Official blog for the book "Just Behind the Door"

Archive for February, 2013

Forgiveness takes Work

Practicing the art of forgiveness is essential to a happier life. It is not for the faint of heart. Although it doesn’t cost any money and takes less time than perseverating on the injustices in our lives it is none-the-less a job that requires serious effort. As illogical as it sounds, however, many of us choose to use more time maintaining a list a mile long of grievances and hurts. The time spent reliving the injustices keeps us locked into a victim mentality.

Each time we remember a specific person or situation that hurt us deeply, as we mentally replay the tapes WITH THE EMOTIONAL FEELINGS ATTACHED it is, as if, the situation is happening again! The subconscious mind simply records the emotions felt at the moment. We may, in essence, live through a tragic, difficult or hurtful event millions of times in our minds. Each time, the memory of the event causes a deeper etch of pain in our minds and hearts. We continue to feel victimized.

Mentally replaying these tapes for years is not only unproductive but keeps us stuck in yesterday rather than looking forward to tomorrow. For example, I knew a person in his 60’s who continued to mention a roommate who 40 years earlier moved out and took some of his records! This may sound like a ‘light weight’ example but I use it for a purpose. Some of our ‘rememberings’ of hurtful events can begin to take on a life of their own. Whether big or small issues, they all constitute, over time, wasted energy that will leave us little more than vessels filled with hurts and grievances that we hold on to as proof that life has been unfair. Life may be many things – challenging, difficult and at times nearly impossible to comprehend but unfair- I don’t see it that way. It is just as we designed it to be no more – no less. It is what we do with the hurts and grievances that makes all the difference.

Granted, when we experience a challenging or hurtful situation we need time to process through it with someone we trust. It is important and necessary to verbalize what happened, what we learned from it and what we intend to do differently the next time a similar situation presents itself. Regardless of the time involved it is time well spent by analyzing the who, what, how and why the situation happened. Most importantly, it gives us confidence to know that we will recognize a similar situation in the future and be ready to manage it more successfully. We are changing from being a victim to circumstance to being a victor by developing our proactive problem solving skills based on our own real life examples. Therein lies the lesson of forgiveness. When we admit and take ownership for our own part in the situation we learn to forgive ourselves first then are able to apply the lesson of forgiveness to others.

Learning the art of forgiveness involves a process. It’s not simply a matter of saying to yourself that you choose to be more forgiving and then doing it. The first step is to examine – from whence you came – to unearth the beliefs behind the behavior. Your family members and close friends dealt with forgiveness in their own ways and served as examples or models to you. Before you were even aware you were internalizing their behavioral messages. It is important to consider what effect each had on your present ability to forgive. To start on the process of learning true forgiveness, make a list of the names of these people and then add the first word that comes to your mind when you think about them and how they dealt with forgiveness. As you make the list you may begin to see patterns that help you understand why you respond the way you do to issues. Keep the list for now and we will use it in subsequent blog posts as the process of learning forgiveness is further discussed.

Stay tuned, helping yourself learn true forgiveness is worth the time and effort! Make it a great few days.

Take Time to Reconnect

Who have you given a compliment to lately or listened to with both your head and heart as they were sharing a concern? Sounds like a trick question doesn’t it? It’s not meant to be, but it is meant to get us all thinking about our need to pass on a ‘thumbs up, I care about you or thank you’ kind of communique.

We seem to be living at light speed. Trying to get more and more done yet we look at our list for tomorrow and it seems longer than today’s. It’s exhausting just thinking about it. And yet…there is always a nagging thought about someone you meant to thank or someone you meant to reconnect with but the time just slipped away. Maybe tomorrow…maybe…but who knows if tomorrow will ever come. Something to think about and act upon when the thought comes to us.

The lyrics to the song, The Living Years, by Mike & The Mechanics reflect on the feelings of missed opportunities to communicate and understand what our loved ones are saying. A few of the lines are:

Crumpled bits of paper
Filled with imperfect thought
Stilted conversations
I’m afraid that’s all we’ve got
You say you just don’t see it
He says it’s perfect sense
You just can’t get agreement
In this present tense
We all talk a different language
Talking in defense
So we open up a quarrel
Between the present and the past
We only sacrifice the future
It’s the bitterness that lasts

The refrain, You can listen as well as you hear… I just wish I could have told him in the living years.

Some of us believe you can still communicate with our loved ones after they have passed on. I have had too many experiences that I shared in my book, Just Behind the Door, to question that reality. However, it is still important to remember that a missed opportunity is just that – missed- in never being able to do it again in that same way or same time.

