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Archive for February, 2012

In my previous post I talked about how it is about time we started building our character, making it strong and stepping into that truth even when it’s hard.  Before we can do that however, we need to understand what the basis for good character is.  Gosh but simply saying good or strong character always makes it sound so simple and easy. I really don’t know that it is, but it is fairly simple to understand in theory!

Foundations, traits…call it whatever you want; what makes us look to a person and say they have a strong character?  What makes us strive to emulate them, when we want to have or develop good character in ourselves or our children?

There is a fair amount of research that has been done to answer this question. There is (sorry) no definitive definition.  However, there are some things that we generally do agree on.   I think it’s worth exploring and seeing how this would fit in with my (and your) life.  After much reading and research this is what I came up with as basic traits for strong character.

(This post is going to inform is a very simplified way what I think are the foundations. I am then going to round it up at the end with a question for YOU!) 

1. Being a good Neighbour – being informed about what is happening and taking part in the world around you.  It also is where I’d throw in the idea of taking care of the environment.   These people obey sensible rules and co-operate with other people.  Citizenship is about making the world around us better for everyone.

2. Fairness – Treating all people fairly, playing by the rules.  I think the most important part of fairness is to have an open mind; even when you disagree.

3. Personal Accountability – I’m talking about personal responsiblity here folks.  Being accountable for your own actions! So this means you do what you say you are going to do, you think before you act.  Also falling under this pillar is self-control and self-discipline.   Have the courage to do the right thing, every time.

4. Compassion – Part sympathy, part empathy…it’s showing that you care about others and how they feel.

5. Trustworthiness – Easy right? Don’t lie, cheat, steal or blame others.  Do what you say you are going to do and stand by your word.  I think the idea of doing the right thing even if it’s hard or no one is looking..or everyone is looking, falls into this category as well.  Being loyal to your family and friends also falls under trustworthiness.  We have to build the presence of integrity into our expectations of everyday life.

6. Respect – One of my favourite saying is “do unto others as you would have done to you“.  The Golden Rule lies in respect.  Many of us mix up respect with fear and we must understand that we earn respect through our actions.  Things like good manners, accepting differences, solving problems with a win/win in mind rather than with fists blazing! 

7. Self Respect – I think it is important to separate respect and self-respect in this instance.  It is possible to have one without the other.  Those who value themselves often do not value others and just as often, the case is the reverse.  It is not only possible, but necessary to be able to hold both in your mind in order to be of good character. 

When you boil it down it is my thinking that these are the foundations of good character.  Seems simple doesn’t it?  Obviously not so or we’d not have so many problems in the world.

I am asking you then, what do you think goes wrong so that so many people might let one or more of these pillars crumble a little (or a lot?)?  Let me know your thoughts in the comments section.  I’ll give you mine in part three of the discussion on Character. 🙂

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Who we are, how we act, when no one is looking is the true measure of our real character.  I think most people have heard this idea or something similar to it. 

While I totally agree with that, there is the flip side that is much more difficult handle these days it seems.

Character is also who we are and how we act when everyone is looking.

I must admit that while not following the crowd has, on occasion, made my life a little more difficult than it might have been if I just followed along, I can’t imagine how else to be. 

I can remember, one day while I was still in high school, standing at a corner waiting for a light to change.  Across the street, was a young man who clearly had some challenges mentally.  Along came three other boys who immediately started teasing and pushing him around.  I still remember how angry this made me.  With out thinking, I crossed the street and gave them crap…it wasn’t language my mother would have approved of I’m sure.  Told those boy exactly what kinds of *ahem* jerks I thought they were and something along the lines of  why don’t they crawl back under the rock they came from.  

You know, I never thought at all about what I was doing.  Okay I can admit some of this was temper lol. Later, still very ticked off, I relayed this what happened to some friends who were horrified; but not for the reason I expected.  They pointed out that those three guys could have easily turned on me.  Valid point…but would I have changed anything about what I did?  No, I just could not have stood by and done nothing. 

