Truth! “Don’t expect to be motivated every day to get out there and make things happen. You won’t be. Don’t count on motivation. Count on discipline.” -Jocko Willink
While motivation can be a jumpstart to making your dreams a reality, it is actually integrity and discipline that carry the true power to meeting your goals.
The most decorated American Olympic swimmer, Michael Phelps, was once asked what made him a champion. His response was that champions simply “kicked when they didn’t want to kick”.
So, help yourself out–when you are motivated to accomplish something–set up an accountability and guideposts that will help you reach your destination so that when you aren’t feeling the adrenaline that motivating factors can bring, you can bunker down and demonstrate the courage and grit that will lead to your success. Set up the mindset that you are committed and regardless of the feeling of motivation, you can continue and press forward. Remember that regardless of the power of your motivation, discipline is always more powerful.
“Today in an auditorium full of parents my son scanned the room looking for me. When he saw me his face lit up in the room. He wasn’t looking for the perfect parent. He was looking for his mom. Don’t ever forget the power of simply being their mom.” Rachel Marie Martin
Today I was able to accompany my 3rd grade daughter’s class on a field trip to the State Capitol Building and the Courthouse. Mornings around here can get pretty stressful getting four kids ranging from Kindergarten to 5th grade out the door and on time to school and this morning was no exception. It didn’t help matters at all that my daughter came up the stairs wearing shoes that weren’t going to work for a walking field trip. Getting her to wear tennis shoes was quite the chore especially with the little patience that I had, and I was far from a perfect parent in navigating the shoe switch negotiations of my sweet fashionista. Less than 30 minutes after dropping my kids off at school, I returned to check in as a volunteer to accompany her class field trip. As I entered the classroom, my beautiful little girl’s face lit up with excitement at my arrival. I couldn’t help but smile in return and then I looked down at her shoes. Although she was still wearing the tennis shoes that we had argued about less than an hour earlier, she still wanted me to come with her on her adventure with her classmates. She didn’t want the perfect parent to come, she wanted me.
This made me reflect on my own mother. Today she would be picking up my youngest kindergartener who would get out of school while I was still on the 3rd grade field trip adventure. Although I confirmed numerous times the pickup time and location, my mom ended up arriving late and my littlest girl ended up waiting in the office–the last one of three classes of Kindergartener’s to be picked up. My mom had let me down and the added guilt of imagining my daughter panicking at being forgotten at school definitely weighed me down. However, my mom sent me this picture a few hours later. My little bundle of entertainment had spent the afternoon making pickles from the cucumbers in our garden. When I asked her about her day, thinking she would relay how she was the LAST ONE, she shocked me with her response. She instead recounted how she helped her grandma–even with directions and what a good helper she was adding flour to the chicken that my mom had started in a crock-pot for our dinner. Just like my 3rd grader, they were not looking for the perfect (grand)parent, they simply wanted to be with their (grand)parent. I couldn’t eat tonight’s chicken dinner without feeling complete gratitude for my imperfect mother.
So, these pickles will now serve as this reminder that there is no such thing as a perfect parent, spouse, child etc… but in spite of our imperfections we hold an important and irreplaceable part in the lives of others. When it boils down to it, there is no better motivation than to become a better parent, spouse, friend and child than to feel that joy of knowing that you are essential in their lives. They don’t need a perfect parent, they need a parent that can model that to be loved doesn’t mean to be perfect. There are few greater gifts that you could give your child, than the gift of knowing that in spite of imperfections, they are loveable and wanted and it is important to remember that as a parent you are too.
This week is a solemn week. In addition to it being National Suicide Prevention Week, it is also the anniversary of the senseless terrorist attacks of 9-11. As I have reflected on these events, it became abundantly clear what myth would be most helpful to debunk this time. And that myth is this: that events can define your life.
