Procrastination

It’s a “sin” most everyone has been guilty of at one time or another. Studying for examinations, project deadlines, losing weight; you name it, we have all put off doing something at some time.

We put doing something off because we don’t want to do it, or maybe we have a lot of things on our plate at the moment. Maybe we’re not interested. Maybe we’re just lazy, too. There are plenty of reasons why people procrastinate, but the most common reason is fear.

People are afraid of making a mistake or not getting it right or somehow failing along the way. If you are afraid that a particular task could possibly not turn out well, it’s easier to avoid working on it in order to avoid feeling the fear. The chances of failure are then eliminated.

There’s also the fear of success. You would think that wanting to succeed would actually propel a person to work, and work hard. On the contrary, to some people, success can be seen as a tradeoff for human relationships or a social life: if they start working on a project, and eventually succeed, this may lead them to doing more projects, which in turn would eventually put a damper on their social lives and relationships.

People also procrastinate because they want everything to be perfect. It’s no surprise that procrastination and perfectionism go hand in hand. Perfectionists are extremely insecure people. More than their expectation that everyone and everything around them be perfect, they expect themselves to be perfect all the time. Hence, they’d rather put off doing a project, than to start it and then see it not meet those high standards they set for themselves. It appears to be a mind thing. Procrastinators sometimes think that it is better to give a half-hearted effort and maintain the belief that they could have done an awesome job, than to give a full effort and risk criticism from other people. Procrastinating guarantees failure, but it helps perfectionists maintain their belief that they could have excelled if they had tried harder.

What these people need to realize is that no one pleases everyone all the time. No one EVER gets it right every single time. At best, we need to aim for 80-90% precision, because we are human, after all, and are bound to make mistakes, even accidentally. Regardless, even if we did get it 100% right in our own eyes, there would always be someone who would certainly see it as less than presentable and be critical about it!

How, then, can procrastination be avoided?

We need to know exactly why we procrastinate. Is it really because we’re lazy? Or is it any of the other reasons mentioned above?

How and when do we procrastinate? Do we do it when we have examinations, when we need to pay the bills, when we need to hit the gym? Do we suddenly feel physical pains that we didn’t feel ten minutes ago? Do we totally ignore the task we’re supposed to be doing, hoping it will go away? Do we do something else that we also deem important, in lieu of the immediate task at hand? Do we take longer breaks than necessary? Figuring out exactly when and how we procrastinate can help us stop the behavior. Too often, we don’t even realize that we are procrastinating—until it’s too late.

It’s important that we create an environment that’s conducive to working and completing the task we’re supposed to do. This means a place where there are no distractions (no internet or WiFi connection, for example).

Consider your peak times as well, meaning the time when your body and mind are at their optimum. Schedule your task within that time, when you are most alert and productive.

If the task seems insurmountable, break it down in little, doable parts. This makes you feel like you’ve accomplished something. And the feeling of actually having accomplished something can get you pumped up for the next little, doable part.

Never hesitate to ask for help. This is where your family and friends come in, as you will need their support.

Give yourself a break. You can’t expect to kick the habit of procrastination overnight. The habit developed and evolved over time, undoing it would also take time. Congratulate and reward yourself for every little hump you’ve managed to overcome, but don’t beat yourself up too much if you fell off the wagon. Just get up and pick up where you left off.

Near Death or Out-Of-Body Experiences

For decades now, we have heard and read about individuals who have had what we call “near-death” or “out-of-body” experiences. In other words, they have theoretically died.  This has generally been associated with a tragedy or crisis such as a heart attack, a motor accident, events unfolding badly in the operating theatre, and work-related accidents.

Typically, what these individuals report is that they floated up above their bodies and they looked down on the scene below. If it happens to be a motor vehicle accident, they look down on the carnage and wreckage, the paramedics working feverishly on their body, red and blue lights flashing, perhaps individuals nearby crying or hysterical, perhaps a fire engine in attendance as well as certainly the police. If it happens to be an operating theatre, they often report floating to the ceiling of the theatre itself above the bright lights and look down at the doctors and nurses again working feverishly on their body lying on the operating table where there is a sense of urgency, haste and intensity.

Often these individuals report being drawn toward a white light or passing through a tunnel of light, but who, for various reasons decide not to proceed into the light or down the tunnel, and instead, return back into their bodies. Sometimes, these people feel that they cannot leave their loved ones behind especially if there are children or they feel that their work is not yet completed. Irrespective, they return back into their bodies.

Well, science now seems to be catching up with the pile of anecdotal evidence that has been well documented over decades.

In a newspaper report just out of London (4th November 2012), the following was reported:

“A near-death experience occurs when quantum substances that form the soul leave the nervous system and enter the universe at large, according to a theory proposed by two eminent scientists. According to this idea, consciousness is a program for a quantum computer in the brain that can persist in the universe even after death, explaining the perceptions of those who have near-death experiences. Dr Stuart Hameroff, professor emeritus at the Department of Anaesthesiology and Psychology, and the director of the Centre of Consciousness Studies at the University of Arizona, have advanced the quasi-religious theory” (The Sunday Mail, 4.11.12, Page 27).

Needless to say, those who have had such near-death experiences probably don’t need an academic to provide a framework or theory for what happened to them because their experiences were real. Very real.

In many cases, this kind of near-death experience is life changing to such an extent that the individual’s life is transformed where they set new priorities and goals that are much more altruistic and purpose-driven than self-centered and materialistic. Their lives turn around.

It was about 10 years ago now that I vividly recall a new client coming into my office hobbling on two walking sticks. He was a male in his early 50s. He sat down and began to recite his story. He had largely been a manual worker including a forklift driver and he said that on this particular day, he was walking alongside a factory wall against which were piled high scores of wooden pallets. For reasons that are not clear, the pile high of pallets fell on him and he was crashed underneath. He said that his workmates frantically tried to pull off all the palates and release him and an ambulance rushed him to the Royal Adelaide Hospital. He said that he recalled apparently “dying” several times as the ambulance weaved its way through traffic up North Terrace towards the hospital. He said he recalled looking down on the ambulance as he floated above it and he saw it on the wrong side of the road charging along North Terrace. He said it was weaving in and out of the traffic and often on the wrong side of the road. Once he arrived at the hospital, he said he was placed into an emergency bay where the staff continued to work on him and he said several times he again apparently “died” because he said he floated to the ceiling of the emergency ward and he said he could see into all the other cubicles where patients were receiving emergency help. He stated though, that in one particular cubicle, there was a little boy who was in grave distress. My client of course, lived and went back to the hospital to receive outpatient medical care for well over a 12 month period. He said that on one of his visits he found it necessary to go back into the emergency ward and locate the key nurse who attended to him on that occasion. He asked her what had happened to the little boy that he had seen in the third cubicle down from where he was located. She was utterly surprised he said. “How did you know that?” she enquired. He simply told her that he had floated to the ceiling and he could see the little boy being worked on. She was not quite sure how to respond, but she did assure him that little boy recovered.