Then there is my Dad.  Growing up I would see my father come home early in the morning, from a 12 hour night shift and begin shovelling the snow outside our house.  He must have been exhausted, but he did it.  I can’t even count how many (probably every time it snowed) times he also cleared the walk, steps and driveway of the elderly lady across the street as well.   I don’t know if this lady knew it was my dad who did it, he never told her as far as I know.  I would see him as I got ready for school or what have you.  He would just shovel and come inside.  Never said a word about it.  He did this because he has values and character.      

This is showing who you are when no one is really looking.  Doing what’s right no matter what.

The flip side is a little different.  Human nature provides us with a ‘follow the crowd mentality’.  Truly, it’s a real thing.  This is the what we do when we all stand around in a crowd waiting for ‘someone to do something’.  

Character and values come into play here as well.  It’s really easy to see in kids who have been brought up with a strong sense of self and raised with values and character.  These traits are what prevents them from joining in bullying, from doing drugs or hurting others.  They are okay walking away from situations even when their friends call them weak or other unpleasant things.  They have faith in themselves. 

I don’t see that very often, and that is just sad, and kind of scary.

Not many people speak out because they don’t want to be the different one.  They don’t want to be seen as radical or upsetting the apple cart.  They don’t want to be wrong or left out. What ends up happening is the bully gets away with it, the BS is figured to be true (or someone would say something right?) and nothing changes.

You know what?  This has to stop.  Look around. We are too worried about fitting in, to the point we are allowing things to go on that we should not.  We seek the approval and validation of our ‘self’ from others so much, that we have forgotten whether WE approve of who we are.

This starts at home where we teach our family that when no one is looking and when everyone is looking; our character matters.  Our traits, beliefs and values matter.  Isn’t it about time we acted like it? 

When we see persons of worth, we should think of equaling them; when we see persons of a contrary character, we should turn inwards and examine ourselves.
~Confucius

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That’s right..ZEST. 

I was making a brand new dish the other day and the recipe called for the zest of a lemon.  In case you don’t know that means the outermost part of the rind of an orange, lemon, or other citrus fruit, grated and used as flavoring.  Zesty!  I don’t know if I just hadn’t heard that word in a while or just simply hadn’t noticed it but it stuck with me for a while turning it over and over in my head.

I like that word. It has a good sound to it…rather sounds like what it is. Not quite onomatopoeia, but it’s close enough to make me enjoy it. It’s fun to say and sounds fresh and yummy.

What I realized is that this is exactly what I’ve been after for the last few years since my car accident.  I have started to find it..the zest for life.

Or perhaps more aptly put the zest in life.  I want my life to be full of flavor, freshness and to live a yummy life. 

Life is there, waiting to be spiced up, calling out for us to add the zest.  Isn’t this the perfect metaphor to think about how we are living?

I mean I could cook up a dish of let’s say rice.  I can add a few healthy ingredients like a bit of tofu and some vegetables.  Okay..so far this is a good-for-you dish.  Do you want to eat it? Perhaps if you are hungry.  But it’s bland, tasteless and I doubt anyone dreams at night about eating this if you know what I mean.

So many flavours to choose!

Now let’s add some zest, throw in some spices and maybe even a few peppers.  I love spiced yogurt on top of my rice..LOVE it.  The dish is now savoury and now I’m excited to eat!

It’s the same with life.  You can go bland or find things that spice it up.  Go dancing, take a class…laugh out loud!  There are as many ways to add zest and flavour to your life as there is to your food.  This is what living fabulous is all about!

Zest is where our spirit is fed, it is where we find the living in our life.

How do you add zest to your life?

 

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Rain falls and it can feel like it might never stop.  Take it from someone who knows!  Living in the Pacific North West teaches you a little something about how long it can rain!  And the importance of celebrating the sun! 

