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Monday, March 25, 2013

Monday Morning Check In: The Right Attitude

Written by Paula E. Bird ©2013

This has been a tough week for a lot of people. Many of my friends have related stories to me of interpersonal conflicts they had with co-workers which took the life right out of my friends. My friends felt as if they had been battered and hammered down until they were bruised and two inches shorter. My friends were subjected to undeserved angry outbursts, rude behavior, and unpleasant and sarcastic remarks. How does one handle such episodes? How does one react to another person who is behaving badly and apparently does not have the wherewithal to exercise appropriate self control in a social or work situation? In other words, what do you do when a rude person comes at you with an angry outburst, nasty remarks, and unsocial behavior?

Unfortunately, we do what any self-respecting person does when faced with this unpleasantness. We do nothing. We are usually surprised, even stunned to be subjected to such unpleasantness. Our first instinct is to respond in kind, but if we are really good, we will hold ourselves in check and take the heat instead. We will absorb the toxic poison being spewed on us and we will sit with it for hours, maybe even days afterwards trying to make sense of it. If we are good people, we will ponder what happened and seek to understand what we did to cause the other person's behavior. Surely I did something that sparked the outburst, we think. I need to figure out what I did wrong, we think. Then we look for the life lesson that we can take away with us.

I am truly annoyed to hear stories like this, and the stories are numerous. These types of encounters happen far too frequently today, sometimes among complete strangers (e.g., customer and store clerk), but most often between people who know each other, such as family members and co-workers. None of these situations are appropriate. No one should be subjected to that kind of treatment, no matter what the reason. No one.

I wish that we could return to a place and time, if there ever were such a period in history, when people addressed each other with formal names, even husbands and wives. There were observed social customs that discouraged gossip, shameless outbursts of anger, bold effrontery, or inappropriate public displays. Whether people felt angry or unkind, there were social rules that prevented people from behaving badly towards each other.

I do not know if we will ever return to such a civilized place, and I suspect that such a place never existed except in historical fiction and Jane Austin's books. Still, I would urge us to make the effort. If a few of us adopt the right attitudes, perhaps our influence will spread and encourage others to join our cause.

What is the right attitude? Here are a few ideas. Perhaps you can comment with some of your favorite attitudes. Here are some of my suggestions, including character qualities and positive actions that would spur a positive or right-minded attitude:
  • Be kind
  • Be gracious
  • Forgive others
  • Exert self-control
  • Feel compassion
  • Show courtesy
  • Express happiness, joy, and optimism
  • Feel hopeful
  • Expect and look for the best
  • Do your best always
  • Express altruism
  • Set goals for tomorrow
  • Follow an action plan for the future
  • Look for options
  • Stretch yourself
  • Do something you fear
  • Reach out of your comfort zone
  • Revere peace of mind
  • Start with calmness and stillness
  • Focus on success
  • Be determined
  • Exude energy
  • Build trust
  • Respond pleasantly to others
  • Go the extra mile
  • Assure and affirm others
  • Shower complements
  • Lift up good humor
  • Keep promises
  • Foster an open mind
  • Give love freely
This week, observe yourself. Observe your thoughts and your behaviors. Are you someone who spreads a positive attitude or are you one of those people who ruined my friends' days last week? What can you do this week to develop a more focused and life-giving attitude toward others? Make a choice to do one thing this week that will help to strengthen someone else. Share the right attitude. Help the world to be a more pleasant place to live and work.

Change the world -- one child, one student at a time.

12th Monday: Today is the 12th Monday of 2013, so remove your 12th penny. One fourth of the year 2013 has passed. Where are you headed the rest of this year?

Monday, March 18, 2013

Monday Morning Check In: How to Handle Disappointment

Written by Paula E. Bird ©2013

"We must all suffer one of two things: the pain of discipline or the pain of regret or disappointment." -- Jim Rohn (1930-2009, entrepreneur, author, and speaker)

Have you ever suffered a disappointment or a setback? Of course you have! We all have. Disappointments are a part of life. Unfortunately, disappointments are not easy for anyone to bear. We experience anger, grief, and sometimes hurt. Our emotions are strong, and we have difficulty containing them or subduing them. Yet, disappointments are inevitable. What we need is a way to understand them and handle them. Here I discuss unproductive and productive ways of handling disappointment, and in the process, I hope that I shed some light on what disappointment really is and how we create disappointment.

Here is a list of unproductive ways to handle disappointment:

Rant and Rave: It is natural to feel hurt and consequently anger when things do not go our way or turn out as we expected. Hurt and anger are negative emotions, however, and take a physical and emotional toll on the person who experiences these emotions as well as on the people who surround the venting person. Expressing hurt and anger will likely lead to broken relationships and burned bridges. The other people in our life may be negatively affected by our negative expression. We do not want to cause others pain intentionally.

Strike back or seek revenge: It is natural to want to hurt someone who has hurt us or to want that person to experience the same emotional pain that we feel. Again, this type of response is negative and will result in more destruction than solution.

