The Reason For Tragedy And Heartbreak

No one likes to experience either one of these or watch our friends and loves ones have to experience them either.  Whether it’s a tragic accident, an unforeseen break-up, a suicide attempt, some form of hardship, the death of loved one or favorite celebrity, or any number of other situations, these experiences can be painful, devastating, and gut-wrenching.  We sometimes ask ourselves all kinds of questions including why it had to happen or what we (or whoever else) did to deserve whatever happened.  Some people really struggle with the answers to these and other questions.

To me, these things are there as reminders for us of so many things…

  • that life is precious and fragile and can be taken away at an instant
  • that nothing and no one should be taken for granted
  • that we are stronger and more resilient than we think we are
  • that we can face our fears and overcome them
  • that change is sometimes a good thing
  • that the people and relationships in our lives are more important than things
  • that we need to continually remind our loved ones how much they are loved
  • that others may seem fine on the outside but are struggling on the inside
  • that we need to be kind and understanding to one another and really listen
  • that we shouldn’t sweat the little things
  • that sometimes our words and actions are more hurtful than we realize
  • that we should accept and celebrate our differences
  • that together we are stronger, and so on.

Most of all, I think they are reminders that we need to continually take a step back and be grateful for what we have, even if it’s not much.  There is always something positive we can find to be thankful for, and there are always so many people going through situations that are far worse than our own. It’s all a matter of perspective.

Of course, this is all easier to think about when we are not the person going through the particular tragedy or heartbreak or while we are not in the midst of it ourselves. We may never get over the pain or disappointment of the given circumstances, but hopefully at some point we can at least get to a place where we have a more positive perspective of why these things happen and what they were trying to teach or remind us.  I don’t think enough people stop and consciously think about and appreciate all the positives in their life. Maybe if we did, we wouldn’t need so many reminders.

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Patterns of Behavior

A person’s true colors are apparent by the patterns of behavior they establish.  These can be patterns of positive or negative behaviors.  Unfortunately, we sometimes focus more on the patterns of negative behaviors that people establish for themselves.  How many people do you know that when you think of them, you think about how they are always complaining about something or how they are always late everywhere they go. Or maybe they tend to interrupt others a lot or are deceitful or dishonest.  Perhaps they put their own needs first the majority of the time or they are quick to judge others.  The list goes on and on.

You might know other people who bring to mind positive patterns of behavior like being a good listener, always helping others out, always having a positive attitude, and always giving others the benefit of the doubt.  Or perhaps they are silly and fun a good part of the time.  There are plenty of other qualities I could list here.  People with these attributes usually have numerous friends and family members who look forward to spending time with them, and it is easy to overlook certain things about them that are not so positive such as being a little forgetful or not so great at replying to emails. If they occasionally exhibit a behavior that is unbecoming or they make a poor decision, it is easy to forgive them because it only happens once in a while and probably has a reasonable explanation.

No one is perfect, but it is much more difficult to overlook negative behaviors and poor decisions for people who exhibit patterns of negative behaviors on a regular basis. It becomes easier and easier to keep lumping everything together and form an overall negative impression of that person, to question the person’s intentions, to not give them the benefit of the doubt, to start looking for negative behaviors where there aren’t any, and to want to distance yourself from them.  Not only is this true in relationships on general, but it appears to be very evident in this election on both sides.  The hatred for both candidates is palpable, and neither one of them does themselves any favors by some of the choices they have made or the way in which they behave on a regular basis.

I find it interesting that people who tend to behave negatively themselves tend to look for and point out negative behaviors in others, are quick to deflect the attention off of themselves by drawing attention to the negativity of others, and will even accuse others of doing the very things they themselves do on a regular basis.  It’s like they don’t see the connection between the two, or perhaps they are unwilling to see or acknowledge that they do the same things, so there are double standards. They are usually quick to play the victim too.

