I Won’t Back Down

Well, I won’t back down
No, I won’t back down
You can stand me up at the gates of hell
But I won’t back down

No, I’ll stand my ground
Won’t be turned around
And I’ll keep this world from draggin’ me down
Gonna stand my ground

And I won’t back down
(I won’t back down)
Hey, baby, there ain’t no easy way out
(I won’t back down)
Hey, I will stand my ground
And I won’t back down

Well I know what’s right
I got just one life
In a world that keeps on pushin’ me around
But I’ll stand my ground

And I won’t back down

-Tom Petty

 

I write my blog for a few reasons…to help me process how I am feeling, to help me learn my own lessons for my personal growth, and to share my stories in case it helps other people. Sometimes I simply have something to say – something important that I need to share others. Today, I write for all these reasons.

As I sit to write this part of my journey – I want those reading this to know that it is never my intent to hurt anyone else. I am about to write about a painful chapter of my life that I have never shared in detail on my blog before – and I am doing this to help me process some painful memories, and to try to help others who may learn from my experiences.

Over the last few weeks, I have been carrying some emotional heaviness. I have been helping a friend going through a challenging time. In addition, the #metoo hashtag has gone viral over the last few weeks. It is no surprise to me that I am being triggered by my own past as I hear so many stories. On one hand, I have glossed over the heaviness – thinking that nothing “terrible” has happened to me compared to others. But – that nagging heaviness hasn’t gone away and has been really affecting my moods. Last night as I had a great heart to heart with my friend Susan– I finally named it – I was feeling pissed. And as usual for me, underneath that anger was some residual pain from my past.

You see, I was a victim of emotional abuse for many years over the course of my 13-year marriage. I have never written that sentence before. But there it is. I don’t like to use the word victim, and I still have a tough time seeing myself as a victim – but in denying I was a victim is denying a very important chapter in my story. And I believe in the truth and in living an authentic life, so I need to speak my truth.

So yes – something terrible did happen to me – many, many times.

I remember the first warning sign when I was dating John who would later become my husband. We were about 22 years old and on a trip to Newport, RI for their Jazz Fest. I remember the car ride with his sister and her husband – and John got upset with me about something and lashed out at me in front of everyone in the car. I am not sure exactly what he said – but I think it had something to do with my being “spoiled” or “entitled” – this was to become a major theme over our marriage. Because I didn’t want to cause a scene, I stayed quiet until we arrived and I remember storming off to be myself. I remember he eventually found me, accused me of being dramatic and ruining everyone’s time. There was no apology – or even acknowledgement of my feelings at all. I remember pushing my feelings aside for the sake of “peace” – which was the start of a vicious pattern over many more years.

When we were first married, my husband took 100% control over our finances. To his credit, he did manage to save a lot while I had pretty typical spending habits for a 25-year-old. I do believe that it was highly unlikely we would have been able to save money and buy a house had it not been for John’s thriftiness. However, the path to that dream was a painful one. I was expected to place every single receipt into the “in” box where I was then questioned about the contents of those receipts on a weekly basis. Now – to some of you that may not sound unreasonable. We were trying to save for a house – and we did need to live within our means. And I had proven I was irresponsible when I neglected to share that I brought $4,000 of credit card debt with me into our marriage.

But you see – no matter what I tried, I could not convince John to set up a “budget” or in other words an “allowance”. I remember suggesting that he “allow” me to take out $40 cash each week that I could use for groceries, lunch, gifts, clothes…whatever. The point was that I wanted to make my own decisions. I was tired of him knowing what I bought for his birthday and how much I spent before I even had the chance to give it to him. I wanted to be able to go to lunch with a friend without having to justify it to him. I wanted buy a snack and not have to explain why I ate what I did and spent whatever dollars to do so. He thought my suggestion was crazy and unreasonable – it was impossible to come up with any kind of system or compromise. He was in control and that was that. As time went on, I would forget or lose receipts…I would become numb to the weekly arguments, bury my feelings and endure the monthly bank reconciliation. I would eventually get into “crafting” and making/selling jewelry so I could have cash on hand – glad to have a creative outlet that could also help me endure the situation.