Sometimes this is how life can feel right?  The whole ‘it never rains but it pours’ can often seem like it  just keeps on pouring.  Ever feel like there is a dark cloud hanging out over your head?  You don’t really know exactly how it got there but you can feel it. 

Go on, put your hand up if you have ever felt like this?

Whoa..that's a-lotta hands. 🙂

I often talk about how to shift your mindset so that you don’t end up stuck in melancholy.  I also know sometimes it can just feel like the sun is never going to shine again! At least not for you.

You know what?  I forgot to tell you something super important about that.

It’s totally okay to feel that way. 

I’ve been asked how I stay so upbeat, optimistic and freakin happy all the time.  I suppose that I actually am, most of the time.   All the things I talk about, I actually DO, so that I train myself to be this way.

But, can I let you in on a little secret?  Most of the time I am all those things. but sometimes, I wallow…and I do it on purpose.

Yup, I let myself experience all my emotions including feeling down and a bit melancholy.  I have days when I choose to let it all wash over me.

Of course I have days where it feels like the sun isn’t shining, where the clouds are thick and I just want to stay in bed, read and not participate in the rest of the world’s craziness.   So, sometimes I do shut off the phone and have quiet day of reflection.

I too get fed up and really peeved and want to slam doors or stomp around from time to time.  I feel aggravated and need to find a release for all that pent-up anger…and that’s when I know that I need to first let out the physical reaction (I mean the gym or a long run…not throwing the computer out the window!).  Then I need to let out the verbal.   Usually after the run or gym I’m better able to handle talking about why I’m mad. 

The thing is all your emotions are meant to be felt, to be moved through.  Squashing them down and pretending like they don’t exist isn’t the idea.  In fact, that is one really unhealthy way to live. 

The self-awareness key to all of this, is knowing that it should not last too long.  Examining your emotional state is something we all should be doing as we go through our day anyway, but is extra important on days where we are…ahem…not at our best, shall we say?

Allow yourself to feel sad when something sad happens.  It’s okay.  It’s okay to feel anger when something bad happens and it’s perfectly okay to have a bad or off day now and again.  It’s just really important to be aware of what is happening.

Name your emotion, look at it objectively and sometimes let yourself take the time to sit with it.

In fact, I often have to give this same advice to people who have happy or exciting things happen!   So many of us are afraid to FEEL our own emotions! 

FEEL it, NAME it, MOVE through it; it’s what they are for! 

I want you to take a moment right now and listen to your emotions.  Ask yourself  ‘how are you right now’ and allow the answer to just be. 

So, How are you?

 

 

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It’s easy to get hung up in the past.  After all it made us who we are, it’s our history and it seems to be hanging around all the time.

People define themselves by what went before.  They get stuck in those labels and definitions and beliefs.

Your past doesn’t define you.  It only shows you the path you have already walked.  You can choose a new one.

The hard part of course it taking in that deep breath and looking your past directly in the eye.  Many of my clients want to move forward but their past is holding them back from doing just that.  It’s like a chain that keeps them from ever getting too far from where they are.  You can break those chains with some effort on your part…but they will not break themselves.

First thing I want you to understand is there is only one person who can create and destroy the links on those chains and that is you.  Yup…no excuses about society dragging you down, family issues…none of it.  We all have ‘stuff’.  We all choose how we react to that stuff and what we let go of or keep.

Are you ready to start letting go?  I would bet good chocolate that you are, but you probably are feeling a little lost when it comes to the how to exactly do that.  Everyone’s journey will be a little (or a lot) different but there are some common lines we do follow. 

