I am convinced, both by faith and experience, that to maintain one’s self on the earth is not a hardship but a pastime — if we live simply and wisely.
– Henry David Thoreau
We are living in anxious times. Improvements in our economy are inconsistent, and our sense of security in the systems that we have long looked to for stability feels weak and fragile. There are no quick fixes for the long-term issues that have gotten us to this point, and our governmental leaders are as fractured and disconnected as ever. Job security is no longer the norm, and collectively we sleep less than we ever
I am convinced, both by faith and experience, that to maintain one’s self on the earth is not a hardship but a pastime — if we live simply and wisely.
The current budget and deficit debate in America is now dominating the daily headlines. There is even talk of shutting down the government if the budget-cutters don’t get their way. There is no doubt that excessive deficits are a moral issue and could leave our children and grandchildren with crushing debt. But what the politicians and pundits have yet to acknowledge is thathow you reduce the deficit isalso a moral
Mark Twain once said that New Year’s Day was “the accepted time to make your regular annual good resolutions. Next week, you can begin paving hell with them as usual.” I don’t know how many people began laying concrete the first week of January. What I do know is that by the end of January, 33 percent of all the people who claim to have made a New Year’s resolution have buried them in the sand.
I doubt anyone will find this startling. New Year’s resolutions are notorious for being easy to proclaim and difficult to
Will you be mine?
This romantic question shivers and quivers around Valentine’s Day. If the answer is a fluttery “yes,” it’s often not long before the happy couple is waltzing down the aisle with a more serious question before them.
Do you promise to have and hold this person, now and forever more?
Who hasn’t sat in a wedding and felt a little skeptical when they get to this part? It’s almost impossible not to, knowing as we all do that nearly half of the marriages in the United States end in divorce. It makes saying this vow before a congregation and before God a seeming act of self-delusion. Or is it?
As a Christian minister and a divorced person, I have a foot in both
One of the most troubling research findings is that children of divorce are more likely to divorce themselves. This seems unfair. However, it is important to put this in perspective. For children whose parents are divorced, this is similar to having a parent with high blood pressure or who has had cancer. These are risk factors. It means that you know that your risk of these diseases is elevated compared to others so, you have to take some extra precautions to reduce your own risk of getting these diseases. The same is true for children of divorce. They are at elevated risk of having difficult relationships and marriages.
So why are children of divorce more likely to divorce themselves? In order to prevent divorce or troubled relationships we have to understand how parental divorce affects young people’s relationships. Ming Cui and Frank Fincham at Florida State University recently provided new insight into how parental divorce affects children’s romantic relationships. They found that there are two common mechanisms–how conflict is managed and through commitment to marriage.
Learning relationship skills from parents. One of the important ways that children learn about relationships is by watching their parents interact. If children see their parents communicate positively, then they are more likely to communicate this way themselves. We see this in childhood through children’s ways of dealing with their siblings or peers. They often copy their parents’ ways of communicating. How conflict is managed and how quick parents’ get angry seems to have an especially powerful influence on children’s own skills in dealing with others. Cui and Fincham found that children who grow up in households in which their parents do not manage conflict or disagreement well are more likely to have similar problems in their own relationships.
Learning attitudes about commitment in marriage from parents. Another way that parental divorce affects children’s future relationships is through their feelings of commitment to their relationships. Cui and Fincham found that this pattern begins in their early romantic relationships. Children with divorced parents have less positive attitude towards marriage and a lower commitment to maintaining romantic ties. In short, when these young people encounter difficulties or are somewhat unhappy with the relationship, they are more likely to end the relationship when compared with young people whose parents were continuously married. This finding extends into marriage. Paul Amato and Danielle DeBoer found that married persons whose parents were divorced were much more likely to have thought about divorce than persons whose parents were continuously married. They were more likely to think that marital problems could not be fixed and were more pessimistic about the chances of improving their relationships.
Finally, it is important to remember that not every child whose parents’ divorced will get divorced themselves. Just like every child whose parent has a disease will not get the disease. There are real strategies for improving relationships and developing committed long-lasting and happy marriages, but it doesn’t just happen. Both attitudes about marriage and relationships skills can be changed and improved. There are a number of self-help books and courses on relationships skills. Two particularly good books based on the best scientific evidence are The Seven Principles of Making Marriage Work by John Gottman (Gottman Institute) and Fighting for Your Marriage by Howard Markman, Scott Stanley and Susan Blumberg (PREP) . Many professionals teach and counsel couples about marriage and relationships based on the principles in these books.
Perfection. Isn’t that what its all about? The perfect day, the perfect weather, no one noticing Uncle Sid passed out snoring in the magnolia’s. Yet what makes the perfect wedding?
The wedding industry’s apparent answer is near-rabid consumerism. Brides, grooms and their families are encouraged to spare no expense. Through a bombardment of multimedia messages via magazines and online, shops and shows, couples are exhorted to buy perfection — from diamonds and dresses to flowers and favors. Now worth $72 billion per year in the U.S. alone, this huge industry is clearly succeeding in its mission of happiness and joy. Or is it?
