There’s a lot of clichés in the personal development space. I will often repeat them because clichés are often overwhelming truths that we should pay more attention to than we do. One such idea, which doesn’t get nearly enough attention, is that empathy and forgiveness is the root of happiness in yourself.
If I could impress one personal development lesson it would be this: Have empathy for yourselves and others because we are all doing the very best we can.
It’s at this point that you are inevitably thinking about the co-worker you hate, your sexually harassing boss, your ex best friend who has been long written off, or any other number of people that you absolutely DON’T think is doing the absolute best they can.
Believe me, I know the feelings you have towards those people. The feelings are dark, cynical, and seductive. They will take over your life and leave you alone if you allow them to live in your head or your heart.
For most of us, the holidays mean an increased amount of time spent with family, trips back home, and maybe tripping over in-laws in your own house.
For some, this is awesome – a beautiful chance to reconnect with the greatest people you have ever known over Christmas lights and impeccable meals.
For others, it means frustration and stress.
Some people fit in naturally with their home. Their parents are warm and encouraging and provide exceptional role models for which you to model your life after. These people don’t usually have a lot of problems.
For others, they have chosen to use their family as more of an anti-role-model, using their family as a point of reference for differentiation, rather than sameness. For this group of people, coming home is a much bigger challenge.
Either way, going home is often a challenge for personal growth. To family, in contrast to the rest of the world, you are a fixed being and a deviation from what you were when you were 9 is a stress point for them – whether they realize it or not. This is why people change so rapidly when they go to college since it represents the first time a person really gets to define themselves on their own terms in our culture.
Family, conversely, may get annoyed with your new whole foods, keto, or vegan diet, because to them you were the slightly overweight child who loved to town on pizza and buffalo wings. They might scoff at your hippy new-age meditation routine you cultivated when you read the science on the difference between those who meditate and who don’t. Of course, when you go to tell them about to exceptional quality of research that backs you up they laugh it off and dismiss you because you are just little Timmy to them, not Timothy the VP of sales at a Fortune 500 company.
There’s an old saying that bounces around the coaching world and it goes something like this: When you think you’ve achieved enlightenment, go home for the Holidays.
Here are some tips to shake off the frustration for those of you who are shaking off your last trip home:
I was listening to Pope Francis address a giant crowd of Catholics on Christmas today and I was moved by a lot of what he said.
His eventual point was interesting in that it was very close to the guidance I try to give to my clients. He talked about how we need to accept the gift of Christ so that we could in turn be the gift for others.
This is a Christian way of saying what I have thus far found to be one of the best directives in life: be more so you can give more.
As Francis discussed the idea of Christ coming as a gift for those who didn't “deserve” - he made it abundantly clear that we will receive the gift anyway and as such we should accept it gracefully and move forward in giving ourselves to others. Whatever your religious affiliation, we can all recognize that we are often extremely hard on ourselves to the point where we feel we don't deserve love and grace, let alone feel like we can contribute to the world around us.
That being said, in the personal development space there is no shortage of people obsessed with their own growth. People spend countless hours sculpting their physique, padding their back account, finding that strategic edge in their business, or sharpening their mind with the next best idea.
But for what?
A lot of people who are working on their personal development and growth have big dreams and big goals and that is great.
However, it can become a problem when your dreams are so big that it stresses you out and leads you to inaction - not an uncommon problem.
If big picture thinking is crippling you, then aim lower and focus on small actions you can take today to move you further down the road on your journey.
Your growth will come from your action and not your thinking.
Gratitude is one of those ideas that is so talked about in the coaching and personal development space that it almost feels too cliché to discuss.
Like most clichés, it gets repeated so often because it is so important. But like many truisms we hear frequently, just because we hear it or say it, doesn't mean we practice it.
Thanksgiving is a day where some people actually try to step into gratitude and practice it - even if only for a moment.
What I tell people about gratitude is simple. In our day to day lives we can think about all the stuff we don't yet have and the pain it causes us, or we can think about the stuff we do have that we should be grateful for. Both things are true, but where you put your focus changes your day to day life immensely.
Think about all the decisions, coincidences, gifts from God or the universe that have shaped and blessed your life.
Maybe it is the fact that you were born in the West where you can brush your teeth without fear of dying from a disease in your water. Maybe it's the detour or night out you almost didn't take that led you to meet the person that changed your life.
You can focus on those things or you can focus on stuff that pisses you off. Your choice.
As cliché as it is, gratitude truly is the antidote to anger and sadness.