Be mean, spiteful, or petty: When someone or something causes us disappointment, we are tempted to respond with mean behavior. We could easily return the favor with spiteful comments or petty vindictiveness. This type of response is likely to escalate the negative direction of a particular situation, which is not going to help us feel any better in the long run. In the process, we are showing others that we lack the strength of character to weather life's storms. Others will not trust that we will behave well in times of trial, and this may affect our ability to achieve future employment or secure desired personal relationships.

Complain or blame: Our first responses to disappointment are generally to complain or to blame (pass the buck). Lodging a complaint might be a viable option if the complaint were valid and made to someone who had the power to address the complaint. Blaming encourages us to abdicate any responsibility we might have in the cause of the disappointment. In other words, it is someone else's fault. This type of thinking actually takes away any feeling of power that we might have. We place the blame on someone else, and that then leaves us with no power to do anything different. We render ourselves helpless and incapable because we have given away our control over the situation or outcome to someone else.

Wallow and grieve: It is natural to mourn our disappointment, but if we spend too much time in this emotional swamp, we will weaken our ability to pull ourselves out. Mourning is a natural action; languishing is not. Languishing places us in a quagmire; we will not move forward with ease.

Focus on the negative: When we focus on the negative side of a situation, we are hindering our efforts to improve things, because we are placing our focus on the disappointment rather than on any possible solution.

How should we handle disappointment? Here are my suggestions to get back up on your feet and to handle disappointment productively:

Embrace and experience. Embrace the feeling and experience the emotion. Do not try to block, ignore, diminish, or numb the feeling. The disappointment is real, and you have to deal with it. Learn how to experience what you are feeling so that you can learn how to endure discomfort. Too many times people get lost in useless denial exercises or fall prey to addictive behaviors that are designed to minimize the emotional pain. It is better to explore your feelings about the situation rather than to stuff them away or cover them over with a blanket.

Get some distance. Step back emotionally. Give yourself some time to process what has happened. This distance and time will yield an opportunity to gain a different perspective about the setback or disappointment.
"If we will be quiet and ready enough, we shall find compensation in every disappointment." -- Henry David Thoreau (1817-1862, writer and poet)
Choose your response. One of my favorite Stephen Covey quotes from his book The 8th Habit is: "Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space lies our freedom and power to choose our response. In those choices lie our growth and our happiness." If you follow the previous step of getting some distance, you will have widened the space between stimulus and response, and you will have given yourself a greater opportunity of choosing a wise response to the situation.

Handle it with class. Someone once gave me this valuable advice about how to handle disappointment and any type of setback. This simple suggestion has stuck with me for years and influenced most of the decisions I have made concerning my work relationships and my job choices. When we picture our choices as examples of how "classy" we are, then we will make choices that will steer us in a positive direction and keep our relationship bridges intact and functioning.

Know what your core values are. You want to make choices that speak to others about who you are. Be sure you know what your core values are so that your response reveals the true you.

Accept the disappointment and learn from it. Do not fight about the disappointment. Look it squarely in the eye and accept it. This is reality. Your disappointment is mostly about a misperception in your head. You thought that things would be a certain way, and things did not turn out as you expected. This is a misperception. This is not reality. What actually happened is reality, so you need to figure out what went wrong in your thinking and correct that. Learn from the experience and move on.

Look to the future. Focus on the solution rather than on the disappointment. How can you resolve your current situation? What can you do now to make things go in the direction that you want?
"Anytime you suffer a setback or disappointment, put your head down and plow ahead."-- Les Brown (1945- , author and speaker)
Recharge yourself. Renew your focus and your commitment, and do the best that you can from this point forward. Recall what your underlying desire was and focus on that rather than on the disappointment you feel because you did not get the outcome that you expected. If you focus on your initial desire, you will remember what your first criteria were. Most likely you are disappointed now because you are focusing on your expectations rather than on your desire. There are many different ways to satisfy your initial desire. Instead of focusing on your disappointment, focus instead on your initial desire (what do I really want?) and then consider the ways that you can satisfy your desire. Do not get bogged down with the fact that things did not turn out in one particular way.
"The beauty is that through disappointment you can gain clarity, and with clarity comes conviction and true originality." -- Conan O'Brien (1963- , TV host, comedian, writer, and producer)
Focus on the solution. If you focus on your initial desire and renew your commitment, you will focus positively on the solution. This type of thinking will spur you to action, and this action will help you to gain energy and to experience a sense of positive control. Figure out solutions and alternatives and take action.

Recognize an opportunity for growth. Your thinking is flawed at this point. You expected something that did not happen. This is a misperception in your thinking. Recognize now that the disappointment you feel is pointing out this misperception to you. You now have an opportunity to grow from this experience.
"There's always failure. And there's always disappointment. And there's always loss. But the secret is learning from loss, and realizing that none of those holes are vacuums." -- Michael J. Fox (1961- , actor, producer, and author)
Disappointment is a hard lesson. Disappointment teaches us much about who we are, how we think, and what our character traits are that spur us to behave in particular ways. Rather than fight to discourage moments of disappointment, we should welcome these moments when we find them because of the many lessons we learn. I do not enjoy the experience of disappointment, but I have learned that I can gain many insights and benefits from handling my disappointments wisely.
"Disappointment to a noble soul is what cold water is to burning metal: it strengthens, tempers, intensifies, but never destroys it." -- Eliza Tabor Stephenson (1835-1914, author)
Today is the 11th Monday of 2014, so remove the 11th penny from your penny jar (What is this?).

