Monthly Archives: June 2012

People in our Lives

I sat reflecting on the past year when my friend Charley came into the room. Charley took one look at my face and she could tell I was off in another world. Charley immediately snapped me out of my thoughts by saying, “you have that look on your face!”. I immediately laughed and said, “Oh Charley, I was just reflecting on the past year”. Charley has always had the ability of drawing everything out of me. She can read my face and she knows when I am deep in thought; she knows when I am upset; she knows when I am happy. She sat down and said, “Tell me what your were thinking”.

“Well Charley”, I replied, “I was listening to a song on the radio that asked what have you done over the last year. I was thinking about the last year. When I reflect on the year, I have had such good fortune, with a few bumps along the way. Charley, at the beginning of the year my life was in such turmoil, challenges with my work, challenges financially, major decisions that I had to make and now here we are at the end of the year and so much has happened”.

Charley immediately focused my thoughts and asked, “Tell me about the three things that impacted you the most during this year”?

I sat thinking if I had to pick only three things that impacted me what would they be? After a few minutes, I looked Charley straight in the eye and said, “Okay here are the three things that impacted me the most:
1. My family.
I realized they are the most important part of my life. Throughout the year I had many challenges, but my family were always there offering support and encouragement. My husband. He understands and supports me even when I perhaps don’t deserve such support. I have great children who make me proud. My parents, my sister and brothers are always there for me no matter what is happening in my life.
2. My friends. Over the years I have shared my dreams and my goals with my friends. Some goals I have realized and other goals I have not. But friends like you Charley always supported and encouraged me. It really has made a difference. As you know, I am going to make some major changes in my life in the coming year realizing a goal that is about 5 years behind but is finally coming to realization. A goal that will take me many miles away from my dear friends like you Charley but you still supported and encouraged me.
3. My colleagues. I have worked with some amazing people over the last year. People of whom I had a different perception. But, once I worked with them I realized how wrong my perception was. Sometimes, we past judgment on people and we really don’t realize what they are all about. This year, I had many of my perceptions change. I have been very, very fortunate to have the opportunity to work with some excellent people over the last year.

Also Charley, the people who I have met through my website. People like M. K; Claire; Jackie; Josh; and others who have contributed to my website. They have truly had an impact on my life. They have shared their talents and contributed to my site not expecting anything in return only to help make a positive contribution to other peoples lives.”

Charley smiled and said, “Do you realize that everything you have said has one thing in common”?

“What are you saying, Charley?” I asked.

She replied, “The one common denominator is people. The material things in your life, nor your actual job have had the most meaning in your life. It is the people in your life that have had the biggest impact. People have made the biggest difference in your life!”

I smiled. Leave it to Charley to see this and point it out to me. Material things are not important, and while our jobs provide the means, the important things in life are the people who touched our lives.
by Catherine Pulsifer

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I Wanted To Change The World

Change is one of the tough choices in life. How many times have you wanted to help someone else change their ways only to find that they keep moving on in the same direction and with the same behaviours and attitudes? You can present as many rational arguments as you want but still the same old same old. Take for example, a colleague at work who keeps doing the same job over and over again despite the need to adopt new ways, or more efficient ways to get the job done. What is the reason for this lack of adaptation? One reason may be that they are too set in a comfort zone because that is the way that has always worked for them and they know it cold. To ask them to adopt a new method of working requires them to move out of their comfort zone, and to take a risk that they might not be able to adopt the new procedure without making a mistake. For several years, I worked in the social justice area and spoke to many hundreds if inmates in provincial prisons, and to inmates on their way to federal penitentiary. During these hundreds of conversations, one theme began to show over and over again. That theme was this: there was nothing I could say or do that would help them to change their life simply because they did not want to. To make any kind of change, one has to have the will and determination to do it. There is only one who can do it and that is the person who is in charge of their own destiny. The same applies to addicts of any sort. An addict can be sent to a detox centre but upon release, the only decision to get involved again with the addictive substance is the person. Each person has a choice; the choice to do as one may wish and as one wants remains with the individual. If a person sees no benefit to change, they will not change. Several years ago, I experienced a similar challenge with one of my staff members. There was a real need to change the way we conducted our service and I desperately needed everyone on board. Part of the issue with this particular person wasn’t that they did not understand the need to change, nor was it that they did not have the experience and knowledge to change. It was really a matter that they did not want to adapt because they had always done it the old way and saw no benefit to doing their particular service in a new way. So, my challenge was to find a special benefit to them so they would decide that to change would be of special benefit to them. In the end, I was able to speak privately with this staff member and outline a special benefit to them that would satisfy her to want to change. If you want to help someone change, they must first want to change. If they do not want to change it is the same thing as leading a horse to water. You can get the horse there but you can’t make them drink. The story below, which was written by an Unknown Monk, in 1100 A.D., reflects we can only change ourselves. When I was a young man, I wanted to change the world. I found it was difficult to change the world, so I tried to change my nation. When I found I couldn’t change the nation, I began to focus on my town. I couldn’t change the town and as an older man, I tried to change my family. Now, as an old man, I realize the only thing I can change is myself, and suddenly I realize that if long ago I had changed myself, I could have made an impact on my family. My family and I could have made an impact on our town. Their impact could have changed the nation and I could indeed have changed the world.”

