243 posts categorized "MISCELLANEOUS"

May 15, 2014

Power from Within Versus Power-Over

IStock_000001213984_ExtraSmallOur world functions in a power-over paradigm. We confuse power with aggression and standing up for ourselves with stepping on others. World leaders, men, women, professional athletes, politicians and on and on, often move in power over others in an effort to get them to agree with their demands. Our world teaches us that yelling, intimidating and overall bullying others is okay if it serves our own needs. We snap at employees, tell our loved ones to shut up, shame our school children for mistakes, yell and scream at those we feel aren’t listening and bully those who struggle to stand their ground. We’re taught that sometimes the only way to be heard is to get BIG.

In the short run, this power-over paradigm often works. It succeeds in getting us what we want. People cower to our rage, they give in to our demands and many shrink to our intimidation. For the moment, we “win.” People back down, give us space and give in.

We forget to notice, however, what it feels like to the person on the other side. In that moment, we don’t really care that they gave in out of fear. We don’t care that people don’t like to be bullied, shut down or not listened to. We don’t stop to notice how our intensity or our rage silenced their voice. We only notice whether we got our way.

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January 29, 2014

Amazing Grace: One Family's Story

Schickel familyEvery once in a while I see examples of amazing grace and strength in the face of what appears to me to be insurmountable hardship. This past year has been one of those times for me. Last January, Elizabeth Schickel, a 15 year old high school student and athlete, was struggling with headaches. She had been a starting Freshman on her high school’s varsity girls soccer team, which had finished with a winning soccer season. She was a vibrant girl experiencing her first high school year, so it was easy for an outsider to think the headaches were likely due to stress and she would be fine. The headaches continued, however, and more symptoms began to show up. Soon my daughter informed me that Elizabeth was going in for more tests. 

In January 2013 Elizabeth was diagnosed with brain cancer. And here is where the journey of amazing grace and tremendous strength began.

Elizabeth and her family have battled with her brain cancer over the past year. She has been through surgery, chemo, countless visit to doctors, loss of hair, more chemo, loss of balance, more doctor visits, loss of hearing, more visits, loss of eye sight…and more visits. Throughout this time, Elizabeth and her family have been an incredibly powerful example -- to me and countless others -- of how to walk through one of life’s most difficult journeys with grace and love. 

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January 08, 2014

How Did I End Up Here?

IStock_000002084023_ExtraSmallWhen girls are young and first beginning to explore relationships, they often have big visions. They’re certain their “soulmate” is out there somewhere and they can’t wait to meet their best friend, lover, confidante and life partner. They dream of laughing with someone who gets their jokes, sharing their biggest secrets with someone who will hold those secrets in the greatest of confidence and of holding hands with someone who holds them in the highest regard. 

Through the years, though, things change. These young girls grow up to be women. They have met countless frogs along the way and they have stopped imagining that they would meet their prince. They learned that what they looked like is far more important than who they are. They stopped laughing as much, sharing their opinions as much or expecting as much as they did before. They learned to settle for less than they ever thought they would. No longer do they believe they will meet their soulmate -- or that there even is such a thing. The men they’ve met along the way don’t like to talk about their dreams, laugh at their jokes or hold them in high regard. In fact, over the years, the women continued to lower their expectations and the men they met seemed, coincidentally, to barely meet even these expectations. 

With each relationship that didn’t pan out, the bar was lowered for the next one. Soon the bar was so low that the women couldn’t believe what they had learned to settle for. Their vision went from finding their soulmate and a man who loved, cherished and honored them to finding…a man. Some women though did meet men who seemed great, yet, somewhere along the way the relationship started to go down hill. Regardless of whether they found a great guy or a not so great guy, once they found a man, their next task became keeping him. They began to believe that, in order to keep a man, they had to learn to pretend to be happy. They couldn’t complain about something they didn’t like or the men would say they were nagging. The women couldn’t ask for more emotional connection because then they would be accused of being needy and the men would give them even less of their attention. The women learned to stay silent when the men became angry because to not do so would mean having to deal with an even greater wrath of anger. 

