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The Relevant Vs. The New

“The relevant versus the new is the fundamental battle of the current age.”*

The newest bright shiny thing captures our attention, dangled before us like the proverbial carrot.

We chase after the newest thing because it’s faster, thinner, prettier, more powerful, has more innovative features, and is altogether better than anything we’ve had before.

But does the newness really make our lives better – not the thing itself, which may indeed, but rather, the quest to have the newest iteration, and to have it first?

The search for newness leads to shallowness; not necessarily of character, though that too can develop, but rather, shallowness of thinking, of striving, of exchanging something of value for something new.

Is the newest iPhone relevant to me if the last generation still meets my needs? This is not a Luddite argument; we put so much emphasis on new features, new bells and whistles, new innovations, without regard to relevancy.

The question, as Dobelli points out, is whether we sacrifice relevance in our single-minded pursuit of newness, of speed, of efficiency – often merely a synonym for apathy.

What is relevance, in this context? It is, simply, usefulness combined with suitability. In our chase after the newest thing, does the item help us make better decisions? make better connections? make us better persons? Those are big questions, but life is a big proposition – too big to be engrossed in minutiae.

And the newest things, which will always be just out of our grasp, are almost always just pieces of minutia. They are mostly shiny, fast, expensive pieces of not much importance.

Dobelli challenges us to look away from the carrot, and evaluate what makes our lives better, and us better. He challenges us to pursue relevancy.

I think he may be right.

*The Art of Thinking Clearly: Better Thinking, Better Decisions” by Rolf Dobelli, published by Sceptre, a division of Hodder & Stoughton, part of the Hachette UK group of publishers, London.

#TheArtofThinkingClearly #relevancy
#ButterflyPhoenix #StopChasingtheCarrot

The Spirit of Autumn

autumn spirit spirituality
The spirit of autumn is our spirituality.

As summer fades into autumn, we enter a time often filled with introspection. For those of us over the age of 40, we begin to enter the autumn years of our lives. We start to wonder about the important things like ‘what do I really believe?’

In the autumn season, this question amps up in our psyche. Due to the approach of the holiday season, warm fuzzies permeate our being. Fueled by holiday music and seasonal treats, we socialize more with others in our lives. In addition, we are more likely to attend planned events by the benevolent organizations of our communities.

The autumn season brings back memories, for better or worse

Our old friend, Nostalgia, returns from the deepest recesses of our minds, bearing gifts from the Ghost of Christmas Past. Fond and not-so-fond memories of family gatherings bubble to the surface.

More people attend houses of worship during the holiday season than any other time of the year. They try to recapture something they had experienced as children.

With the autumn season come the questions

All of this brings forth the questions, ‘What do I really believe?’, ‘Why do I believe that?’, and ‘Is it true?’ Above all, what we really ask in the autumn years of our lives is ‘What will happen to me when this life is over?’

Cultivating our spirituality is an everyday endeavor. People who practice some form of spirituality throughout their lives often live longer and are happier than those who don’t. Moreover, they recover from illness or medical procedures faster.

Seek guidance

If you find yourself with these questions formulating in your mind, seek out a spiritual director through your specific house of worship. Likewise, attend the services. Pray or meditate daily. Read inspirational works or devotions.

In conclusion, our spirituality isn’t just a separate dimension of our being. Rather, it is a deepening foundation of our physical, social and personal dimensions.

A Small Change in Perspective

A change in perspective can bring about healing. I think we often underestimate the importance of spiritual and emotional healing. The wounds aren’t visible, so they’re easy to hide.

But they’re there, causing you pain, stopping you from reaching your potential, leaching the joy from your life, preventing you from finding satisfaction or contentment.

Those wounds were almost always inflicted by someone else. Regardless of whether they intended to hurt you, or not, the wound is there, and it stays because when you got hurt, you accepted a belief about yourself.

You can learn what those beliefs are by looking at the behaviors you have when you feel thwarted or unable to move forward. Eavesdrop on your inner dialogue. Sometimes the words aren’t even expressed but a part of you knows what the words would be.

Examine that belief in the light of day as the adult you are now. Is it really true? Was it ever true? If a powerful swell of emotion rises as you look at that belief to question its validity, emotion that makes you believe it’s true about you, then you have found the one (or one of the ones) causing you trouble.

