Listen and Learn.

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I remind myself every morning: Nothing I say this day will teach me anything. So if I am going to learn, I must do it by listening.
Larry King.

We all like to be heard. What we think and feel we want to be able to express to others and when we can do it freely we feel better and happier. We all recognize this and appreciate how important it is, so why when we have all this understanding and insight do we frequently fail to truly listen to what others want to say?
Perhaps it is because we feel that we are too busy or under too much pressure to waste time listening to what someone else thinks as we believe we already know the best decision or outcome? Or perhaps, we are too focused on what we need to do next that we simply do not take the time to listen before moving on to our next task or job. We just want to be able to tick off that we have dealt with the matter and move on.
The problem with this strategy is that more often than not we haven’t dealt with anything successfully. All we have really done by communicating in this manner is to potentially create more stress for the future.
Too often when we think that we are communicating we are in fact just barking out orders to others or we are defending ourselves from perceived criticism from others. This sort of communication can end up with us going round and round in circles trying to make our point and failing to do so. All that happens is that we end up feeling more and more exasperated, fed up and no further forward.
We are all guilty of doing this at some point in our lives and the solution to all the frustration and angst that this type of behavior causes us it really simple and straightforward. If we feel that we are not being heard rather than shouting louder and louder we need to stop and listen to what those around us are saying before we can then calmly answer them and express how we are feeling. Good communication requires all parties to be silent at some point and listen to what the others are saying before they actually respond. If we try to get our view over without paying attention to their views we are simply wasting our time. Seldom has anyone ever personally achieved anything constructive or made themselves feel better just by overriding the views of those close to them and imposing their own on any situation.
If we want to be happy, successful and content then it is simply essential to be a good listener. When we spend time listening to others they respect us more and will in turn spend time listening to us when we need them to. We can learn so much from hearing what those close to us have to say and that can help us to grow closer to those we love and to grow stronger as a person. As American psychologist Karl A Menninger once said:
Listening is a magnetic and strange thing, a creative force. The friends who listen to us are the ones we move toward. When we are listened to, it creates us, makes us unfold and expand.
Sometimes when we feel that we are not being listened to, we ourselves are also not actually listening. The only way to resolve or at least attempt to resolve this type of situation, is to stop trying to get our own point across and spend time hearing what those we believe are ignoring us, are really saying .If once we have listened to them we still feel they are not letting us respond or take our view in to account we need to make a decision about whether they are the right people to surround ourselves with. Either way just by listening we gain knowledge and that always makes us stronger.
If we find that we are the ones who have allowed ourselves to get in to the bad habit of not truly listening and communicating well to those around us, we simply need to decide to stop and change how we have been responding to others and handling things.
It is not difficult as we all have the ability inside us to be able to make such positive changes when we can see the benefit of doing so and know that by changing we will feel better and more in control. We all must learn how to make positive choices in life if we desire happiness. None of us should stick with bad habits or poor strategies that do not work well simply because they take time and a bit of effort to change. That is simply daft and most definitely not a recipe for success. Being able to be flexible enough to adapt and change makes life happier, as we learn what works best for us and for those around us. As I always say though, the choice and the power to make positive life changes lies solely within ourselves. No one can do it for us and we can hold no one responsible other than ourselves if we don’t change when we need to. We all need to learn to make changes today, even if only small positive, ones for a happier tomorrow.

Feeling sorry for myself ?

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Self-Pity is our worst enemy and if we yield to it, we can never do anything wise in this world.

Helen Keller

Helen Keller became blind and deaf at the age of two and yet she still was able to go on to become an author, political activist, lecturer and was the first blind person to obtain a Bachelor of Arts degree. She could have allowed her disabilities to restrict her life but she chose not to and decided instead to push herself to lead as full a life as possible. We need to recognize as she did, that the key to living life fully is not being able to avoid negative life experiences; we can’t really do that no matter how safe we try to stay, but to choose no matter what life flings at us to embrace it as fully as we possibly can.