Continue reading "How Did I End Up Here?" »

December 12, 2013

Stop Obsessing and Let it Go

IStock_000002084023_ExtraSmallSometimes people can throw you a curve ball. They can do something so hurtful that it knocks you off your feet and sends you reeling. And, without doubt, these events can rock you to your core. They can leave you obsessing about them, raging about them and scratching your head trying to explain them. Sometimes, though, there is no explanation. There is no justification, rationalization or understanding about why. Sometimes there is no helpful closure or any closure at all. More often than not, closure comes only from letting go. 

The more you think about what was done, obsess about it and complain about it, the more you keep it in your life.  Continually talking about a hurt someone caused you will not help you heal. In fact, the more you keep the story alive, the more your pain, anger and upset will last.  Obsessing about the person, issue or pain will not make the pain go away. It will not make the hurtful act any less hurtful. And it will not help you.

Regardless of whether the issue is someone cheating on you, lying to you or gossiping about you...learn to let it go. Don't allow this person to cause any more drain on your life than they already have. If the person has acknowledged what they did and tried to repair the harm they caused, then be thankful they are accountable and move forward. If the person wasn't accountable at all, then move on and don't look back. Whichever the case may be, stop giving this person or event so much power over you. Know that people make mistakes and do hurtful things for all sorts of reasons--many of which have nothing to do with you. Stop wringing your hands, wondering why or how they could've done what they did. Stop telling the world how badly this person hurt you. Stop staying up at night plotting revenge or feeling sorry for yourself. Just...STOP. Move on for your sake.

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November 21, 2013

The Big Lie about Relationships: "Relationships Are Hard"

For years I believed the notion that all relationships are hard. Experts, books and even the media all played out the message that relationships aren’t easy, are naturally filled with strife and that conflict and “fighting” just comes with the territory. Since all of the other relationship “experts” were passing on the same message, I thought they must be right. In fact, I felt like I had to hide the fact that my relationship wasn’t hard. I thought maybe there was something I was missing. I thought that perhaps other relationship “experts” knew better than I.

 For a long time I ignored my gut. I tell women all the time to “trust that you know what you know,” yet in this area I failed to follow my own advice. I passed on the message to clients that relationships are hard. I quietly shrugged my shoulders in agreement when friends and family members rolled their eyes and sighed that relationships should be easier. And now...I’m done. I’m done buying into all that hype about how hard relationships are and even more done with passing on that dangerous message. Instead, I’m going to tell you the hard truth about relationships.  

MY truth.

Great relationships aren’t hard. Healthy relationships, in fact, are comforting, nice to be in and great to come home to. They make life easier. They don’t leave you crying, feeling like hell or wondering if anyone will ever love you. Great relationships leave you feeling good about yourself. They feel easy, rewarding and like a gift that you’re grateful to experience. Great relationships don’t require endless hours of “communication,” problem-solving or painful conversations. Although there are certainly hard conversations from time to time, they’re hard because sometimes life is hard. They’re not hard because you feel unsafe or fearful that your partner will shame you, dismiss you or shut you down. They’re not hard because you don’t feel heard or can’t get through to your partner. The hard conversations are hard because of the content, not because of the person with whom you’re discussing the content. Great relationships have an underlying foundation of equality, mutuality, love and cherishing. Both people are respectful, even in the toughest of times, because there’s a mutual desire to help and support one another.  Great relationships make life easier.

The reality is that bad relationships are hard. Unhealthy relationships make life difficult. These kinds of relationships are “naturally” filled with strife and upset. They don’t feel good to come home to. Yelling, dismissing, defensiveness, lack of accountability, belittling, addiction, lying, harsh comments and lack of interaction are common in unhealthy relationships. These are the things that make those relationships VERY HARD.  Don’t confuse great relationships, though, with not-so-great relationships. There’s a huge difference. Not being heard, intense anger, hurtful comments, lying, cheating, ignoring and contempt are common in poor relationships; they are NOT common in healthy ones. 

