Monthly Archives: February 2014

I Don’t Know and I Don’t Want Statements


There are two ‘I don’t knows’.  The intellectual I don’t know and the emotional I don’t know.

So what does this mean?  The intellectual I don’t know is that part of our thinking mind that refuses to admit it does not know something.  It is in a fearful state.  So we think we have to solve all the problems brought to us.  We think we have to have an answer for everything.  This thinking mind is afraid to say I don’t know.  Instead it says “I know”.  It forgets to ask questions.  It does not know how to include others in decision making.  It is stuck in fear.  The fear leads to reactive decision making.  The reactive decision making uncovers flaws in “the plan aka our master design for how life should be” and so the intellectual mind has to get more defensive to defend the flaws because its too afraid to say “I don’t know” or “I made a mistake”.

The emotional ‘I don’t know’ is also based in fear.  The one thing, only we can know, is how we feel.  So when I ask someone “how do you feel” and they say “I don’t know” then I use the Tony Robbins model “well what would it look like if you did know”.  We are not a society that focuses on the value of emotional intelligence.  In fact, all our formative school years are focused on the power of our ‘thinking mind’.  We have scores, tests, metrics and it’s all based on how smart we can prove we are using our thinking mind.

Creativity, emotional intelligence, self sufficiency, problem solving and question asking are not only thwarted but in many schools and homes frowned upon.  “Do as I say, follow directions, don’t go against the grain, don’t ask why just do” are all examples of how society conditions us to numb out the most powerful tool we have …..  Our intuition.

So when we have a problem we think we can apply our thinking mind to fix it. Our most important relationships; family, friends, spouses is not grounded by our thinking mind.  Those relationships are grounded by our emotional connection.

Our emotional connections are developed by our emotional intelligence.  We can not ‘think’ our way into ‘connections’ with another.  We must ‘feel’ in order to connect on an emotional level.

So often people ponder or attempt to think their way into a connection with another person.  They believe THEY KNOW the answer if they just think on it long enough.  They also believe THEY DON’T KNOW how to feel when in reality they are the only person who can understand how they feel.

What would happen if we reverse the order?  If our thinking mind admitted it did not know and when it came to our feelings instead of ‘I don’t know’ we expressed how we felt.  Perhaps if we learn to answer those questions about how we feel and attempt to ask questions instead of coming from a place of WE KNOW when are using our thinking mind then we will create a harmonic balance in our life.

What if we are able to talk to someone about how we feel and how what they said or did showed up for us?  When we talk about how we feel, are the less likely to feel attacked?  What would happen if we do not analyze what they did, label it, make it right or wrong, or compile a file of their infractions?  Have you ever done this?  In your mind you think I will just let ‘it’ go but it would become a tally against them.  I kept a mental file of their infractions.   Then when I got mad enough I’d throw the entire file at them in one sitting.  With my husband, he felt attacked.  He thought my reaction was an overreaction.  So he used my over reaction as justification to dismiss  ALL of the charges.  We both stayed stuck in a vicious downward spiral.  All of which was based on our thinking mind.  Our ego.  Our Fear.

So how do we break that cycle?  We stop making others wrong.  We start to focus on what we want and to make I WANT STATEMENTS.  We focus on how we feel instead of what we think.

The thinking mind which is grounded in EGO will say:
“You are late and you said you would be home by 5:00.  Dinner is cold.  The kids are disappointed and you’ve let us down again.”  Hear the judgments, the accusations, the assessments, the attack?


Understanding our feelings and communicating from our vulnerable self:

“I really look forward to seeing you when you’ve been gone all day.  I get so excited and when you are late it may seem silly but I feel disappointed.  When I was little there used to be miscommunication between my mom and dad and when he was supposed to get me for weekend visits.  So I would sit on the front porch with my little pink suit case jumping up to run to the street every time I thought I heard the sound of his truck.  I remember one time I ran to the street so many times that I cried myself to sleep on the porch because I felt such deep disappointment.”  Hear the vulnerability.  The desire to create connection.

or you could simply say:
“I want us to have dinner as a family.  I feel that it is important for us as a family unit to have this bonding time.  Can we commit to a time at least 2 times per week that no matter what we make this happen? What is important to you?

The second part of this series is the I WANT STATEMENT.  In preparation for next weeks Blog, spend this week noticing how much you say I DON’T WANT. Each time you begin to say I don’t want, flip it to I want.  The brain does not understand I don’t want and will give you more of what you say you don’t want! This is another example of how we avoid being vulnerable.  If we say I want statements then we are putting out there who we really are and what we really want in that moment.  That is scary for many of us.  Using the example above what if we said this:

“You are late and this is the 5th time this week and I’m pissed and now I have to clean all this up because I didn’t get to do it when the kids were running wild.”  So I slam dishes and clean up as they other persons or people look for  a way to rapidly exit the scene!