Too often when the going gets a bit tough and even sometimes just when feeling simply frustrated we can indulge ourselves by allowing our minds to become filled with self-pity. The trouble with this is that these destructive and weakening thoughts can then creep up and take over and completely affect negatively how we see the world. When we spend too much time feeling sorry for ourselves we forget to be grateful for all the things we have around us to be grateful for. We simply cease to be able to see the positives and focus only on the negatives. The shocking thing about this is that the trigger can just as easily be something trivial and yet we allow it to become a big deal and to grow out of proportion in to something we then falsely feel incapable of handling.

So what am I talking about? Surely it is normal to feel a little down at times, everyone can and does indulge a bit in this type of self-pity and occasionally, if it is brief, it can be a good catalyst to help us move on and to shake ourselves down as they say and start all over again. The problems arise when people get stuck in the habit of feeling sorry for themselves and then forget to move on or chose not to. For example relationships can and do break up and obviously that is painful ,but whilst sitting feeling sorry for yourself may feel quite good for a short while and is normal, if allowed the feeling of unhappiness can grow out of all proportion until it becomes all-consuming and can make you feel completely vulnerable, weak, unloved and bitter. When negative thoughts are allowed to grow out of proportion like this you are in fact digging a deep hole which is hard to then get out of. It is not impossible to get out of but it does make it much more of an effort to do. It is far easier to not allow it to take over than to rectify it when it has, so always, no matter what your life circumstances are or how down you feel, practice finding the positives in your life. Concentrate for a while on what you are grateful for. If you are breathing you should be grateful so no one should say ever that they are not grateful for something. If you have life you have the ability to change it. Perhaps not immediately but a day at a time is all any of us can really take. We need to choose to be responsible for our own happiness and to make decisions to change the things that pull us down. If we can’t change what has happened we can change how we look at it and how quickly we enable ourselves to move on. To live life we can choose to capitalise on our strengths or focus on our weaknesses. It is our life and our choice but only one will bring happiness. What would you choose?

Opening Doors

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I have three daughters who have all chosen to go to University to further their education before starting their careers. The youngest is just in her first year at university and loves her course. She has no idea yet where it will lead her and has no set career in mind at the moment she is just waiting to see what subject inspires her before deciding on her career path, but she feels strongly that for her, obtaining a degree is the best way forward. The older two girls both have honours degrees in the same subject but both then went on to take a post graduate and a master in an entirely different field from each other, in order to open the door to their chosen careers. I have also got friends that have left school without any qualifications and worked their way through various jobs, using experience from each one to open a door to the other and friends that gave up high powered careers to follow their hearts to find happiness. Some I have known followed a less easy route at the beginning and seemed to be going to have a lot of unhappiness because of their original choices yet at some point have said “enough” and have successfully managed to turn their lives positively around. Others have concentrated on their families and made that their career. All very different, yet they all share a drive and a determination to move forward in life towards their goals. Each of them has different skills, strengths and interests but each share a belief that they alone have responsibility to guide their life in the direction that they want it to go and a knowledge that they can change direction when they feel they need to or want to.

 So today when I counsel people I am often amazed when I hear their limiting belief that because they have made a mistake, made the wrong decision, their entire life must be spent still going down the wrong road because it is the one they are presently on. I am amazed and surprised because as far as I am aware there is no rule that says you cannot change what you are doing. To me it is simple. When something isn’t working do not keep doing it. At any point in your life you have the ability to stop and change direction. Antony Robbins says “If you do what you have always done, you will get what you have always gotten” He is of course absolutely right. So why keep doing it? We can all be guilty of this at some point in our lives and for various reasons. Sometimes we do because we feel that we will be considered a failure if we change, if we admit we have got it wrong. But, if we really stopped to think about that reason surely we actually fail by not admitting our need to find a new way of doing something or a new method of working through a problem? Sometimes other people put pressure on us to keep at it when clearly we know it is not right for us and yet we allow them to continue to exert this pressure on us because we perhaps fear upsetting them or being judged harshly by them. Whatever the reason, if it is clearly not working then we need to change what we are doing.