I’ve also had other clients who have reported similar, but different experiences.

There is a sense though, that none of this comes as a surprise to those of us who have spiritual beliefs and in this case, being a Christian means that there is a belief of a heavenly afterlife. This life is not just about bricks and mortar, dollars and cents.

As a psychologist, my experiences tell me that we are much more than mind and body and indeed, we have a soul. In the same way that it is important to exercise own mind and definitely to exercise our bodies, it is imperative that we exercise our souls. For some of us that means prayer and meditation, for others it might mean other things.

Yes, science may now have a theory for what happens beyond this life, but various religious groups will tell you that this has been a truism since life began.

The real issue therefore, is if there is something beyond the white light or the bright tunnel, are we prepared for it and are we exercising our spiritual muscles because as far as I’m aware, except for a rare few who have near-death experiences, we don’t get a second chance at this current life.

The UK Rocks, but will we Heed the Wake-up Call?

As I indicated in a previous blog post, the riots and looting in London and beyond are a wake-up call for us all (see “The UK Rocks, but for all the Wrong Reasons”).

Who says that it could not happen here in Australia? Yes, it can be argued that the UK is in a different place politically than is Australia (or other countries for that matter). For example, there was the social brutality of the Margaret Thatcher era, followed by the growth of the welfare state under Tony Blair and Gordon Brown, and more recently, the impact of the Global Financial Crisis seems to have hit heavily in that country.

But that’s where the similarity ends.

Australia, it is argued here, is looking down the barrel of similar riots and unrest. The other cocktail of factors are simmering, and could well explode.

So, what do we need to do to take control of a “sick society?”

It needs to be said quite clearly though, that the time is past for band-aid solutions and patch up remedies.  With the society as troubled as it is, this is no time for cosmetic surgery. There is no option now, except radical surgery.  If we really wish to save our community, then we need to act, act boldly, and act now.

Of course, it will hurt and it will not be popular. It never is when radical procedures are necessary.

Further, we can no longer rely on the “conscience” of society to remedy itself, or rely on the good graces of people generally to seek to remedy this societal situation. The time for that has passed. Besides the situation is now bigger that any of us and requires a community intervention to seek to turn it around. We need external intervention and generally speaking, when that occurs, people do not like it and tend to push back. Hence, it will behove government to step up and show some leadership irrespective of the “pushback” that they will no doubt receive. The sad reality though, is that governments rarely show leadership. They follow and they follow the opinion polls.

Irrespective, what can we do?  Consider the following options.

  1. Provide mandatory parenting classes for partners who wish to bring children into the world. As I have argued elsewhere (see “Growing Up Children” http://www.growingupchildren.com/children/index.htm or purchase a hard copy from amazon.com), being able to biologically reproduce does not also mean that you are a good parent.

Parenting is hard work and is a skill that needs to be learned. In this country, if it is mandatory to take lessons and get a license before one is allowed to drive a car, then it certainly ought to be good enough to have lessons in order to raise a family who are our citizens of tomorrow.

Alexander Downer, the former foreign minister in the Liberal Government asserted recently in a newspaper article (“The Advertiser, August 15, 2011, Page 21) that expectant parents could be told their child benefits will be dependent on them being able to demonstrate that they have attended parenting classes before the birth of a baby.