What I didn’t realize was that the financial control was merely a stepping stone to the emotional control John would eventually take. He started in on my weight pretty early in our marriage. We were almost the same height – and when we were dating he almost broke up with me because he didn’t like that he didn’t feel bigger than me. So what did I do? I minimized myself as much as possible. I dieted before we got married – and got down to the smallest size I have EVER been and thought all would be ok. All was not ok. What ensued was nothing short of emotional abuse. He tried to control everything I ate on a daily basis. We would go out to dinner, and somehow I would be convinced to order an appetizer instead of an entrée. We would go on car trips, and if I wanted to stop for lunch I was told something was wrong with me because I couldn’t miss a meal. We would go to a ball game – where the only food options were hot dogs/burgers – you know the usual ball park food – and I would be ridiculed for not finding something healthy to eat.

I was called the most insane names you can think of – but the most common one was “Fatso.” And it happened ALL THE TIME. Every single day. Whether he was drunk or sober, he called me horrendous names. I honestly don’t remember ever enjoying a relaxing meal without being questioned why I was eating/drinking “that” and making some comment about my weight.

As a person who values the truth – I developed some terrible patterns to lie about what I ate, how long I worked out, and how much I spent on things, all attempts to regain control of my choices and of my life.

John and I tried to have children. I suffer from endometriosis and had to have several surgeries to remove some painful, large cysts. I went through many tests to determine my fertility – and therefore I was to blame for our situation. John refused to be tested. Instead, he blamed my condition – and at his worst moments, called me “barren” and “childless.” These are the most painful memories of my marriage.

Over our years together, I started to become more and more successful in my sales career, while John started to struggle in his career. He was incredibly smart and talented, and had the unfortunate luck to work for an HR outsourcing company whose major clients were Circuit City and other major companies that eventually went out of business. While I excelled, he suffered – and he saw this as in inverse relationship – meaning the better I did, the worse he felt. I could not share any of my successes without hurting him – so once again, I minimized myself – tried to make myself smaller – not just physically – and buried my feelings. My most painful experience related to this was the night I won “Salesperson of the Year” at our annual awards banquet. I dreaded the evening with every fiber in my being. I specifically asked to NOT be seated with our CEO and the executive team because deep down I knew what was going to happen. My worst dreams were realized when John proceeded to get drunk and mutter LOUDLY during the entire ceremony. “When is this going to be over?” “Look at you – you are so special (laced with sarcasm).” “This sucks – when can we leave”. Everyone at the table heard him. I was humiliated and so consumed with shame. Within seconds of the end of the ceremony, I grabbed him and we headed for the exit – somehow I thought I could escape and pretend that night never happened. It was truly terrible – one of the worst nights of my life. I had never felt so exposed and ashamed by having my work and personal lives collide like this.

I grew to avoid that collision of my personal life with other aspects of my life as much as possible. I alienated myself – more accurately, I allowed John to alienate me from my family and friends. I became so unhappy that I started to wish time away – I would be relieved to fall asleep so I could wake up the next day – having endured another day.

And despite ALL of these things that happened, I stayed. This morning, I watched a Ted Talk by Leslie Morgan Steiner called “Why domestic violence victims don’t leave.” She said she didn’t think of herself as being abused during her tumultuous marriage. You can see her TED Talk here.

She said, “I thought of myself as a very strong woman who was in love with a deeply flawed man.” EXACTLY – I got goosebumps hearing that. I used to say John was misunderstood – that he was like a porcupine, prickly on the outside and squishy on the inside. That people didn’t see the “real” John. Well – I didn’t see the real John. John wasn’t one person on the outside, and another on the inside.  Instead – just like everyone else including me – he is a whole person made up of many layers, many facets, strengths and flaws. I wasn’t healthy enough to see the truth through my denial.

