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The official blog of familyWORKZ™

September 18, 2009

What’s the Question?

Filed under: Couples,divorce,parenting — Tags: — admin @ 12:58 pm

The kinds of unspoken questions we ask ourselves can stimulate curiosity, inspire new discoveries, and compel us to move in the direction of success. When this happens, our unspoken questions help make our world bigger.  Or, our private and innermost questions can invite despair, inactivity, and failure. These types of questions make our world small.

When our private questions shrink the world, our tendency is to shift into survival mode, seek safety, and refrain from taking chances. Paradoxically, it is our willingness to become daring and vulnerable that opens our world up to new possibilities and discoveries.

If your future continues to be a recycled version of your past, then the process of thinking about the way you think and, next, observing your thinking in real-time can together help your find a different path out of your situation.

Based on the above, the real question is, “When the moment becomes the ‘moment,’ what questions are you asking yourself?”

Is your question blame-oriented? – “Why is this person such a loser?”

Is your question dark and gloomy? – “Why do bad things always happen to me?”

Does your question make you selfish and unlikable? – “How can I prove I’m right?”

Does your question create dead-ends? – “How can I lose this time?”

Does your question end all hope? – “What’s the point of going on?”

The point becomes evident when your mind intentionally and consciously turns toward questioning your thinking instead of being a know-it-all and believing every thought your having is correct and worthy of trusting. When our minds have made up their minds, then we believe that what we know is right and we stop looking into the situation. Put another way, we stop learning. Since the purpose of our mind is to make sense out of what doesn’t make sense (the mind is puzzle master), when our minds have settled on an answer, reached a conclusion, or merely given up, psychologically we remove ourselves from the situation. The end result is we become stuck.

In the service of becoming UNSTUCK, let’s try asking different types of questions:

What works?

What am I responsible for?

What are the facts?

What’s the big picture?

What are my choices?

What can I learn?

What can I unlearn?

What’s useful about this?

What’s possible?

What is the other person feeling, needing, wanting?

August 25, 2009

The Value of Time

Filed under: Couples,Families,parenting — Tags: — admin @ 11:21 pm

Values are beliefs that influence people’s behavior and decision-making tendencies. That which is important in our lives, directly and silently guides our actions.

At one level, on the surface, we know what is important. It is likely our children, our family, our spouse, or our pets come to mind. Yet, at a much deeper level, when we are pressured or stressed, that which is most important is not readily reflected in our actions or behaviors. Under stress, our kindness toward those we most value interestingly diminishes. This conflict illustrates one of our uniquely human frailties – selfishness. That is, while “others” are highly valued most of the time, when things get tough our minds rapidly retreat back to our “self.”

Don’t beat yourself up if this is happening to you. Instead, take a breath, examine your values, and then ask yourself,” What am I willing to do about this situation?”

If you experiencing a conflict between your stated values and your actions, then reflect on The Value of Your Time. This is done by becoming more conscious about how your values and time collide. Here is an exercise to rebalance yourself.

Exercise: Over the next week, consider your values (e.g., work, important relationships, leisure time activities, community, family, spirituality) and ask where you are willing to DEVOTE MORE TIME, DEVOTE LESS TIME, and DEVOTE THE SAME TIME. By doing so, it is likely you will be more “in-control” of your values, rather than being “controlled” by time.

July 29, 2009

Big Money – The Power of Context

Filed under: Couples,parenting — Tags: — admin @ 6:47 am

Most of the time what couples fight about, what families quarrel about, what individuals complain about is what is right in front of them. Whatever is up close and personal, perhaps it’s a lack of money or a spouse coming home late or a child using an ugly word – this is what gets our immediate attention. And, this is what grabs our energy. With the child we might say sternly, “Don’t you ever talk to me that way again!” When money runs low we might say to ourselves, “Why can’t I ever get ahead; what’s wrong with me?” To the tardy spouse we might say, “If you’re going to be late again, don’t bother coming home at all!” All of these thoughts end up in the same place – being disconnecting.

Why? Because all of these responses makes someone the problem, instead of making the problem the problem.

So – how do we change this situation?

The short answer is by looking past the problem into the background. Let me share a story about “Big Money” to help you understand the power of context, which is best explained as that which is going on in the background, not the foreground.