  1. Downer also asserts that we need to change the mindset in relation to welfare. Welfare, he argues, should be a trampoline, not a safety net. He states, “There shouldn’t be handouts for nothing. They should be used as a vehicle to rebuild people’s lives. And welfare should be linked to responsibility; it shouldn’t just be an entitlement. With welfare should come certain obligations. We also need to define the obligations we demand for the payment of welfare. If there is a family of young dependents under 18, then those young dependents need to go to school and prove they’ve been to school or TAFE. No school, no welfare.” Furthermore, he argues that although we already require a work test for people on unemployment benefits, the work for the dole schemes should be expanded substantially.
  1. Provide mandatory baby and child support classes for parents (and mothers in particular) who struggle with parenting and the endless issues that child rearing seems to present especially for parents with a firstborn. It could well be for example, that parents are required to attend that least 6 sessions every year before school age in order to receive their ongoing child welfare benefits.
  1. Provide effective early intervention in schools with increased early childhood educators resourcing every school. Research that I conducted back in the late 1980s with Dr Phillip Slee (Cross, D.G., Slee, P.T. (1990). A comparative study of Mother and Child Characteristics in Families of Normal and Behaviour Problem Children.  Australian Journal of Early Childhood, Vol. 15, (4), 36-40) showed that kindergarten and primary school teachers were clearly able to identify children at risk and children in need of intervention and help. Early intervention is a key. What’s the point of allowing the horse to bolt and society paying dearly for the rest of that individual’s life?
  1. Incorporate effective early intervention assessment for students in Years 1-4 as a way of determining their learning style and particularly being alert for common disorders such as dyslexia. The research shows quite clearly that around 10% students have a learning disability of some kind. Failure to pick up this kind of problem means that the student goes through school continually failing which inevitably destroys their self-esteem and severely limits their opportunities in life. Sadly, in our enlightened day and age, there are far too many students, who remain undetected and who end up being personal casualties of an archaic education system. I used to see them in the last years of secondary school, depressed and hopeless where they would say that they’ll “never amount to anything.” Psychometric testing would typically reveal a learning disorder where the child was at least average or above average in intelligence, but had a specific learning block. The identification of the dyslexia at times brought relief (“finally there is a word for what I’ve got”), but sometimes rage and anger especially on the part of parents who felt let down by an education system who either failed to recognise the symptoms or who pushed such symptoms aside as a “phase the child was going through.”
  1. Provide withdrawal centres for disruptive students in all schools. The major issue for teachers and schools alike on a daily basis is dealing with behaviour problems which generally speaking, are related to the one or two problem students in every classroom. How can teachers be expected to teach when they are grappling constantly with behavioural issues. These disruptive students who are often violent and aggressive need particular care and intensive supervision. Withdrawal centres away from the main classroom blocks and perhaps built on the edge of the school or nearby, would incorporate a higher staff student ratio as well as be staffed by trained social workers, psychologists, family counsellors and special educators. Intervention would involve not only the child, but the parents, and the classroom teacher. The child may remain in the withdrawal centre as long as it took for their behaviour to become more appropriate. This model was used in South Australia in the 1970-1980s in a joint project between the Departments of Health and Education and it was highly successful. Politics closed it down. Shame.
  1. Provide direct education for students and parents in primary school in relation to cyber bullying. Children need to understand how they can feel safe and also need to understand the repercussions of bullying via the mobile phone or the computer and the repercussions for example, of uploading photos of any kind. Parents who have typically been afraid of such technology need to be educated quickly to come up to speed with what their children are doing. Cyber bullying and sexting is a problem out of control in our community (see the Federal Government report released in June 2011 titled “High Wire Act: Cybersafety and the Young”). I have also devoted a website solely to educating parents and teachers (see cybersafetydoctor.com.au ) on this matter.
  1. Scrap Year 9 and devote the year to life skills and survival skills. Year 9 is one of those unfortunate years when the hormones seem to kick in, and educationally it’s really a kind of nothing year and a lull before the storm in Years 10-12. Ask any teacher or parent and they will tell you so. Dr Tim Hawkes, the headmaster of The Kings School in Paramatta, New South Wales has written an expose on the kinds of skills necessary for any individual to be successful in life (see the article by Dr Hawkes under DrDarryl.com/Resources/Articles and click on “Education Gets an “F” Grade”).
  1. Provide in Year 10, follow up personal leadership courses such as the ones offered by Youth Opportunities (see youthopportunties.com.au) where students over a 10-week program learn the skills associated for example, with effective communication, goal-setting and decision-making. Testimonials from students who have undertaken this kind of course are overwhelming in the ability to turn around young peoples’ lives.
  1. Provide an experience for teens to serve others especially those less fortunate than themselves. There is no doubt that volunteering in some sort of capacity gives one a better sense of who they are as well as an appreciation of what they have already.  It also allows students to understand that it’s not all about them. Some schools are already arranging this kind of experience, but sadly, it is typically only for a selected few. Whether it is working nearby in a soup kitchen, or travelling overseas to work in an orphanage, such experiences are powerful and enriching.
  1. Provide direct intervention and action in proven cases of cyber bullying. This is a problem out of control. There are so many policies particularly in schools that are toothless tigers. While some of our youth haemorrhage through the onslaught of bullying, the adults in their lives mouth platitudes and niceties. The Commonwealth Communications Act already allows for people to be charged if there are death threats or threats to injure. It is appalling that the police for example are loath to intervene in these cases. The time for policies is over. The time fraction is here. Our youth need protection.
  1. Get rid of an archaic education system that was designed for the industrial era and move more with technology and into this century. A wonderful example of how to reinvent education is provided by Salman Khan on TED.com (see http://blog.ted.com/2011/03/09/lets-use-video-to-reinvent-education-salman-khan-on-ted-com).
  1. Provide an effective secondary education that is really engaging and not a system that is simply dictated by the university system intent on getting students with a high grade point average in Year 12. Not everyone needs to do Year 12. Not everyone learns out of a book. Some people are very good “see and do” learners and are highly skilled in the technical areas.  Not everyone needs to do maths one and two, physics and chemistry.  It is laughable that the only way that we are able to get students to remain at school is to legislate that they have to remain there until 17 years. Wouldn’t it be more appropriate to ask what we need to do to actually engage students?
  1. Provide effective career guidance to students with full-time career counsellors in school because life is about more about than just getting Year 12 or a high score. Yes, the school might have Student Counsellors, but we are talking here about Career Counsellors. There is a difference. A big difference. We spend so much time educating our children, and getting them through school, but we do little to prepare them for life after school.  It is tragic that many schools do not have a career counsellor at all, while others have only part-time career counsellors who are trying to juggle other subjects and duties. We are supposed to be a clever country, but there is a huge emotional, psychological and financial waste with so many students entering courses for which they are not suited and getting into careers which do not fit for them. The lack of adequate career guidance in schools is a blight on this country. I know, I see the casualties in my office for career guidance on a weekly basis.
  1. Provide effective counselling services in schools that are really confidential and professional. Unfortunately, such services are not always confidential with school staff talking freely amongst themselves. The students know it, and steer well clear of the counsellor. Furthermore, some school counsellors are not well trained, and although they may be well-intentioned and have the care of the student at heart, they lack the expertise and experience to effectively intervene.
  1. Provide Community Centres with one-stop shop care for teenagers. Adolescents are currently struggling in this country and these community centres need to be staffed by doctors, nurses, psychiatrists, psychologists, social workers, and pharmacists as well as other professionals in the allied healthcare.
  1. Provide acute mental health centres and hospitals where individuals with severe mental health problems can be accommodated and cared for. The push by governments to close mental health hospitals and provide services in the community is simply cost-cutting and short-sighted. This so-called new advancement in mental health care has been a dismal failure. Mental health patients have been left to largely fend for themselves without adequate backup and support with the lack of case managers to assist.  Moreover, the general public has felt unsafe with these people in their midst and more particularly, family and friends of the patients have been at their wits end trying to cope. Mental health specialists have termed this push back into the community, the “Recovery Model,” but anecdotally, there is ambiguity about what it actually involves and more importantly, there is a lack of evidence that it has been at all successful. Mental health patients deserve somewhere to go where they can be looked after and adequately cared for.
  1. Provide for school chaplaincy services in our schools. It has already been argued that originally our society was based on sound Christian principles which were the hallmark of what a community stood for (See the article “The UK Rocks – But for all the Wrong Reasons”). Strong values. Strong ethics. Love one another as though you are the other. At least we knew what we stood for. Now, as a community we’re all at sea. As I’ve said before, if you don’t stand for something, you’ll fall for anything. And we have fallen for anything. Over the decades, the political correctness and the subtle social engineering has eroded our values, slowly but surely. Has it been by design? Who knows. But the erosion still continues as we see the Sydney Morning Herald on August 10, 2011 lead with the heading “It’s Time to Dispel the Myths about School Chaplains” (see http://www.smh.com.au/opinion/politics/its-time-to-dispel-the-myths-about-school-chaplains-20110810-1imdl.html) where there is now a High Court challenge to having school chaplains in schools. If we do not as a society adhere to a set of values that define how we act and behave, then yes, we are headed for anarchy.