“When you are late I am struggling to make dinner and watch the children.  I want to take a bath and have some quiet time, would you please finish the dishes with the children”.

Does this seem elementary to our thinking mind?  If we are mindful and honest with ourselves perhaps we will recognize how few of us follow these simple and basic steps in our daily life at home and at work.

We may be insecure.  We may work too hard to prove our worth or the opposite and give up.  Deep inside we may feel that we are not enough.  We may be scared.  We may worry.  We may desperately want help and not know how to ask for it.  We may hide all of these emotions by talking too much, focusing on what we don’t want, using our thinking mind, avoiding any conversations that reveal feelings and thus uncover our own insecurities about being vulnerable.  We do all of this and then wonder why we can’t move our life and our agenda forward.  We wonder why our best laid plans go awry.  We wonder why people resist our charge.  Life become hard work.  We make it hard work.  There is a better way.

I forget this path all the time.  That is why I blog.  It helps remind me of the path I’d like to travel; in the flow of life.  It reminds me to relax.  It reminds me that when people attack me it is because they are afraid.  If someone squashes your vulnerability it is a reflection of their limitations not yours.

My children tell me how they feel often.  Sometimes it is hard to hear.  I listen to their feelings and thank them for having the courage to share them with me. I ask them questions.  I help them explore what they are feeling.  Then at the end they hug me.  I’ve said very little.  I do not feel the need to fix them or make their feelings stop.  Sometimes when they are super upset I say let’s express them and we have a big pillow fight.  At the end I hear “Mom, that was awesome I really needed that.”  I think to myself that was awesome and mom really needed that too.

Much of their stress, is stress, we as parents, bring home.  When we are uptight they are more likely to bounce off the walls.  When we are centered they seem to be more calm.  Hmm.  Perhaps it is not about what they need to change and more about what I WANT to change about me to create harmony in all areas of my life.

Categories: change, conflict, empowerment, enilghtenment, happiness, health, hope, parenting, spirituality, trust, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Leadership and Parenting; what they have in common.



Good parents are also good leaders.  Maybe it’s good leaders are also good parents?  Whenever I read parenting books it strikes me the concepts are very applicable to my adult relationships.  It’s ironic the things my kids like most about me is also what works best in my adult relationships.  Inversely the things my children would like me to change are also characteristics that show up in all areas of my life.

My husband recently sent me an article “How to raise happy kids – 10 steps backed by science”.  These are not only great parenting techniques but they are great leadership qualities.  Families emulate teams in an organization.  A healthy business culture is just as important as a healthy family structure since many of us probably spend more time with our work families than we do our biological ones.

The article attests that happier kids are more likely to turn into successful and accomplished adults.  Therefore, happier employees are more likely to be successful and accomplished workers.

“…happiness is a tremendous advantage in a world that emphasizes performance. On average, happy people are more successful than unhappy people at both work and love. They get better performance reviews, have more prestigious jobs, and earn higher salaries. They are more likely to get married, and once married, they are more satisfied with their marriage.”

Step 1: Get Happy Yourself

A happy parent/leader is more likely to produce a happy culture both at home and at work.

So it stands to reason that an unhappy leader is more likely to produce “negative outcomes” in the workplace.  Team members are more likely to act out, which is a negative reaction at an attempt to be noticed and get their needs met.  Work places that have lot’s of drama, gossip, back biting, tattle telling and reactive behavior are a symptom of unhappy leadership.  This can be as simple as leaders that are insensitive, unavailable, task oriented vs relationship builders, and ‘do as I say leadership vs do as I do’.

We can’t tell our children ‘get happy’ anymore than we can tell our workers to ‘get happy’.  As parents and leaders we must demonstrate the behavior we seek in others.

“Because laughter is contagious, hang out with friends or family members who are likely to be laughing themselves. Their laughter will get you laughing too, although it doesn’t even need to in order to lighten your mood. Neuroscientists believe that hearing another person laugh triggers mirror neurons in a region of the brain that makes listeners feel as though they are actually laughing themselves.”

Good leaders laugh often!

Step 2: Teach Them To Build Relationships

It doesn’t take a lot. It can start with encouraging kids/teams to perform small acts of kindness to build empathy. 

This not only builds essential skills and makes people more empathetic toward others,  research shows over the long haul it makes them happier.

Multiple sclerosis (MS) patients who were trained to provide compassionate, unconditional positive regard for other MS sufferers through monthly fifteen-minute telephone calls “showed pronounced improvement in self-confidence, self-esteem, depression, and role functioning” over two years. These helpers were especially protected against depression and anxiety.