Today my life is dramatically different – in a positive way. I sought help and have worked very hard on my emotional health. I am a truly happy person with so much love in my life. My marriage ended over six years ago, and four and a half years ago I met Jerry who loves me for exactly who I am – with all my strengths, all my weaknesses. I am 100% myself, 100% of the time now – no minimizing. I have the family I have always wanted with his children, Kaitlyn, Chelsea and Eric, all of whom I love with my whole heart. My relationships with my family and friends are the best they have ever been, and I no longer sacrifice any of them for the sake of my partner – because to do that would be to sacrifice myself.

I can still be tough on myself when I get triggered like I have been these last few weeks. When I spoke to my friend Susan last night – I said I am still “pissed” at both John, but also at me for “allowing” myself to be treated badly for so many years. That is why I sat down to write this morning – that is why I am seeing myself now as a “victim” – a word I have never used before to describe myself.

If John or his family are reading this – please try to understand that my intent is not to cause any of you pain, but I understand if it does. This is MY story. These things happened to ME.

These experiences have helped to make me who I am today, and I am a truth-teller. I won’t back down from the truth.

If my story helps even one other person speak up – it is more than worth it. Because here is a hard truth. One in every three women has suffered from domestic abuse. I am one of them – and many of you didn’t know this about me. And I am 100% certain that you know others that are being abused today. You may be one of them. If you are – please hear me loud and clear – the shame of domestic abuse cannot live in the light.

In her TED Talk, by Leslie Morgan Steiner talks about shedding light on domestic abuse – and after watching it today, I felt compelled to shed my own light – to “shed my silence” on this issue.

#metoo

 

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R E S P E C T

bilesWatching the coverage of the Rio Olympics this week has made me feel a lot of things that are typical each time I watch the Olympics. But this time I also felt a whole lot of annoyance at some of the truly stupid things I have heard and read. And when I’m consistently annoyed it usually means something more is going on with me. That kind of annoyance and sometimes anger usually means that something I care deeply about is being threatened or challenged in some way.