Maybe each of us could set a goal to take 5 minutes over the next few days and reconnect with someone that we have been thinking about lately. Who knows we might have a new perspective from the connection and bring a little joy into both lives.

Have a great few days!

What’s Your Purpose?

” Everything can be taken from a man but one thing – the last of the human freedoms – to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances..” This statement was written by Viktor Frankl, a Jewish psychiatrist and neurologist who wrote Man’s Search for Meaning in 1946 after being interned in a Nazi concentration camp and losing his family to the brutal hands of others. In 1991, 45 years later, his book was selected by the Library of Congress and the Book-of-the -Month Club as one of 10 most influential books in the U.S. Truth is, indeed, both ageless and timeless.

A salient point he made was that when we have a purpose in life, something greater or bigger than ourselves to be concerned about we can endure whatever life presents to us. It helps us keep perspective on the day to day events in our lives as we keep our eyes focused on a more expansive vision of possibilities for tomorrow.

Frankl also reflected on the topic of happiness and its relationship to a purpose driven life. We constantly hear the message about the importance of being happy. Makes sense since positive energy is involved in happiness. However, there is something much bigger than simply feeding the beast inside of us that says,’ I want… and then I will be happy. Do this, buy that and then I will be happy.’ That approach may fuel our economy but it doesn’t fuel our soul.

The idea of purpose, of making a difference in our families, friends and world is what keeps excitement in our lives and helps us develop into more fully functioning individuals. Simply doing things to make ourselves happy requires more and more fuel (things, money, experiences) to keep going. Having a purpose in life, however, gives us a never ending supply of energy because it comes from the Universal Source. We have all heard of the adage, ‘You get out of life what you give – no more no less.’ What a simple and elegant truth to consider.

Show me a person whose purpose is to be involved in life, seeing tomorrow with possibilities and helping others along the way and I will show you a person who has a happy AND meaningful life. They look forward to tomorrow with excitement, appreciation, and hope. That is a powerful elixir for life.

We are all here to learn unique lessons in this lifetime. Learning to move past simply making ourselves happy and into a purpose driven life is the answer to our own personal fulfillment and to a life well-lived.

Have a great few days!

Choose to Refuse

Malcolm Gladwell has written three books which are studies of human behavior. His book, Blink explained that the way we processing information makes a major difference in our lives. In Tipping Point he studied the way change happens in people and society. His next book, Outliers offered a unique perspective on what makes people successful. In this last book, he stated that it takes 10,000 hours to become an expert at something. That caused me to think about the different areas in which we have become experts in our lives.

When you take this number and think about it on more personal terms, each of us has easily spent over 10,000 hours in study, careers, supporting families, helping others, developing hobbies and, most importantly, creating our own unique perspectives in life. Sometimes the lenses we used to filter our life experiences were clear, giving us an accurate view of our environment and sometimes they were cloudy, effected by events that took our breath away with angst, fear or uncertainty.

Gladwell points out that circumstances surrounding our upbringing make a significant difference in how well we do in this world. I agree but would be quick to add that we all know people who, despite all odds, have become successful, happy, loving human beings. They may have dealt with challenges in life that seemed impossible to overcome, and yet they persevered. They may be a bit battered and weary but refused to give up or become negative or angry. These are the people that when given lemons in life they make lemonade. We know what causes these people to succeed in life while others struggle. It is their strength, courage and optimism that allows them to know that they can handle whatever life throws at them – and they do.

Information is a powerful thing. Once we realize that although our early upbringing, or other life events may have caused us to become ‘experts’ at seeing the glass as half empty we can do something about it. We can CHOOSE to REFUSE to use the excuses, ‘that’s the way I was raised,’ or ‘I can’t do anything about it because…’ and decide to live life fully rather than engage in a life of justifying why we are unhappy. Jim Carrey starred in a movie entitled, Yes Man in 2009 that exemplifies this point. It is worth watching.

We can become experts at living, loving and becoming the person we want to be or experts at regret, anger and fear. It’s a matter of our perspective and the amount of time we are willing to devote to the process. When we hear ourselves thinking negatively we need to consciously redirect our thinking. It takes practice, lots and lots of practice. We could say that we don’t have 10,000 hours of time to practice becoming an ‘expert’ at positive thinking. However, the amount of time left in our life will elapse regardless. The question is how we choose to spend it. What manifests in our lives develops from our thinking. Change our thinking and we change our lives.

