, is your goal to leave the world worse off because of your presence or bad mood?

Perhaps it is naïve of  me to believe that no one wants that type of legacy, bad moments or days notwithstanding.  I just don’t believe anyone, not even those you might regard as ‘evil’, strives for such a legacy.

To those who sometimes want to share their misery: consider that maybe that misery is  occurring more often than intended.  Given also that our energy, whether positive or negative, tends to similarly impact those around us, perhaps it is worth taking responsibility for our energy so that we do not unwittingly or regretfully detrimentally impact those around us.  Remember, our energy will impact others, even if we’re trying to mask it.

I have been guilty of being simultaneously unaware of my energy and oblivious to the impact on others even when I am trying to hide it.  Simply trying to control my reaction is not effective.  The only thing that works is to manage my underlying emotions and mood so they don’t swing wildly out of control.   It’s not an easy task, as you may know.  But being aware of my tendencies and the resulting impact on others is good motivation to try to improve.  For me, being aware of the types of situations that tend to upset me and knowing that my reaction is not always logical or proportional also helps me get those emotions back to baseline.  Don’t get me wrong – I’m still a work in progress and always will be.

So don’t be afraid to join or be among the ranks of those that are struggling to take full responsibility for the consequences of our actions and emotions.  Life isn’t supposed to be easy but there’s always room for growth and improvement.  Being perfect means there’s nowhere to go but down.  Instead, how about a legacy of growth and acceptance of self and others, just as we are? That would be something to be proud of.

Personal Leadership

Leadership is an oft discussed topic, but mainly in the context of work.  What does leadership mean in terms of one’s personal life?  Is it even relevant for our personal lives?

Let’s think about this for a minute.  If leadership at work means acting congruent with your values and morals, serving others and the larger mission, and enabling positive change, it seems like the same criteria can apply to one’s personal life.

I know I don’t typically think of leadership in my personal life, that is, how I conduct myself outside of work.   I also think many of us compartmentalize the two, with our personal life containing the majority of our emotional life.  Does leadership apply to our emotional life?

You bet it does.

It may not feel that way, since most of the time, when we feel an emotion, we treat that emotion as a sacred, immutable, incontrovertible thing.  Sacred and incontrovertible it is.  Immutable, maybe not so much.  In other words, we do need to respect that “we can’t help how we feel” but we can influence how long and how intensely we feel that way.   The ability to manage those emotions is important because our emotions are, well, irrational by definition.  And when I’m being irrational, no matter how well founded the reason, the less likely I am to exhibit leadership, personal or otherwise.

How can our emotions be scared and incontrovertible but changeable?  Our emotions are sacred and incontrovertible because we are essentially driven by our emotions and shadow beliefs, whether we choose to acknowledge them roiling within or not.    This comprises our emotional make-up, and that deserves respect and recognition.  But if I have a shadow belief that I’m not good enough or not lovable, these beliefs will drive my actions (I may not risk conflict with a loved one or apply for that top notch job) but also my emotions (if someone is disrespectful, dismissive or complimentary of someone else I may freak out).  Those actions will tend to produce the reaction I most fear (failure or disengagement) thereby validating my shadow belief.  Note that I created that reality.  It did not necessarily exist before I acted on my shadow belief.

So while our emotions deserve our respect and recognition, it doesn’t mean we have to give them the keys to the city.  Like an unruly two year old, we can soothe that wild beast by acknowledgement and recognition, without rolling over for them.  This is where change can occur.  We can bring those beliefs to light and to question them.  For instance, “that behavior toward me was not loving, but that does not mean that I’m not lovable.”  We can also provide an antidote to that belief, “…and since I’m inherently lovable like everyone else on the planet, I’m going to love myself first and foremost rather than depend on others to feel validated.”

You are your own change agent and in doing so, you retain your personal power both within and outside your inner world.  In doing so, you can then make a choice as to how to react that is consistent with your values, morals and best self, and that is of service to others.

In my book, that is personal leadership.  What is your definition?

