Official blog for the book "Just Behind the Door"

Posts tagged ‘change’

Refuse the Shrink Wrap!

How many of us find that the older we get the more our lives seem to become smaller, as our comfort zone reduces in size until we become a walking add for a new product that could be titled, ‘Shrink Wrap Your Life For Greater Comfort, Security and Protection.’ In this scenario we find ourselves continually judging, complaining and ultimately rejecting any thoughts or ideas that are different from our own life experiences. This mindset is usually followed with the thought that ‘this new idea is uncomfortable to me and I reject it …end of story,’ as we begin to consciously pull the shrink wrap ever closer around us for temporary ‘comfort.’ The irony, of course, is that this type of ‘comfort’ causes us to become wary, insecure and just downright more difficult to be around. Can anyone spell curmudgeon?

Truth be told, as the years pass, unless we actively work against this tendency of living in the past it will infiltrate our very core and we will become less rather than more. To combat this hijacking of new life experiences or thoughts requires two things. First it takes an awareness that temporary discomfort may not be a bad thing and then a commitment to think more deeply about something before allowing ourselves to decide on its merit. Different isn’t automatically bad…simply different. Life is constantly changing and evolving. Are we up to the challenge of it all?

Visualize, if you will, an older version of yourself sitting comfortably in a rocking chair. Maybe your hair color has changed, and your physical energy is not what it used to be as you sit with a friend complaining that ‘things are just not the way they used to be.’ As you are speaking can you feel the energy ebbing away from you? Do you actually want to spend the remaining years rejecting the new and yearning for the past?

Every moment of our life is a choice – what we think, do and say is totally up to us. Yes, life is changing at a breakneck speed and we can choose to hold on and have the ride of our life or reminisce about an easier, slower time.

Our unconscious keeps a running record of all feelings and experiences in our lives. It is the depository of all of who we are … what we have done and learned to date. When something new or different comes along we find ourselves at a crossroad. Should I go left and accept or right and reject? This question confronts us on a continual basis – on the news, in our jobs simply every moment we are alive.

In reality, living life to the fullest requires that we slow down when confronted with a new or different thought and think about it long enough to seek the pros and cons of it. When we practice withholding judgment of the unfamiliar or feelings of discomfort we we may just find that there is something to be valued and learned from the experience.

The easiest thing in the world is to reject a new way of thinking. That takes zero intelligence! The goal of being a life long learner is to roll these new ideas or events around in our minds until we see the possible benefit rather than merely the challenge or discomfort. It increases our energy when we see our glass as half-full rather than half-empty.

Regardless of the lives we have lived, every day we are presented with something that has the potential to alter our comfort zone. Will we choose to pull the shrink wrap ever closer around us or be willing to say, ‘Why Not!’ and become more of everything…more interesting, more exciting and filled with wonder of what this marvelous place called earth has in store for us just around the corner. As always, the choice is up to us.

Have a great few days!

Saying Yes to Life!

In 2008 Jim Carrey made a movie entitled, ‘Yes Man’ from a book written by the British humorist Danny Wallace. The movie was a box office success because it gave us something to really think about with its potent message. Carrey as a bank loan office becomes increasing withdrawn and negative following his divorce. His friends tried suggesting a host of things to help get him out of his doldrums but to no avail. ‘NO’ was his constant reply to anything and everything that was out of his increasingly narrow comfort zone. His life changed dramatically when he attend a self help seminar in which the attendees were instructed to make a commitment for one year to say ‘YES’ to people, places and opportunities. He started on a pathway to personal happiness that just made you smile inside. When a movie can do that for people we know the message is significant!

Dr. Wayne Dyer highlights this mindset of saying YES to life in his book, ’10 Secrets for Happiness and Inner Peace.’ He instructs us to have an open mind to everything and to refuse to allow ourselves to have low expectations about our own capabilities. He implores us to resist ANY pessimistic tendency (also known as being the resident critic). If we find ourself saying ‘but’ ..to someone’s idea just know that we are actually correcting and rejecting their thought rather than considering or allowing it as their authentic feeling.

When we choose (and it is a conscious choice) to say YES rather than dismiss a new idea or opportunity we are choosing to expand our comfort zone. A new idea may not be comfortable but it’s important to keep an open mind and consider it rather than automatically rejecting it. As Dr. Dyer suggests, rather than saying a new idea or perspective is wrong practice saying, ‘I’ve never considered that before.’

A mindset of ‘YES’ is healthy. It keeps us growing, learning, and becoming all that we have chosen to be in this lifetime. It says regardless of what I know today or what I have been conditioned to believe in the past today is a new day with new ideas and opportunities.

Our mindset not only affects us but everyone in our environment. We can uplift others or weight them down simply by our responses to life. Check yourself over the next few days – listen to your responses – really listen with your mind and heart – are your comments energy enhancing or energy depleting. It takes work to change a habit if it has been to control, reject, or dismiss anything that is new, different or may require a change in our thinking but it is so worth it!

We have chosen this life with the challenges and opportunities that present themselves for a reason. Being happy, open and positive just makes the ‘medicine go down a bit easier!’