We all have a choice every day as to how we go about our lives. We can have a positive influence on those around us and try to establish positive patterns of behavior such as being respectful, trustworthy, honest, helpful, giving, open-minded, and make decisions based on values and integrity.  Or we can behave in a way that establishes negative patterns of behavior and negatively impact those around us, which makes it very difficult for anyone else to give us the benefit of the doubt or a chance to redeem ourselves.  Which will you choose?

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Accepting Help

help 2

This is not something I am necessarily good at in certain circumstances, and I’m sure that’s the case for many people.  There are certain things that I know I can’t do on my own, and for the most part I won’t hesitate to ask for help in those situations.  And there are things I know I can handle without a problem. It’s the grey areas that I sometimes hesitate.

For me, it’s partly because I have lived with someone who doesn’t think I’m all that capable of doing things, so it’s a natural reaction to want to show him that I can do the things he thinks I can’t.  And that has carried over into accepting help in general.  It’s also a pride thing and not wanting to appear helpless or dependent on others for so many things.  I’d rather try to figure it out myself first and ask for help only if it turns out that I can’t do it myself.  Then when I do ask for help, I want to learn how to do whatever it was so I don’t have to keep asking someone else.

Unfortunately, I think there is a stigma of appearing weak if you have to ask for help. That doesn’t necessarily get in my way, but I’m sure it does for others.  Or perhaps some people see asking for help as giving up control.   Continue reading

Success

success - confucius

Everyone has his or her own idea of how to define success.  It could be measured by how much money you make, what kind of house and car you own, how many friends you have, how good of a parent you are, how far you have gotten in your career, how much of a positive impact you’ve made on the world around you, how you have positively impacted and inspired the people around you, and so on.  No matter how you define it though, it always feels best when it has been earned, whether it be through hard work, dedication, time committed, good character and integrity, positive attitude, or however else.

Success, for most of us, is not something that comes easily or automatically.  It is usually a series of countless small achievements or baby steps in the right direction, or at least mostly in the right direction.  There are usually set-backs along the way, but overcoming those makes it feel even better.  In fact, Booker T. Washington even said, “Success is to be measured not so much by the position that one has reached in life as by the obstacles which he has overcome.”  I do believe that to be true in many instances because it is through overcoming obstacles that we build character and learn what our strengths are and what we can handle.

Success doesn’t always have to be difficult though, but it often requires focus and determination, belief in ourselves, willingness to fail, a positive attitude, and including others.  Not only do we usually have to rely on the help of others in order to achieve success, but it is also important to give back to those who helped us along the way.  If our success, whatever it may be, can somehow inspire others to be successful, that’s even better.

Sometimes finding success can be a very slow process, so much so that it doesn’t even seem to be happening.  But we need to remember that success can be like a tree.  You can see it at any point and time, but you cannot see it grow.  It’s important to keep that in mind when it feels like we are not making any progress in the right direction. Slow progress is better than no progress.  As long as we continue to take action without giving up, we can continue to achieve success.  It never hurts to remind ourselves that even though we might not be where we want to be quite yet, we’re closer than we were the day before.  Confucius also said, “It does not matter how slowly you go so long as you do not stop.”  Even if we have to take a very round-about way, we will get there eventually.

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Proactive vs. Reactive Approach to Life

There are plenty of things in life that we can all approach either proactively or reactively.  House projects immediately come to mind.  In my house, nothing gets replaced or fixed until it is actually broken.  I definitely would appreciate if more things were dealt with on a proactive basis.  Our health is another example.  The more we take care of ourselves by eating healthy, drinking fluids, exercising (or at least making an effort to not sit still in front of a screen for too long), going to regular doctor’s visits, and anything else we can do to help keep our bodies and minds healthy, the less we need to be reactive and take medications or visit the doctor or hospital to treat the resulting symptoms.  We can make and effort to keep in touch with people rather than complain or be upset when others don’t reach out to us.