It’s time to let go of that belief. It isn’t true, it doesn’t serve you, and it keeps the wound from healing. Get an outside perspective from someone who respects you but is uninvolved if you have trouble seeing that the belief has no relevance to you.

All you need is a small change in perspective.

Everywhere You Go, There You Are

I was a cheerleader in high school. Every time we got on the bus for an away game, we would sing: “Everywhere we go, people want to know, who we are! Who we are! So, we tell them! So, we tell them…!”

As we go through our lives, everywhere we go, people want to know who we are. The question is, what do we tell them? And, more importantly, what do we tell ourselves?

I used to tell people that I am a single-mother. I used to tell people that I am a woman business owner. These are two examples of self-labeling that I stopped using.

Now, I tell people that I am a mother. What difference does it make if I am single or married? In the end, I am still a mother, plain and simple. I tell people that I am a business owner, regardless of being a woman.

The labels that we attach to ourselves can, and often do, become a burden in our lives. When people attach labels to their everyday existence, we fall into the trap of limiting beliefs.

One of my favorite stories to tell is the day I told my neighbor that I was “just a secretary”. She responded, “If you really believe that, then you will always be secretary.” Mind blown! It was true. I had limited my life to a single vocation that never had a hope of rising above it. I stopped telling people that, and more importantly, I stopped telling myself that.

What are you telling others and yourself about you? Today, ask yourself, what labels can I remove from my life?

Inner Peace Through Forgiveness

The most difficult apologies to accept are the ones we will never receive. Sometimes, so much time has passed that the person or people who hurt us are no longer a part of our lives. How do we forgive someone who has caused us pain at our deepest levels, when we can’t, or don’t want to, speak to them face-to-face?

Forgiving and forgetting are two very different things. We are physically incapable of forgetting events in our lives, especially those that have caused pain. We are hardwired to remember pain as a means of survival. This is what makes it so difficult to “just let it go”, and creates the trigger effect.

In situations where the hurt is deeply traumatic, we need to first seek out professionals to assist in processing the powerful emotions. The professional can help us to try to understand what has happened and process how we feel about it.

There is no shame in seeking professional services. Millions of people do it every day.

But, what about the every day kind of hurt and pain that is inflicted? Disagreements or misunderstandings between friends and family, or even co-workers? The key is to get the hurt out of your system, before it festers into resentment or worse.

  • Write about it. Write down every detail of what you remember happened – on paper; not on social media. Create space in your mind and life to do this. After you write it all out, read it to yourself. You may want to read it out loud. Once you have written and read it, tear it up, shred it, or even burn it. Create a symbolic gesture of being done with it.
  • Meditate on it. Using focusing and visualization techniques, imagine yourself holding your hurt as a balloon and when you are ready, let it go and watch it float away. Again, creating a symbolic gesture of being done with it, and it is no longer a part of who you are. It doesn’t have to be a balloon. Use whatever feels right for you.
  • Choose to move on. We do not have to continue reliving hurt. We have the power and ability to make the conscious decision to move on. It’s one of those, ‘that was then, this is now’agreements we make with ourselves. It won’t happen overnight, but the more we choose to acknowledge the feelings and then let them go, the easier it becomes and the lesser the hold it has on us.
  • Live Well. They say the best revenge is living well. Although we have a tendency to hold onto the hurt feelings from the events in our lives, the person who has hurt us isn’t thinking about us at all. They are living their lives as though nothing happened. Hard to accept, but it’s true. Don’t invest in resentment and hurt feelings. The key is to keep our focus on living for our own happiness.

By holding onto pain and other emotions, we anchor ourselves to our past, preventing growth and progress.

We are not saying it was okay to hurt us; we are saying we no longer allow the pain to define us.

When we seek love, beauty, and kindness in the world, the world becomes a much friendlier place. When we seek compassion, mercy, and grace, we open ourselves to positive experiences and leave behind that which insults our soul. Accept the apology you will never get by acknowledging and processing the feelings associated with the event, and then live well ~ for you.

