Showing Grace

I recently had a conversation with a friend who was quite upset.  Her sister had just become engaged and she was struggling with her feelings about the news. Her sister had informed her of the engagement through a text message, when it had really merited a phone call and a nice conversation. However, this relationship has had issues before this new turn of events.


Not only was Mary (not her real name) angry about the way she had been informed, but she was also livid that her sister had picked the exact same style and venue that she had for her wedding that had ended in a broken engagement. Mary believed that her sister had made this choice on purpose. When she called her sister to share her anger about the situation, the conversation quickly went downhill, ending with the bride-to-be sharing that she didn’t expect her sister to show at her wedding.


I spent the next 40 minutes on the phone: First, validating her feelings and then helping her see that this decision was not necessarily made to hurt her. I then reminded her that even though she might be partly right, this really wasn’t about being right or wrong.


I informed her that she had a choice; she could either make the time until the wedding ceremony chaotic and negative or she could rise above all the drama and handle the situation with grace.  I asked her to consider which one she would like as her legacy— her behavior would be etched in everyone’s memory for eternity.


The other day, I had a conversation with a woman, working out some business issues.  There were numerous times during the conversation where her tone and attitude could be discerned as condescending and inappropriate.  During the whole process, I spoke calm and kind, yet firm in my beliefs.  When I got off the phone, I relayed the experience to my husband.  “You shouldn’t have accepted that whole attitude”.  I disagree.


I had a choice as to how I would handle the situation. I felt totally in control and was capable of holding my own.  However, during the interaction, I kept calm and gave it thought.  What do I want to accomplish in this conversation? What do I have to gain by being gracious and what do I have to gain by letting her have it?


You might be thinking, “What do I have to gain by being gracious when I’m clearly in the right?” Consider for a moment that it might not be about who is right and who is wrong.  We often get stuck on this point. However, if you can get past the emotions of anger, frustration, and hurt and focus on what you want the outcome to be, you’ll be on the right track. Don’t look at the short-term gain but consider what you want for the long-term in your life. Maybe you need to swallow your pride and do what’s best for you and others in the long run. Words said in anger can haunt you for many years to come.


I was speaking with a client today who had difficulty doing just that— holding her tongue and considering the consequences.  She took me through a scenario at work, ending with her realization that she had nothing to gain by showing her anger with her co-workers.  For the first time, she was able to think through the situation, have empathy for other’s behavior, figure out her strategy and make the wise choice of having grace. What a confidence builder!


I hope you make the decision to approach your life with the same degree of grace. Frankly, it’s never too late to change your ways.



Taming Your Inner Brat

Let me share something about my buying habits— I’m pretty selective about my purchases.  I won’t buy the first thing I see and I never make impulse decisions. I’m the type of buyer that mulls things over and over before I get out my credit card. Well, usually.


I recently attended a fashion show fundraiser.  During the show, I made a mental note of a dress that I liked, but assumed it would be out of my budget range.  At the completion of the show, I strolled around the vendor tables to see if I could spy the runway dress. As I turned the corner and looked up, I saw a young woman holding THE dress up and talking to her friends excitedly.  When I approached her, she shared with me how much she loved the dress and just had to have it. The boutique owner chimed in and stated that there were only two pieces left of that particular style and absolutely no inventory left at her store.


Immediately, I decided that I had to have this dress! I tried to control my excitement while the girl went off to try it on.  I hovered around the table anxiously waiting for her to return, secretly hoping that she only fit into the bigger size. She came back and decided to buy the smaller size. Disappointed, I searched for alternate solutions to my dilemma. I ran to the lounge to try on the bigger size— I rationalized that it wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world if I bought the dress a little too big.


As I put the dress over my head and looked in the mirror, I felt a huge rush of adrenaline shoot through my body. The dress fit perfect! I ran back out and couldn’t give the owner my credit card quick enough.  Boy, was I excited about making my purchase!


Dr. Pauline Willan, a Psychologist and author of ”Taming your Inner Brat” cites three specific reasons why you can get hung up on wanting what you can’t have.


1. You pay more attention to and can become fixated upon what you CAN’T have in life.  This “thing” might begin to feel much more important than it actually is.


