Official blog for the book "Just Behind the Door"

Archive for March, 2014

Fear or Serenity?

This is part two of looking at the Serenity Prayer to discover the lesson in it for each one of us. If you missed the Wednesday blog which was part one please go to the archives on the right hand side of my website so you can get the frame of the discussion. The Serenity Prayer, ‘God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference’ can change your life.

I had asked you to consider which approach is HARDER for you -accepting the things you cannot change or actually changing the things you can change in your life. Assuming you have decided which approach you have a tendency to avoid I would ask you now to ask yourself ‘Why’ five times. Seriously, with each answer ask yourself why this is true for you. Usually the fifth and final time you drill down in you thinking as to the ‘why’ the real ‘Aha’ happens.

If change is the hardest approach for you consider the following. Changing the things we can change involves both confidence and trust in ourselves. The thousands of messages we received and events we experienced as we were growing up made indelible marks on our lives. What are a few of the messages that you received that have ended up controlling your life? For instance, if you were raised in an atmosphere of fear with messages such as ‘Don’t do this or something bad could happen,’ the initial warning might have been for your physical safety. But when you constantly hear this message of fear over and over you begin to generalize it to your entire life. You may feel out of control when something new pops up that you didn’t expect. You might then find yourself getting angry, lashing out when something – anything upsets your apple cart. You might prefer to keep life as it is so you can ‘depend on it.’ Well – news flash – that’s not going to happen. The truth is that the more you try to control your life the more insecure you become since The Universe just has a way of throwing us curve balls.

Learning how to control our fears is more than a survival mechanism it is a cornerstone to developing serenity. Just think about all that you have worried about over the last two weeks and the time you devoted to imagining the worst thing that MIGHT happen. There is a saying that 99% of what we worry about never happens. I believe that to be true. If you let fear control your life the Universe will just continue to present you with lesson after lesson (each one getting more difficult along the way) until you begin to TRUST in yourself. Think about the things in your life that have been really, really tough – did you survive? Yes! Was is hard – absolutely! Did you learn from it? I’m willing to bet you did.

Fear is the most insidious of emotions. It robs you of the moments of joy in life and puts you in a constant state of nervous tension regarding what could go wrong next. It also causes you to refuse to change the things you could change in your life because it paralyzes you into inaction.

We all learned a certain degree of fear from our parents. My mother was consumed by fear. You name it and she was afraid. Growing up I had the choice to accept those unwarranted fears or think to myself, ‘What is the worst thing that could happen’ given a particular situation and followed this thought up with ‘Could I survive if it did happen?’ Practicing this mindset I slowly developed a confidence that allowed me to face – head on – the challenges in life knowing I would survive, I would make it and ultimately be stronger in the process. She was not wrong in pointing out things to be mindful of, but it was the degree to which she applied fear to her life that had the potential to negatively effect my ability to change the things I could change.

The good news is that we know more about the effects of fear now. We can change our mindset about change and decide to grab the next opportunity as it presents itself knowing we will survive. As we expand our comfort zone, our lives become richer, fuller and more enjoyable. We learn to seize the moment, control our fears of the new or unexpected and move forward in life. Inch by inch it’s a cinch!

The next blog will be looking at the issue of acceptance – accepting with grace and humility those things we truly cannot change in life and moving forward with peace.

Until then, have a great few days!

Developing Serenity

We have all read the Serenity Prayer at some point in our lives. ‘God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can change. And the wisdom to know the difference.’ If you are like me it seems I have read this a million times and yet actually applying its deeper meaning seems to work better when issues are less critical or important in life. When the ‘big dogs’ of problems surface oftentimes, the real meaning of this prayer is lost and we find ourselves simply reacting as we have done in the past and feeling more and more frustrated with the results. We typically take the path we have chosen so often in our lives because it has become a conditioned response.

As with so many significant sayings in life we can mouth the words, even memorize them and yet never completely internalize them which will cause a change in our attitude, beliefs and behavior. I have chosen to use the Serenity Prayer over the next few blogs to delve more deeply into what it can do for us. The few words contained in the prayer have tremendous potential to help us arrive at a greater sense of confidence, peace and wisdom in our lives. It is worth taking the time to think about in greater depth over the next week. It can help us harness the power of these words and then apply them when we face the next truly big challenge in our lives.