How we interact with people on a regular basis can be thought of as proactive or reactive as well.  We can assume when people are speaking to us that there are hidden messages or ill intent in what they are saying and react in a negative way, or we can listen without the negative filter and give them the benefit of the doubt.  We can treat people with respect and kindness, regardless of how we are being treated (in other words, treat people the way we want to be treated), or we can “do unto others as they have done to us.”  We can go out of our way to be helpful and generous or do anything to put a smile on someone’s face, or we can only do something nice when we know there will be something in it for us.  We can complain about all of our problems and play the victim, or we can find ways to be part of the solution.  We can blame everyone else for our poor choices, or we can be accountable for our own words and actions and own up to our mistakes.  We can anticipate that things are not going to work out the way we want them to, or we can have hope and expectations that are more positive. We can communicate our thoughts and feelings completely and effectively, or we can be upset when someone can’t read our mind.  We can set a good example for our kids of how to be respectful, honest, and all the other traits that go along with having good character, or we can not be conscious of the example we are setting and then come down hard on our kids when they are behaving just like we are. The list goes on.

The bottom line is that all of these things are conscious choices we can make.  It’s hard to not be reactive at least some of the time, especially when negative emotions get involved.  But in my opinion, it is definitely worth the effort to take a proactive approach to life and our relationships as much as we can.  I hope you agree.

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Making A Difference

jane_goodall_quote2

This is the time of year when most people are a little more conscious of what they can do to have a positive impact on the world around them. We think of ways we can be more giving, whether it’s through volunteering our time or donating money to a good cause. Some people make a conscious effort to think more about the things for which they can be grateful. Then there are those who might consider performing a random act of kindness.  It’s a typical time to do things like thank others who serve us such as people in the military by sending Christmas cards or care packages.

Beyond that, some people focus more on the smaller things that can have a positive impact like finding a way to put a smile on a stranger’s face, using words of affirmation with the people we love, surprising someone with a phone call, or anything along those lines. These are all things that can and should be done year round, of course, but for many people these things are not second nature and require conscious effort, which may be difficult to maintain. They can become second nature though if they are done often enough.

Just as important is to be conscious of how you might be NEGATIVELY impacting those around you and try NOT to do those things. One does not cancel out the other, so (hypothetically speaking) volunteering at a soup kitchen does not make up for speaking to others very condescendingly on a regular basis. All the little things add up, so whether we are making them positive or negative experiences can make a big difference. A day that involves having to park far away from a store because the only close parking spot had two shopping carts with garbage in them left there, people driving unsafely around me, multiple people being rude or impatient, and finding out someone lied to me is a lot different from one that involves a friend texting just to say they’re thinking about me, a stranger complimenting me on my coat, someone offering to return my cart to the store for me, and my kids thanking me more than usual for things I do for them or randomly giving me hugs or telling me they love me. At the end of the day I could be in a completely different mood.

So please take Jane Goodall’s advice and decide what kind of difference you want to make, and hopefully chose to make it a positive difference in any big or small way you can. A multitude of small things can have just as big of an impact as one big thing.

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Being Selfish

being selfish:relationships

I read this quote and immediately thought that this sums up several of my previous posts.  I thought of ones titled “Compromise“, “Givers and Takers“, “Parenting Your Spouse and Constructive Criticism“, “Being A Good Listener“, “Equal Parenting“, “Undermining Your Spouse“, “It’s Not About the Laundry…”, “Loving Someone Unconditionally“, “Following Directions“, “Being A Minimalist“, “Control“, and more.

You really have to be willing to give in many ways and make compromises in any kind of relationship as well as put others’ needs above your own and be able to work together.  A selfish person is not usually good at any of those things.  There has to be give and take, but that doesn’t mean the selfish person doing all the taking and someone else doing all the giving.  Regardless of the type of relationship (romantic, friendships, family members), both people’s needs have to be met, and selfish people are not good at doing that.   Continue reading