I, in NO way, am seeking to dismiss the pain and anguish associated with tragic events. Everyone in this life, myself included, has and will experience painful events. That pain is real. However, it is not the events themselves that define your life, but your reaction to them. And, there is real power in being able to recognize that you have a control over your reactions. That means when your toddler throws a tantrum in the grocery store, you don’t have to throw a tantrum in the isle as well. It means when you realize that you have been ghosted in a budding relationship that you were really hopeful would develop, you don’t become a ghost yourself and swear off dating. That means when you have been a victim of any form of abuse whether it be emotional abuse, sexual abuse, physical abuse or even neglect, that does not define you.
In fact, your reactions to events can and will change. You can probably see this for yourself in the difference to your reactions to anniversaries or reminders of painful experiences. When you process your feelings from tragic and painful events, your emotions toward that event change. It doesn’t mean that the pain is always completely gone, but it no longer carries the same weight. It takes on a new meaning as your reaction to those events changes.
You always have a choice, even if it is the choice of your attitude. You can choose your reactions and you can choose to change your reactions. Events do not define you. Psychiatrist and Holocaust survivor, Viktor Frankl, says it best: “Between stimulus [or the event], there is a space…in that space is our power to choose our response. In our response, lies our growth and our freedom.
Truth! This actually holds true whether you are talking about your relationship with a partner or spouse, your relationships with your kids, a relationship with a friend or coworker and even your relationship with yourself.
With a Spouse
It is the small things done often that make the biggest difference in relationships. These small things, are referred to as “bids”, which are really opportunities to pay attention to the small ways in which your partner reaches for you and attempts to connect. When you turn towards your partner in a response to an emotional bid, you are making an investment in your relationship that deepens your relationship in a way that a grandiose gesture never can. These responses to the small everyday bids are the key to connection and satisfaction in marriage. World renowned researcher, John Gottman, PHd, refers to this as emotional bank accounts, where turning towards each other’s bids results in a deposit in the account. On the other hand, turning away from each other’s attempts at connection will result in an withdrawl from the account. After a six year research study on newlyweds, Dr. Gottman discovered that couples who stayed together turned toward each other’s emotional bids 86 percent of the time, while those who went on to divorce turned toward each other’s bids only 33 percent of the time. By turning toward your partner’s emotional bids, you safeguard your relationship against disrepair and deepen the love you share.
This doesn’t only apply to marital relationships but even to relationships with our kids, our friends and ourselves.
With Your Kids
As luck would have it, we live close enough to the elementary school that our kids attend that they do not have a bus and so I have the opportunity to pick them up after school a lot. So, I am there with a lot of parents and have witnessed this interaction too many times to count and I am sure I have been guilty as well. It usually goes like this: the child comes up to the parent waving with anticipation a piece of paper. Once they get to the parent, they begin an animated dialogue about that piece of paper in their hand to suddenly stop and go quiet as their parent has taken the paper and without a glance or with a passing glance put the paper in their bag or just holds it to their side as they rush to get their child home. This crushing moment happens so quickly but it sends a message to the child in their first interaction with their parent, that they aren’t important. Now let’s be honest, time doesn’t always allow you in the moment to engage in a dialogue about each paper your child brings to show you but you can acknowledge that it is important to them and you want to be able to hear about it and then give them a time. “when we get home”, “after dinner”, “after we get out of the middle of the carpool line”. This is still a deposit and then keeping our word and returning to listen when we are capable becomes an additional deposit. You are teaching them that they matter to you and that they are important. This makes deeper and harder conversations much easier to have because you have created the ritual of listening to the small ones. The small things carry more weight than you think.
There is really no one who could say it better than Mother Teresa who simply stated: “Do Small Things With Great Love.” Sometimes when the emotions are so high or the event so large that we don’t know what to do, we simply do nothing. We get lost in intentions of doing something big or waiting to figure out a way that would adequately show how much we really care.