Messages like Relationships are hard and Love hurts are dangerous messages that set people up for bad relationships. If your relationship is hard day in and day out or more days than not, something’s wrong. Relationships should NOT be that hard. Great relationships feel easy, comforting and great to come home to. Although you may hit bumps, have moments of upset and periods of feeling more distant than you’d like, these are all short-lived MIT’s (moments in time). 

Go for great in your relationships…it’s so worth it. Stop settling for less and thinking that’s the “norm;” it isn’t.

Challenge: Take a hard look at your relationship. Have you been normalizing a bad relationship under the guise of “all relationships are hard?” If so, it’s time to re-calibrate. Pay attention to the areas where you’ve been settling and tune into how and why. Commit to go for great!





November 14, 2013

Eyes Wide Open: Magical Thinking Won’t Solve Serious Issues


People have an uncanny ability to not see what’s right in front of them and, instead, paint a rosy picture about issues that are anything but rosy. They can assume there are easy answers for problems that are anything but easy. They can turn a blind eye to major upsets to which no one in their right mind should be turning a blind eye. And they can wish so hard that things aren’t as bad as they seem that they can actually start believing that things really aren’t as bad as they seem.

Too often people simply want to believe that things will work out. They want to think everything will be okay. In an effort to believe things will be okay, they begin to delude themselves. Deluding themselves can take many forms:

  • A couple fights constantly and tells themselves that as soon as they have a child everything will work itself out.
  • An employee tells himself that even though his boss has already lied to him three times about giving him a raise, this time it will be different and his boss will come through on his word.
  • A girlfriend convinces herself that marriage will magically keep her boyfriend’s eyes and hands from wandering.
  • A father believes that as soon as his son finds the “right” job, his drinking will stop and no longer be an issue.

Applying magical solutions to serious issues is a losing plan. Regardless of whether we’re talking about a friend, boss, lover or spouse, the bottom line is...serious issues require serious solutions. A lying boss is not going to all of a sudden stay true to his word. Having a baby is no more going to fix an unhealthy marriage than marriage is going to fix a cheating boyfriend. The moment we brush off the seriousness of major issues, we begin to insure that those issues will grow. Wishful thinking will not, does not and cannot solve real problems.

If there’s something you don’t like in your relationship, job, friendship, etc., then do yourself a favor and truly address the issue. Keep your eyes wide open. Dare to see what you see and have the courage to have your back by addressing the hard issues. This one move will save you years of pain down the road.

Challenge: Don’t minimize, make up magical solutions or turn a blind eye to real struggles right in front of you. Face the serious issues head on and stop convincing yourself that everything will be okay if you just let life happen. It won’t.











November 05, 2013

Getting The Spark Back…Requires Getting Real, Not Wild

IStock_000014629447XSmallI get countless e-mails from people saying they or their partner lost the spark in their relationship and they want to know how to get it back. Part of the problem, though, for many couples that say they lost the “spark,” is that they start with a fantasy notion of relationships. Many people expect their relationships to forever maintain the passion of new beginnings. Too many people believe in Hollywood’s notion of great relationships --  always hot, passionate, full of butterflies and the constant hum of utter infatuation. First off, no relationship can sustain that constant level of perfection—it’s unrealistic and total fantasy. So, if you’re looking for that “spark,” then you’d better re-adjust your compass…or continually start new relationships throughout your life.

If, however, what you’re looking for is a deeper connection, filled with love, support, fun and an ability to make it through tough times, then by all means let’s find that spark. Know, however, that getting the spark back is a process, not an event.

Below are simple ways to re-ignite the connection and “spark:”