A small child, let’s say she is four-years-old, goes to the hairdresser with her mother, who is kind of in a grumpy and distracted mode. The child is given a seat in the front of the beauty salon where she can pretty much see everything that is going on. So, the child does what she does best at four years old – she pretty much watches everything that is going on while she pretends to be looking at a book.

When the child’s mother is finished and comes to the register to pay, the child says, “Mommy, you look beautiful.” The mother responds with a smile from this collision with an unexpected compliment. But the smile goes away quickly and the mother returns to her routine and pays for the hairstyling. At the very end of this transaction, the mother reaches into her purse and gives a dollar to her daughter and asks her to give it to the hairdresser. Not understanding the purpose of this extra step, the daughter asks what the money is for and the mother says it’s a tip. The daughter, true to her observant form, asks “What’s a tip?” The mother replies, “It’s something you give a person when they make you feel good.”

Instead of walking directly to the hairdresser, the child detours back to her seat and reaches into her sparkly pink purse for something. After fishing around for a long moment, the child finds what she is looking for and then goes to the hairdresser and gives her the dollar and a quarter.

Becoming curious about this transaction, the mother asks the daughter what the quarter was for and the child replies, “I liked the way she made me feel when she turned you beautiful so I gave her the “biggest” money I could find.

Obviously, this child has a poor concept of the value of money. Or, does she?

Perhaps the child’s ability to see what is going on in the background allows her to more fully and honestly appreciate the “context” of the moment. By comparison with the mother’s tip, which was given out of habit, the child’s gift was more proportionally generous because it was given from a different context, it was given from her perspective of big-hearted generosity.

How might the concept of “big money” change your point of view as related to a lack of money, a husband who comes home late, or a child that uses an ugly word?

July 7, 2009

Day-to-Day Shocks

Filed under: Couples,divorce,Individual,parenting,Uncategorized — admin @ 2:43 pm

When life goes “according to plan” there isn’t much to complain about. In fact, one might argue, under such conditions, life is good. But is it really?

Think about all that you most remember. Do you recall with vivid detail those moments when life is undisturbed by disappointment, frustration, or rejection? When life is running its course and the expression “smooth sailing” best describes your situation, are flashbulbs going off capturing these events? The answer is most likely “no.”

Why is it that when we are sailing along and perhaps “on top of the world” our brains aren’t enjoying the high life with detailed recollection of such grand times? The short answer is that when life remains the same, regardless of its quality or lack thereof, our minds begin to shut down because it already knows what it knows and there is no reason to remain interested or active. Stated differently, consider that are minds are basically pattern-recognition machines. They look for information against which to compare against what it already knows – a template. When sensory information is collected, even a small piece, that appears to match a previous experience, it’s as if the mind says “voila” and it goes back to its resting position. Think about, for example, two simple dots drawn on a blank piece of paper. One might believe that it is a straight line that is being contemplated. However, the mind remains uncertain. However, when a third dot is introduced that is equal distance from each other, the mind sees the outline of a geometric figure and the person responds by saying “triangle.” Once the mind becomes convinced that it is right, it goes on to other things. In this way, when our lives are doused with comfort, our minds respond by going off-line or at least transform into a more acquiescent state.

Turning our attention to relationships, which is where most of our human drama occurs, if it is true that our minds are keenly interested in differences, change, and adjustment, why is that this is the same stuff that most upsets relationships? This conundrum can be explained referencing the Doom Loop. Think about our lives being arranged along two axes, which comprises a 2×2 matrix. On axis-X, there are two situations: “what I like” and “what I don’t like.” On axis-Y, there is “what I’m good at” and “what I’m not good at.” When “what I like” intersects with “what I’m not good at” the outcome is excitement. When we apply ourselves in this zone and eventually acquire some skills, then we move into the “Comfort Zone,” which is made up of “what I like” and “what I’m good at.” However, when we stay in this zone too long, we eventually stop liking whatever it is that once gave us comfort. In this way, we move from the comfort zone into the Boredom Zone. It is in this zone that trouble begins brewing. If we don’t do anything constructive about the situation, then we shift from the boredom zone into the Doom Zone – consisting of the combination of “what I don’t like” and “what I’m not good at.” Returning to the issue of relationship dynamics, think about a situation in your life that is best described by the Boredom Zone.