The Societal Disconnect

“Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.”
~ Dr. Viktor Frankl

If there were anyone in the world who had, or has, a bona fide reason to hate people, it would have been renowned Viennese neuroscientist and psychiatrist, Viktor Frankl.

Frankl, and others like him, survived the most inhumane of circumstances in the World War II concentration camps, yet despite the brutal treatment he received at the hands of the Nazis, Dr. Frankl carried on after World War II to become the founder of logotherapy, which requires individuals to take existential responsibility for their lives.

There is a certain angst that exists in modern society, where interacting with others is becoming a source for anxiety. Instead of working toward a solution, the mantra has simply become: “I hate people”. Seriously, ask yourself how many times a day do you hear this or something similar in conversation, or see it on your social media feeds?

We are, and have been, immersed in a societal disconnect, since the early 1990s, which was the catalyst for the book, Prozac Nation, an autobiography of Elizabeth Wurtzel’s experience with atypical depression. Ever since then, we have been on a downward spiral in regard to meaningful connections with others.

Admittedly, that is an overly-simplistic representation of a very complex issue that involves psychopharmacology, access to health care – especially mental health services – as well as the psychiatry and psychology of depression and anxiety. Depression, however, isn’t the only source of anxiety in our modern society.

Overindulgence: We’ve all heard the phrase, ‘Too much of a good thing’. Recently, ex-highly positioned executives of Facebook admitted that they knew and understood the psychological and sociological risks of the social network, but they did it anyway. Have you noticed the sudden shift to ‘doing good works’?

The onset of the modern internet began as a novelty in most households, and many, like during the birth of the TV, declared it a fad and moved on. The younger household members latched onto the internet, like the kids of 80s latched on to the early video games.

Well, the fad of the internet has become a household staple, just like the television. In fact, it is becoming increasingly more difficult to function in modern society without wi-fi or access to the internet. Most of North Americans’ time – an average of nine hours every day – is spent on social media.

Which leads us to the societal disconnect. Emboldened by the buffer of the internet, people of all ages are losing the arts of civil conversation, healthy debate, and collaborative working. This leads to cyber-bullying (in all age groups), fear of conflict, and even leadership failures.

The overly simplistic and unrealistic solution is just to stop using the internet or participating in social media. The reality is that we are all responsible for our activities and engagements off- and online. We are each responsible for our own amount of usage, how much time we spend with others in the physical world, and how we choose to engage or respond to the variables that exist.

Dr. Frankl could have chosen to’hate people’ and felt righteously justified in doing so, but he didn’t. He recognized that the one thing that had held it together for himself and others like him in the concentration camps was having a sense of purpose: surviving to the next day, or helping others in his barracks, or being wholly present and attentive to the needs of others in spite of the circumstances.

Loneliness and Social Well-Being

Does loneliness mean you are missing meaningful connections with others?

Social Well-Being

According to Health Insurer Cigna’s 2018 U.S. Loneliness Index, 46% of Americans feel lonely sometimes or always. 47% feel left out sometimes or always. 43% feel isolated from others. Moreover, 43% feel like they don’t experience companionship, or their relationships lack meaning.

Technology plays a role in the epidemic of loneliness. However, according to the report it’s not the defining factor in whether a person feels their relationships have meaning. The true defining factors are our connections to each other in real life.

Combating loneliness

One way that we can combat loneliness in America is to reach out to others, instead of waiting for them to reach out to us. We can help those we think may be experiencing loneliness or isolation. This can be difficult though. We can feel a certain amount of anxiety-producing stress when reaching out. In addition, people in general do not want to be perceived as weak or imperfect, so they often suffer in silence.

Reach out to others

We are primarily responsible for our own well-being. However, we often find this difficult, because of our perceptions of the world, and fear of how the world will perceive us. We are social creatures by nature. We have a need to be with others for a sense of security and belonging. When we lose that connection, it’s easy to withdraw into ourselves, rather than seeking out others. We need to remember to recognize the humanness in each other. In addition, we need to help those who may be having difficulty asking for help.

Not all alone are lonely

Yet, we must remember that not all people who are alone are lonely. Some people choose to spend time by themselves sometimes. That doesn’t mean they’re lonely. Loneliness is subjective and is only an issue if it has a negative effect on the person’s sense of well-being.


