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Saturday, August 28, 2010

Creating a life with greater meaning

Anyone who has in tune with the psychology movement during the 1950's and 1960's would be aware of the work by pioneering humanistic psychologist Dr Abraham Maslow. Maslow is best known for his concept of self actualisation - the realising of ones potential which occurs over time as one's basic needs including food, shelter, money and personal intimacy are gradually met throughout the course of a lifetime.

One of Maslow's students, Dr Wayne Dyer was in Sydney last week and reflected on the observed characteristics of individuals who move closer towards their self actualising potential - a state on inner contentment in which one reaches a place of self satisfaction and inner harmony within the chaotic world in which we live.

Dyer reflected that self actualising people have three main characteristics;

1) They become immune to the opinions of others
2) They focus only on what they intend for themselves
3) They are not attached to outcome

3 seemingly simple qualities which are perhaps more easily described than implemented in day to day life.

Imagine being self confident enough to not worry what others thought? To not take it personally when someone told you that your behaviour was inappropriate, that they did not like you or that you had offended them. To not be disappointed when something had not worked out the way you planned it - to be able to walk away and focus solely on the bigger picture goals that you had for yourself? To ignore the masses of stimulus that crosses our path on a daily basis and instead focus solely on tasks, activities and people who bring more meaning to your life?

Maybe easier said than done but something for all of us to be aware of and ultimately aiming for long term as we continue with this Game of Life.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Why actions always speak so much more loudly than words

It may be ironic that a piece of writing attempts to convey this message but it is an unbelievably powerful thing to remember across a number of life domains. It is so easy to use words to obscure less than ideal behavioural patterns - to claim something is much different than it really is or was, to make things sound so much nicer, to provide an excuse for bad behaviour, to distract from the real issue at hand. Words can be altered, misinterpreted, reinterpreted, have no meaning, lead no where, which can ultimately leave recipients unfulfilled, disappointed and even violated when ones words do not match their behaviours.

Behaviours on the other hand tell us much more about the people we choose to spend our time with. Behaviours show us if the person really is who their words claim they are, if someone really means what they say and if they can be counted and relied upon. Behaviours are far less likely to be misinterpreted, and are far easier to remember. A person’s behaviour is there for all to see, and remembered for much time afterwards, unlike words which are quickly forgotten.

We build respect, trust and intimacy with those who behave well towards us. Good behaviour is demonstrated when others are there for us in our desperate times of need, when people do what they say they are going to do, when they treat us with the respect that we deserve. On the other hand, bad behaviours can leave a deep stain on our soul and are far more difficult to forget. A single instance of bad behaviour can be all that is required to irreparably damage a previously untarnished relationship and ruin it forever. Such a situation is exacerbated when bad behaviour is refused to be owned by the inflicter and such avoidance often leaves the inflicted unsure as to what has occurred. Luckily, the bad behaviour, unlike words will always remain to confirm that the issue is not our response to it but remains with their bad behaviour.

Such knowledge is a good reminder to all of us to make sure our behaviours match the words we impart on the world – that we do what we say we are going to go, that we treat people the way we would claim to, that our relationships reflect the words we use to speak about them. Perhaps the most useful knowledge of all, especially in the case of someone behaving in a way that has deeply disappointed you is that “the single best predictor of a person’s future behaviours is their past behaviour” – if someone has behaved badly, once, twice, repeatedly, it is highly likely they will do it again. This, you know and do have the power to act on if the signs present.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Just a little respect

If you take time to consider what the most fundamental component of a good relationship is, whether it is intimate or non intimate, personal or professional, long or short term – respect would be close to the top of the list. Respect is generally earned over time, based on our perceptions as well as experience of and with a person and exceptionally challenging to get back once it has been lost. Unlike most instant feelings and emotions such as like or attraction, respect tends to take time to build, although it can be lost in an instant.

One thing to consider when it comes to respect, is that it is all based on perception. In situations in which you feel that you have been disrespected, often our immediate reaction to such as scenario is to be angry or annoyed at the individual over what you perceive to be disrespectful. If such behaviour is a one off, remember it is not always disrespect as opposed to thoughtlessness, ignorance or non awareness – none of which are attractive behaviours but are quite different to disrespect. On the other hand, if such behaviours are repeatedly demonstrated within our relationships, the most important thing to consider is that we actually teach others how to treat us. This means that if we repeatedly feel as if we are not being treated with respect, something we are doing to teaching others to treat us this way.