Perhaps you have been playing golf your whole life and the luster of this game no longer appeals to you like it once did. In a word, you have become “bored.” Once bored, it is easy to take your eye off the ball, lose your concentration, and your score begins to noticeably suffer. In this way, you have entered the Doom Zone. Similarly, relationships can be measured in accordance with the zone you most find yourself in – Excitement, Comfort, Boredom, or Doom. It is in the comfort and boredom zones where our minds begin to shut down. Interestingly, by comparison, it is in the Excitement and Doom Zones where our minds become most active. Related to this phenomenon, it appears, at least to the mind, that there is not much difference between these two zones. In fact, the distance between the two zones is really a matter of perception and attitude. The difference is made clear when what you “like” and “don’t like” is analyzed carefully.

Using this concept of our mind’s pattern-matching predisposition, when the day-to-day shocks of life’s uncertainties confront you, contemplate which direction your mind leans. Does it become excited for the challenge and remain in a learning mode? Or, does it become frightened and defensive, preferring to judge the situation and, thus, become closed minded.

Wouldn’t it be great if we could learn to be more in-control of life’s day-to-day shocks, instead of being controlled by them? The difference lies in one’s state of mind – having a mind that is either in learning mode or judgment mode. In both cases, according to how our minds make memories, flashbulbs will likely be popping. Your role in these momentous events is to determine whether the memory is worth savoring or will end up being more unsavory.

What kind of flashbulbs have been “POPPING” in your life lately?

June 15, 2009

Time Juggling

Filed under: Couples,Families,Individual,parenting — admin @ 10:33 am

Without even noticing, one of our greatest challenges is how we juggle time.

Time is, at once, ever present and invisible. It simultaneously helps us to keep our lives organized while making us feel pressured and full of doubt. In this way, time is fickle and judgmental – it is something that can be either on our side or against us. Time can “run out,” exist in ample supply (“don’t worry, there’s plenty of time left”), or it can be something that we have too much of (“will this never end?”). Time can run fast or be idle – as in “standing still.” Time can disappear (“where did the time go?”). Time can mysterious (“does anybody have any idea what time it is?”). Time can be deceptive (“I had no idea it was getting so late”). Time can even be elusive (“where did the time go?).

In this sense, time is tricky.

To get a grasp on time, think of time as three balls. Next, give a unique name to each ball. Call the first ball the “past,” the second the “present,” and the third the “future.” Now, ask yourself, “are you good at juggling time?” Or, do you occasionally drop the ball? If so, which ball are you most likely to drop? What is the cost of dropping one or more balls? How would your life be different if you became better at juggling?

If there is a fourth ball (I think there is), what name would you give it? Hint: think Einstein.

February 8, 2009

Loyalty Logic

Filed under: Couples,Families,parenting — Tags: — admin @ 10:46 am

What is invisible yet binds people together beyond reason and without question?  The answer to this riddle helps explain some of life’s most befuddling situations.

Throughout many facets of our lives, situations arise that leave us puzzled as to why people do what they do, rather than what they should be doing. Bewildered, we are often left shaking our heads and walking away from the situation not knowing how to make sense out of what doesn’t seem to make any sense. When this occurs, our minds rapidly and reflexively to turn one our favorite interpersonal tools – judgment. That is, since our minds are programmed to remain on task until the riddle is solved, somehow our minds must make sense out of nonsense. It is in this type of situation that judgment saves the day. It is judgment that allows our minds to relax, having come to some type of resolution, so that our lives can move forward. Unfortunately, our minds are not always right. The mind, once it has made up its mind, has a very bad habit of believing that it is right – always.

When a person begins to understand the roots of a riddle, it is then that the mind begins to expand and the person has a chance of gaining a new perspective. This new perspective may garner a more robust sense of balance, which then allows the person to make different choices and experience life with fresh win in its sails.

Then answer, of course, is loyalty. Loyalty lies buried beneath generations of personal influence and tradition. Loyalty is bundled with internalized expectations and social obligations. Once loyalty is appreciated as being a bone-deep commitment from which people must actively and persuasively pry themselves away from, then the mind stands a much better chance of make MORE sense out of what doesn’t make much sense at all.

February 7, 2009

Liquid Morality

Filed under: Couples,divorce,Individual,parenting — Tags: — admin @ 7:39 pm

Increasing one’s flexibility toward being concerned about issues beyond self requires expanding one’s perspective about the world, how one fits into the world, what one can offer the world, and what the world can offer right back. 