Incivility: The New Workplace Normal

Incivility exists all around: at work, at home, at sporting events, at church, and really anywhere other people congregate. You  can get blindsided by it, leaving you wondering how to respond.

What Is Incivility?

In a nutshell, personal incivility means treating another person discourteously and disrespectfully. Often harm is implied or intended. In other words, it means a refusal or neglect to acknowledge the other as an equal sovereign person.

Moreover, incivility can lead to behavior deviating even further from the bounds of acceptability. Uncivil behavior can ultimately expand to violence, bullying, gaslighting, and narcissistic, sociopathic, or psychopathic behavior. As the latter behaviors can stem from mental illnesses, they tend to be at the extremes of behavior. Not all incivility necessarily leads to them.

It isn’t always a person

In addition to person-to-person incivility, corporate cultures as well as social and/or political systems can be characterized by incivility. Once uncivil behavior is tolerated without consistent controls and appropriate consequences being placed on it, corporate culture can degenerate into a system where employees feel disempowered, isolated, and demeaned.

Politics and religion…

In political systems, incivility can change the tenor of the discussion from one of considering the issues to one of disrespecting dissenting voices. In city councils, county commissions, state and federal agencies, community action groups, non-profits, and more, where healthy, informed disagreement forms the foundation of progress and growth, civil discussion becomes impossible.

Name-calling and mud-slinging

This leads to a breakdown of productive conversations. Divisive behaviors like name-calling, mud-slinging, undermining, slandering/character assassination, ignoring, and others occur. These behaviors deepen the divisions and solidify the sense of separation among the people involved.

Who Practices Incivility?

Everyone is uncivil sometimes. You have probably cut off others as they speak, said unkind things, gossiped, or engaged in other boorish behaviors once in a while. This can result from feelings of weakness, insecurity, or vulnerability. Maybe you’re under a lot of stress, or you’re angry for reasons outside the present environment. Perhaps you feel threatened by someone. You might feel the other has done something to deserve incivility from you.

Maybe life has been just plain difficult recently – and you’re being discourteous or disrespectful with those around you who may not deserve to be treated this way.

Is it a pattern, or a single instance?

Until it becomes a pattern for an individual, it’s just an unfortunate incident. Hopefully it can be set right with proper actions.

Often the chronically uncivil person feels entitled but believes he doesn’t receive proper respect. He often has an unhealthy need to control others. Chronically uncivil people may also have a desire to humiliate others or make them feel vulnerable. Moreover, he is often a bully, engaging in uncivil behaviors when he isn’t bullying.

What to Do in the Face of Incivility

The first step to responding to uncivil behavior is to realize that incivility reflects on the person being uncivil. It has nothing to do with you. You may simply be the first person to interact with her after an unhappy incident with someone else. She may be transferring her feelings of frustration and irritation onto you. It’s possible she may not even realize she’s doing it.

If You Are Dealing with a Friend or Acquaintance

Incivility can bring up your defenses. The hurt or anger from uncivil behavior can drive you to retaliate. Before taking an action you might regret, step back and put your emotions on ice for a moment. Ask yourself if this kind of behavior is habitual from this person; if it isn’t, take a deep breath and ignore it. There may be extenuating circumstances.

If this behavior is typical of this person, consider putting some emotional distance between you and her. Do not respond in kind, as it will do nothing to resolve the situation. Instead, make it a point to spend a few minutes evaluating how much future interaction you want with this person. Decide how you will handle it, knowing that incivility is the norm with this individual.

If You Are Dealing with a Family Member

This situation can be very difficult, because so many emotions are interwoven into familial relationships. You can’t just walk away from family. You must find a way to deflect the chronic uncivil behavior without getting drawn into the drama and negativity.

Learn to recognize the reactions that chronic incivility creates in you. Identify the physical stress responses – for example, tightness in your stomach, or tension in your neck and shoulders – and the related conditions – nausea or heartburn, or a headache. When you feel these things happening, you almost always have an emotional reaction, too – anxiety, anger, fear – that lead you to engage the other person in ways that are not in your best interest.

Respond by choice, don’t react by habit

Once you recognize the physical signs of stress, you can make a decision to pause. Step back and choose not to engage with them in their incivility.