  1. While commentating on the women’s gymnastics competition, Al Trautwig, NBC announcer, said Simone Biles was raised by her grandparents “but she calls them Mom and Dad.” When the twitter-verse called him out, he then poured salt in the wound by tweeting that “They may be mom and dad but they are NOT her parents.” He deleted the tweet pretty quickly – and later apologized. And in doing so, I hope that he – and others who have followed this story – have learned from the experience…that words like this undermine what adoption is fundamentally about, and deeply offends adoptive families. According to the AACAP, approximately 120,000 children are adopted in the United States every year. I am certain that each of you reading this knows someone that either was adopted or has adopted a child. I myself seriously considered – and even tried – to adopt a child. I know firsthand how courageous it is for people to choose this path, and I know firsthand how it feels to love children that I did not give birth to. I know firsthand how comments like Trautwig’s hurt.  I find Simon Biles inspiring in so many ways – including the way she handled this in the press by saying “I personally don’t have a comment. My parents are my parents and that’s it.” Drop the mic. Good for you Simon Biles! People can learn a lot from you!
  2. Next, Jim Watson, an NBC commentator, said the women’s gymnastics team “might as well be standing in the middle of a mall” while talking with each other during the women’s team competition. What an utterly asinine and offensive thing to say! Listen up NBC. While I do hope they enjoy earn some money from endorsements so that they can enjoy a trip to the mall at some point…please refrain in the future from making insensitive, offensive, sexist comments about a team of young women who were clearly gathered to compete for an Olympic gold medal. These young women are the VERY BEST in their sport IN THE WORLD and are competing in the freaking Olympics. About to win the gold. For the second time IN A ROW. These women played as a team, and won as a team. They encouraged each other, and excelled together. No my friends – they were not there to shop. They were there to win.
  3. This is one of my favorite headlines of the week: “NBC Blames Women for Late Olympics Broadcast, Extra Commercials” When asked about the rational for not broadcasting the Opening Ceremony live, John Miller, NBC Olympics chief marketing officer, said “The people who watch the Olympics are not particularly sports fans. More women watch the Games than men, and for the women, they’re less interested in the result and more interested in the journey. It’s sort of like the ultimate reality show and mini-series wrapped into one. And to tell the truth, it has been the complaint of a few sports writers. It has not been the complaint of the vast viewing public.” So somehow this is MY fault? That I have to pay for a cable subscription in order to watch my favorite events live online instead of live on TV? Let me be very clear. I will watch the Bachelor when I need my reality TV fix. I AM a sports fan. When I watch the Olympics, I watch for the competition – and am most definitely interested in the result. People – we are the “vast viewing public” and we need to speak up!   By the way, I read that the ratings for the Rio Opening Ceremony were the lowest since 1992. So – let’s learn something here and be better next time, ok?
  4. Geno Auriemma, the women’s basketball coach, keeps being asked if he thinks it’s bad for his sport that the US is so dominant in women’s basketball.Is anyone asking this about men’s swimming?? I, along with a large crowd of people, watched (live on TV I may add) Michael Phelps win his 22nd gold medal last night by winning the 200 IM. All of the coverage since has been positive about the records he is breaking…first to win 4 in a row in his event, first to win 13 individuals golds since Ancient Greece…The Ravens paused their pre-season game to watch this happen! Don’t get me wrong – he absolutely deserves this kind of attention. He’s incredible! But – no one is complaining about his dominance in his sport…no one is commenting about the dominance of men’s basketball…so why is this even a question for women’s basketball? Here is Auriemma’s awesome response (he by the way also coaches women’s basketball at UCONN. As an aforementioned SPORTS FAN, I know he also dominates there as well.) “We live in that Trumpian era where it’s OK to be sexist and degrade people that are good, just because they’re the opposite sex. We are what we are. We’re never going to apologize for being that good. We’re never going to apologize for setting a standard that other people aspire to achieve…These are Olympians. They’re supposed to play at a high level. They’re professionals, they’re supposed to put on a show, they’re supposed to entertain. So, what are we supposed to do? Just go out there and win by a little?  Just like I say at UConn, we’re not bad for women’s basketball. What’s bad for women’s basketball is when nobody’s great, because then you could say, “You know what? I don’t think anybody really knows how to play this game.” I think people will say that there are some really good teams out here and when you see them play each other, they’re great games. Serbia was up 20 the other day and lost to Canada. These are great games. We just happen to be somewhere else right now. That’s okay. I don’t mind.”
  5. There have been comments made that Katie Ledecky swims like a man…and Jim Watson said that Simon Biles “might even go higher than some of them men” on the uneven bars…So I ask the question again – why the comparison to men? Can’t we appreciate their excellence without the unnecessary comparisons? Are men’s sports the standard set for the rest of us to aspire to? I sure hope not.
  6. And finally – 6… Calling Simone Biles the next Usain Bolt or Michael Phelps. What a brilliant response by Biles: “I am not the next Usain Bolt of Michael Phelps. I am the first Simone Biles.”

Perfection.

Athletes like Biles make me so hopeful about our future. She has managed to redirect the media coverage to focus on what is truly important and to disregard the rest. She must have been raised well be her parents ;-).

Week 1 is about to end. I sincerely hope that NBC and the rest of the media is listening to the feedback being shared and improves their commentary and coverage.

GO USA!
 

 

 

A Heavy Heart

Today is such a sad day. What happened in Newtown today is truly unimaginable. I made it through the rest of my work day, and when I came home from work, I tried to create some peace by turning my Christmas lights on, and lighting a few candles, but I turned on the news and could only watch for about 20 minutes. Eventually, I decided to sit at my computer and try to articulate some of the thoughts and feelings flying around in my head and my heart. I am finding myself trying to balance between surrendering to the deep feelings of sadness and trying to go about my business, resisting wallowing. Neither feels like a healthy choice.

It is deeply troubling to me and many others that these tragedies not only keep happening, but seem to be getting worse. How is that even possible?? What kind of evil would do this to the most innocent, vulnerable humans on earth – young children??  The noise of the endless, constant, media coverage, the Facebook and Twitter messages blasting politicians and the NRA keep coming at me…so I had to turn all of it off to sit and think…and feel.