Maybe we can add to this list. Certainly this list is not exhaustive, but it is a start.

I often remind people in my workshops of the definition of stupidity, namely, doing the same thing day after day and expecting a different result.

The London riots are a wake-up call to us all.  We need to start to do something different.

Gossipers – How Do You Deal With Them?

Why do people indulge or participate in gossip?  What do they get out of it?  How do you stop it?  How do you discourage it?

Why Do People Generally Engage in Gossip?

Basically, because it makes them feel good.  OK, so we’ve established that people gossip because it makes them feel good and that’s what they get out of it, but how come it gives them a buzz?

In a nutshell, it gives them a sense of POWER.  It puts them one up.  It gives them a sense of CONTROL.

And why do they need power or control?  Because they generally feel inadequate or inferior in some way.  Yes, contrary to popular belief they feel insecure!!  In other words, if you don’t feel good about yourself, you can try to bring others down to your level so you feel better about you.

On the other hand, if you feel good about who you are as a person, you feel generally secure and confident and you’ve got your act together, then, there is no need to have to try to bring others down or undermine them with gossip, innuendo or rumour.

When Did They Learn to be Gossipers?

 From a young age.  The truth is that they have generally always been like this.  They probably started in primary school, but then really started to get into stride in secondary school with adolescence.  Here they typically find their power using little clicks and pitting students against each other and ostracising others.

Sometimes they use harassment, or subtle teasing and sometimes they just use gossip itself to get at another student.  The term “bitch” often describes their activities and manner.

How Do Gossipers Act?  What Do They Do?

You’ll often find that they also use sarcasm, stab you with put-downs and digs as well as spread rumours or gossip.  They are subtle in what they do.

In other words, they tend not to be overbearing or loud or obnoxious, but instead, tend to sow quiet seeds of discontent pulling others down, putting in a quiet word here or there, innocently saying “Oh, have you heard about……” as if they are very concerned and compassionate.

They play at being friendly and concerned, but as the Red Indian says “they speak with a forked tongue”.

What are They Like to Work with or be Around?

Terrible.  They affect staff morale because as we all know, gossip and rumours affect people.  Where there is an expert gossiper, people tend to watch their backs, be defensive, and don’t trust others around them.  It means work (or wherever) is not a nice place to be.

How Do You Stop It?

  1. You can choose to either play or not play the game.  It’s your choice.  If you choose not to go along with the gossip then, do the following:
  2. Don’t add to the conversation by adding your own “tit-bit” or embellishing it in any way
  3. Don’t agree with the gossiper because that only encourages them and makes them think that you’re endorsing what they have said
  4. If you’re aware that a piece of gossip is coming your way in the conversation, either
    1. subtly change the topic, or
    2. say outright that you’re not interested in hearsay, or
    3. with a passing comment that you have other things to do, just walk away

What if the Gossip is About You?

You have 3 choices here.

  1. If you know where the gossip is coming from, then, quietly but firmly confront the source (the person from whom it originated) and ask them if what they said is true.  They will either deny it or say “yes”.  Either way you’re in front because you’ve exposed the game.
  2. Try to ignore it (which is easier said that done), but a catchy little phrase to say to yourself is “What others think of me is none of my business”.  The reality is that you can do nothing about what others think about you — you can’t control it, you can’t change it — so ignore it.  Anyway, if anyone chooses to believe the stuff that they are saying about you, then they are not worth knowing anyhow. 
  3.  Try a standard formula which is designed to flush them out or smoke them out such as saying, I thought I heard a dig ( or a shot, or having a go) in what you just said, and I want to know, were you?”  They will typically answer with:
    1. What’s the matter, can’t you take a joke?
    2. Oh, you’re just being too sensitive
    3. Oh you’re just being too intense (or serious)

At which case, you simply repeat what you said before using your same formula:

“I thought I heard you having another dig in what you just said, as well as having a dig the time before, and I want to know, were you?”

At this time, their game is up, their old catch phrases haven’t worked and you have quietly stood your ground.  Does it really ork?  Try it out for yourself and you’ll be pleasantly surprised.

The Six Basic Human Needs

“Most people live in survival, not in fulfilment.”
(Tony Robbins)

Much of your happiness and life fulfilment lies in the satisfaction of your basic needs. You have six, in case you didn’t know. Let me tell you about your six basic needs, and let me reiterate that these needs to be satisfied in order for you to find some kind of happiness and some success in life.

This is the best framework that I have discovered for understanding why people do things and also gives us a good framework for understanding
happiness, quality of life, and well-being.

  • These needs can be satisfied either in a positive way or in a negative way
  • These needs an be satisfied in 1 of 4 ways;
    • Internally within ourselves
    • Through our family
    • Through our work
    • Through our community
  • The first four needs are for survival
  • The last two needs are for fulfilment

Hence, it’s important to know about these needs for happiness and fulfillment. So, what are these 6 basic needs?

1. Control / Security / Sameness / Certainty

The first need is for control, security and sameness. You need to have some routine and control. You need things to be fairly consistent and keep a
sense of sameness. You need certainty and security. This is where we like things to be the same in order to avoid stress and to gain pleasure. In a
sense, it’s survival. This is where you like to be in control to be certain.

Think about the time when you were uncertain, when you felt insecure.Perhaps you were uncertain about your health. Perhaps you were not certain about your finances. Perhaps you were not certain about your children. Those were the times that you would have felt insecure and uncertain and therefore unhappy. So it’s true we need security, we need sameness and control.

  • To satisfy this need in a positive way is to have a diary or PDA and be effective in time management.
  • To satisfy this need in a negative way is to be what is called a “control freak” (and we probably all know someone who might fit
    this label).