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!

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 Different Place

Emily Perl Kingsley a prolific writer for Sesame Street as well as author of over 20 children’s books is both an accomplished professional of her trade – winning 12 Emmys for her creative work – but more importantly a loving mother of a Down’s syndrome child. A special child that The Universe entrusted to her. She wrote this piece to help us understand how to accept differences. To me, it is a moving example of dealing with loss of our own expectations, acceptance of life changes and the strength to carry on. Her writing is a metaphor for life in general – accepting what we cannot change and having the tenacity to look for the silver lining in everything that is presented to us. Regardless of the life altering experiences we have the lessons are the same…

Welcome to Holland

“I am often asked to describe the experience of raising a child with a disability – to try to help people who have not shared that unique experience to understand it, to imagine how it would feel. It’s like this …

When you’re going to have a baby, it’s like planning a fabulous vacation trip – to Italy. You buy a bunch of guide books and make wonderful plans. The Coliseum. The Michelangelo David. The gondolas in Venice. You may learn some handy phrases in Italian. It’s all very exciting.

After months of eager anticipation, the day finally arrives. You pack your bags and off you go. Several hours later, the plane lands. The stewardess comes in and says, “Welcome to Holland.”

“Holland!?” You say. “What do you mean Holland?? I signed up for Italy! I’m suppose to be in Italy. All my life I’ve dreamed of going to Italy.”

But there’s been a change in the flight plan. You’ve landed in Holland and there you must stay.

The important thing is that they haven’t taken you to a horrible, disgusting, filthy place, full of pestilence, famine and disease. It’s just a different place.

So you must go out and buy new guide books. And you must learn a whole new language. And you will meet a whole new group of people you would never have met.

It’s just a different place. It’s slower-paced than Italy, less flashy than Italy. But after you’ve been there for a while and you catch your breath, you look around…and you begin to notice that Holland has windmills…and Holland has tulips. Holland even has Rembrandts.

But everyone you know is busy coming and going from Italy… and they’re all bragging about what a wonderful time they had there. And for the rest of your life, you will say “Yes, that’s where I was supposed to go. That’s what I had planned.”

And the pain of that hurt will never, ever, ever, ever, go away…because the loss of that dream is a very, very significant loss.

But…if you spend your life mourning the fact that you didn’t get to Italy, you may never be free to enjoy the very special, the very lovely things …about Holland.”

Have a great few days!

Helping Others Through Change and Loss

The depth of a cut is directly related to the length of time it takes to heal – and so it is with loss in our lives. Loss comes in so many varieties. The loss of a child, a loved one, a beloved pet, a job, security, our health and even changes in our living arrangements are just a few examples of life changing experiences that involve loss – the letting go of the familiar and moving into unseen territory. Most often we don’t ask for this change and are dumbstruck when it appears in our life. We question ourselves, ‘What could I have done differently to prevent this from happening?’ The truth is…nothing…’All is as it should be’ as difficult as that sounds, I know it to be truth.

For many loss is debilitating. They want to know the what, how, and whys regarding the loss. By seeking more information they hope to discover a hidden nugget that will help them reach a deeper understanding and feel somewhat more in control. There are times, however, that trying to unearth more facts just delays the healing process. When folks are unable to move through the stages of grief or change and mentally demand that things be what they once were we need to be there for them.

It may take a lifetime to wrestle with and finally resolve the changes that have happened to you in your life. You may think to yourself, ‘Life is not fair.’ I get it, I have been there with the loss of my son. I can tell you that given enough time and a desire to heal, heal you will – one small step at a time. Your loved one would want you to heal by remembering the good times and the love that you shared.

The losses in our life are meant to teach us something. The challenge is to discover what the lesson is for you and only you can figure it out. What is the absolute most difficult thing you are dealing with in your mind regarding the loss or change? Discovering our lessons and then actually learning them takes a lifetime. There is no short cut in the journey. We do need to remember to be kind to ourselves along the way.

The importance of finding someone you can talk to cannot be overstated. Think of it this way, if you were bleeding profusely you would need someone to help you stop the flow. Well, in dealing with the tragic loss of a loved one, for instance, you are bleeding profusely – it’s just on the inside – and not as easy to stop the flow. You may need help along the way. Be brave enough to seek help and remember, when the student is ready the teacher comes along.

Talking to a good friend, family member or mental health professional is a positive way to start digging yourself out of the emotional abyss that can result from a loss. Verbalizing your feelings, getting the anger and denial out is like putting a soothing ointment on a cut. It will still take time to heal but the process will be less painful along the way.

If you know of someone who has experienced a loss or change recently and are having difficulty working through it please be there for them. Often they will not ask but will receive your emotional support as if it were a lifeline thrown out to them in choppy waters. They will be forever grateful. We can all make it through this life if we just hold on to each other and know that when life seems the darkest there is always someone who will come into our life to help light the way to our tomorrows.

Be that light, that friend, that loved one who steps up and says, ‘I’m here for you – for now and for always.’ You’ll be glad you did!

Have a great few days!