It’s truly hard to learn to do this, especially since chronic incivility leads to habitual responses. You may believe you have no choice over the emotions you feel. Perhaps you’re not even consciously aware of the physical sensations that accompany your emotions. You can’t control the emotions, sensations, or thoughts; they just happen. You can control what you do next.

Do nothing

And next, do nothing. Choose not to respond in kind. If you feel the need to reply, say something that deflects their incivility past you. Don’t engage them or accept blame. Instead, say something like, “I’m sorry you feel that way. Let’s talk again when you’re not so upset.”

Family problems frequently continue unchanged for years or even decades. Family members all become accustomed to playing their roles. Everyone does and says the same things every time, and nothing ever changes. Next time, don’t play your role.

If You Are Dealing with a Co-Worker

In this case, ignore the emotions being expressed and remain calm. If he brought up a relevant topic, then address the topic, not the emotion. Be mindful to keep yourself separate from the emotions being expressed by the other person. Do not reciprocate anger or frustration. It doesn’t help to resolve the situation.

Express understanding not blame

The uncivil person may demand that you acknowledge his emotion. Tell him you understand why he feels frustrated or angry by retelling back to him, in your own words, the situation that caused him to be upset. Tell him that you’d like to help resolve the matter – if that’s something you are in a position to do and it’s appropriate. If it isn’t something you ought to be doing, then simply express understanding and leave it at that.

Your responsibility is to yourself. You cannot change the uncivil person, nor can you control her behavior. You can only control yourself. Remind yourself that incivility directed at you is a reflection of the uncivil person, not a reflection of you.

If You Are Dealing with a Subordinate

Create company and even departmental guidelines for dealing with incivility. However, attempting to force a chronically uncivil person to be compliant does not cause them to make an inward change. Instead, it may drive them to find surreptitious ways to be disruptive and uncivil. This can make the problem harder to track and to manage.

When dealing with chronic incivility from a specific employee, consequences must be enforced evenly and consistently. Consequences include corrective actions up to and including termination from employment. All employees need to know that uncivil behavior toward others will not be tolerated.

A culture of respect

Creating a culture of respect and courtesy takes consistent work. Nevertheless, everyone involved in the effort benefits. Ultimately, employee morale and productivity will rise. Innovation and efficiency also improve. The number of employee sick days drop, as do the number of employees who look for other work and leave. Finally, when each person feels valued for his or her contribution, she feels confident to do her job to the best of her ability, looking for ways to do better.

It Isn’t Easy

But nothing worth doing is easy. Take these steps to start:

  • learn to deflect incivility.
  • stop buying into it.
  • stop retaliating.
  • listen to what they say. Reply to the topic without reacting to or addressing the incivility.
  • keep our emotions out of the conversation.
  • avoid internalizing uncivil words and behavior.
  • realize that incivility is an attribute of the person engaging in uncivil behavior.
  • recognize that we don’t have to change the behavior or the person. That’s not for us to do.

Refuse to engage

In conclusion, if we, even once, turn incivility aside and refuse to engage with the uncivil person on his terms, we change our relationships. In addition, if we respond with calmness and civility – no matter how the other person reacts to that calmness – we create a better future for ourselves, and maybe for those we love, too.

#butterflyphoenix #incivility #love #keepcalmandrespond

Hygge and Lagom: The Key to Contentment

Hygge lagom comfort
Comfort and conviviality in just the right amount.

What my Great-Aunt Dagmar knew about hygge and lagom,  and why you might want to know about them, too.

‘Hygge’ and ‘lagom’ are Danish words, and the Danes have built their entire culture around these ideas. In addition, the concepts characterize most of Scandinavia as well as France to one degree or another. The concepts describe a worldview, a mindset that colors the way one sees everything and goes about life.

Books have been written about hygge (not so much about lagom) because the concept encompasses so much. But it really applies to every area of life. ‘Hygge’ means a sense of coziness  and pleasant warmth, finding comfort and fulfillment, indulging in beautiful experiences of togetherness, and feeling satisfied with just the right amount of everything. Socioculturally, it means warm friendships and family relationships, hospitality, conviviality, and loving joyful tolerance toward all.