Monday, March 11, 2013

Monday Morning Check In: Taking a Break

Written by Paula E. Bird ©2013

This is the first Monday of spring break for me. Yay!

Uh oh, I see a problem ahead. Knowing that spring break was around the corner, I managed to save a lot of unfinished items on my "to do" list. Now I am faced with a list of things that must be managed, but I also know that I need the break to recharge my creative batteries. I suspect that many of you have done the same thing. Here is how I propose that we handle this problem.

  • Write it all down: Write down everything that you need to finish during the break.
  • Consolidate: Group activities by similarity, such as appointments, errands, phone calls, and computer work.
  • Schedule Appointments: Put appointments on your calendar first. These are the items that cannot be altered, such as dental appointments, vet appointments, and car service appointments.
  • Schedule "Break Time": Look at your calendar for the week and schedule your vacation time. Were you going to read a book or go to a movie? Were you going to spend time with family, or visit a park? Put these things on your calendar first. Knowing that you have scheduled actual break time will help a lot to generate the energy you need to tackle those unfinished to do items.
  • Schedule "To Do" Time: Look at your calendar for the week and schedule times to tackle the items on your to do list in the remaining free time you have.
Now, you can go about your spring break and enjoy yourself knowing that you have planned break time and work time. Even though you will still be working, you will be placing that work in a different priority mindset.

If you would like to find out more about this type of scheduling, visit Neil Fiore and his "The Now Habit."

Today is the 10th Monday of 2013. Take out your 10th penny. Click here to find out what this is all about.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Monday Morning Check In: The Quarterly Report

Written by Paula E. Bird ©2013

We are entering week nine of the third month of 2013. Take out your 9th penny (what is this?). This is the month that will complete the first quarter of the year 2013. It is time to check in with yourself to see whether you are on track with your annual plan. We have four more weeks before the quarter official ends, so there is still time to do some tweaking here and there to get back on track if you have strayed.

There are reasons why quarterly reports are important in the business world. The SEC requires these unaudited reports from public companies as a matter of law. Quarterly reports provide investors with important information regarding the financial health of a company and its growth and earnings potential. Quarterly reports help business managers keep companies on the course needed to be healthy. Quarterly reports help managers pinpoint areas that need improvement. The business world knows that quarterly reports are valuable tools when it comes to measuring progress toward goals and predicting future problems or success.

Quarterly reports are also useful for individuals. The Best Year Yet folks refer to this concept as quarterly milestones. I set up some quarterly milestones to help me stay focused on my goals as the year progressed. I took the time to set up a few checkpoints along my yearly path, so that I could check in at those points and see how I was doing or alter my course of action to bring myself back to the place that I needed to be.

If you have not set some quarterly milestones, why not take a few moments this week to do so? Give a little thought to where you would like to be at the end of each quarter this year. Then note this information on your calendar so that you see where you wanted to be on those dates.

If you have already set up quarterly milestones, then think about where you are now in terms of this first quarter. Do you need to make some adjustments to get back on track? It is alright if you have drifted off course a bit. It is better that you make that discovery now and recalibrate yourself than to let another month go by while you head off in a direction that you do not want to go. If you have lost sight of where you wanted to be, take this week to consider how you might get yourself back on track.

March is an important month with regard to annual goal plans, because typically many folks have already given up on their New Year's Resolutions by this point. January was a month that was full of new possibilities. February was a month that was full of temptations to break resolutions (it is hard work to start new habits!). Now March is upon us, and many of us in the United States can look forward to a spring or winter break in another week or so. If we have lost some of our momentum by this point, then a break in the routine will derail us for sure.

Knowing that the March break will be here in a short time, let us at least set ourselves up so that we begin the break from the highest point of success. Let us renew our commitment to our annual plans or goals and get started again.

Remember that ninth penny you removed from the penny jar? How many pennies are left?

Remember the old Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers movie, Swing Time? Here are some of the lyrics from the famous song in that movie, written by Jerome Kern and Dorothy Fields, which help me remember to stay the course:

Nothing's impossible, I have found 
For when my chin is on the ground, 
I pick myself up, 
Dust myself off, 
And start all over again. 
Don't lose your confidence 
If you slip. 
Be grateful for a pleasant trip. 
And pick yourself up, 
Dust yourself off, 
And start all over again. 

And here's the link to the movie clip:  Fred and Ginger sing the song.

This is the first full week of the month, and we are doing a Twinkle Variations review in my studio to help us prepare for our spring break. Click here to learn more about this.