The Serenity Prayer basically boils down to two issues: learning how to accept with grace and humility the things in life that cannot be changed or learning how to dig deep to surface the needed courage to change the things that are possible for us to change. Seems straight forward enough doesn’t it? Ah, but as with everything else in life simplicity is an art that only results after wrestling with the true complexity of the elements behind it. Determining which path to take is, of course, the ultimate challenge but it is not a mere choice arrived at easily but rather the result of understanding and examining the complex web of emotions and beliefs established from our early conditioning, cultural mores and personal life experiences.

To begin our more in depth look at the deeper meaning of the prayer I would ask you to consider the following questions.

Which approach is usually HARDER for you … accepting the things you truly cannot change (without anger or resentment) or finding the courage to actually change the things (with grace and tenacity) that you can change?

Your answer to the above question is important. As individuals we have a preference for one approach over the other. It doesn’t mean that we can’t use the other approach but it is not something we typically do or prefer to do especially when dealing with the ‘biggies’ in life.

Your answer is very important as we continue to dive deeper into the well of understanding about human emotions in our goal to develop greater wisdom and Serenity. In essence, in one response we are dealing with learning to trust more fully and with the other response learning how to better control our fears. Both are difficult but achievable behavioral changes. One answer is not better than the other it is simply different and will help us decide on the next pathway to follow. In the meantime after you decide which approach is harder for you the logical step is to ask yourself the question – why? Really think about why that particular approach is harder for you – just a hint – it is usually the result of early conditioning.

Stay tuned and we will follow up on the possible ‘why’ in the next blog.

Have a great few days!

A Lesson on Loss – Flight 370

My last blog entitled, ‘Fear of Change, involved the predictable stages of grief/loss that we all experience when faced with life altering changes. I used the topic of seniors about to graduate from high school to demonstrate that even when happy events (graduation) happen it is normal to experience a sense of loss. Why? When we leave the familiar and move into new unchartered territory fear rears its ugly head and can paralyze our thinking and action temporarily. Recognizing our fear for what it is (fear of the unknown) and verbalizing it to others helps diminish the negative effect and allows us to move, albeit, slowly, carefully forward.

These grief stages can be witnessed even more dramatically in sad or catastrophic events such as the disappearance of Flight 370. As of this writing, despite all the valiant search efforts by many countries there is still no information on the fate of those 239 people on board.

The 24/7 news coverage demonstrates the Stages of Loss (known by the acronym DABDA) of denial, anger, bargaining, depression and finally acceptance. We have seen people yelling, protesting, crying, praying, in shock, even unable to stand unaided as they experience the first 4 stages of grief/loss. The last stage involving acceptance is not even on their radar screen as yet. Why? How could anyone hold on to even a shred of hope after two full weeks?

For those of us who have lost a loved one … we get it. Sadly, reaching the final stage of acceptance takes an immense amount of time. The mind cannot process what the heart cannot yet accept. While concrete evidence or reasons help immensely for closure they cannot, in themselves, hasten the ultimate stage of acceptance. In the meantime, the families and friends of the 239 people number in the 1000’s – each of whom are experiencing the emotional roller coaster of grief in their own way and time.

We have all been swept up in this tragedy. Our hearts go out to those who wait with hope in their hearts to hear that a miracle has happened and their loved ones have been saved. Unrealistic expectations? Possibly, but who among us could simply say we wouldn’t be walking in those same shoes?

It does not seem to compute in our minds how in our technologically rich world a disappearance of this magnitude is even possible. Yet, as we hear of the heroic attempts being made to locate even a scrap of evidence we realize how small we are in the scheme of things in our world. A fact that truly humbles us.

What can we do as observers of this event? First and foremost we must realize that our thoughts, prayers and good intentions for the families of those who were on board the plane need to continue unabated. Regardless of the outcome we must remember that with love, understanding and time healing will take place. It is the type of healing that results when acceptance of the event finally begins to sink into our psyche and we move to the question…now what?

Acceptance of a loss forces us to a new level where we begin to question the meaning of our lives. We realize that tomorrow is not a given and only this very moment can be assured. We recalibrate our life compass to help us appreciate a bit more each and every moment we have on this earth. We try, with each new encounter, to make a more positive impact on others as we face our latest life challenge. We remember with humility that we have not walked in the another’s shoes and we learn to accept them unconditionally as we all work on our own unique life lessons. We appreciate life in a different way as we accept the fact that an expiration date is stamped on each of our souls. Ultimately, we move on with a greater sense of dignity and grace in this classroom called life.

Until next time remember, ‘All is as it Should Be.’

Fear of Change

As individuals we are as unique as our fingerprints yet when facing major life changes our behavior is predictable. Some of you may be familiar with the 5 stages of grief by Dr. Kubler-Ross but what you may not realize is that these stages not only apply to the loss of a loved one but, in fact, apply to any major change we experience in our life.