Action item: Go back into your memory and remember one of the most special moments in your life. It could be one of those coincidences, a night of passion and love, a landmark day, etc. Play this memory in your head like a movie and step into the memory like you are there again. Feel what you felt. See what you saw. Smell what you smelled. Spend a few minutes of your day back in that moment and take that feeling into the rest of your day.
I’m not a reality TV watcher, but somehow a recent argument between Kim Kardashian and Kanye West got served to me by YouTube and I found it fascinating. Their famous argument is something that EVERYONE in a relationship is going to go through, so we can all learn from what is going on with this celebrity couple.
Here’s the often unspoken truth about personal development: When you grow as an individual, it’s going to put strain on your relationships - often to disastrous results.
For background’s sake, Kanye West is one of the most prolific rappers on Earth who has previously promoted all the trappings of rap music - derogatory language, objectification of women, self-worth derived from material things, and so on.
Recently and famously he has re-devoted his life to his Christian faith. He has sworn off creating negative content and music for “the culture” and is only going to make music that celebrates his love of Jesus Christ.
When an individual makes a dramatic turn like this, it is unavoidable that there will be conflict with those who have loved the old you. Kanye’s wife, Kim Kardashian, expressed this beautifully in an argument over whether or not she should dress sexy for other men to see when she said “your transformation doesn’t mean I’m in the same spot with you.”
In the Western business world, being late is a grave sin. It can lose you jobs, lose you clients, and generally tank your career and even your personal relationships.
This perspective that dominates the Western world has many benefits. It makes the trains run on time. It’s respectful to whoever your next meeting is with. It makes coordinating schedules relatively easy. It’s great for people who live in worlds with deadlines.
People who love planners, organization, and order generally thrive in our culture - especially in business.
Some people take this so seriously, that people will fire people, not hire people, and destroy relationships with people over tardiness or missed meetings.
What’s interesting is that while we here in America think that’s just the way things are, there are cultures and individuals around the world that view time differently. Here, we might consider those people lazy or call them loafers, but we should just recognize it for what it is: a difference in how we experience the world.
My mom and I were recently talking about whether or not someone who is trying to lose weight should weigh themselves every day or not.
She took the new popular position that no you shouldn’t. And I get why. True weight loss is pretty slow (maybe dropping 1 or 2 pounds per week if you are doing it healthily and normally). Seeing moderate changes along the way are discouraging for her and others who don’t want to see the slow progress of weight loss. Or worse, people who give themselves cheat days don’t want to see the damage that their 6 beers and basket of fries did to their goals.
I’m quite different. If I have a weight goal, I want to know exactly what is happening. Was my day of eating good or bad? Am I eating something that is making me hold on to weight the days I am eating it? If I sleep less does it affect my weight drop or gain overnight? If I cheated and ate something bad how much did it set me back? And there are numerous other questions that I can only know the answer to if I am gathering data.
There's a fine line between knowing yourself and creating limiting identities or beliefs.
In the coaching world and the corporate HR world there is a lot of hype around personality types, enneagrams, introversion/extroversion, and other tools used to put people in neatly ordered boxes.
These tests can be useful for us individuals because it helps us feel understood, can point us in the right direction for our current skill set, and even point out our weaknesses and limitations so we can improve.
Managers and executives like these tests because they help them put people into boxes and order us appropriately so that we flourish under their leadership.
So on the surface everyone wins with these tools.
Like everything, there is a downside and these tests often become a problem for people. It becomes a problem because when you put people into behavioral boxes, they tend to accept their new confines and their growth becomes stifled.
For those that don’t watch sports, Adam Vinatieri is a 46 year old kicker in the NFL who is widely regarded as the greatest kicker to ever play the game. Much to my town of Indianapolis’ chagrin, the last two games he has missed a career worst number of kicks. Out of 8 kicks, most of them being routine kicks, he has only made 3. That would be bad for a struggling high school kicker, let alone the best to ever play the game.
Most people think that Vinatieri hit some age wall where he suddenly can’t make a routine chip shot - as if his leg deteriorated to the point of being inaccurate from short distances overnight. As such, many think it’s time for him to retire.
In reality, if you go grab Vinatieri when he is 60, I bet he’ll be able to kick 10 extra points in a row without the kind of problems he is having now. It’s not his age. It’s just a typical slump. Slumps happen to everyone, but when you are a baseball player or a kicker in the NFL, your slumps are obvious, measurable and compounding.
The real question is - why do slumps happen and how on Earth do we make them stop?
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