Once we actually stop and recognise that something is not the way we had planned it to be or thought it would be and admit that to ourselves, we can then take the first constructive steps to being able to make positive changes and probably feel better than we have for a long while.

We naturally evolve and change as we grow and learn. To make full use of that new learning and new knowledge we must not be afraid of change. I often hear “I can’t do anything about it. I am just leaving it up to fate “That is fine if you have exhausted every other avenue but without at first trying then to me that is just an  opt out of taking personal responsibility for your life. Yes, I believe that fate plays a part in life but that can be used to guide us. Just because one door was closed doesn’t mean that all doors are. Often another opens. Perhaps in a direction different than you first thought but open nevertheless. Opportunities are all around if you look. Perhaps to take advantage of them you need to push yourself a little harder or take a chance or two but they are there. When Tony Robbins was asked what prompted him to change his life he said “Any time you sincerely want to make a change, the first thing you must do is raise your standards. When people ask me what really changed my life eight years ago, I tell them that absolutely the most important thing was changing what I demanded of myself. I wrote down all the things that I would no longer accept in my life, all the things I would no longer tolerate, and all the things that I aspired to becoming”

In other words he pushed himself to make positive changes by deciding what he now wanted to invite in to his life.

As always the choice and ability to find happiness and contentment lies within our own actions and reactions to life.

 
 

How to live forever.

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Saying goodbye doesn’t mean anything. It is the time we spent together that matters, not how we left it.

Trey Parker.

My Aunt died this week after a long and courageous battle with Alzheimer’s. It is not her death that we shall remember though it is the full and wonderful life that she led and shared with us which will stick forever in our minds. It made me think about what we consider as successful? Is it achieving our dreams, making lots of money being very intelligent? Or, is it what we leave behind in memories when we go?

It is long been said that you can’t take money with you when you depart this world so the making of it here must surely be to make yourself and those you love comfortable. My aunt and her husband worked hard to provide a comfortable life for their family. They used their earnings to provide essentials but also to ensure that they had many happy holidays together and were able to do a lot of fun things as a family. The money was not put in the bank for a rainy day it was utilized every day to make life happier. Quite late in age my aunt decided to do an Open University degree to challenge her mind. She had not had the opportunity to go to university when younger as money was tight and she did what was expected and left school going straight to work as a typist then later as a private secretary. She studied for this whilst working and caring for her family. Proving to us all that if you want something enough you will find a way to go get it. She passed with flying colors, as we all knew she would. She had a quiet determination to achieve without fuss or drama in a practical hard working way. We can all learn from that. Anything worthwhile takes application and effort but if we want it and believe enough in ourselves, nothing should stop us from getting it.

When retired she moved with her husband and youngest son out to Australia to live near her eldest son who had recently been widowed. She never believed home was a particular place but rather it was wherever the people you love were. She embraced the Australian life with vigor doing things she had not had the opportunity to do back home when working. She went horse riding for the first time and learned how to make the most amazing 3d cards. She began to dressmaker and learned embroidery. Presents sent home were always beautiful, thoughtful and just perfectly suited to the recipient’s needs. She traveled back to Scotland several times and despite her age was never put off by the exceptionally long flight. She was someone who didn’t just talk about doing something, she went and did it. We had many long conversations through the help of the amazing Skype application. We would have tea and cake and feel as if we were actually sitting in the front room having a chat and not thousands of miles apart. When I would say I am thinking about doing this or that her advice was always the same “life is too short to waste too much time thinking about doing something. If you want to do it go do it, stop talking about it and if you don’t let it go and move on to the next thing” .I would laugh and make excuses “it’s not that simple or I don’t have the time, money etc.” She would simply smile; shake her head and say again “if you want it enough you will find a way, there is always a way if you have enough desire”. Of course she was right and sometimes all I needed to hear was her quiet conviction that I could do it and that I wasn’t daft thinking I could.

Her physical passing is a huge loss to her family of that there is no doubt. Her presence in all of our lives though is too strong to ever truly be lost. Now that is what I call being a true success.