I rarely watch Oprah’s shows these days, but last Sunday, one of them caught my eye since she was to interview Elie Wiesel about his new book, “Open Heart.” After watching it, I immediately picked the book up the very next day, and finished it in just a few days. For those of you who aren’t familiar with Wiesel, he is a Holocaust survivor, philosopher, professor, writer, (best known for his memoir of the Holocaust called “Night”) Nobel Peace Price winner, and founder of The Elie Wiesel Foundation for Humanity.

Just like when I read “Night” a long time ago, his words in “Open Heart”, though haunting, also comforted me when I reread some of it tonight. Here is my favorite excerpt:

“Was it yesterday – or long ago – that we learned how human beings have been able to attain perfection in cruelty? That for the killers, the torturers, it is normal, thus human, to act inhumanely? Should one therefore turn away from humanity?

The answer of course is up to each one of us. We must choose between the violence of adults and the smiles of children, between the ugliness of hate and the will to oppose it. Between inflicting suffering and humiliation on our fellow man and offering him the solidarity and hope he deserves. Or not.

I know – I speak from experience – that even in darkness it is possible to create light and encourage compassion. That it is possible to feel free inside a prison…

There it is: I still believe in man in spite of man.”

What happened today is completely overwhelming and can seem utterly, depressingly, hopeless. There are no answers for all of the questions that we have today. But even though it is so painful, we can’t let ourselves become numb to these tragedies that are happening too often. And when we let ourselves feel this pain, we must try to not surrender to despair.

In his interview, Wiesel says that while the world may never learn from the past, each of us as individuals can – and THAT is what matters. The question is not whether humanity will evolve, but will WE as individuals?

So today I am so very sad. My heart literally hurts for the Newtown community, and for everyone affected by what happened today. And I think it is so important to feel the sadness – to name it – and for me to write or talk about it in order to process it. I want to caution us to not brush over what happened and become numb.

Each one of us has an impact in the world we live in – whether within our families, our communities or on a larger platform. In that, we have power and influence. We don’t have to surrender to despair and hopelessness.

I saw a lot of evidence today of people hugging their kids, expressing gratitude for their them and for their teachers. I saw people recognizing healthy doses of perspective. I saw outpourings of prayers for the Newtown community, and for those affected by similar events in the past. One person at a time, we can make a difference – and in that may lie some of the answers we are looking for.

“Think higher. Feel deeper.” – Elie Wiesel

A Belly Laugh: Fuel for Heart and Soul

“Laughter is the closest distance between two people.”
– Victor Borge

When is the last time you laughed so hard that it hurt? Isn’t a belly laugh shared with a loved one an uplifting experience? A shared joy?

I was lucky enough to spend last weekend with a visit from two of my closest friends, Beth and Mary. As usual, we found ourselves reliving hilarious stories from our rich history together…races we ran, races we didn’t run, birthday cakes with the wrong name, our mystery man named Brad, the list goes on and on…and gets longer each time we get together.

We laughed so hard that we cried, with aching stomach muscles, struggling to catch our breaths. One of us may have even needed to rush to change clothes (it wasn’t ME!) – giving us yet another story to belly laugh at in that moment, and in the future.

It was a weekend filled with joy, and it got me thinking about laughter, relationships and the link between the two.

A quick Google search confirms my suspicions that there are plenty of studies around that confirm the health benefits of laughter…increased endorphins in the brain, lower blood pressure, a stronger immune system…There is even a study by Dr. William Fry of Stanford University Medical School that says one minute of laughing is equivalent to ten minutes on a rowing machine – how is that for a cardio workout? Sign me up. I would rather spend 10 minutes laughing than 100 minutes sweating on a rowing machine – or any other cardio workout – any day of the week!

Laughter is not only good for the heart – it is good for the soul. For me, a laugh shared with my friends or family is not just a good substitute for a workout. Laughter is a way for me to foster the relationships that are most important to me. Laughter is a powerful way to connect with others, to share an experience, to create a lasting memory, to not just cope with life – but to enjoy life. Laughter is a way to live in the moment. Laughter awakens all of our senses. Laugher is fuel to me during difficult times. Laughter is energy. Laughter is joy.

To my friends and family in appreciation…thank you for making me laugh and bringing me joy in our relationships.