Changing A Difficult Person

We have all had times in our lives where we are confronted on a regular basis with a difficult person who is making our lives miserable.   Perhaps you are doing so right now.  The situation is especially trying if that person is unavoidable and/or impacts our future.   Maybe you feel trapped and can’t escape that person without unacceptable consequences.  If so, here are some suggestions for how to deal with that person.

–          Consider their scared inner child – First, let’s give this person the benefit of the doubt and assume they are not evil.  If you cannot do that, then skip the list and go straight to the conclusion.  Next, know that most obnoxious behavior is the result of fear or insecurity.  They fear being invisible, not good enough, not lovable, not worthy, unimportant, and so forth.  Imagine them as a scared child with these feelings and try to find your compassion and empathy for that scared child within.  You likely have some of the same kind of fears, so while you’re at it, be gentle, compassionate and loving with your inner child.

–          Projection – Have you ever heard the saying that the thing that bothers you most about someone else is the trait you hate in yourself?  Hate that control freak because they won’t allow you to control your own environment?  Hate the vain person because they look better than you?  Hate the competitive person because they’re always trying to get one step ahead of you?  It sounds obvious when I state the concept in this manner, but take a step back and listen to your complaints about others and ask yourself how that is true in you.  Which brings us to….

–          Hypocrisy –   Don’t feel bad.  We are ALL hypocrites.  It’s hard wired in us.  Read more about it here.

–          Examine your behavior – Consider the following:  how are you likely to treat someone if you view them as a problem?  Like you trust them, communicate proactively with them, inquire about and wish for their well-being, ask their advice, share the credit, say positive things about them when they’re not there?  Yeah.  Right.  The very belief that they are a problem means that you are likely being a problem for them too.  “Well they started it” works on the playground, but you’re an adult. It’s your choice as to whether to perpetuate or fix this problem.  After all, it’s your future and serenity that’s on the table, not theirs.  Right?

If you do all of the above, then you will have changed the problem person.

How do I know that?  Because the problem person is you.

Hear me out before you close this window out.

I’m not saying the other person has no fault or responsibility.  Au contraire.  Rather, I’m saying that you each have 50% fault and responsibility (approximately) in this situation but you have 100% control over your own thoughts and actions.  You can’t change him, but you can remove yourself from the equation as a problem in a real way, and invite him to do the same.

What do you have to lose?  You have only peace of mind, serenity, and possibly a new ally to gain.

Follow the Leader

Leadership and followership

Leadership and followership

One of the strengths I’m only just now learning to love is Command. My Command strength explains why others have always both considered me bossy but simultaneously have turned to me for leadership, even when I was a shy girl with little confidence.

So to be consistently in a follower role now is like writing with my left hand.    Or maybe, more accurately, it’s like taking a different route to work, or putting my pants on starting with my right leg instead of my left.

It’s different.  It takes some adjustment.  It’s not necessarily better or worse, overall.

The main advantage of being a follower is that when I’m following a good leader, I don’t carry the weight of the responsibility of the project on my shoulders.   I love this.   I can focus on my more limited role than being responsible for the whole shebang.

However, given the follower role comes less naturally for me than leading, I do have a lot to learn about being a good follower.   Here is what I’ve  learned so far:

  1.  Stay engaged – Just because I’m following does not mean I abdicate responsibility for the overall outcome.  It’s still a team effort and I should keep an eye on the overall progress even if it’s not my primary responsibility.
  2. Communicate – It’s a bad idea to assume the leader or others have already anticipated the concern I’m struggling with.  Communicating my concerns or improvements will help the team be successful, even if that’s not necessarily “my responsibility.”  It’s also important to make sure I understand what my role is on the team.  If I don’t have a clear understanding of what I am supposed to do, my failure to uphold my responsibilities can have  a negative impact on the project.
  3. Timing and delivery – Though communication is important, when, how, and to whom I communicate are equally important. I have made the mistake of belaboring a point to the whole group, wasting everyone’s time and frustrating others, long after a decision has been made.    A good follower accepts and supports the  wisdom of the group after a  decision has been made.   To keep the project moving while considering a course correction, communication one on one to the appropriate individual (as opposed to the group as a whole) may be more appropriate.  Timing is also important.  Big decisions should not be forced in the heat of the moment.  Undermining the leader by challenging him during a chaotic situation is unlikely to help, though quiet suggestions at this time can be helpful.  Instead, leave the important discussions to quieter, calmer places and times.   This takes some patience, not my greatest virtue.
  4. Take the initiative – Being a follower does not equate with being passive, either in communication (above) or action.  It also doesn’t mean taking the project on tangents that are not agreed upon.  Again, communication with key individuals to make sure I, and the project as a whole, are on track improves the odds of a good outcome.
  5. Be supportive – Even if I disagree with the leader or the group, there is a time for discussion and disagreement, and another time for action.  It is important to recognize and respect those distinctions.  Challenging the leader, if necessary, should generally be done in private.  Gloating is also neither attractive nor helpful if, in the end, I was proven correct.   Followers should also remember that leading is difficult, and to be as supportive of the leader as possible, even during disagreements.