Sometimes gaining variety in your life might mean leaving the “comfort zone” and moving into the “courage zone”. What’s the point in tip-toeing
carefully through life only to make it safely to the grave? Life is not a ‘dress rehearsal’ as the saying goes. (As someone once said, if somehow or other, you did manage to come back, you’re not going to enjoy it because being dead really takes it out of you!!)

Believe it or not, the real “juice” of life is lived in the courage zone. This is where live is really lived. Conquering the courage zone makes people proud of themselves and gives them a sense of joy and achievement. Remember: “If you do what you’ve always done, you’ll get what you’ve always got”.

3. Significance and Importance

The third need is to have significance and importance in your life. There are a number of ways that we get a sense of significance and importance.

  • It might be by achieving (e.g., gaining qualifications, getting a
    promotion, forging a career, conquering that mountain).
  • In a negative way, people can get significance by tearing others
    down, by being abusive, or by playing “sick” or being “ill.” They can
    also pursue this need negatively by living for their goods and
    material possessions by having only designer label clothes, driving
    only the latest BMW or Lexus, extrapolating about their latest trip to
    Europe or some exotic place.

Interestingly though, the more that people become important and significant (e.g., going up the corporate ladder and gaining responsibility and power), the more isolated that they tend to become…and that bring us to the fourth need (which is the flip-side of the third need).

4. Love and Connection

This need is about having love and connection. We have a need to be connected to someone else or something else. It’s all about relationships,
connecting to others, bonding and communicating.

  • This might be through caring, or providing a service, or it might be through having a romantic relationship or having a pet or a number of pets; it could be an affinity with nature or your garden.
  • On the negative side, we might satisfy this need through gaining sympathy through sickness or injury and perhaps playing “poor me” or even through abuse or violence.

Overall, those four needs are virtually going to give you a sense of happiness if satisfied in a positive way.

They each need to be satisfied for people to feel satisfied and happy. However, there are two more needs and they are designed to give fulfillment.

5. Personal Growth

Personal growth and development is the fifth need. Life is about growth and learning. It’s all about extending yourself, developing oneself, learning new things, and stepping out. As a general rule, whatever on the planet does not grow…dies.

  • Maybe it’s about learning a new skill such as public speaking or wood turning or learning to dance.
  • Maybe it could involve attending a vocational course or educational course.
  • My mother-in-law for instance, who is in her 80’s, recently attended the “Third Age University” for seniors to do a history course which she thoroughly enjoyed.
  • Fulfilling this need means trying new things, going to new places, and meeting new people. Whatever it is you need to extend yourself to learn to grow.

6. Leaving a Legacy

The final basic need which gives fulfilment is leaving a legacy and making a contribution. This is going beyond yourself; making a contribution
to society and giving of yourself.

  • That might mean that you join or volunteer to assist a charity or group.
  • Perhaps it could mean giving money.
  • Perhaps it is giving of your time &/or knowledge.
  • Perhaps it’s the passing over of skills or information.
  • Maybe it means being a mentor to someone younger than yourself.

Summary

So we need to make sure that we have satisfied all of those needs in our lives because that will certainly give us a good deal of happiness and then give us fulfilment in those last two needs.

Now we need to find places where we can satisfy those needs, not only within ourselves, but in our family, and in our work, and in the general community.

Practical Tips on Dealing With Stress

In coping with stress and in order to ensure that you take preventative measures (prevention is better than cure!), there are a number of things you can physically do.  Remember though, that:

  • “Rome wasn’t built in a day” (ie., results won’t happen overnight),  and
  • Self-discipline is not a dirty word! (it’s an asset to success)

Watch Your Diet

Feeding the body healthy food can directly help the rehabilitation process. You are what you eat!

It’s a good idea to reduce your intake of fats, cut down on sugar, salt, food additives, and so forth and anything deep-fried or burnt (eg., burnt toast, overcooked chops or meat at a barbecue).  Also avoid, if possible, salted, smoked or preserved fish and meat.

Instead, you should eat fruit and vegetables (preferably fresh and ripe) and increase your fibre (eg., eat whole grain foods rather than refined ones and stop peeling vegetables like potatoes and cucumbers).  The less processed food we eat, the better, because processing is inclined to strip away important content like fibre.

Fat, especially animal fat, is the most damaging of all foods.  Cholesterol is obtained only from products derived from animals such as meat, prawns, oysters, organ meat and caviar as well as from dairy products such as eggs and cheese.

Instead, chicken with the skin removed or lean meat cooked without fat is fine up to three times a week and certain kinds of fresh fish are thought to help in reducing fatty substances in the blood.  Polyunsaturated fats are definitely not as destructive as animal fats, but they, too, should be used sparingly. Skim milk, though, is also seen as a valuable source of protein.

With fluid intake, don’t underestimate the goodness in water; it really is a healthy drink.  You use about 2.5 litres/day in fluid — food and digestion supplies about 1.5 litres, so that leaves a litre short; watch what is in the other litre that you drink!

Much has been written and said about what constitutes a healthy diet and not everyone agrees with all the specifics, but the information listed above ought to be some guide.

Vitamins

Arguments for and against vitamins continue.

Sometimes, it can be worthwhile to take a vitamin and mineral supplement.  Of course, if you are eating properly, there is generally no need to look at a supplement, but there is some evidence to suggest that a higher does of Vitamin B, C & E may help in your general health.

Vitamin B, sometimes promoted as an “anti-stress” vitamin, does not prevent distress, but it does replace the loss of this vitamin caused by distress and so in that way, it can be helpful.  Furthermore, there is a general consensus that diets high in Vitamins C & E also assist health.

Resist Use of Drugs

With drugs, some people need an immediate relaxant for a short period of time to get over the crisis period. Others may need an anti-depressant for a period of time to help them over the feeling of being down.  Occasionally, some individuals also ask for sleeping tablets.  These drugs are prescribed by your general practitioner and taken under his/her direction.

It must be said, however, as a general rule, don’t take medication unless you consider it absolutely necessary.  Drugs do suppress your natural emotional states and do affect your sleep patterns which may not necessarily be to your advantage when you are trying to work through stress or trauma.

Exercise Regularly

Clinical experience shows that physical exercise does help reduce the effects of stress. The kind of exercise though depends on the individual person. While some like walking, others like jogging, bike riding, playing squash or working out in a gym.