Is the implication of perfect princesses and Prince Charmings, enjoying a perfect day actually serving the best interests of those soon to be wed? Or is perhaps the wedding industry establishing an accepted template for fairytale-style happiness and perfection, which is actually unobtainable, eclipsing the actual occasion making it less about the couple and their very real unique relationship.
Also the money that couples can spend on the wedding (averaging $31,000) may create great pressure for them and their families for years to come. Money is one of the main causes of stress and friction, even in the most loving and understanding of relationships. So it is ironic that the costs of weddings themselves have become a trigger for widespread financial stress on the very couples and families that are supposed to be made happy by the occasion.
In addition to the financial burdens, many wedding products and services are of dubious quality and ethics. Suppliers in this unusual industry are often able to neglect service and value in the constant chase for new business. And behind the glitz and glamor of products and services lies some horribly underpaid workers — particularly in the developing world for things as basic as food, drinks and cotton. (A recent report on sweatshop labor in the clothing industry in general.)
So what to do? In my opinion the key here is for the couple to plan a wedding that’s entirely about them and their values, rather than any sense of what perfection should look like in a wedding magazine.
Indeed an excellent exercise for a young couple is to explicitly work out together what their shared values actually are. Simply writing down and sharing values is a powerful exercise in connecting that is all too frequently left out of the marriage compact these days.
There is also a great opportunity to consider the story behind every choice made for the wedding day. Every single element can support and communicate the things that are important to the couple and their hopes for the world.
Couples can use their LOAF (local, organic and Fairtrade) to lead to some great, unique suppliers that can help them to create a unique experience, rather than working with a pre-determined formula. Indeed many of the people behind Fairtrade come with remarkable stories of love, empowerment and celebration.
In the words of Sira Souko from the Batimakana Co-operative, Mali, “Fair trade has put money into the hands of women to meet our children’s needs. We can buy pens and notebooks so they can go to school. We have bought seeds to grow vegetables and improve our family’s diet.” (Source: Fairgift Producer )
What couple would wish to have a picture book wedding if the underlying reality was expenses that could not be afforded and products that were produced through environmental and human degradation?
What better way to celebrate a union of two souls than to have a wedding that reflects values rather than cheesy glitz. That reflects commitment not just to each other but to the whole world? Such a wedding could not be more meaningful and beautiful and also more impactful in a positive way and if more people make better choices then the wedding industry will also move to support these new trends and clean up its act.
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They say that the definition of insanity is approaching a situation the same way every time and expecting different results.
When it comes to romantic relationships, do you ever find yourself playing the same role with each new lover, and yet unable to understand why none of your relationships turn out differently?
Take my friend, Rob, for example. Divorced and looking for love, he recently broke off his engagement with his new fiance. Stating that she was “just as messed up as the last one,” he complains to me that he can’t find a woman who is different from all the others he’s been with in the past.
I asked him, “Why is it that you expect the women you date to be different when you act the same in every relationship?”
He looked puzzled and asked what I meant by that. He wasn’t the problem. They were the problem.
I continued, “You play the identical part in your relationships every time. You like being a caretaker. You enjoy having someone need you, but then you become frustrated and unhappy when they demand constant attention. If you want to date women who are different from the ones in the past, first you must change the energy that you project out to women.”
He grumbled as though he knew I was making sense, but couldn’t bring himself to admit that maybe he was the reason that he wasn’t happy in love.
It’s easy to blame others when our relationships head south. “The girls I date are always needy or the guys I date are always jerks,” routine becomes tired, and rediscovering one’s goals and motivations in a relationship can seem like a daunting task. But, how else can you figure out what you want in a relationship if you can’t seem to shake off what you don’t want?
Maybe people are afraid to step out of these roles that they play in relationships. It’s hard to change one’s energy. It takes time, effort and a deep commitment to yourself and to your desires.
Roleplaying is something that we all do. It’s easier to play the game we know than to venture out and experience dating seemingly as a novice all over again. But, how can one move beyond their usual part and experience something new?
First, you have to acknowledge that the game you are playing just isn’t working and that maybe it’s time to try a new strategy to attract a lover more suited to you.
Second, one must begin to accept that playing the role of caretaker, for example, may only attract people who need taken care of. If you don’t want to be someone’s parent, you may want to audition for another part.
Third, you must actually attempt to change because wanting something just isn’t enough. Approaching a situation with new vigor, determination and a positive attitude can seem almost impossible, but if you don’t try, you are going to be in the same rut over and over again.
What did Rob do? Right now, he is in the process of licking his wounds and rediscovering what he really needs from a partner. He knows now that if he continues to date the same woman over and over again, by acting the same in every relationship, he will never find a partner that truly brings out the best in him. But, he informs me, easier said than done.
“My biggest problem,” he states, “is that I find their neediness so damn irresistible in the beginning. I like playing the hero, I like being there for them, I like doting on the person I’m dating.”