My take home lesson is that it is just as hard to be a good follower as it is a good leader.  As with many things, followership is a skill I did not know I needed but is hopefully not too late to start learning.

Do I Stay or Do I Go?

Most people in relationships will eventually ask this question at some point.  After all, intimate relationships are almost ordained to eventually produce conflict as discussed previously*.  So if conflict is inevitable, then how do you know whether to call it quits?

Gooood question.  I wish I knew the answer.

Though I have no answer, I do have some thoughts on the matter, which should not be a surprise to those of you who are regular readers of this blog.  After all, what else are blogs for?

  • If you are being physically abused, leave.  If you are laying your hands on your partner in an unloving way, get to a therapist immediately.
  • If you are only staying because you’re afraid of being alone, consider healing yourself and learning to enjoy your own company instead.  Invest that energy in bettering yourself rather than making due with a sub-standard situation. Once you are more whole, you’ll be in a better position to create a better relationship.
  • I don’t believe the “soul mate” notion.  Relationship theory says there are many people who would be a love match.  However, that doesn’t mean you can make it work with every one of them.
  • It takes two to make it work.  If only one of you is interested in trying, you have to decide whether you can live with that person exactly as s/he is.  Also consider the possibility your partner is trying, even if it’s difficult for you to recognize their efforts.
  • Assuming s/he is trying, is change happening in a meaningful way?  If s/he is not going to change, does his/her behavior violate your minimum standards? If so, have you clearly and consistently communicated those standards?   This is an important step.  It’s worth investing in a therapist to make sure this message is clearly delivered.   If you have done so and the behavior is still occurring without sign of improvement, ask yourself why you’re with someone who doesn’t respect what you need.
  • If s/he is changing, but slowly, then know that change can be difficult.  Consider what your role is in that change process.  Are you changing too? Sometimes we unwittingly make it more difficult for our partners to change by ourselves refusing to change or improve.  Remember, it takes two.
  • If you are married and/or have children, I feel that marital therapy is a must before you, in good conscience, should consider dissolving the marriage.  Yes, it can be expensive, but it’s cheap compared to a divorce, especially if you consider the potentially unnecessary emotional toll on the children.

Do not make the mistake of believing that only one of you has to change. Relationship expert Harville Hendricks believes that our emotional wounds dictate who we fall in love with.  Our love interest somehow replicates the wounds we received when we were children, and our subconscious belief is that our new love is the self-actualized/improved/healed version of our primary caregiver.  Trouble happens when we find that in actuality, they continue to replicate the hurtful behavior from our childhood and push our hot buttons.  Therefore, the role of marriage and relationships is to provide the forum for us to grow by providing what our partner needs.  In other words, by giving my partner what he needs, I will heal the places in me that are incomplete while simultaneously providing a salve for my partner’s emotional wounds so he has a better chance of healing them.

Beautiful, isn’t it?

The “downside” is that you have to face your own wounds and take ownership of them.  Scary stuff.  But the prize is opening up and healing that scared kernel/grapefruit in the pit of your stomach while simultaneously improving yourself and your relationship.  It’s kind of like going to the dentist:  it’s not as bad or as hard as you had feared.  Your fear itself is much worse than the actual treatment.  Most of our phobias and fears are just devilish constructs of our left brain – you WILL survive after facing your demons.  You will probably be a happier and healthier person afterwards too.