For instance, for those high school seniors who are getting ready to graduate over the next 9 weeks major life changes are at an all time high! Because of that they will be experiencing denial (is high school really over – I’ve waited forever for this but it is happening too fast am I’m nervous or scared). Once they recognize the fact that graduation is really happening they may have moments of anxiety or a short fuse and anger may surface out of the blue. You may hear statements such as, ‘It’s not fair’ or ‘I thought I was ready but I didn’t get to do …’ They may even feel that others are trying to controlling their lives. Why? Simply put, things feel like they are moving too fast for them at this point. Their behavior may become a bit scattered or random. Fear and life altering change can do that to all of us.
Bargaining is the next stage and you may hear, ‘I just want to go out with my friends more and experience life before it is gone.’ Sadness may surface temporarily, as they realize that life is about to change and ready or not it will never be quite the same again. The safety and security of the known is replaced with the daunting reality of the unknown. After emotional working through the previous four stages the person finally arrives at acceptance. They will still be nervous or worried until they are walking in the shoes of their new life but they begin to muster up the confidence that they will make it and can handle the changes that are about to happen.

You may be puzzled or surprised that the much anticipated graduation date has become something you see your loved ones worried about rather than celebrating. After all, how many times have you heard the statement, ‘I can’t wait to graduate!’ Major life altering changes affect all of us the same way and fear of the unknown reigns supreme. The time we spend in each of the stages above differs and can be days, weeks, even months. I do know that KNOWING these stages for what they are …simply stages …HELPS the person hold onto their grip in life. It is reassuring to know that our feelings are normal and our fears will pass. We just have to ‘Fake it ’till we Make it!’

What can we do to help others who are going through these stages? Like most things in life it takes a listening ear, encouragement, time and knowing about these stages. You simply can’t speed up the process but you can do various things to alleviate some of the fear. The more familiar the person is with what they will be facing in reference to the change the better. The gift of time to mentally process and ‘grow into’ the change that is about to happen results in a more positive outcome. Changes that happen too fast are generally much, much harder to accept since the processing time was not available.

As parents we want to believe that we have done our job correctly and raised confident, self reliable individuals. We may expect excitement, happiness or even joy from them given the opportunity to move on and create their own life. All that will come…it just takes time. With love, patience, (and a little advanced planning) these stages will pass and their self confidence will once again be restored as they accept the changes before them.

Dr. Seuss wrote a humorous children’s book entitled, ‘Oh, the Places You’ll Go,’ that describes these 5 stages perfectly. It really is a classic example of the human emotions that are experienced when life altering changes happen. It is a favorite to give to graduating seniors who will one day look back and remember the emotional roller coaster they experienced. The last page in the book says it all…’And will you succeed? Yes! You will, indeed! (98 and 3/4 percent guaranteed.) KID, YOU’LL MOVE MOUNTAINS!’

Please pass this on to anyone who may be facing a major life change especially parents and graduating seniors as a way to ‘pay it forward.’

Have a great few days!

Living our DASH

How do you live your DASH? You have probably heard of the person that was speaking at the funeral of a friend and after giving the person’s date of birth and death added that what mattered most was what was done in between and referred to it as the DASH in life. Would family or friends be able to fill in the dash with …she was…he was…and bring a knowing smile of understanding to those in attendance? Maybe even a few loving smiles of appreciation or better yet a laugh followed by, ‘that sounds just like …’ Being remembered by the laughter and fun you have given others is such a tribute to a life well lived.

Something to think about as we are still living out our own DASH moments. Is it the possessions – the cars, houses, or cash in the bank that are most important or …how we are living our lives? Are we doing what makes our heart sing?

The wonderful thing to remember is that we still have time to fill in out DASH. After all, none of us knows when our lucky number will come up and we will be able to exit this classroom called life.

Can we stop and think about what is real, how others might feel and withhold our anger and judgment over something that happened that was out of our comfort zone? Can we just accept that we are all struggling, growing and learning in this journey called life? We don’t have a GPS for our journey. We need to think, feel, experience and make mid course corrections as we go. That’s why life is a challenge not for the faint of heart.