  1. You must value you. If you don’t do that you won’t have the will to face who you used to be.  Add to this the inner strength needed to look at all the highs and lows of the past you will have to face those who are uncomfortable with your changes.  You must get clear on why you are worth the effort.  Keep a gratitude journal to help you stay positive.
  2. You will need courage to use the kind of honesty with yourself that is required here.  It’s not always going to be easy to move through the emotions and truth, it will be worth it however.
  3. You need to forgive. Not just others, but yourself.  Making mistakes is being human.  Hanging onto and punishing yourself for mistakes you made in the past is going to strengthen those chains.  In order to break them you must accept your mistakes, your transgressions and forgive yourself.  Learn the lesson and let go
  4. You must be willing to change your old patterns and behaviour.  What those will be will of course be dependent on where you want to go with your life. However, if you continue to do the same things you will have the same results right?  There must be a willingness to accept and work at change.
  5. Face the pain.  Most of us don’t really deal with past pain.  Instead we push it away and let it sit just on the edge of our life where it hovers and holds us back.  It seems easier and certainly some days it is what we need.  Still, in order to move out from our past, we must move through the painful experiences and deal with them head on.  I have had to do this numerous times.  It isn’t easy but certainly is cathartic.
  6. Know that it takes time.  These chains were not built in one day, nor will they all be broken in one.   That is true, but everyday you spend not doing anything to let go of the past and build a brighter future is another link in those chains.

The first step in changing our lives into ones where we find peace, joy and love, in spite of our issues is acknowledging that we can.  The second step is letting go of the past hurts, labels and beliefs.  From there, the world begins anew.

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Please stop, give it a rest, quit the BS….seriously.

You know I love you guys but you have to cut the crap and stand in truth.  Not for me…but for you.

I’m talking about the excuses.  I know, I know…they are reasons right? Uh-huh.  Who exactly are you trying to fool?  Not only have I heard them all before (I was a teacher if you remember!) but I’ve used most of them, or a version of such, myself.

Now, I love words and understanding the true meaning helps us understand our motives too.  Let’s look at the definition of excuse shall we?  C’mon…this part won’t hurt.

Excuse: An attempt to lessen the blame attached to a fault or offense: to seek to defend or justify.

Okay.  Hmm. Now lets explore the term reason as it relates to what we’re talking about here.

Reason: A cause, explanation, or justification for an action or event.

There are some similarities aren’t there?  The key of course is a reason doesn’t attempt to lessen our responsibility of what has happened.  That is where we are faltering in our day to day lives.

Oh Personal Accountability…there you are once again.  That guy just keeps popping up doesn’t he?

Here’s the real difference in a situation we all encounter.  I am late for an appointment. I can either arrive and start going on about traffic, my alarm didn’t go off at the right time, can’t find my other shoe…etc etc.  I’m sure you have your favorite perfected excuse for being late…we all do!  For the record, mine was traffic.  😉  

OR I can arrive and simply apologise for running late.  Notice I’m accepting responsibility for it and I’m not trying to lessen blame, or even shift it entirely. 

Okay..big deal right? Well the little things add up my friends.  How you view yourself and how others view you is created by these little things.

Oh you need a bigger deal? No problem.  I have to listen to an awful lot of excuses in my coaching practice.  The bigger kind, the kind that we use to justify making (or refusing to make) choices that we know aren’t good for us.  This isn’t good!

Here’s the thing. You have choice, whether you like it or not you are making these choices anyway.  And yes, NOT doing anything IS a choice!  The very least you can do for yourself is stand in the truth of that. 

You are choosing to stay in a job you hate because you are afraid to leave the security. Okay…stand in that truth.  Stop  blaming the kids, the spouse, the lack of time etc.  

You are choosing to stay in a relationship with someone who tears you down because you are worried about being alone.  Stop trying to tell yourself  she will change, she has good days too.  You know the truth, stop hiding it. 

There is no judgement here friends.  All I am asking is that you stop bs-ing yourself.   It helps no one, least of all you.  You are worthy of much, much more than this.  Self worth starts with you and starts with the truth; your truth. 

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We’ve all said it, we’ve all thought it.  When I…then I… or If I could just … then I…  There are variations of course but you know what I’m talking about!
 