When humour turns bad.

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Humour is a wonderful and powerful thing. It can get you through tough times and help create bonds between people. It can lift your spirit and change gloomy days to happier ones. It is a great coping ability to have. But, when it is used to ridicule or tease someone with intent to make them feel bad then I consider it to become a very dangerous thing indeed. I use the word dangerous deliberately as it is an insidious way to knock someone’s self-confidence and create doubt whilst keeping at a safe distance from the victim. The attacker can always use humour and their victim’s lack of it as an excuse for their behaviour. Leaving the person attacked by it feeling vulnerable and angry. It also fails to resolve the initial problem that initiated the “humorous” response in the first place. So the person who set out to hurt or deflate his victim with the attack has a momentary but unsustainable high as the problem still exists or has been made worse.

“Sarcasm I now see to be, in general ,the language of the devil; for which reason I have long since as good as renounced it”.

So says Thomas Carlyle who clearly may have been hurt by someone’s sarcastic comments. I don’t quite see the devils involvement but it can be very hurtful when used against individuals in the form of personal attack.

If someone has done something to upset, hurt or annoy you then it is far better to deal with it face to face. Reasonably and calmly explain what has happened and try together to find a way to resolve any issues. Bring in a neutral third party if required or go to a mediator but do not be fooled in to thinking that by using various sarcastic attacks you are going to remedy the issue and gain permanent satisfaction.

This solution is of course for those who are feeling genuinely aggrieved and who have resorted to sarcasm as a poor means of communication. There are others though that have an innate desire to pull people down for various reasons but inevitably because they can’t face their own inadequacies or failures and so can’t bear to see others succeed or be praised or get any form of recognition that they themselves desire but have no ability to receive, perhaps because they do not give of themselves enough to ever be in the same position as those they envy.

This is bad enough when the person attacking you is a stranger or even and ex friend. An ex-partner often falls in to the poor communication or anger category and usually this  can be resolved by mediation or if this is not possible then  simply just let them go, cut them out of your social circles, social network sites and anything else you could have communication with them in and move on.

What though if it is a close family member? How then do you deal with it? Well again communication is the key but if this has been tried and failed then for me the answer is the same as I would say for anyone being hurt or harassed, move on and no longer communicate with them. If need be cut all ties with them unless they develop the ability to communicate in a normal, healthy fashion .I appreciate that the thought of this can be daunting but living with someone putting you down on a daily basis is no way to live your life. It can and will create all sorts of personal issues for you and will more than likely never be resolved unless you remove yourself from the situation. It is unhealthy for them and for you. When I was younger I remember hearing older people say to friends struggling with family issues ”you can pick your friends, but you can’t pick your family”. This is true but that doesn’t mean that you have to stay and put up with negative behaviour. Sometimes people develop a negative way of talking to each other without actually realising how destructive it actually is. By creating space it can give each person a chance to examine their behaviour and decided whether any aspect of it needs to change. If they can’t recognise the need to change and you can no longer tolerate it then it is far better and safer to be away from them and the situation, than risk it degenerating in to something more physical. When an individual has to deal with sarcasm daily it can and often does lead to physical altercations. The inability to be clearly heard or to be able to express oneself without ridicule can and does make people very angry and brings out frustration often as aggression. So take yourself away from a situation where you are likely to lose control. Sometimes we simply need to recognise that there are some people with whom we will never be able to communicate and leave it at that. We should stop trying to explain ourselves and our actions, rise above their level and move on.

Festive season choices.

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Today is the first of December and for many, particularly the young and young at heart, there is now a happy dash towards Christmas and love for the Festive season, but for many others it can be a time of worry, sadness and stress. I am always busier towards Christmas as people who feel outside of the festive fun for whatever reason and worry about how alien all of this festivity makes them feel. They can be badly affected by adverts and Christmas television where everyone appears happy and there seems to be nothing that can’t be fixed and yet they may be living with a lot that can’t at present be mended.Often people feeling this way can quickly become overwhelmed by it all and start to act or sound like Scrooge as they put up buffers and barriers of protection. This in turn actually starts to alienate them from other people at the very time when they perhaps need them the most.