Laugh on!

 

What do you want?

Recently, I learned a pretty good lesson from my (almost) 7 year old nephew Dillon. His 7th birthday is this Thursday, and when I asked him what he wanted. his answer reminded me of a story from this past Christmas.

On Christmas Day, Dillon proudly told me that he got EXACTLY what he wanted for Christmas. He explained that his strategy was to tell Santa just one thing because then Santa wouldn’t have to pick from a variety of options. Santa would only have ONE choice of what to bring him – the number one (and only) thing on Dillon’s list.

Dillon was lucky that he was on the “nice” list last year, and also lucky that my brother and sister-in-law were “in synch” with Santa to help execute Dillon’s masterful plan.

As I remembered this story, I was struck by Dillon’s wisdom: keep things simple, be certain of what you want, and be specific when you ask for it. He is a pretty smart kid!

Why as adults is asking for what we want so difficult to do? What gets in the way? Fear of rejection? Baggage we carry because we didn’t get what we wanted in the past? Somehow we lose the ability to make requests effectively. I know I am guilty of this – more often than I like to admit.

Think about it… When is the last time you sent an email to a group of people thinking you were clear on what you were asking them to do…and then only a handful of people actually followed through on what you asked? And then you think to yourself when you experience this disappointment: “I was so clear! I used bullet points and everything! I made a list – I numbered it for goodness sake!” This has happened to me more times than I can count.

Consider the flip side of this example…When is the last time your manager sent you an email asking for follow up on some task and you ignored it..because it didn’t pertain to you…I have been there too.

Requests should be simple – but they are not. We get in our own way – and tend to blame others when deadlines aren’t met. Rarely do we look back at what we actually asked for…what went wrong? Did we keep the request simple or was it lost in a long preamble? Was the request specific enough?

Here are the elements of a clear, complete request:

  • Requester: Who is asking?
  • Committed Listener: Who is being asked to do something?
  • Future, Specific Action: What do I want you to do?
  • Conditions of Satisfaction: How will I know it’s been done?
  • Time: By when?
  • Trust: Sincerity, competence, reliability
  • Purpose: For the sake of what?

Sounds easy, right? Hmmm. Not so much. How many times have you sent an email – and guess what – there wasn’t a “Committed Listener” on the other end?? Or you didn’t give a deadline? Or you failed to say why your request was important?

And there’s more. Here’s the kicker. AFTER we make a request that we often forget that  we don’t have an Agreement until someone actually says “Yes.”

Have you sent an email recently, making a request of someone following all of the criteria I just stated above – and then STILL you don’t get what you asked for? Or maybe you asked your team in a meeting rather than an email. Or maybe you forwarded an email to a large group of people that you KNOW can follow through on what you need. And then NOTHING HAPPENS. How frustrating, right? Guess what – I will let you in on a secret. It could actually be your own fault because it is highly likely that you didn’t have an “Agreement!”

Why are we so surprised when we don’t get what we thought we asked for?

Dillon gets it. This week, he was just as specific with what he wants for his birthday as he was last Christmas. Granted, he doesn’t have an “Agreement” yet either…he’s just a lucky boy that is lucky who has family who will gladly give him what he asks for. But at least he knows how to ask.

My advice is to follow Dillon’s example. Figure out what you want. Be specific when you ask for it. Then, follow the elements of a complete request. Clarify that you have an agreement.

And… you will get more of what you want.

Eat, Pray, Love Part 2

It took me 6 years to read this book. I guess timing is everything, because I am really enjoying it much more than I thought that I would. Everyone said that “Eat” was the best section…which yes, I did enjoy immensely.

But – I am in the middle of “Pray” and am fascinated.

My favorite line so far:

“You gotta stop wearing your wishbone where your backbone oughtta be.” Page 150.

This section of the book sums up one of my biggest pet peeves of all time: the phrase “It is what it is.” Or another way to say it: “Everything happens for a reason.” Both of these statements are true. However, I personally feel that these statements represent a passive way to go about life – as if we are just pinballs in a crazy pinball machine being bounced around without any control over our direction.