Irrespective, research shows that the minimum amount of time for effective fitness is three times a week for 20 minutes. There is no need to feel exhausted at the end of it; the aim is simply to increase the pulse rate moderately as well as your breathing rate and depth. Healthy exercise is not meant to be painful.

Nevertheless, regular exercise does help to “work off” a stress reaction.

Use Your Brain to Cut Stress

This hint comes from a piece of interesting information from a nutritional consultant in Canada.  It is suggested that you can relieve stress by understanding which hemisphere of your brain is stressed.

In other words, if you feel depressed or emotionally overwrought, your stress is in the right hemisphere – ie., the creative, emotional, holistic side of the brain.  What to do? Switch to your matter-of-fact left hemisphere by doing arithmetic, writing factual prose or organising.  The emotional right brain will calm down.

If you feel time-stressed and over-burdened, the left hemisphere is involved.  What to do?  Switch to your right brain by singing, exercising or playing a sport.

Remember, don’t wait until you feel like doing these things – if you wait until you feel like it, you’ll never do it.  As the Nike slogan says. “Just do it”!

When Others Get Defensive, What Do They Do?

What do people usually do when you have been assertive or said quietly what needs to be said or what was on your mind?  They usually do the following….

1. Get Hostile

The finest assertion message is often received as a hostile blow. 

The person usually does not deal with the subject matter of your assertion, but picks an issue selected for its ability to inflict high damage on you with relatively low risk for his or herself.

For instance;

Joan:              When you produce 30% less this month than last month, I feel

annoyed because it lowers the productivity of our unit and I get

less pay.

Mike:               The others sure are right, you are just a castrating female who

is hostile to all males.

2. Ask Questions

Some defend themselves by means of questions. 

A person may not consciously know what he or she is doing, but the subconscious probably knows that the use of questions is a way of derailing assertions in a non-confrontive way.

Don’t answer a question when you have been assertive; reply with a reflective listening response instead.  Every question can be converted back into a statement and reflected back to the other person.

For instance;

Gail:                Did you always do the dishes when you were a girl?

Mother:           You doubt that I lived up to the standards I expect of you.

3. Debate the Issue

Some people respond to an assertion by debating. 

A person relying on this defensive approach often uses mental quickness and verbal ability to win arguments even when they “don’t have a leg to stand on”.

By refusing to engage in a debate and by using reflective listening responses, you can get your needs met and probably strengthen the relationship at the same time.

4. Cry or Shed Tears

For some people, tears are the major coping mechanism when confronted with an assertion. 

Crying is often a manipulative way to avoid confrontations and dodge any behavioural change even though the individual is trespassing on another person’s space.

Just wait for the tears to subside.  Be patient…the crying can’t go on forever.

5. Withdraw

Some people respond to assertion by withdrawal — like the turtle who pulls into its shell whenever it feels threatened. 

This person may sit in total silence following an assertion.  Sometimes the body language is disapproving; sometimes it is despondent.  Often the individual puts on a poker face, making it difficult to read their feelings.

In these situations, provide a lot of silence, reflect what you think the body language is saying, and then reassert.

If the other person continues to say nothing, say, “I take your silence to mean that you don’t want to talk about it and that you will meet my needs by getting the car home at the agreed-upon time.  I’ll touch bases with you next Sunday to make sure this is working out OK”.

WHAT DO YOU DO WHEN THE OTHER PERSON GETS DEFENSIVE?

The main strategies to use include:

1. Reflectively Listen to the Defensive Response

Reflective listening at this time can accomplish one or more of four things. 

(1)  It helps diminish the other person’s defensiveness.

(2)  The data we receive from our listening modifies our need to continue the assertion.

(3)  You sometimes discover a strong need of the other person which conflicts with your need.

(4)  When you assert to someone you are likely to receive a lot of data about how that person perceives you and your relationship.

2. Repeat the Process

Once you have sent your assertion message, provided the other with silence in which to think or respond, and reflectively listened to the predictable defensive response, you are ready to begin this process all over again.

Because the other was defensive, he or she probably was unable to understand the situation from your point of view.  You send the identical message again.  Follow it with silence.  Then reflect the expected defensive response.  In many situations, it may take five to ten repetitions of the process before the other really understands and suggests a way of meeting your needs.

Persistence is one of the keys of effective assertion.  Typically it takes three to ten repetitions of the assertion message (interspersed by silence for the other’s solution or defence and the asserter’s reflective listening responses) to change the other’s behaviour.

3. Focus on the Solution

One of the reasons assertion messages work so well is that they do not back the other person into a corner.

When the other comes up with a solution, make sure it meets your needs.  It is important to be flexible and open to a broad range of possible options that could meet your needs.  But if your needs are not met by the other’s proposal, it is important to say so.

Don’t insist that the other person be cheerful about meeting your needs.

Paraphrase the solution back to the other.

Say “Thanks”.

Arrange a time when you will check with each other to make sure the solution is working.

Summary

Whenever you send an assertion message, there is a high likelihood that the other person will respond defensively.

Defensiveness in one party in an interaction tends to trigger defensiveness in the other’s response.  The result is frequently an escalating spiral of defensiveness which results in aggression or alienation.

Instead, an assertion process designed to help the asserter get their needs met while responding constructively to the expected defensiveness of the other person follows these six steps:

  1. Preparation
  2. Sending the Assertion Message
  3. Being Silent
  4. Reflectively Listening to the Defensive Response
  5. Recycling the Process
  6. Focusing on the Solution
  •  What would it take for you to really learn these responses?
  • How could you ensure that you really knew these steps and could action them the next time that you needed to?
  • What would make you confident about being able to undertake these steps?

What Is The Worst Kind of Unfinished Business? Resentment!

Introduction

  • Its futile. Its destructive, and its blinding.  Of all the futile and destructive emotions to which human beings are prey, perhaps the most universal and the worst kind is resentment.  This universal emotion though does have its “rewards”.  It assures us of our own importance.  It also allows us to hang onto our image of ourselves as fundamentally good — whatever our actual behaviour.
  • Surely there can be few people who have not wasted many hours or even years of their life dwelling on the wrongs supposedly done to them. On the other hand, people generally spend rather less time dwelling on the wrongs they have done to others.
  • Since we live in a world of perpetual injustice, everyone supposes he or she has cause to feel resentful, but often, the resentment we feel is by no means proportional to its alleged cause.