I don’t disagree with him. In fact, there is nothing wrong with wanting to be a nurturing lover. However, it must be a two-way street. The women he dates, he believes, never reciprocate. They just take and take, leaving him emotionally and mentally exhausted.
While I find merit to what he is saying, I remind him that in all of his relationships, he creates situations in which they need him. To blame them completely for his unhappiness in their relationship isn’t fair. He doesn’t allow his lovers to be independent. He can be smothering and controlling, which eventually causes his girlfriend-of-the-moment to succumb to his dominance, and give up on expressing herself as an autonomous human being.
(His ex-partners may also want to ask themselves why they always seem to play the part of doormat, as well.)
Whatever your role is in your relationships, ask yourself if you notice a pattern of behavior that you cling to every time when you are with someone. If you are frustrated by what you notice, take proactive steps to change how you interact with others in the dating pool. When you feel something bubbling to the surface that you would have said or done in the past, ask yourself if this is a positive thing to do, or if this is just an old habit of yours.
Yes, it can be hard to change your energy and approach a situation differently from how you did in the past. It can be frightening to step out of your comfort zone and experience relationships on a whole new level. But, imagine the freedom you will experience when you let go of the emotional and mental chains that weigh you down and allow yourself to experience dating as a whole new person, as an evolved creature, as someone who is ready to embrace their best self.
Last week, I opened the question ofre-building one’s sense of personal integrity through a simple exercise of tracking and keeping commitments for the coming week. The article produced a range of comments, with the general theme being one of appreciating the guidance about giving and keeping your word.
In case you missed the article, here’s a reprise of the experiment suggested:
Several of you commented that you would be giving the experiment a go, and I would love to hear what you discovered if you followed through. In fact, even if you did not follow through, I would love to hear from you about what came up or what got in the way.
I can imagine that a couple of folks made the mental commitment to engage in the experiment, and then may have procrastinated on the idea. Procrastination is something that one reader mentioned as a personal bugaboo and asked if I would write something on the subject. Here goes!
How Procrastination Can Become a Key to Personal Productivity
Procrastination, real procrastination, may well be one of the more power productivity tools of all time. What we call procrastination, however, surely sucks up that same productivity potential.
In order to make any sense out of this apparent contradiction, let’s look at what Merriam-Webster tells us about the word. As a transitive verb, it means “to put off intentionally and habitually;” as an intransitive verb, it means “to put off intentionally the doing of something that should be done.”
With these definitions in the back of your mind, it’s hard to imagine how procrastination could be good for you, much less a key to accelerated performance or productivity. However, if you look just a bit deeper, it may become apparent that modern usage implying something akin to lazy or “good-for-nothing” behavior has drifted considerably from what the real source of the word might have intended.
So, play with me a little here: the word procrastination actually begins with something quite positive. The prefix, “pro,” which means “in favor of,” or “for.”
Merriam-Webster tells us that the origin of the word indeed suggests something far more positive than avoidance:
That leaves us with the suffix “ation.” Does “ation” look like a common word slightly misspelled? Stick a “c” in there and you might find the word “action.” The suffix “ion” or “ation” comes from Latin and means “requires action.”
If you put all these parts together what to you get? A word that means, literally, for tomorrow’s action. Does that sound lazy or unproductive to you? Not if you are truly procrastinating. Someone who is truly procrastinating, looks over the available choices for work and assigns some tasks to a future date, while others belong here and now.
Rather than being lazy or unproductive, a true procrastinator is someone who is thoughtful about his or her work, someone who is thinking proactively about what matters and when. Perhaps the real art here is to accurate assess the choices in front of us, map those to what we value or what is important in our work, and then make the conscious commitment to move forward, or the conscious commitment to assign the task we are considering to another point in time.
Much like the advice from last week, look closely at the commitments and tasks in front of you, determine where they fit in the mix of values and goals in front of you, and then move on them accordingly — or consciously choose to move on them at another time.
What you don’t want to do is to tell yourself that something matters, and then keep putting it off because you either are not clear on what it takes to get it done, or because there is something about the task that you find discomforting. Doing so not only undermines your ability to be productive, but it also undermines your own sense of self and personal integrity.
To be sure, there are many more underlying causes to what we call procrastination, most of which require keen self awareness and the willingness to learn and grow. For now, if you have not already, give the two step experiment noted above a go and see what you can discover about yourself.
Remember, if you really don’t want to commit to something then own it right then there, and do not make the commitment.
As always, please do let me know how this strikes you as well as what you may have discovered by participating in the experiment.
Please do leave a comment here or drop me an email and let me know your experience.
Russell Bishop is an Educational Psychologist, author, executive coach and management consultant, based in Santa Barbara California. Watch for my new book coming out in January, 2011 Workarounds That Work: How to Conquer Anything That Gets in Your Way at Work. You can find out more about Russell at http://www.lessonsinthekeyoflife.com. Contact Russell by email at: Russell (at) lessonsinthekeyoflife.com
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