  1. Be cherishing. Treat your partner as though you cherish her/him. Say kind things, do kind acts and be loving. Don’t expect that just co-existing is enough. Don’t assume that just being in this relationship shows that you want to be there; it doesn’t. Act like you want to be there. Act like you’re happy to be with your partner on a daily basis.
  2. Laugh often/be playful. Part of getting the spark back is enjoying being with your partner. Lighten up, smile, joke, tease…HAVE FUN! Don’t make everything so serious and don’t be a wet blanket in life. Try new things, watch funny movies, tell silly jokes and learn to let go of the critiquing, complaining, demanding, etc., for at least pockets of time. No one wants to hang out with Scrooge.
  3. Be authentic. It’s nearly impossible to feel the spark with someone you can’t trust. Be your genuine self, answer questions honestly, do what you say you’re going to do and be reliable. If your partner can’t trust you, then he/she won’t be able get or feel close to you.  
  4. Share yourself. Intimacy means, “Into me you see.” Share your thoughts, fears, excitements, struggles, opinions and joys with your partner. If you’re in an intimate relationship, the intimacy should not only be happening in the bedroom. The spark is not just about physical chemistry. Physical connection is great, however it will only take you so far. If there’s no emotional connection…eventually there is no spark either.  
  5. Be supportive. Have your partner’s back. Do your best to support their dreams, give them a shoulder to lean on, tell them you believe in them, etc. Too many couples harp on the negatives and stress all the reasons why things won’t work. Start changing your lens to one of appreciation, solution, partnering and friendship rather than criticism, the devil’s advocate or the naysayer. 

When it comes to “finding the spark,” the bottom line is that the “spark” is about intimacy—that sense of physical and emotional connection that feels good to come home to. It’s not about hot sex, constant attraction or being unable to keep your hands off each other, all of which wax and wane in even the best of relationships. If you want that hot sex kind of spark then become a serial dater because that’s the only way you will sustain it. If, however, you want a truly rockin’ relationship, then dare to cherish, share, be playful, genuine and yes… supportive. Do all of these with a good heart and ask of your partner the same. If that doesn’t get the spark back then perhaps it wasn’t truly there in the first place.

Challenge: Look over the list above and make an honest assessment of how you have been in your relationship. Clean up the parts you have not done well and hold your partner to the same expectations. Become someone it feels good to come home to.




October 16, 2013

Relationship Lessons from the Government Shutdown of 2013

Regardless of where you are on the political spectrum, most people agree that the government shutdown is not one of our country’s proudest moments. And, I thank our government for teaching all of us, through their mistakes, relationship lessons of a lifetime. Below are the top ten relationship lessons we can all take away from this unfortunate event.

  • Always be open to hearing the other side with an open mind rather than a righteous mind. One leads to healthy dialogue; the other to ill feelings and resentment. Don't ever get so stuck on being right that you become blind to solutions. 
  • Know that your actions and decisions create a ripple effect of consequences across the lives of those around you...and beyond. It's simply not all about you. Remember that how you live your life has great implications for those around you. Think about the ripple effects of your decisions before you make them.
  • When things don't go your way, don't dig in your heels in an attempt to FORCE them to go your way. This tactic is called bullying. It's toxic and damaging, not only to others, but to you as well.
  • If you agree to do something, do it. Don’t wait for a later issue to use as collateral to avoid doing what you agreed to do in the first place.
  • When you make an initial agreement, do so with thorough discussion and collaboration. Do not rush to get someone to agree on something if there is a good chance that there will be hard feelings later about the process. Relationships are about give and take, not winning and losing. Be considerate on all issues, not just your issues.
  • Stay on the issue at hand—don’t fight a past issue with a current problem. Too often people bring countless past issues into a current argument. Bringing in old issues makes discussion difficult at best. Deal with the issue at hand and don’t throw others into the mix.
  • The end does not justify the means. Using any means necessary to win your side is toxic to relationships. Don’t change the rules to suit you, shame people for disagreeing with you or intimidate others to get your way. Remember that even if your tactics get you what you want today, that doesn’t mean they won’t hurt you tomorrow. Don’t be shortsighted.
  • Don’t allow the power of a few to determine the behavior of many. S/he who speaks the loudest often wins…unless you have the courage to not cower to the power. Don’t allow intimidation to silence your voice.
  • Learn to ask yourself if what you’re doing is the “right” thing to do. Be the spouse you wish you were with and be the parent, friend or boss you wish you had. Do the right thing even in the most difficult of times.
  • When you hear the same information about your actions from two or more different sources, trust that there’s truth in what they’re saying. In politics we have polls that speak volumes; in marriages we have divorce. Listen to the feedback you’re given and make the necessary changes. Don’t wait until it takes a bullhorn to wake you up. 