2. When something is scarce or in short supply its perceived value increases. You may begin to believe that if other people want this item so badly, then you should want it also. Think about some of our past Christmas seasons and the toy of the year.


3. You often want what you can’t have due to “Psychological Resistance”. This refers to your desire to not be controlled by others.  A good example of this is when you’re on a diet and your husband reminds you 7 times a day that you shouldn’t eat the cake in the kitchen because it’s not on your diet.  These comments from your husband might lead you directly back to the piece of cake.  No one likes to be told what they can and can’t do.


Give some thought to your own life. Have you ever obsessed over something or someone that you just had to have? Next time you’re chasing that thing or person, do a reality check.

Learning (and Unlearning) Experiences

My pug Miles and I were thoroughly enjoying our walk when we ran into a neighbor and her puppy.  The puppy was twice the size of Miles, but that never bothered Miles before. In his head, Miles thinks he’s the size of a Great Dane.  The two dogs had never met before, so we let them sniff each other and become acquainted.


It wasn’t long before the two of them started playing and running circles around each other.  It also wasn’t long before our two leashes were wrapped around the dogs and us.  As they became out of control and totally tied up, the other playful dog had Miles in a position where he couldn’t move. There was no slack on the leash and the puppy, totally in control, had him down on the ground. That’s when Miles, the always even-tempered, happy-go-lucky Pug became the devil dog.


Miles definitely made the first move and attacked. While he had been playing a minute ago, now he was growling and ferociously trying to bite.  The puppy reciprocated with the same behavior as we tried to control the situation.  I apologized profusely as I pulled my growling pug off the dog.  At that moment I felt like a mom that was apologizing for my son’s bad behavior.


As I left the scene of the crime and continued walking, I thought about the incident. I hadn’t ever witnessed that behavior before and I was perplexed. Miles was the most unaggressive animal on the planet. Everyone knows that Pugs, by nature, are not aggressive dogs.  And then it occurred to me.  Less than a year ago, we were taking a walk when a dog sitting in his own yard suddenly lunged at Miles.  He hardly saw it coming, and neither did I. It was terrifying to both of us. A couple hours later, I realized that he had a rather large wound and he ended up in surgery.


Even though Pugs have absolutely wonderful temperaments, Miles had learned a valuable lesson from the incident.  He now knew that he needed to be on his guard with every dog because they couldn’t be trusted.  His brain was now imprinted to approach each dog interaction with wariness and high alert; chances are, they will attack. Therefore, he now knew that at the first inclination of aggressiveness, he needed to attack to survive.  Biology ruled this interaction.


Why am I sharing this with you?  Human brains process fearful situations in a similar way.  If you have experienced a situation from the past where you felt seriously threatened, that information has been stored away for future use. Your brain has imprinted this experience so you can protect yourself in the future.


So now I want you to think about your own life.  Have you ever been in a bad relationship that ended in a hurtful manner?  If you have, you probably had difficulty trusting and believing in a new relationship because of those old feelings popping up. Maybe it was the pain and trauma of being fired from a job that left your emotions raw. Because of it, you no longer can view your new employer in the same trusting manner. The truth is that you will never go back to that original person that you trusted so blindly.  You’ve had an experience that has changed you forever.  Instinctively, you now scan for clues to make sure that your situation is safe.


But here’s the good news.  Unlike Miles, you are not tied to your instinctual behavior.  You can recognize your behavior and learn to question your actions.  You can make sense of your reactions and remind yourself that you don’t have to respond in such an intense, aggressive manner.


The bottom line is that you’re lucky. Unlike Miles, you can choose how you want to view the world and react to your surroundings. You can move forward in life and change the way you think. Do it!

Defining Decisions

You know that saying, “Did you wake up on the wrong side of the bed?” No one is productive when they’re grumpy in the morning.  They wake up in a bad mood and they can end up carrying that feeling with them the rest of the day.


Thursday night was pretty uneventful. I am thankful that I had the foresight to decide what I would be wearing in the morning and placed my dress, tights and shoes out by the chair in my bedroom.  I remember thinking that since I was waking up extremely early to get to a morning event, I wouldn’t want to be making difficult decisions like, “what should I wear?”  I decided what time I needed to wake up and I set the alarm.