My blogs in February and the first part of March were purposefully about learning/living styles. They were my attempt to show, as a title of a book states, ‘I’m Not Crazy, I’m Just Not You’ that differences are NOT wrong they are simply differences! Accepting them in others is both a skill and an art. Quite frankly, it doesn’t come naturally, it is something that takes work to get good at – accepting behavior that is so different than your own. But it’s so worth it in the long run. (If you missed those blogs just go to archives on the website)

It is not by accident that certain learned skills cause us to be happier and more successful in life. Specifically, humility, a willingness to work together for a greater cause, flexibility and learning to accept change are all life enhancing lessons that make a tremendous difference. Being able to demonstrate the ‘softer skills’ of acceptance of human differences serve to ‘fill in our dash’ and results in a life well lived – one that made an impact on others.

Tomorrow is a new day. Maybe …just maybe…you might decide there is something to think more about, or work on to fill in your DASH.

Have a great few days!

A Difference of 1 Degree!

Sometimes seemingly small things we do can make all the difference. There was a book published a few years ago entitled, ‘212 the extra degree,’ by Sam Parker and Mac Anderson which emphasized the importance of just going the extra mile to achieve outstanding, life transforming results.

They used the analogy of water. At 211 degrees it is hot. At 212 degrees water will boil and cause steam. The steam, ultimately can power a locomotive or serve as energy for other needs. If that one extra degree can transform an element such as water, what could it do for us? The example they used was simple, the message unbelievably powerful. It’s about adding a bit more commitment to the game, a little more effort to things we do that can change the composition, the product and ultimately, the end result.

In school we are often pushed to do our best. What happens when traditional school is over and the rest of our life begins? Do we remember that what served us well in school will also serve us well in life? Do we do our best and commit that little extra surge of energy, even when tired, to make a difference?

When I used to hear Wednesdays referred to as ‘over the hump days,’ I would question the mindset. I visualized someone with a downtrodden outlook thinking …’just two days left ’till the weekend’ rather than thinking ‘I have so much I want and need to do and ONLY have two days left in which to complete the tasks.’ The amount of work is the same but the path to getting there and the final product can be light years apart. The mindset in the first example robs us of energy and being all we can be while the second actually energizes us to be more …that one degree more that can make all the difference.

As George Bernard Shaw once said, …life is no brief candle to me but a brilliant torch that I’ve got hold of for the moment and I want to make it burn brighter…

The choice is ours in life, either we choose to simply show up or bring our A game to be fully PRESENT in what we do. No one can make us happier or more successful in life, only we have the power to do that through the attitude we choose to manifest. If you were giving yourself a letter grade in life what would it be up to this point?

The next time you think about your job or the tasks before you consider adding that one extra degree of effort – you’ll be glad you did.

Have a great few days!

A Friend in Need is a Friend Indeed!

Over the last weeks I have been trying to finish up a biography of my son who past away in 1999. His sons are going to graduate from high school in May and wanted to know all about their Dad since they were not quite three years old when he was killed. Working furiously on the project and importing many, many pictures into the text, my computer application (Word) crashed not once but three times. Luckily, I had been told to ‘save’ the document every two or so pages and I did as instructed. When I would add another new picture it might fly off the page, land on top of another picture, refuse to be resized, you name it and it seemed to happen! Exhausted and overwhelmed by the constant computer glitches and my quickly eroding time frame I was fortunate because I had a friend to call who has more computer skills than most, a ‘can do’ attitude that just makes you think that everything will …ultimately… work out and who even offers a laugh or two along the way.

It made me stop and think about the power of friendship. There is a reason why friendship and the happiness and fun derived from it is directly related to better physical and emotional health. When the normal peaks and valleys appear in our lives it is easier and more enjoyable to have someone who is there to offer words of encouragement, excitement and who can eventually cause a hearty health cleansing laugh to erupt out of the circumstance. Our friends offer us a fresh perspective on an issue, sensible advice when requested, complete acceptance of who were are at the best and worst of times, and a listening ear. They have that magic combination of being able to listen with both their minds and hearts.

The amazing thing about true friendship is that these friends expect nothing in return! How many relationships can you think of in this way…totally selfless?

I am blessed to have a few close friends and even family members who go out of their way to offer an ear or hand at just the exact moment when it is most needed. At times, the phone rings at just the precise moment when I really wanted to talk to them. Synchronicity…probably, a blessing…absolutely! Feelings of abundance and gratitude …without question!

It is important not to take these relationships for granted. Remembering to thank them and to return the favor at a different time and place just helps us all ‘pay it forward’ and enhance the positive energy level of the Universe.

Who can you reconnect with this week just to let them know you are thinking about them? I guarantee that any amount of time it takes will be worth the effort.

Thanks to all of you out there for being who you are…simply the best!

Have a great few days!