If you don’t heal those childhood wounds, you’re setting yourself up to face the same problem with your next partner.   Like the budget deficit, you’ll just be kicking that can down the road to the next relationship.  If you’re not ready to deal with it now, perhaps that will be your choice.

So, are you and your partner (both collectively and individually) worth drumming up the courage to deal with this now?  I’m curious.  Talk to me.

*Additional Reading – Blessings of a Dysfunctional Marriage, Single Again After Twenty-Two Years, What Every Couple Should Know Before Getting Married, Who Do You Love?, A Workability quiz

Decisions

Decisions

(Uncover Your)Truth or (Suffer the) Consequences

Fairy_Tale-2404

As children, we were all told, “Don’t tell stories” – meaning, don’t lie.  That line, in and of itself, is a bit of a lie, isn’t it?

As adults, we’re still telling stories, and lies about the stories.   They are really fairy tales.  There’s a helpless and virtuous victim, and an evil villain.  And usually we have the starring role. But unlike the stories by Grimm, they’re the “truth” (there’s the lie about the story).

Here’s a story I told myself:  Once upon a time there was a sweet, innocent girl who met Prince Charming (PC).  After living in the enchanted castle, PC showed his true colors –  selfish and irresponsible.  And they lived miserably ever after.

This fairy tale is convenient for me, as I am always the heroine, never the villain.  I like it that way.  I don’t want to think of myself as the bad guy.  However, like the old game show, Truth or Consequences, if I don’t come up with the truth, I have to suffer the consequences.  The truth is that when I believe someone else is mistreating me, actually I am the one mistreating myself or others (see I’m Rubber and You’re Glue).  The consequence then is that I am creating pain and unhappiness, for no truly good reason.

If I believe PC is selfish, it is really I who am selfish.  In this case, I am judging PC and becoming bitter and angry, and you know PC is going to hear about it.  But by locking myself into my story, I am unable to move past this belief and see his goodness and generosity.  Instead, I invest in the story that is bringing both of us unhappiness, even as part of me is indulging in a self-serving feeling of rightousness.

If I believe PC is irresponsible, it is really I who am irresponsible.  I am ignoring the ways he is responsible, and respecting and valuing him for that contribution.  Instead I am focusing on the ways he is not taking care of me.  So, I am being both selfish AND irresponsible.

Leave that princess to the evil dragon – he can have her.

I have also completely believed stories I have told myself about how I will not get what I need from others (Self (un)fulfilling Reality).  Until I can discover and act upon the truth – that I can get what I need –  I am stuck in unhappiness and looking for others to blame.

PC and I are not the sole beneficiaries of this fantasy game.  I may conjure smaller, less consequential stories about others that may affect my work or casual relationships.  For example, I have created stories where I have believed in, and acted upon, assumptions that I have made regarding other people’s motive or situation.  I may imagine their motive is not well-intentioned or make unfavorable assumptions about their situation. The consequence of such lies is that if I bring any mistrust, judgment and disrespect to the conversation, I am likely to make the other person defensive and disrespectful.  “Aha!  I knew they were cads!”   But I just made my own fantasy into reality.  Who is the cad now?

What if, instead of investing in my lopsided fantasy, I treat my assumption as a single theory among many plausible theories, instead of a concrete reality?  If I then approach the conversation with curiosity (and one of the more forgiving theories) instead of judgment, we might actually uncover the truth of our mutual respect and productivity.

Truth or consequences.

How about the truth for a change, instead of the usual mindless, futile and painful consequences?  How about I let go of the story that, if I cling to it, merely brings me unhappiness and conflict?  How about I let go of the story because it’s untrue and unfair?  Isn’t it time to stop my destructive fantasies about myself and others?

Ask yourself:  Who would you be if you let go of your fairy tale?  Who would PC or your colleague be without your villain and princess?  Your answer may be a huge relief to you.

Recommended reading:  Crucial Conversations and Who Would You Be Without Your Story?