By Byron Pulsifer

If and When Were Planted

Karen, one of my coworkers was stressed about where she was living. She hated the apartment she was in and complained every day about it. One day over coffee, I asked her why she didn’t look for another apartment – it seemed like an easy solution to me. Karen’s reply to this was, “I will look for another apartment when I come back from vacation.”

Sam hated his job. He dreaded getting up in the morning. He hated the work he was doing and it started to take a toll on him. He had a love for photography and was currently taking a two-year course to obtain his certificate. Every night he complained about his work. After listening to his complaints for a month, I asked him why he didn’t finish his course and start a small business doing photography on the weekends. His reply, “if only I had more time to finish my course. When I finish my course I will start a business.”

Sarah had saved all her life and now was retired and living comfortably. The house she bought had a dishwasher in it; however, the dishwasher was old and didn’t work. She hated doing dishes, and every time we visited with her she complained about doing the dishes. One night, I asked her, “Why don’t you buy a new dishwasher Sarah.” Her reply, “I have been thinking about it, if they would only come on sale I would.”

Larry worked for a company that allowed early retirement. Larry had both the years of service and his age, which allowed him to retire, but at a reduced pension. He was having difficulty coping with all the changes that were being made in his work. He had a couple of mild attacks, not a heart attack but similar to one. He called me and we talked for hours. I was worried about the stress of his job and the effects it was having on his health. “Why don’t you retire Harry? Do something that you have always wanted to do,” I asked. Harry’s reply to my question was, “If only I was older then I would get my full pension.” I got bolder in my conversation with him, “But Harry, you have your house paid off, you have no bills, the kids are grown up. You could sell your house and downsize, it really is not worth your health is it? Harry then said, “When the summer comes maybe I will.”

All of these stories have the same theme running through them. There is a proverb that says it all:
“If and when were planted, and nothing grew.”

Now a year later,
Karen is still living in the apartment she hates!
Sam is still complaining about his job and still has not finished his course!
Sarah is still washing dishes!
Larry is still working and his health is not what it used to be!

The sad part of all of these stories is that all of these people had a lot of stress in their lives that they could have taken action to reduce. But, all of them defeated themselves by thinking “if” or “when”. Life is too short for “if’s and when’s”.

The next time you are in a stressful situation and you find yourself saying or thinking – “if or when” – remember the saying, “If and when were planted and nothing grew!” Change your thinking and take action, so that you can reduce your stress right now.

by Catherine Pulsifer

TURNING NEGATIVITY INTO POSITIVE ACTION

Negativity at work can be harmful. Negativity often results in a loss of productivity and a high rate of turnover. Negativity is contagious. The expression “misery loves company” rings true when it comes to spreading negativity around the office. Those who have negative feelings will first seek out others who feel the same way, and then try to influence those who don’t.

Negativity isn’t always bad. It sometimes brings existing problems out of the darkness. With the problems out in the open, they can, hopefully, be resolved. Here are some tips to help you turn negativity into something that can actually help cause positive change in the workplace.

Make Sure Your Criticism is Constructive: Don’t just complain, be ready to offer solutions to the problems you are pointing out.

Take Action: Take it even one step further than offering solutions to the problems about which you are complaining. Offer to help implement those solutions.

Don’t Try to Fix What Isn’t Broken: There are some people who think everyone else is doing things the wrong way. They want to make changes just for the sake of having input. Concentrate your energy on fixing thing that are truly in need of repair.