Happy leaders that focus on what is right with their teams will produce more confident employees.

Step 3: Expect Effort, Not Perfection

Relentlessly banging the achievement drum creates pressure and leads to poor performance.  If people feel no matter what they can’t please their leaders, then they are likely to give up trying.  They will become focused on what they can get from the company and may mirror back a lack of concern for the team.  In order to have a caring team, leaders must show they care by their actions, where they put their focus, the time they spend getting to know their team and encouraging their teams to actively participate in the process.

“Parents who overemphasize achievement are more likely to have kids with high levels of depression, anxiety, and substance abuse compared to other kids.”

The research is very consistent: Praise effort, not natural ability.

“The majority of the kids praised for their intelligence wanted the easier puzzle; they weren’t going to risk making a mistake and losing their status as “smart.” On the other hand, more than 90 percent of growth mind-set-encouraged kids chose a harder puzzle.

Why? Dweck explains: “When we praise children for the effort and hard work that leads to achievement, they want to keep engaging in that process. They are not diverted from the task of learning by a concern with how smart they might — or might not — look.”

Step 4: Teach Optimism

Want to avoid dealing with a surly teenager/employee? Then teach them to look on the bright side.

Author Christine Carter puts it simply: “Optimism is so closely related to happiness that the two can practically be equated.”

She compares optimists to pessimists and finds optimists:

  1. Are more successful at school, work and athletics
  2. Are healthier and live longer
  3. End up more satisfied with their marriages
  4. Are less likely to deal with depression and anxiety

Step 5: Teach Emotional Intelligence

Emotional intelligence is a skill, not an inborn trait.

Thinking kids will just “naturally” come to understand their own emotions (let alone those of others) doesn’t set them up for success.

A simple first step here is to “Empathize, Label and Validate” when they’re struggling with anger or frustration.

Help others to identify what they are feeling and let them know that those feelings are okay (even though reactive behavior might not be).

In the workplace provide a safe environment for workers to share their frustrations.  Too often leaders attempt to tell their workers how they should feel.  Some of the most honest and profound feedback about what culture changes are needed can come from teams feeling safe to express discourse.

Leaders that ask for feedback and then take action on what they are told will produce better cultures.  Leaders that talk down to teams, over manage teams and don’t ask ‘what’ questions to bring teams into discussions are going to be exhausted because they will often feel like they are pulling teeth to get things done.

This is often seen in personality types that are task or results orientated.  They don’t allow others to make decisions but complain when people don’t take initiative.  If you want your teams to take initiative then you must praise their effort and ask a lot of questions.  Downloading on our teams is just as ineffective as downloading on our children.

Step 6: Form Happiness Habits

How do you help kids/teams build lasting happiness habits? Carter explains a few powerful methods backed by research:

  1. Stimulus removal: Get distractions and temptations out of the way. Gossip is the distraction at work.  When team members come with concerns about others do three things:  Ask them to explain what they think the other person was reacting to.  Ask them what they think their part is or what they could do differently.  Ask them what they need or would like from leadership to feel supported in shifting their reaction for the next time.
  2. Make It Public: Establish goals to increase social support — and social pressure.  As an example announce “we are shifting our culture and here are some things we are doing to make the work place more fun”.
  3. One Goal At A Time: Too many goals overwhelms willpower. Solidify one habit before adding another.
  4. Keep At It: Don’t expect perfection immediately. It takes time. There will be relapses. That’s normal. Keep reinforcing.

Step 7: Teach Self-Discipline

What’s a good way to start teaching self-discipline in the workplace?   

Spend more time on showing appreciation and praise.  When someone reacts negatively first support the team member that had to deal with the reaction. The person who reacts is actually rewarded when their negative reaction gets attention first.  We condition our work force to come to us with complaints by rewarding them with our undivided attention.  By  tuning into those that are doing well and focusing on them with ample praise, empathy and attention we shift our focus from “fixer” to “empathizer”.  The same works in our family.  Do not let the squeaky wheel get your time first!

When one of my children lashes out at another I empathize with the hurt child first.  This makes the antagonists have to wait for my attention.  It is often a first reaction of parents to scold the child acting out and ignore the other children. Shifting this pattern is powerful both in the workplace and at home.

Step 8: More Playtime

Most kids already practice mindfulness — fully enjoying the present moment — when they play, but kids today spend less time playing both indoors and out… All told, over the last two decades, children have lost eight hours per week of free, unstructured, and spontaneous play…

Playtime isn’t just goofing off. It’s essential to helping kids grow and learn.