For important relationships, ones which you want to salvage or keep in your life, to change this dynamic you will have to be prepared to rebuild the relationship, which will take time and much communication which you may, or may not decide is worth investing in. For new relationships though, it is crucial that at the first sign of disrespect that you let the other person know that it is not ok to treat you badly. You may ultimately decide to rid your life of this person, or simply let them know via your own means that their behaviour is non acceptable but you will be guaranteed to a) either rid your life of people who do not treat you the way you need to be treated to be at your best or b) quickly get the people to shape up or ship out which may sound harsh, but may in fact be the best thing for you at the time.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

So, what should you eat the day before City to Surf?

So, you have been training for weeks and are mentally ready for the 13 or so kms you are planning to walk or run with 70 000 other excited people tomorrow and now you are wondering what should you eat today to get the best out of your run?

If you had plans of a big carb load with pizza, soft drink and ice cream tonight, think again. A run of that distance does not require significantly more calories than you would usually eat, although you will benefit from a carb rich meal such as pasta or noodles this evening.

In fact, the extra chocolate bars distributed before the race and sports drinks at aid stations often contain more calories than you are likely to burn in the run itself.

Eat light, quickly digested meals every 3-4 hours today - a large wrap or sandwich, sushi or crackers with topping and aim to drink plenty of water. For the more serious recreational athletes who are hoping for a PB tomorrow, load up tonight with plain pasta, some extra bread and low fat ice cream and an extra 500-1000mls of OJ for a great mini carb load.

Tomorrow morning, make sure you have had a small snack before the run. Even if you can only manage something small such as 1/2 muesli or energy bar, Up & Go or slice of toast with peanut butter, a light snack will give you a little carbohydrate prior to the event which will allow you to access your fuel stores during the event. Of course, the morning of the event drink plenty of water and add some Hydralyte to your water bottle if you are prone to cramping.

Such good preparation will mean that few individuals will NEED sports drink during the event so stick with water and save yourself the extra calories.

Most importantly, once you have finished the event, try not to see it as an excuse to binge on poor quality food. Allow yourself once carb rich meal such as a burger, wrap or thin pizza before getting straight back on track with your new training regime and balanced eating plan.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

The art of crucial conversations

Do you wish that you were one of those people who can always remain calm and composed when discussing difficult and sensitive issues? Not losing it, keeping your voice calm and in control and trying to not let the emotion of the situation get the better of you as you attempt to let someone know that they have done wrong by you whether it be personally or professionally.

Individuals who have mastered this art tend to score highly on emotional intelligence measures – they are able to gauge what demeanor will get the other person to listen and really take on board what it is they have to say. They are able to use their interpersonal skills to really tug on the heart strings of the other person whilst remaining calm and in control. They have been able to separate out the emotions that cause them to lose control and are able to speak calmly whilst still getting their point across using clear language and meaningful concepts.

Like all life skills, we can all learn to have these conversations in a way that will not leave us any more vulnerable and hurt. The first step is to take the time to you to prepare for intense talks. Time to allow you to build your argument; time to have identified what you want the outcome to be from the discussion and time to let the intense emotions dissipate. Once you have your emotions under control, and have identified the facts of the discussion you will be in a much stronger position to express your opinions clearly and honestly, and be able to put your enemy (for want of a better word J) in a position in which they have to provide you with honest answers – which is why you need to know what you want from the discussion. Most importantly, your concerns, issues, hurts need to come from the heart – what their behaviours has caused you to feel, the impact it has had whether they were aware of it or not, how they have hurt or disappointed or let you down and what you want them to do about it. The funny thing is that in most interactions we don’t want much more from the enemy than an acknowledgment or apology, we just want to be heard.

Many of us avoid these crucial conversations and carry around for weeks, months if not years the hurt, disrespect and anger which is doing nothing except hurting ourselves. In many of these cases it is time to let those know the effect their behaviours have had on us, which will in many cases free us to move on.