My friend, Liz, just rang the now famous bell having completed her 8th round of chemo today. This is a moment that is absolutely huge and is a glimpse into the strong, determined character she has developed as her body is fighting breast cancer. However, I would say that an even bigger moment was a post that she shared in part after completing her 7th round of chemo. She reflected on what having cancer has taught her and one thing that she learned is that people will show up. She went on to mention the myriad of little things that those that love her have done for her since she was diagnosed ranging from meals, to errands run on her behalf, those who watched her 3 children, prayed, sent gifts, cards, cash, thoughtful check ins and phone calls. With her permission, I will share a few quotes: “What may have felt like a small sacrifice to them has made a huge impact on my soul. I am forever changed from the love and care I have been shown.”
Liz went on to give powerful advice she learned from being on the other side as the patient of cancer:
” • show up for the people you love so they know how much you care • check in so they know you haven’t forgotten that life will never be the same • show up but don’t be offended if they can’t answer the door/phone that day • go to the funeral • offer to help in various ways and follow through when you can • sit and listen • drop by just for a hug • send flowers • love on their kids • try to be sensitive about the words you speak • be grateful for your own parents, children and good health • whatever you do, just don’t do nothing. doing the wrong thing is better than not reaching out at all. “
Small and simple acts are more powerful than we realize.
This may seem strange to include ourselves here but there is more power in your relationship with yourself than you realize. In fact, if you don’t take care of yourself, you limit the gift you are and the ability to share that gift with others. There are a million different things you can do for the now well coined phrase, “Self-Care”, so I will not mention them all but I do want to emphasize the simple power of consistent, small actions. Listening to your body–identifying thoughts and feelings— and acknowledging them with a small and simple act— from simply making a circular motion with your shoulders when you are feelings stressed or getting up and taking a drink of water— they are the key to being able to truly progress and to take care of the gift that you are.
Truth! Professor, Researcher and 2016 Psychologist of the Year, Dr. Susan Johnson actually created a research study to determine the power of a simple touch. While in an MRI machine, participants were told that when an “X” flashed on the screen, they may or not receive a slight shock on their ankle. Participants were recorded alone, with a stranger holding their hand and with their spouse holding their hand. The results were the beginning of a whole new way at looking at love, attachment and emotional bonding. They discovered that the same location that signals physical pain to the brain registers emotional hurt and that in this experiment, when experiencing the shock, the participants would report the shock as “uncomfortable” when they were holding a loved one’s hand whereas alone or with a stranger the shock was registered as painful. Dr. Johnson determined that, “Love is a safety cue that literally calms and comforts the neurons in our brains.” The studies show that just holding your loved one’s hand can calm your brain and shut down fear.
In another recent study conducted by The Center for Humanizing Care of 14 hospitals with intensive care units(ICU), 90% of the 125 clinicians surveyed said that family presence during a procedure is a generally positive experience. They found that having someone there to hold the hand of a patient during a procedure can also be beneficial to the doctors as the patients require less restraints and/or calming medications due to the comfort provided by their loved one. Instead of restricting visiting hours at these ICUs, now family members do not necessarily have to leave when doctors are performing invasive or potentially traumatic procedures like an intubation, placing a central intravenous line, inserting a chest tube or even resuscitation a patient.
Research has also shown that having family in the ICU with a patient can help them all deal with the depression and anxiety that often follows a stay in the ICU, called post-intensive care syndrome, even reducing the impact of it long-term.
So, the next time you have a difficult discussion with your spouse or your child or notice that your emotions are starting to escalate, reach for their hand. Emotional connection is more powerful than you realize and that simple act of touch has the ability to calm emotions and situations quicker than you can like this post.
Truth! Society often portrays being vulnerable as the opposite of courage—that if you are vulnerable that you are weak. You need to be invincible and so we seek to try and control as much of the outcomes that we can. However, the truth is that courage and vulnerability work hand in hand and it takes vulnerability to be courageous. The truth is that it takes courage to be the first to say that you are sorry and that takes being vulnerable. It takes courage to bring a child in this world and that means being vulnerable realizing you don’t know how to be a parent. It takes courage to put yourself out there in the dating world and risk rejection and that requires being vulnerable.