Regardless of which political party you support, have the courage to learn from the mistakes of both parties. We do in our relationships what our politicians are doing in our government. In our relationships these actions lead to divorce and in our government it leads to a shutdown. We can do better.

Challenge: Look over the list above and check those that apply in your relationships and work them.

October 01, 2013

Life Lessons Part I: The Debris Your Actions Leave in Your Wake

IStock_000015134817_ExtraSmallAs much as I help my clients to better navigate their lives and relationships, they also help me to better navigate mine. I have the unique privilege of working with clients on the most intimate aspects of their lives—their relationships. As such, the journeys of countless clients have taught me a great many life lessons. Many of these life lessons have, unfortunately, been the result of their pain and anguish, while others have come from their successes and triumphs. All are powerful lessons from which all human beings can learn…hopefully prior to making painful mistakes. 

Below are the top ten lessons learned from the painful side of the equation:

  • A hundred kind acts do not erase the burn left from a hot temper. Acting like a ticking time-bomb from which your loved ones have to cower and protect themselves rather than a safe haven for loved ones to lean into for love, support and guidance will burn out any relationship. The burning embers of your anger remain long after your explosion is over…often for years. 
  • If you parent by instilling fear in your children, they will remember the fear, not the love. 
  • Children live what they know and they know what they live. They will model what they see their parents do and will brush past what their parents say. Be sure that the lessons your actions are teaching them will serve them in their own lives. 
  • An untreated alcohol/drug problem will likely become an active addiction. The addict who models the addiction and the enabler who tolerates the addiction will often create and pass down a toxic legacy of addiction from one generation to the next. The toxic legacy continues until one brave soul finds the courage to actively change that legacy.

Continue reading "Life Lessons Part I: The Debris Your Actions Leave in Your Wake" »

September 20, 2013

The Gifts of Being Accountable


One of the most common struggles I see in relationships is the struggle to be accountable. It seems that people have a truly hard time acknowledging their mistakes without defending, rationalizing or explaining why they did what they did. As you can imagine, not being willing to be accountable does not bode well for relationships. 

While I could name many reasons why people have a problem simply acknowledging their mishaps, the reality is...it doesn’t matter why people struggle with this acknowledgment, what matters is that they learn to move past the struggle and into the gift of being accountable…of which there are many.

Below are ten gifts from being accountable (being able to admit your mistake, acknowledge the pain/upset/frustration it caused and repairing it in some way).

  1. Acknowledging you messed up often results in the other person softening. 
  2. When you own your mistake, the other person feels a huge sense of relief.
  3. Your acknowledgement often reduces the intensity of the moment.
  4. Being accountable without getting defensive, can feel empowering to you. It feels good to be strong enough to own your mistakes rather than pretending you don’t make any.
  5. Owning your mistakes shows others that you’re responsible and “workable.”
  6. Owning your mistakes shows others that you “get it.” If you understand what you did wrong and the way it impacted the other person, they will have more trust that you won’t do it again.
  7. Acknowledging your mistakes while holding yourself in warm regard feels good. 
  8. Being able to admit to your mistakes is excellent role modeling for children.
  9. Taking responsibility for your actions is acting with integrity.
  10. Acknowledging that you screwed up, repairing any damage done and committing to not do it again is FREEING. Once you do your part, you can let it go and feel good that you did your part to fix things—even if the other person doesn’t let it go.

The reality is that all of us make mistakes. There is no way for ANY human being to not make mistakes—we are not GOD. The courage comes in when we can own our mistakes, acknowledge how they impacted those around us and then repair things and move on. It’s empowering to have the strength to be able to simply say, “I’m so sorry. I messed up on this and I know it hurt you. I promise to do whatever I can to make things right.” Whew! The other person will feel a huge sense of relief and you can feel a great sense of pride in yourself for doing what many people seldom do. 

Dare to be accountable; it is the one thing that can shift your relationship on a dime. 

Challenge: Pay attention to all the ways you deflect, deny, blame, rationalize and defend your poor behaviors and instead step up and be accountable.

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