At 4:45 I woke up, saw the time, and realized that I had a whole hour left of sleep.  Listening to my dog snoring in my ear, I immediately fell back to sleep.  The next time I woke up was 6:20. I stared at the clock and thought, “it’s just 6:20”.  My next thought was, “IT’S 6:20!!!!” It finally registered— I was meeting someone in 15 minutes.  I will admit that the first minute of my 15 minutes was a complete waste of time.  I spent it running in a circle achieving absolutely nothing, but things became more productive from that point on.  I threw on my clothes and began to fix my hair and put on my make-up.  As the dog watched, it dawned on me that I needed to allot time in my valuable 15 minutes to let him out and feed him.  As you might imagine, he let me know this was non-negotiable.


I ran back upstairs, grabbed my phone and brushed my teeth.  I had full make-up on and was completely dressed and was ready to walk out the door. I drove to meet my friend and got there only three minutes late. Not bad considering!


Looking back on that morning, it had all the makings of a really, really horrible day. One of those days that starts out really bad and just gets worst as it goes on. Not to mention that I actually got in a car to drive without having my coffee.  You need to understand that I go absolutely nowhere until I have my morning cup of coffee. However, my time calculation told me that it was either coffee or the dog, and the dog won.


Now here’s the interesting part of what happened that morning.  Aside from my one minute that was wasted running in a circle and spouting expletives, the rest of the time was just focused on getting my tasks done and moving ahead so I could follow through with my responsibilities. I didn’t spend any time thinking about how dumb I was, or why did this have to happen to me, or how I wasn’t going to have time to do my hair.  I just kept moving ahead and accepting what was.


At some point, the same thing will happen to you. You’ll spill coffee on yourself and stain your outfit, you’ll get soaked in the rain and ruin your great hair, or your alarm won’t go off at the appropriate time.  You have a choice whether you want to let this ruin your whole day or not.  You can focus on how angry and upset it makes you that things didn’t go the way you planned, or you can just let it go and move forward in life. You can be that person that woke up on the wrong side of the bed. I choose to let it go.

Routine Rewards

No matter how busy my day gets, I never go to sleep without taking a hot bubble bath. That’s right, every single night. In fact, if I don’t follow through on this ritual, I have trouble calming down for the night.  You see, taking a bath signifies the end of my day for me.  During those 15 minutes in the bathtub, I am able to turn everything off in my brain, decompress and relax.  It might not work for you, but it definitely works for me.


The point to sharing this bit of information is that routine can be good for you. Often, my focus with women is to get outside their box and do things a little differently. I encourage them to change it up and not get stuck in their usual routine. Although this is true, you also need some things that you can count on happening regularly.


You need to have routines in order to accomplish things in life. When I was a working mom with young children, I would have been lost without my routines.  I counted on these routines to accomplish all my responsibilities with the kids and the house in addition to my full-time job. On Sunday mornings, I routinely made out a list of what I was going to prepare for dinner each day of the coming week. After that was decided, I would make out my grocery list and go shopping.  I never wavered from my routine because in the long run, it made my life so much easier. My fitness goals would be impossible without routine. Honestly, it would make it way too easy to not go workout if I didn’t have certain days of the week that I exercise religiously. Today, I have routines that make it possible for me to accomplish the many responsibilities in my job.  If I didn’t have my routine of spending 30 minutes in the morning answering email before getting involved in other work, I wouldn’t be able to focus on the many other responsibilities of the day.


Routines help us feel comfortable and secure. Everyone in life needs things they can count on no matter what’s transpiring. Having routines helps you feel comforted and safe. With rituals, there are no surprises and you know exactly what to expect.  Frankly, we all need this in our lives so we can feel in control of our universe.  For example, I cook a homemade soup every single Sunday night. My family has come to expect it and look forward to it.  You could say that it has become a tradition in our house. Traditions and rituals are an important part of your life. When the world is spinning out of control, your traditions and rituals give you a sense of comfort and help you cope.


I want every woman to view life as an adventure, but I would be remiss not to remind you that having certain routines is also an essential part of your healthy life.  Strive for a balance of adventures that push your limits mixed in with routines and rituals that enable you to accomplish your goals.