Brene Brown, the vulnerability guru, emphasizes this truth about courage and vulnerability describing a visit to Fort Bragg (the largest military base in the world—and where my brother-in-law and his family will be stationed in a few months):
“I was recently at Fort Bragg speaking to soldiers and joint special operations. It’s a hard group to talk about vulnerability with, because in a combat situation vulnerability equals death, and their job is to minimize vulnerability. So I asked them to come up with an example of courage that they’ve witnessed that wasn’t completely defined by a willingness to be vulnerable, a willingness to engage in risk, uncertainty, and emotional exposure. And no one could come up with an example.”
So take the leap of faith and have the courage it takes to be vulnerable. Vulnerability holds a lot of power. When you risk and reach out, that is where the magic happens, where connections are made and strengthened. As Brene Brown says: “Vulnerability is our most accurate measure of courage. Tell me how vulnerable someone is willing to be, and I’ll tell you how brave they’re willing to be.” Be Brave!
Forgiveness is not easy. However, there are a few key myths that make it so forgiveness is even harder than it needs to be. One of the most perpetuated myths is that “You Forgive and You Forget.” Forgiveness does not mean amnesia. We are not meant to have a “Skip That Chapter” mindset in order to forgive. In fact, if you forget there were atrocities, we are likely to repeat those atrocities and if we don’t deal with our past adequately, it will return to haunt us. From an evolutionary standpoint, our brains are wired to remember negative events so that we don’t get bitten by the saber tooth tiger twice.
Forgiveness is not forgetting or pretending that things happened differently than they did. Forgiveness is knowing and believing that chapters in a book are simply that- chapters and not the end. It is the ability to know that you have the power to move forward and write the next chapter without holding onto the anger and the hurt. Forgiveness is the way for you to have a path to move forward to write your story. It does not mean that restitution or justice should not be required or that in order to completely forgive that they need to be a part of your life. Clear boundaries are an actually an essential part of the forgiveness process.
My favorite way to understand forgiveness is a quote by Paul Coleman, a licensed therapist and contributing author to the book, “Exploring Forgiveness”:
“When you forgive, you do not forget the season of cold completely, but neither do you shiver in its memory.”
Forgiveness does not mean that we need to forget but through the process of forgiveness the emotions and feelings–that at the time were so intense and had the power if left there to fester to write a different ending for ourselves– those feelings will dwindle and diminish. Forgiveness does not mean that anger or hurt vanishes immediately but it will wither in time. Despite genuine efforts to forgive, some remnants of the old hurt may remain but they will remind us of that cold season and how far we now have come and how those feelings do not have the power to continue to be the focus of our lives and write our stories. There is no greater gift that you can give to yourself than forgiveness which allows you to flip the page and begin again.
Myth! Feeling depressed and suffering from depression are two very different things. So what is the difference? For the sake of being able to differentiate the two distinct emotions, I am going to substitute the word sadness for feeling depressed. Here are four ways to be able to distinguish whether or not what you are feeling is sadness or if you are suffering from depression.
How Does Sadness Differ From Depression?
One: Sadness is a normal emotion that EVERYONE will experience at some point in their life. Whether it is because of a friend moving away, or the end of a relationship, the death of a loved one, snowfall in May, or the last cookie being eaten, sadness is usually triggered by a specific situation, person or event. However, with depression, no such trigger is needed. A person suffering from depression feels sad or hopeless about everything. This feeling of sadness becomes so pervasive that suffering from depression causes you to lose the ability to experience pleasure or joy.
Two: Sadness lasts for a temporary time–you might feel down for a few days about the event or situation, but you are still able to enjoy simple things- the smile of your grandchild, your favorite tv show, or your favorite food. With depression, you no longer enjoy activities that you may have once enjoyed. Clients have best described this feeling as “numbness”.
Three: When you experience sadness, you may slightly change up how much you sleep–either more or less–but you are able to sleep as you usually would. Your desire to eat or motivation to accomplish things diminished slightly but you still have an appetite and are able to accomplish some things during your day. When you experience depression, your sleeping and eating patterns are completely disrupted. You have a lack of energy, an overall feeling of fatigue with a diminished capacity to focus and make decisions.