I think there is MUCH more it. Here is how I see it. We make meaning out what happens to us. It is up to us to figure out what the meaning is – and to DO something about it – to BE something because of it. Isn’t active voice a whole lot more fun than passive voice??

Is life happening to you – or are you living your life? Are you wishing for things rather than doing something to make them happen?

 

Il bel far niente

“Il bel far niente” 

Doesn’t this just sound beautiful without even knowing what it means? I learned this phrase today while reading Eat, Pray, Love (page 61)  – a book that for some reason I resisted reading for the last six years.

“Il bel far niente” is an Italian expression that means “the beauty of doing nothing.” What bliss is there in just being – and not doing? What a beautiful name for what I normally call presence – being in the moment.

So rather than filling up my time tonight in my quiet hotel room in Emporia, Kansas with work, surfing the internet or TV because there isn’t anything else to do…I think I’ll enjoy my time doing nothing instead.

 

 

Stephen Covey’s 90/10 Principle & The Power of Choice

A photo of a cup of coffee.
Image via Wikipedia

A few days ago my father sent me an email about Stephen Covey’s 90/10 Principle. My dad almost never forwards mass emails, so I knew it had to be good. The 90/10 Principle states: 10% of life is made up of what happens to you…. 90% of life is decided by how you react.

As I read it the entire article by Covey, I was struck by thinking about how powerful our choices can be, and about how often we don’t realize the power that we have in our own control.

Most of the time, we are moving so quickly that we fail to see the choices in front of us.  We have information coming at us from all directions, so we hurry to keep up so that we can get everything done. When we get “triggered”, we react – sometimes destructively – without pausing to breathe, think, or feel before taking action ourselves. I felt compelled to share Covey’s wise words as a reminder to us to WAKE UP in order to be present in these moments.

What positive outcomes might be possible if you made a different decision before reacting to your triggers?

Here is the text of Covey’s article:

Discover The 90/10 Principle.

It will change your life (at least the way you react to situations).

What is this principle?

10% of life is made up of what happens to you…. 90% of life is decided by how you react.

What does this mean? We really have no control over 10% of what happens to us.

We cannot stop the car from breaking down. The plane will be late arriving, which throws our whole schedule off. A driver may cut us off in traffic.

We have no control over this 10%. The other 90% is different. You determine the other 90%.

How? ………. By your reaction.

You cannot control a red light. but you can control your reaction. Don’t let people fool you; YOU can control how you react.

Let’s use an example.

You are eating breakfast with your family. Your daughter knocks over a cup of coffee onto your business shirt. You have no control over what just happened. What happens next will be determined by how you react.

You curse.

You harshly scold your daughter for knocking the cup over. She breaks down in tears. After scolding her, you turn to your spouse and criticize her for placing the cup too close to the edge of the table. A short verbal battle follows. You storm upstairs and change your shirt. Back downstairs, you find your daughter has been too busy crying to finish breakfast and get ready for school. She misses the bus.

Your spouse must leave immediately for work. You rush to the car and drive your daughter to school. Because you are late, you drive 40 miles an hour in a 30 mph speed limit.

After a 15-minute delay and throwing $60 traffic fine away, you arrive at school. Your daughter runs into the building without saying goodbye. After arriving at the office 20 minutes late, you find you forgot your briefcase. Your day has started terrible. As it continues, it seems to get worse and worse. You look forward to coming home.

When you arrive home, you find small wedge in your relationship with your spouse and daughter.

Why? …. Because of how you reacted in the morning.

Why did you have a bad day?

A) Did the coffee cause it?

B) Did your daughter cause it?

C) Did the policeman cause it?

D) Did you cause it?

The answer is “D”.

You had no control over what happened with the coffee. How you reacted in those 5 seconds is what caused your bad day.

Here is what could have and should have happened.

Coffee splashes over you. Your daughter is about to cry.You gently say, “Its ok honey, you just need to be more careful next time”. Grabbing a towel you rush upstairs. After grabbing a new shirt and your briefcase, you come back down in time to look through the window and see your child getting on the bus. She turns and waves. You arrive 5 minutes early and cheerfully greet the staff. Your boss comments on how good the day you are having.