The Most Tragic Addiction

In my experience and observation the most tragic and insidious of all addictions is the addiction to suffering. The clinical definition of addiction is “compulsive repetition of a known behavior with adverse consequences.” In other words addiction is repeatedly engaging in actions that knowingly cause adverse results. There are two persistent issues connected with addictions, (1) what is causing the addiction and (2) how do we stop it? The reason I believe the addiction to suffering is the most tragic is because many people do not even know they are addicted to it. They live their lives of silent misery oftentimes believing that is how life should be. Many religions promote suffering as necessary and a part of life. The most ironic of all ironies is that the one thing we all have in common is that we all want to be happy. Yet we all suffer from this addiction to be miserable. The lucky ones are the ones that realize that suffering is optional and they do something about it. Suffering sometimes is difficult to identify. Oftentimes we experience periods of time when we are not in crisis mode and we are getting what we want. We think that we are happy. In fact, what we are experiencing is low-grade anxiety, not happiness. Happiness has nothing to do with getting what we want. The feeling that we experience when we get what we want is pleasure, not happiness. When we are experiencing pleasure, there is always the underlying fear that it will not last and we experience constant stress. In fact, suffering always follows pleasure. It is part of life. It would appear that the addiction to suffering begins at an early age, when we learn that we can get our parents’ attention and the attention of loved ones when we engage in forbidden or negative behavior. This is known as “negative attention”. When we are “good”, and follow the rules laid down by the authority figures in our lives, we only get occasional attention. We quickly learn that we can get attention by breaking the rules, defying our parents, and engaging in anti-social behavior. It seems that most people believe that they can only get attention by being the best at something or being a pest. It doesn’t matter that engaging in behavior that results in punishment actually is painful, it does have the desired effect, and people pay attention to us. Ironically, many times we are not aware we are engaging in this type of behavior. We mistakenly label life as unfair and ourselves victims, when we have created the behavior that has the adverse consequences. Then we suffer, stop making any effort to take responsibility for our actions and become drama kings and queens. Think of the people in our lives that live with the most melodrama, the most adverse consequences, and often view themselves as the ultimate victims in an unfair world. Both the behavior and the complaining about the adverse consequences are subconsciously calculated to get attention. Many times this addiction is underlying a more visible addiction, substance abuse, sexual abuse, or criminal behavior. When society has had enough of this behavior, it simply locks these people away with others with similar addictions. We can attempt to recover from these superficial addictions, but end up miserable and self-defeating because we are not aware of the underlying addiction to suffering. AA has a saying, sober up a horse thief and you have a horse thief. You do not become happy by becoming sober. This is why so many people relapse. So how does one recover from this addiction? As with other addictions, the first step is awareness and taking responsibility for what we do. When we admit to ourselves that we are unhappy and want to change, that is half the battle. We have to stop lying to ourselves and saying that we are happy when we are not. The suffering only increases when we lie to others and ourselves. We have to identify the cause of our suffering, which is our thinking. When we are completely honest and admit that it is our thinking that is causing our suffering, not outside circumstances, and then we have a chance of becoming happy. You cannot stop thinking. That is humanly impossible. The only solution is to realize that our thinking is not who we are. In other words, we are not our thoughts. Our thoughts are the byproduct of millions of electrical biochemical events every second in our brain. Awareness is not thinking. We can be aware of our thoughts if we detach from them and realize that they are not real. So the addiction to suffering can also be described as the addiction to thinking. In order to recover from this addiction — the addiction to thinking — we have to let go of our attachment to thinking. Thinking actually is good; it is what gets us dressed in the morning, accomplishes goals, life in society and helps us survive in this physical dimension. However, we have to recognize the difference between “I” as a self-aware life force and “I” as a collection of thoughts. The former is naturally happy; the latter suffers. The more we focus on the former, the happier we are. The more we fall into the trap of believing that we are our thoughts, the more we suffer. Instead of believing our thoughts, we can look at the sunset, we can observe what is going on around us without thought or opinion, we can enjoy just “being.” Since we are human beings, we are going to lower ourselves into the hell of thinking from time to time, but it doesn’t have to be all of the time. If we remember that thinking is an addiction which causes suffering, perhaps we won’t do it so much and enjoy life more.