Four: One of the most distinguishing things from feelings of sadness to suffering from depression is your thoughts. With sadness, you might feel remorse or regret for something you said or did, but there is no permanence. Those who are suffering from depression often experience an intense sense of worthlessness and self-directed negative thought patterns. Thoughts of self-harm or suicidal thoughts are not experienced by those feeling sadness but can be pervasive when suffering from depression.
Whether or not you are experiencing sadness, or suffering from depression, there is hope. Although we all experience moments of sadness and depressing events will happen in this life, these feelings were not meant to be permanent. If you can no longer feel joy in your life or have thoughts of self harm or ending your life as an escape from this unending pain, know that there is hope and help. No matter how low you may feel now, there is a way to enjoy life again. This is a road to recovery that is not walked alone. Seek out a trained professional and/or call and speak with a clinically trained professional at the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline for free 24/7 at 1-800-273-8255 or text “talk” to 741-741.
The truth is that our brains are wired to crave new things. Our brains love to learn new things and you can see from a survivalist standpoint why our brains would want to notice and be alerted to new things and thus survive any new threat or overcome any new obstacle. However, unlike the curiosity that kills the cat, maintaining or creating this curiosity in your relationship can actually can save it.
There are two ways that curiosity can save your marriage. For one, curiosity is the spark that can ignite your brain to pay more attention. Remember when you first met your spouse? How you wanted to know everything about them? Psychologist Dorothy Tennov back in the 1970s first coined the phrase limerance which refers to the sometimes intense state of mind at the beginning of a relationship–where you want to know everything about that person and want them to reciprocate the same desire. Since then, there have been several studies on the effects of “falling in love” and the brain. Researchers have found that increased levels of dopamine are released in your brain which are responsible for the feelings of pleasure and euphoria. Love is like an addictive drug. When the novelty of a new relationship wears off as your brain chemistry changes (usually around 12-18 months), you can jump start your desire to continue to learn more about your spouse by simply staying curious. What is their favorite part of the day? What is something they have always wanted to do but never done before? How do they feel loved? What is something that makes them feel successful? Curiosity is what can keep your desire to increase your connection with your spouse even after the novelty wears off.
The second way curiosity can save your relationship is by being curious together. Recent research by Dr. Arthur Aron, a professor at the State University of New York at Stony Brook and one of the top researchers on romantic love, indicates that couples can recharge their romantic chemistry by intentionally opting for novelty in something new they do together. In these studies, couples who engaged in fresh activities gave their relationship significantly better satisfaction ratings afterward.
The theory is that dopamine and norepinephrine highs are generated both by novel activities and romantic love. To some degree, your brain doesn’t care whether the source of the high is from your partner or the things you do together. When you do something new, interesting or exciting together, some of the novelty chemistry positively impacts your relationship.
So, go on a new adventure- learn a new skill you have never learned before (snowboarding, horseback riding, deep sea diving, kayaking etc), go to a new picnic spot, take up a new hobby together, move the furniture, try a new restaurant. Do something novel together and see how being curious about each other and new activities can excite and save your relationship and increase your connection. Yes, novelty by design wears off, but curiosity never has to.
Myth! The truth is that just like in any profession, there are those that are good at their jobs and there are those that are not. Sadly, therapists are no different and they are not created the same. Just as you wouldn’t want to take your car to just any mechanic but would search out for one that was qualified and able to address the needs of your car, you are going to want to invest in finding a therapist is qualified and will be able to address your needs or the needs (or the needs of a loved one) as well. It is a very difficult road to come to the decision to seek out a therapist and often because it is a hard decision, many enter the search to find a therapist under duress and will often see the first person they can get into. When you are at the crossroads of looking for a therapist, it is important to know that finding the right therapist is essential in order to get the outcome that you are looking for. Here are five tips to finding the right therapist for you.