If resentment is a negative emotion, are there any others and why is it the worst?

  • Basically there are five main negative emotions that individuals can experience.
  • They are as follows:
    • Anger
    • Depression
    • Anxiety
    • Guilt
    • Resentment
  • Of these, it has been indicated that resentment is the worst kind of unfinished business because it acts like an emotional cancer where we tend to blame others and harbour feelings of revenge that ultimately, take their toll on us not only emotionally, but also medically or physically.
  • It is the worst kind because we hang onto it, it is often prolonged and bears more malice than the other kind of negative emotions (in fact, people can often hang onto it across generations; take the family feuds for example or different cultures continually warring with each other).

How do we get resentful?

This world can be seen as an unjust world and even those who have lived extremely privileged lives, full or opportunity, also somehow manage to feel resentful at various times.

Interestingly, some people remain free of resentment even though they have experienced horrifying ordeals during Civil War or other calamities.  How is this so?  Essentially, resentment in an inside job and is dependent on an inner need rather than upon outer circumstances or situations.  Somehow, it’s not fair.  It’s other’s fault.  They are to blame.  They did it to us.  How dare they!

Who are the major targets for resentment?

  • Although it is true to say that every individual experiences resentment in a different way, it does seem to be that various authority figures such as parents and employers seem to be the focus for individual’s resentment. In other words, these two groups generally are the most frequently blamed for all our failings and failures.
  • For example, there is the man or woman who attends for therapy and recites a litany of complaints about their mother or their father and how all of their current woes are attributable to these people and the way in which they were raised. It’s all mum or dad’s fault; “this is why I’m like I am”.

Has resentment played a role in history at all?

  • Personal resentment for example, has played a critical role in history. Individuals such as Hitler, Mussolini and Stalin lived and breathed resentment.  In other words, men who often become dictators never forget the trivial slights experienced in their youth and they therefore avenge themselves on their former tormentors when they finally achieve power.
  • For instance, one of the first of the hundreds of thousands of deaths for which the Ethiopian dictator Mengistu was responsible was that of the man who refused him a scholarship to the United States. Another example is the dictator of Equatorial Guinea Marcias Nguema who killed or drove into exile a third of his tiny countries population because he was so uncertain of his own educational accomplishments that he took anyone who wore glasses or possessed a page of printed matter as an intellectual and had them killed.
  • Closer to home, resentment can keep feuding families apart and fighting for decades and generations. It can also mean that family members (or extended family members) do not talk to each other for years or decades.

What are the rewards of resentment?  Why do people persist in continuing to be resentful?

  • Essentially, resentment is a great rationaliser in that it presents us with selected versions of our own past so that we do not have to recognise our own mistakes and therefore can avoid the necessity to make possibly painful choices. It is, in a sense, therefore, a relief to know that the reason we have failed in life is not because we, in fact, lack the talent, energy or determination to succeed, but because of factors that are beyond our control and that ultimately have loaded the dice against us.  We therefore blame others around us for our inability to achieve or to be successful.
  • Resentment also allows us to be a victim of injustice and in a sense therefore, it allows us to be morally superior. In other words, others may look down on us for our failure, but to be a failure in an unjust world is surely no failing at all.
  • Resentment also means that since the world is unjustly stacked against us, any effort on our part to improve our situation is futile. In other words, it absolves us from the painful necessity of having to look at change.  We can therefore remain exactly the same as we always have been while at the same time criticising and verbally berating those who have been perceived as the cause of our downfall.
  • Finally, our resentment means that because we can feel as though we are victim, it gives us a sense of our own importance. It gives us a sense of meaning, a sense of purpose and ensures that our life is no longer trivial or complacent – indeed, we have something now to moan about and complain about and something to be resentful about.  Indeed, we may also exaggerate the events to really gain a measure of our own importance in the scenario that has taken place.

What does resentment really show?

  • If anything, resentment shows that individuals are not prepared to take responsibly for themselves. It is easier for them to disguise from themselves the extent to which their own decisions and conduct are responsible for their own unhappiness while instead, it is acknowledged that some people have been badly treated, the way they have been badly treated does not have to be the continued root cause of their continued unhappiness and failure.  Instead, they can be responsible for their own thoughts and feelings instead of holding onto and banking all of their resentment deposits.

What is the outcome of resentment in the long-term?

  • Over time, if resentment lasts long enough, the possibility of change is almost totally destroyed and no longer exists. In other words, people become resentful and almost stuck in concrete with this emotion.  In some cases, it has been said that they become somewhat “bitter and twisted” as the saying goes.
  • Ultimately, it effects them emotionally and the whole of life is “grumpy” and negative. Their negative attitudes and outlook rubs off on those around them and they become difficult people with whom to live.
  • Ultimately too, resentment becomes an emotional cancer that not only effects their positive outlook on life, but more importantly, can have physical or medical symptoms where people’s bodies start to break down including their immune system.

What to do about resentment?

  • In the first instance, individuals must acknowledge that they are responsible for their own feelings including resentment (as well as positive feelings such as happiness etc). We choose to be resentful in the same way that we choose to be happy, angry or whatever.
  • Letting go of resentment therefore, in the first instance at least, is a mental decision. We simply decide that enough is enough and we decide we will no longer dwell on the issue; it is simply just not worth it.  Sure, the other person or group or company may have treated us badly in the first place, but not only did they score at that particular stage when we felt we were badly treated, but we continue to give them a victory as we harbour resentment because it eats away at us emotionally and physically, and ultimately, they will really win the day if we do not snap out of resentment.
  • Finally, we decide what plans we can undertake to give us back our happiness, our peace and our joy and we physically set about putting in place various action plans that allow us to feel more positive about life. Maybe it requires tidying up some “unfinished business” with someone such as providing an apology or maybe it requires re-training or maybe it requires some other action, but once we have made a mental decision, we then have to set about doing something.  We are all responsible for our feelings and responsible for our futures.  No one else can be held accountable for the way that we live life.

What would it mean for you to give up any resentment that you might have?  What action would you need to take to finish off this “unfinished business”.

Cracking a Joke Not So Funny After All

THE office clown has always played a beneficial role in the workplace but with increasing worker sensitivity, cracking a joke with a colleague could be seen as discriminatory or bully-like behaviour.