Can you just imagine what our world would be like if each of us decided to become experts at making ourselves and our world a happier place? I’ll sign up how about you? Maybe you can pass this blog along to a friend and get them on board. The more people who are engage in the process the quicker the world will change. Let’s make it happen!

Have a great few days!

Verbalizing your Feelings

Every once in a while I read something that just touches my heart and seems to beg to be shared. Finding a trusted family member or friend to talk to can lightened your load and make tomorrow a little easier. The following has been written by Devorah Zolotarev a gifted poet. I have taken the liberty to shorten it by not repeating all of the stanzas. The message in her writing remains intact – the importance of trusting yourself and others enough to verbalize your true feelings.

If I would let myself tell you
Where I’ve come and gone
How far I have run
Where I now stand
You could tell me you understand

If I would let myself tell you
About my hidden, darkened fears
My struggles through the years
My joy of breaking through
Then maybe you could help me
Continue what I do

If I would let myself tell you
Of the battles in my heart
What shatters me apart
How fragile I can be
Then maybe you could help me
Escape and just be free

If I would let myself tell you
Why I struggle with each word
How I’m scared of being heard
That I wish I could let go
Then maybe you could help me
Because then you would know

If I would let myself tell you
Than all this could disappear
Then you’d see me crystal clear
Then at least my tears would flow
Just maybe, maybe now
I’ll allow you to know

Have a great few days!

Gratitude, Courage and Love

Everyone’s life involves opportunities, challenges and times that may cause them to wonder if they can make it through another day. In our own insular world we often forget that everyone we see is working on their own unique life script exactly as they had written it. For some, their lives seem to appear so difficult that it can take the breath away from a casual observer. You wonder how it the world they can do it. Yet I notice something in common from folks that have had to work hard for what they have in life or deal with exceptional challenges. They seem to have developed a higher sense of appreciation for even the smallest things. They can teach us much about gratitude, courage and love.

Recently, I have had the chance to hear from two different families that have experienced immense challenges. Yet both families look at the events and challenges they have experienced with gratitude. They have trained themselves to see the gift not the burden. If you listen to them talk they reflect not on the challenges but more on the funny, loving memories that they have acquired along the way.

Walking in another person’s shoes is impossible. But taking the time to remember that everyone is doing the best they can as they live through their own unique story is possible. It enables us to remember to be a little more patient, a little quicker to offer a smile, a helping hand or a thank you for even the smallest gesture. Who knows, we might give them just the recognition or help they need to face tomorrow. Now that is powerful!

When it is said, the greatest things in life are free, it’s true. It doesn’t cost a thing to recognize the efforts of someone or to help them along the way but it can make a huge difference in their lives. It’s a quick, sure fire way to send out to the Universe a ‘ happy gram’ of positive energy. The amazing thing is that without intending it to happen more positive energy comes back to you. It’s truly a win-win in life, a ‘pay it forward’ type of experience. That is what love is all about.

Have a great few days!

Greater Happiness

Every day we live on this earth plane gives us the potential to achieve greater happiness. No matter what our conditions are at the moment our attitude determines our altitude. It really is an inside job! If you reflect on today, what did you see, do, or say that brought greater happiness into your life or the life of another person?

Sometimes, a short period of reflection gives us the opportunity to think about a ‘do over.’ Maybe we were a bit too abrupt when responding to someone or a tad judgmental regarding someone’s situation. In retrospect, we realize that since we don’t walk in their shoes we really can’t completely relate to or understand their issue. The best we can offer is empathy. A listening ear as they process through the latest challenge in their lives. Showing concern for others is an elixir for our own happiness as well.

Think about someone you know that just seems to be happy most of the time. What do they know that you don’t know? My guess is that they realize they are responsible for their own happiness and success and that it comes from being true to themselves. They let their heart rather than ego lead them. These folks take things in stride and accept the fact that challenges happen to everyone. Yet they choose to see past the current issue and have faith that it will be resolved over time. Their mental energy is spent doing, creating, and believing. Fear, anger or regret are not things they choose to accept in their lives.

What can you do tomorrow to empower yourself to achieve a happier, more successful life? Have you thought about a goal that you want to achieve? The Universe will deliver to you what is foremost in your thinking. There really is power in the practice of positive thinking. Your free will is just waiting to kick in to manifest your affirmations and desires. You just need to turn on your mental switch that says, ‘I can.’

Have a great few days!