Need an example?  How about “when I get a better job, then I can eat healthier”  or “when I find the perfect man/woman, then I will be happy”.
 
Oh man this is so ingrained in our societal way of thinking that is scares me.  What the funk are you waiting for?  Waiting on the future to be happy is one of the most incredibly foolish ways to live your life and yet a huge majority of people are doing this.
 
What this means if you really look at it, way down deep, underneath the ‘reasons’ (oh ya you KNOW I mean excuses) is that the people saying this are not taking personal responsibility for their own life creation.  Period.
 
There is always a way, always a solution. It may not be perfect, it might even be hard. Tough.  You know what’s harder?  Dealing with regret because you sat on your butt and waited for life to come to you.
 
I did that.  Did it for far too long after my life plan, the one I was working hard for exploded around me.  I worked my butt off putting myself through university and teachers college to finally find my dream of being a teacher come true.  I had savings, was thinking of buying a home and shifting into coaching and bam.  A few seconds is all it took for a car accident to start my world crumbling.  So what did I do?  I used the mentality that if I just waited until…blah blah…it would be okay and get better.
 
Guess what?  It never did.  Nope, things got more and more messy.  Use whatever metaphor you like…the hole got deeper, the well ran dry…whatever! It kept getting worse.
 
Right up until I realized I had to step up, step into my own life for real and decide how it was going to go.  When I started making those choices, dealing with consequences and facing some fears, I stopped sitting around and waiting.  That made all the difference.
 
It wasn’t easy…not at all. In fact in some ways at the time, it actually seemed a lot harder than doing what I was before…you know..not much of anything. 
 
There were many nights I fretted and had tears because I felt like I had no idea what I was doing. It was scary to accept responsibility for everything, to shoulder all of that.  It was even harder when I would make a plan to move forward and something else would shake it up.  I had to learn how to accept the change and adjust my plans. 
 
It was worth it.  I grew stronger, more confident and even though life still likes to throw crap my way sometimes, but I don’t crumble under it,  I don’t wait to see who or what will fix it.  I do.
 
The same thing applies to your dreams.  I think in a strange sort of way, I let go of my dreams for a while. I had to focus on healing.  At some point, I had enough and my heart and soul began tugging at me again.  In all honesty I was terrified to begin.  Afraid I’d fall flat on my face.  So I used my reasons…which became excuses.   They were good ones too. Heck if you’ve ever had a migraine or neck injury you know what I’m talking about!
 
But in the end they were just excuses to avoid the fear. I was back to the ‘when I (feel better), then I (will see about my coaching dream).  It wasn’t happening.  And I was getting really depressed.  One day I hit my limit when someone (a professional) told me maybe I should just accept my roadblocks as my new normal.  My obstinate, stubborn nature returned.  🙂  Yes, that was a good thing.   Pretty much my attitude changed to one of “screw that!” 
 
I realized that no one was coming, no knight in shining armor, no miracle lotto win, no nice person to set it all out for me.  I had to do it.  It was my job, my destiny and MY dream.  I could sit around feel sad and wait for something to happen or, as they say, it was time to put on my big girl panties and deal with it!
 
I wanted it.  So I began.  I started the same way I tell my clients and my readers to do.  I began to really explore me, my values, my dreams.  Then I made some goals and mapped them out.  Small steps; they move you forward too.
 
You know if you spend a lot of your breath saying ‘there is still time’ and sit around waiting to do things, eventually you will come across the phrase ‘It’s to late’.
 
Don’t wait…start now.
 
If you feel a bit overwhelmed and lost; if you aren’t sure how to get started…I can help with that.  Check my website for info on how to score a free session with me or how to grab my book to get going quick and start finding your inner power. 
 
No matter what, please don’t wait until you have to change your tune and start singing the regretful melodies of ‘it’s too late‘.  I don’t want that for you, I want you to be able to live YOUR best life!

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