Clinical and organisational psychologist Darryl Cross said humour is essential in the workplace, but throwing a joke can cross the line into offensive territory and even be seen as bully behaviour.

“Humour is particularly important for generation X and generation Y to have a bit of fun in the workplace and there’s no doubt people would want to enjoy their day. Having a laugh is one way to do that,” he said.

“But the line gets crossed when a joke is played to someone else’s detriment, in a sense it [the joke] puts someone down.”

Cross calls an offensive joke “sniper behaviour” because the bullying is hidden or camouflaged in humour.

“If the joke is demeaning and puts someone down, then I think it’s offensive,” he said.

“But if people are happy to have a joke on themselves, tell stories about themselves, or perhaps do something like for a birthday fill the cubicles with balloons, then that’s appropriate.

“The demeaning sniping jokes that have the effect of putting someone down are not.”

Robert Westwood, co-author of Humour, Work and Organization, also believes a joke that crosses the line can be seen as bully behaviour, but said humour is essential for the proper functioning of humans.

“It’s unreasonable for people in a workplace to become solitary, but there are limits around destructive humour, sexist humour or racial humour, and I think organisations would be within their rights to try and control that,” he said.

Westwood is aware of disciplinary action taken against employees who have taken a joke too far. He said there are a growing number of organisations that try to curb the amount of humour, but believes managers should not rule humour out altogether.

Cross said there has always been a lack of tolerance for offensive humour in the workplace and an employee could be punished for pushing the boundary of what is socially acceptable.

“If an individual goes on WorkCover from the stress a joke has caused, then it’s certainly the employer’s duty to bring the staff member in and give a warning,” he said.

If all this has put a dampener on your sense of humour, do not worry. Both Cross and Westwood encourage office clowns to laugh and have some fun at work.

“Keep up the good humour, but make sure it’s good humour and not at somebody else’s expense,” Cross said.

Life Purpose – The Eternal Question

How is it that people are now openly talking more about one topic in particular?  Is it just me?  I suspect not.  I’ve certainly observed increasing numbers of my clients asking what might be called “eternal questions”.  “What am I here for?”,  “What legacy can I leave behind?”,  “What contribution can I make to the world?”, “How can I be of service?” and “What is my life purpose?”.

The triggers in the conversation that life purpose may be a core issue could well sound like the following where the client says something about:

  • Being at a cross-roads in life;
  • Never really sure what their real career was in life;
  • Lacking direction;
  • Never having reached their full potential;
  • Unsure where life is heading;
  • Feeling tired and burnt-out;
  • Feeling un-fulfilled;
  • Feeling that they have more to offer, and
  • Actually stating that they are unsure of their purpose in life!

Interestingly, Psychology 101 lectures on Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of needs from the primary need of Physiological Needs up the pyramid to the Need for Safety and Security, Love and Belonging, Self-Esteem, and finally to Self-fulfilment at the pinnacle serves as the key to the process of understanding my clients.  In other words, the sense of purpose is at the very top of the pyramid of self-actualisation.  In this society, our other needs have been satisfied, and as we search for happiness, it seems that we are now turning to fulfilment and purpose as holding some real answers for us.

So, where do we find ‘Life Purpose’?  How do we locate Life Purpose?  Where is it hiding?  Life Purpose is more a journey, not a step on a ladder, not a destination, and it is an inner journey, an “inside job”.

To assist clients in their personal journey, I often give them some homework to do:

  • Think about a time in your life when you felt most alive, creative, successful, or enthusiastic. This is perhaps when you were at your best.  You were really “on top of it”, perhaps “outstanding”.
  • Describe how you felt.
  • Who else was involved?
  • Describe what you did as a result of the experience.
  • Describe the event in more detail.
    • Take time to think about this and decide how you will personally answer the question about your peak experience.
    • Then think of another 2 to 6 best peak experiences, a time when you really felt successful and felt “on top of your game”.
    • Try to connect them all; search for a pattern and the threads that might connect the events.
    • Take your time over this exercise; allow your mind to free up and allow for creative patterns to emerge and perhaps look for unusual links.

It is amazing to see how clients come up with all sorts of wonderful insights and awareness.

Here are more powerful questions:

  • “If you knew that you could not fail, there was no way that you could fail at all, what career or job would you choose?”
  • “As you were growing up or as you grew and matured, what was it that you thought that you’d like to be or do?”
  • “What did you dream of doing as you were growing up?”
  • “If time and money was not an issue, and you had the freedom to do what you wanted, what would it look like?”

Once clients have located patterns and themes in their life and have discussed them with me, I work on refining the patterns and clarifying them.  I also ask questions as a way of allowing my clients to be more accountable to their purpose.

  • What hints do you get about your possible purpose in life?
  • What would it take for you to honour your purpose?
  • In what ways would your life be different? Would it change at all?  Would it be largely the same?  If it did change, would the changes be slight or significant?
  • How would your future be different?
  • What stops you from exploring or honouring your life purpose?

Case Study

James (not his real name) was referred to me by another coach because he had become extremely depressed and his doctor had recommended him taking anti-depressants.  For males in particular, it is my experience that depression is often due to a lack of purpose, lack of goals, and a lack of direction.

I asked him what his future looked like.  “It’s pretty boring actually” he said.  He explained that he had enjoyed getting his business up and running over the last five years having purchased it when it was in a run down state.  He had always enjoyed work with its challenges and meeting deadlines.  Now it was successful and he had introduced his wife in as the general manager.  She was enjoying her role was operating the business well on a day to day basis.  Now James sat mainly in his office, opened some mail and played “Patience” on his computer.  The day dragged.

“So, what’s your purpose in life now?”, I asked.  He paused and hesitated and then sat back, looked at the ceiling and said, “That’s a good question”.  We both knew that we were on target then.  After a short discussion, I asked him the “magic” question about what his real desire for his life was without any limitations or restrictions.  He immediately talked about business consulting and helping others to start up businesses.  He described that as “huge fun”.  He described recently helping a friend make a decision about whether to buy a business and how much he got engrossed in it all.  He talked with energy.  He became animated.  He smiled as he talked.

His homework was to formulate that notion into some clear actions and then for us to talk some more.  He never did take that prescription for anti-depressants.