It is very easy to get sucked in to the commercial aspect of Christmas and forget what it should really be all about and I am not just talking about the religious aspect of it, though obviously for many that is the most significant part of Christmas. I am actually talking about recognizing the opportunity that it gives us. Joseph Addison, an English writer and politician once said “Three grand essentials to happiness in this life are something to do, something to love, and something to hope for”. If you are dreading Christmas take note of this and my guess is that you will feel happier. If we ignore the commercial advertising aspect of the Festive season and just look at the essentials we can all learn how to feel part of it and make it something to be enjoyed instead of feared or avoided.

Firstly it gives us at its most basic a holiday. We can use this for meeting up with people that are otherwise too busy working and living normal family life to meet up and relax or we can plan to rewards ourselves with a nice time to relax away from the stress of normal daily routine. So we should plan to do things around this time that normally we don’t have the time to do or are not available for us to do at other times of the year. It can be anything but there are obvious things like a panto, outdoor ice skating or one of the many food and drink festivals that are around at this time of year.

We can use this period to spend time with loved ones and reconnect in ways that we have missed throughout the busier time of the year. If you are totally alone and happy then just enjoy having time to do the things you enjoy doing. If alone and unhappy make plans to bring some love in to your life. It could be in the form of a pet, never underestimate the love and companionship having a pet can bring. Or, it could be that perhaps you need to get out and volunteer to help others and in doing so meet like-minded individuals and open your heart to the wonderful energy that working to help others brings in to your life.

I know of one person locally here, who is on her own and last year spoke with several elderly neighbours about their Christmas and finding that they had none decided to invite them to Christmas dinner at her house. So she ended up cooking for 8 others as well as herself. Her Christmas was hectic but she said she loved it and this year she and a few others are doing the same. I am not suggesting that you do the same but it is a fact that looking outside of yourself and finding a way to relate to others can often provide the most satisfaction and happiness.

Christmas can also bring us hope. As a religious festivity it is all about hope but even if we remove the religious aspect we can still share the feeling of hope and wonder  as we watch others doing things to make life easier or better for those around them and even perhaps choose to become involved in this ourselves.

It is a time when we can feel a bond with others that although present all year round can often go unnoticed. It is when many ordinary and normally busy people increase their work for charities and charities can collect more. This is obviously done throughout the year but it is at Christmas that most of us will dig a little deeper to give to those without. Perhaps, it is because we all have time to stop and think of all the things in our life that we are very grateful for that we recognize now more than ever how difficult life can be for those less fortunate and we want to do something to help. Like New Year which follows so closely, it also gives us time to reflect on what we would like to be different for the following year and for us to start making plans.

Of course there can be and are a lot of negatives around this time, such as overspending and debt and loneliness but we all need to take personal responsibility for this. We do not need to buy in to the advertising. We can encourage limits to be set and we can teach our children, when young values, the importance of real values not manufactured values. That is our responsibility.

We do not need to be alone; we can reach out and connect with others if we make a choice to do so. As with everything in life it is always far easier to look to the negative, it requires much less effort and very little is ever gained by it. For some finding a way to look at the positive side of set occasions such as Christmas can be harder and definitely requires more effort if you are not naturally thrilled by it all, but if you take a positive mindset it will ripple out from you to impact others in a positive way and produces an uplifting benefit to yourself. As none of us truly know what the person next to us is going through surely it is far better to find something positive, no matter how small to say and leave them feeling happy.

I would like to end with more wise words from Joseph Addison who wrote:

I have somewhere met with the epitaph on a charitable man which has pleased me very much. I cannot recollect the words, but here is the sense of it :”What I spent I lost ;what I possessed is left to others; what I gave away remains with me”

Anger and simple steps to get rid of it.

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Anger is a killing thing: It kills the man who angers, for each rage leaves him less than he had been before-it takes something from him.