Notice the difference?

Two different scenarios. Both started the same. Both ended different.

Why?

Because of how you REACTED.

You really do not have any control over 10% of what happens. The other 90% was determined by your reaction.

Here are some ways to apply the 90/10 principle. If someone says something negative about you, don’t be a sponge. Let the attack roll off like water on glass. You don’t have to let the negative comment affect you!

React properly and it will not ruin your day. A wrong reaction could result in losing a friend, being fired, getting stressed out etc.

How do you react if someone cuts you off in traffic? Do you lose your temper? Pound on the steering wheel? A friend of mine had the steering wheel fall off) Do you curse? Does your blood pressure skyrocket? Do you try and bump them?

WHO CARES if you arrive ten seconds later at work? Why let the cars ruin your drive?

Remember the 90/10 principle, and do not worry about it.

You are told you lost your job.

Why lose sleep and get irritated? It will work out. Use your worrying energy and time into finding another job.

The plane is late; it is going to mangle your schedule for the day. Why take outpour frustration on the flight attendant? She has no control over what is going on.

Use your time to study, get to know the other passenger. Why get stressed out? It will just make things worse.

Now you know the 90-10 principle. Apply it and you will be amazed at the results.

You will lose nothing if you try it. The 90-10 principle is incredible. Very few know and apply this principle.

The result?

Millions of people are suffering from undeserved stress, trials, problems and heartache. We all must understand and apply the 90/10 principle.

It CAN change your life!!!

Visionary leadership of Steve Jobs

“Again, you can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something — your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life.”

“Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma — which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.”

These are quotes from a Commencement address by Steve Jobs at Stanford University in 2005. For the full text, click here. For the YouTube video, click here:

RIP Steve Jobs.

Put Your Own Oxygen Mask on First

Passenger oxygen mask deployment
Image via Wikipedia

Have you ever really thought of why flight attendants tell us to put our own oxygen masks on first before helping others – including the ones we love? It can seem counter-intuitive, right? Wouldn’t your first instinct be to immediately aid your child or other loved one? Now imagine trying to help your child or other loved one while you are literally gasping for air. You won’t be much help for long…

In your daily life, at work and/or at home, do you find yourself sometimes “gasping for air?” Do you rush to the aid of others without taking the time to care for yourself first? Do you find yourself answering other’s needs at the sacrifice of your own? If you are a leader, do you have those expectations of the people that you lead?  

I see this dilemma EVERYWHERE with all kinds of people – men, women, mothers, fathers, both single & married people, working mothers & stay-at-home mothers. The term “work/life balance” is thrown around to describe those in the workplace that feel they don’t have enough time to do it all. I suggest that this problem of work/life balance is not about time management; rather it is about energy management.

Self-care gives you the FUEL (i.e. energy) you need to not only cope with life, but to actually enjoy your life. As a result, you can be more effective in both your work and personal life, fueled with more energy to tackle the constant challenges that life presents.

Tony Schwartz is an author, frequent writer and blogger for the Harvard Business Journal, and is President/CEO of the Energy Project. His Energy Project promotes the key idea that companies expect their employees to operate like computers – at continuous high speeds, over time, processing multiple things at once. But, as humans, we can’t sustain ourselves this way – the demand surpasses our capacity, and we fall into survival mode (i.e. gasping for air).  It states that as humans, we have optimal performance when we move between expending our energy and renewing our four “forgotten” energy needs: sustainability (physical), security (emotional); self-expression (mental) and significance (spiritual).

So, I then ask you – how can you move from survival mode (gasping for air) to self-care (energy renewal)? As a leader, how you can cultivate a culture that allows for energy renewal and optimal performance?

Here are some questions to ponder that may help:

How can you increase your awareness about your own energy management?

What “forgotten energy” needs are you neglecting?

What are some simple, achievable goals you can set for one or more of your four energy needs: physical, emotional, mental and/or spiritual?

What is your “story” about self-care and selfishness? How is that story preventing you from practicing self-care?

How can you become more intentional with how you expend your energy?