Stepping into our maturity requires learning how to balance self needs with the needs of others. When our background provides us love only through conditional channels, the lesson we learn is that the needs of others are more important than others (others>self). When our past babies us, protects us from all harm, and disallows us from facing hard times, the lesson learned is that the only thing that really counts is self, and the needs of other people takes a backseat (self>others). Alternatively, if life provides us a balance of protection and freedom, transparency and mystery, familiarity and spontaneity, the perspective we learn allows us to balance the needs of both self and others (self=others), which provides us sufficient resiliency to deal with life’s struggles and enough gumption to go out into the world and dazzle. 

Liquid morality involves the perspective that others are needed in order to develop self, and an authentic self is required to be available to satisfy the needs of others. This ebb and flow of self to others, others to self is what helps move us toward our true potential. In a sense, by being open to going with the flow of liquid morality what is gained is an opportunity to be more of who you really are and less of who you think you need to be.

January 20, 2009

Stop Yelling

Filed under: parenting — Tags: , — admin @ 10:20 am

Stress magnifies everything.  For example, a child is poky when getting their morning clothes on.  Under the pressure of getting the kids fed, lunches packed, teeth brushed, coats put on, driving in traffic, and getting to work on time to make an important presentation, in your mind, your child’s pokiness turns into disrespect and inconsideration. Consequently, operating within this frame of mind, it not uncommon for us to explode by YELLING at our child. Actually, your child’s pokiness is likely due to plain old tiredness or a biological preference for traveling in a lower gear in the morning.

Your yelling signals an important message – you’re probably a combination of overwhelmed, exhausted, battle-torn or alone. Some people might tell you to STOP yelling. I don’t think that is realistic. Instead, I believe it is more helpful to focus on trying to CATCH YOURSELF yelling. Too many times when we yell, we stay attached to the emotional explosion of the moment. Perhaps, if we learn to listen to our yelling we may get better at having our yelling signal to us that something really big is happening in our lives and that we need help, support, guidance, or perhaps just a little bit of reassurance.

January 11, 2009

Parenting Tips

Filed under: parenting — Tags: — admin @ 5:09 pm

Many parents have asked me to widdle down my parenting advice into basic tips that can be returned to time and again.  The following list represent my best shot at boiling basic parenting down into various TIPS.

  1. Love & Limits – Remember to care as much as you set limits (discipline) and discipline because you care. This can be done by moving forward with a balance of firmness and kindness. 
  2. Attention – Don’t bother talking unless you have your child’s attention.  The key is getting your child’s attention without raising your voice. This is done by talking about what matters and talking at your child’s level of understanding. 
  3. Clarity – After getting your kids attention, tell them clearly what you have to say. Follow up your comment with something like “Was that clear or do you need me to make is even clearer?”
  4. Consequences – There are three types of consequences: natural, logical and relational. Much has been written about the first two. It is the third type of consequence that I believe wins the day. More will be written about relational consequences in different blogs.
  5. Consistency – Doing the same thing over and over again, as long as it works, makes parenting much easier. When in doubt, return to what works.
  6. Know the Difference Between Healthy & Unhealthy – Teaching yourself to catch you kids doing what’s expected (acting good), is a powerful intervention that pays dividends as it reinforces the message as to what “good” behavior looks and feels like in the moment. 
  7. Know Your Child’s Development Stage – Every child passes through various stages of development. Knowing these stages allows you to accurately gauge your child’s behavior and adjust your expectations accordingly.  

January 10, 2009

Parenting Basics

Filed under: parenting — Tags: — admin @ 6:19 pm

Many people ask about the basics of parenting. This is an important question because when things get out of control it always sage advice to “get back to basics.”  There are two things every child needs and, when provided, most children are able to effectively cope with life’s challenges and engage in reasonably good problem solving and decision making skills. What are these two things? 

  1. The first thing every child needs is to know that their parent(s) are okay. Parents don’t need to be happy, wealthy or even wise, they just need to be OKAY. This means that from the perspective of the child, their parent is not struggling too much with any one thing. 
  2. The second thing every child needs is to know that they matter. The child does not have to “special” or perfect. They need to know that in the eye’s of someone important that they matter. A good way to show your child that they matter is to “talk about” them to others. When a child over hears a parent talking about them in a positive way, this gets the child’s attention and they tend to believe these “off the cuff” comments. 

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