“Researchers believe that this dramatic drop in unstructured playtime is in part responsible for slowing kids cognitive and emotional development… In addition to helping kids learn to self-regulate, child-led, unstructured play (with or without adults) promoted intellectual, physical, social, and emotional well-being. Unstructured play helps children learn how to work in groups, to share, negotiate, resolve conflicts, regulate their emotions and behavior, and speak up for themselves.”

At work provide more fun activities.  Creative brain storming sessions that have no agenda.  An opportunity to share success stories.  A time to share personal philosophies and empower teams to deploy some of them with each other.  Start off meetings saying one nice thing about each team member is a great way to help others recognize the assets of their team members.  Make an effort to point out things the team did well.

Be happy.  Focus on building relationships vs putting out fires.  Reward effort. Teach optimism by being optimistic.  Teach emotional intelligence.  Form happiness habits.  Teach self discipline by focusing on what the team is doing well and responding to antagonists last not first.  Laugh often and provide opportunities for creative play.

This will take time to deploy and shift culture just as it will take time to cultivate within ourselves.  The result is we will be better leaders.  Leaders that lead by example, that work toward the change they want to see in their lives; shifts the focus from what is not working to what is working well.

Rule #62:  Don’t take yourself too seriously!  And better yet don’t take others too seriously.   We are all a work in progress.



Categories: change, conflict, empowerment, enilghtenment, happiness, health, hope, parenting, spirituality, trust | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Giving Advice – The Danger Zone


“When we honestly ask ourselves which person in our lives means the most to us, we often find that it is those who, instead of giving advice, solutions, or cures, have chosen rather to share our pain and touch our wounds with a warm and tender hand.” -Henri Nouwen

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Categories: change, conflict, empowerment, enilghtenment, happiness, health, hope, parenting, spirituality, trust | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

See it their way


This is the first week since going to a weekly blog that I missed a post.  I have retreated into a deep self reflective state to fully absorb and understand some events that have recently transpired.  A disruptive change in our life is often times unsettling.  However, when we are thrown on our axis, it gives us the chance to see things differently, if we choose to.

Whenever we are confronted with a challenge, there are choices.  In this particular instance, I chose to see this as another opportunity to grow.  Growth opportunities can be uncomfortable as we peel back our defects.  It can feel like someone is prying off layers of skin with a pair of bullnose pliers.

“When we are aware of our weaknesses or negative tendencies, we open the opportunity to work on them.” – Allan Lokos.

With the right attitude, the pain does not have to last for very long.  We can start to relax, start to understand there are really no big deals in life, start to laugh at our own naivety, insecurities and what other people say about how we show up for them.

Just because we show up a certain way does not mean we are in actuality that way.  My daughter shows up as not caring at times.  What’s really true is that she cares very much and stresses herself out.  So when you go to talk with her she is so worried that she attempts to deflect the conversation.  Understanding this about her, about others and about our own personality … well it creates deeper understanding and therefore a deeper connection to everyone including ourselves.  It also gives us space to recognize that when we are out of balance people may mislabel it or not even not know how to put a label other than “I don’t like this”.

So the next time someone shares, or in same cases unloads on you; just take it all in.  It does not mean it’s true.  It does not mean their assessment of you will change who you really are.  It just means your imbalance is triggering their imbalance.  Maybe the only thing each of us can see is our own shadow.  Carl Jung called this his shadow work. He said we never see others. Instead we see only aspects of ourselves that fall over them. Shadows. Projections. Our associations.

In some rare cases they may recognize their own imbalance and that’s when deep bonds are forged.  In most cases it is wise to listen and not expect to be heard.    Just work on your own side of the street. Also be mindful of patterns or themes.  If multiple people in your life share a common theme of how you show up; then guess what!   

I had someone the day my personal belongings were being taken out of my home attempt to share how I show up for others.  I burst into tears because I was already distraught as I watched them tear down my children’s jungle gym out of spite.  A few months later they felt the need to tell me they had tried to help me, but I was too defensive, and so they just let it go.  This person has no idea the lack of timing and  lack of sensitivity they displayed.  They are a wonderful person, with many amazing talents and have been a loving and supportive influence in our lives.  The point being we all have our blind spots.

My goal is to cut others a lot of slack.  I have been working on this for years.   As I cut them more slack I have noticed they have cut me more slack.  I’ve been lost in many of my own blind spots, made many mistakes, have some regrets and can see how much I need to learn.  The more I understand how things works, the more I realize that I have a lot to learn about how things work.

I’m not sure any of us embrace these life lessons with jubilation; perhaps Gandhi, Jesus or a few others did….  Some of us do it with some grace, most kicking and screaming, but all of us can celebrate the fact we are willing to make the journey because that indeed is rather rare.




Categories: change, conflict, empowerment, enilghtenment, happiness, health, hope, parenting, spirituality, trust, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

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