Quality bests quantity

My Aunt Dagmar first taught me these ideas when I was a very young child. Whenever I went to her house, she served me hot milk with a splash of coffee or tea and a spicy cookie or two. Some of my earliest memories are of sitting on pillows on her comfortable dining chair, watching her hold her delicate china teacup and trying to do the same with mine.

When we drank our tea, she told me that one or two small butter cookies with cardamom, ginger, and just a touch of sugar were indulgences to be savored slowly and in the company of people we love – far better than eating an entire box of mediocre cookies alone.

She was right.

hygge lagom rose
Much sensory pleasure, but ephemeral in duration.

She always prepared indulgent food, she grew award-winning roses in her Minnesota garden, she walked barefoot with me in the stream behind her house. But she always had “just enough”, never too much. Ultimately, she was living the ideas of hygge and lagom, immersing herself in comfort and pleasure, in just the right amounts.

With regard to food, this concept is the real reason behind the so-called French Paradox. Many theories have been put forward about why the French people traditionally have eaten rich indulgent foods yet have stayed slim and healthy.

Fill your senses, not just your stomach

It isn’t the wine, or the fresh fruits, or the fresh air. The French understand the value of slowing down to prepare delicious foods, and to eat them leisurely with family and friends.

The wine, fresh fruit, and fresh air add to the pleasure. But it’s the appreciation of the complete sensory and emotional experience of eating well, together with people who mean something to us, that fulfills our deep needs for companionship, security, and meaning.

Because this gives us a sense of physical and emotional satisfaction from our food, we don’t need to continue eating to feel good.

Mindfulness is key

Mindfulness is key, being present and actively experiencing what we’re doing: cooking, eating, playing with our children, driving, visiting, working. Above all, life is about our experiences. So often we fail to be present in our lives, physically there but mentally abroad; we need to buy the mug and the T-shirt because we missed the experience.

Certainly, that realization was the greatest gift my Aunt Da gave me (other than her unconditional love and encouragement): she reminded me to appreciate the present moment — to experience deeply with all my senses whatever I was doing — by living that way herself, and by sharing her experiences with me.

So today I try to incorporate that mindful attitude toward my family and friends, spending time doing pleasant things with people I love; toward food and cooking, immersing myself in preparing wonderful comfort foods; toward gardening, tending my (non-award-winning) roses and herbs in the garden; and, remembering, most of the time anyway,  to be mindfully here in the present moment.

Summer Vacation Self-Care

Take time just to be and to experience what’s around you.

Personal Well-Being

The warmth of the summer sun creates the perfect setting for summer self-care. It’s the time of the year when many people are out and about among the masses. We’re on the beaches, in the woods, and on planes, trains, and automobiles, traveling to the homes of our families and friends, or to vacation destinations.

Summer can be stressful, especially when traveling. Even more so when you have children – toddlers or teens. The key is to remember that there is a difference between taking a trip and a vacation. A trip entails a lot of pre-planning, coordination, packing, unpacking, and re-packing, itineraries to be followed, and scheduling of everything you want to do and see. It feels a bit stressful just thinking about it.

Even if you are traveling to a vacation destination, you are still on vacation once you get there. Ask yourself: What is really important? Will you regret not seeing this or that for the rest of your days if you don’t actually see it? What is the purpose of your vacation? Are you going just to get away from work? If that’s the case, keep the decision-making to a minimum while vacationing. We get away from our work to relax and recharge. If your vacation is filled with decisions, isn’t it the same as working?

Take a cue from your kids when it comes to vacations. They splash in the water, or just sit around watching people (or their phones, which should be kept to a minimum on vacation) and just be. Have you ever noticed that kids whine the most when their sessions of “just being” are interrupted?

The important thing is to know why you are doing what you are doing. Is it adding joy and value to your vacation; or is it adding stress? Are you having to make too many decisions, or struggling with the kids to get them going? Seeing every major attraction in a tourist destination isn’t necessarily the best plan. Take time to see the little things that the place has to offer. Visit with the local shopkeepers. Check out a couple of museums. Slow down and enjoy the place where you are, as it is. Learn about the local culture, and just be.