Louis L’Amour

I remember listening to a punk rock song years ago and the singer screamed out that anger is energy and I thought I understood and related to it. It is only now, years later, that I actually realise what a destructive energy it actually is and work hard not to succumb to its subtle temptation.

I find that people use anger to motivate themselves when they feel that someone has sapped their strength right out of them. When they have been so hurt or felt so betrayed by someone’s actions that the only way that they feel able to motivate themselves, or to take any sort of action, is to get mad. So they get mad, real mad and stay consumed by it, burning not just their desired target but everyone around them including those that they love and wish to protect as well as themselves. Or, their anger is directed inwards at themselves for being so stupid or hurtful and they set about to self-destruct in order to punish themselves for imagined or even real wrongs that they believe that they have done to others. Instead of learning from the experience and changing to be better or better able to cope they actually start behaving in a way that doesn’t just cause them pain but everyone one around them also. It is far, far better to seek help and direct your anger and frustration to make positive changes in your life.

The trouble is that anger gives an initial burst of energy, which acts as a sort of stimulant and like any stimulant it can be addictive in nature. It distorts reality and kids us on in to believing that we need it to keep going, that it is giving us a purpose to keep going but at what cost? It is possible to use anger constructively? Yes, I actually believe so especially if you use it to learn and motivate you to change for the positive and then once you have got the learnings, made the changes, let the anger go, then it can be very useful. The problems arise when we hold on to anger and can’t seem to let it go.

“Anger is an acid that can do more harm to the vessel in which it is stored than to anything on which it is poured”

Mark Twain

So how do we prevent this from happening? How do we let it go before it damages us? Well to me the answer to that depends upon recognizing the root cause of the anger and then taking action to deal with it. Who are you getting angry at or why?

What is it that you need to do or learn that will prevent you from feeling this way? Here are some simple methods that you can try to help you control anger.

Simple steps such as remembering to breathe! If I get angry I tend to forget about breathing steadily, so consciously thinking about deep calm breaths whilst combining this with visualizing somewhere nice in my head helps to calm me down and enables my brain to not just instantly react, but to think before I respond.

The next thing I do is to use my peripheral vision. Instead of focusing on the person or issue I look up slightly and practice noticing what is all around me. You can also do this when looking at a person. So, if you are arguing with your friend or boss, anyone, look at a spot just in the middle between their eyebrows. Notice without moving your eyes what is above you, to the side of you and below you. This is using your peripheral vision and instead of focusing on the problem allows you to calm down. Practice this and it will become second nature to you. It always helps calm me down when I feel anxious or stressed and you can practice it anytime to get maximum benefit.Just substitute the person for the top of a picture frame or mirror and follow the same process, without changing eye position notice what is above, below and at either side of you and relax.

Change your thought pattern simply by saying “not that” “this” and direct it to think of something more positive. I always think of something which makes me smile. Once you have regained control look at what triggered your anger. What can you learn positively to prevent it happening again? Take positive action and let the anger go.

It might be something that you can’t at present change, such as you may be going through a nasty break up and your ex is being unfair or manipulative. Becoming angry might seem best but it will only give away your control and make you look and feel bad. Keeping calm and not reacting is much better for you and much more frustrating for the person trying to get a reaction. Examine ways that will prevent you from being put in the same position. Learn positively and make any changes that you need to make to better protect yourself from this occurring again and move on.

Always remember the use of humor. “It is impossible for you to be angry and laugh at the same time. Anger and laughter are mutually exclusive and you have the power to choose either. “Wayne Dyer

Whatever it is you choose to do always remember that it is your choice. You are in charge of your reactions and the choices you make so always choose positively and wisely. If someone has really hurt you the old saying is “don’t get mad, get even “.The best way to get even but at the same time not carry on the anger is to cut them out and move on successfully with your life. Do this by taking back personal control and by not allowing others to take control of you. Fill your heart up with love for the people around you that love and support you. Concentrate on them instead of negative forces and in doing so dilute its power and energy. Learn from life events and use the learning to build you and those around you up, never pull yourself down with anger and you will find your life to be an easier and happier one.