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How Do You Deal With the Elephant? And Why It’s Important



Just think about this for a minute. Think about how you react when faced with a situation where there is an obvious “elephant in the room.” You know what I’m referring to – unresolved conflicts, difficult conversations, hard feelings, anger, embarrassment, hurt feelings, touchy subjects, things that make you fidget internally (maybe externally too.)

It’s that uncomfortable “thing” that’s there, you can’t see it, but you can sure feel it.

How do you behave? What are you thinking? What’s your strategy for getting through the discomfort?

We pretty much fall into 3 camps.

The Evader“If I ignore it, it’ll just go away.” To this person the thought of conflict causes a great deal of anxiety. They prefer to leave it alone and live with the discomfort. Perhaps they’re afraid of the consequences, perhaps they simply don’t know what to do.

Either way they turn away from the elephant and try to pretend he’s not there – sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t…

The Prompter“This must be resolved. It’s driving me nuts. I have to do something.” To this person anything unresolved or uncomfortable that’s left hanging out there is a source of great frustration and anxiety, a thorn in the side.

They can’t rest until the elephant is addressed…so they poke it to prompt a dialogue, sometimes with a gentle nudge to start the conversation, sometimes with a sharp jab to get the elephant’s full attention. Again sometimes this works, sometimes it doesn’t – resolution or escalation…

The Accepter “I really don’t need to address this.” This person believes either the elephant is not a big deal, it’s not their responsibility, there is nothing they can do to resolve the issue or it’s simply not the appropriate circumstance. This is different from avoiding or ignoring. This person accepts that the elephant is there, but has intellectually determined that it does not require addressing for whatever reason.

What differentiates this person from their cousin, The Evader, is that there is no anxiety, only acknowledgement. It certainly seems that this strategy would be less stressful, but there is a risk of evasion being masked as acceptance and a reluctance to act even when appropriate. It’s a balancing act and again sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t.

One is not necessarily better than the other; it’s often a matter of personality, priorities and communication style.

But the reality is that the way we deal with the elephant in the room is also the way we handle life in general. (Feel free to Tweet that.)

So the question to be asked is not whether your style and strategy is wrong or right, but whether it best serves you. Does it cause or alleviate stress? Does it help get the results you want or interfere?

Something to think about…

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What Would You Do if You Had One Month to Live?

What would you do differently if you only had one month to live? Would you change jobs or leave relationship? Would you apologize or be more caring to others? Would you take a risk you’ve always wanted to take? Everyone’s answer will be different. The book One Month to Live: Thirty Days to a No-Regrets Life by Kerry & Chris Shook can help you answer those questions and guide you along that journey of changing the way you live your life.

From the book:

“Be brutally honest with yourself. Your time on earth is limited. Shouldn’t you start making the most of it? If you knew you had one month to live, you would look at everything from a different perspective. Many of the things you do now that seem so important would immediately become meaningless. You would have total clarity about what matters most, and you wouldn’t hesitate to be spontaneous and risk your heart. You wouldn’t wait until tomorrow to do what you need to do today. The way you lived that month would be the way you wished you had lived your whole life.

If you knew you had one month to live, your life would be radically transformed. But why do we wait until we’re diagnosed with cancer or we lose a loved one to accept this knowledge and allow it to free us? Don’t we want all that life has to offer? Don’t we want to fulfill the purpose for which we were created? Wouldn’t life be a lot more satisfying if we lived this way?

I’m challenging you to start living your life as though you have one month to live, and I’ve designed this book to help you. There are four universal principles in the one-month-to-live lifestyle: to live passionately, to love completely, to learn humbly, and to leave boldly. I’ve divided this book into four sections or “weeks” accordingly, and I encourage you to live these next thirty days as if they were your last.”

I find this book to be fascinating, thought-provoking and inspiring. Happy reading! What will you do with your one month?

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How Are You Spending Your Most Valuable Currency

The Passage of Time
Image by ToniVC via Flickr

Are you neglecting the things that matter?

Do you think you’re somehow different than the rest of us? That you have more hours in the day or can get more done miraculously if you just get organized enough?

Let me tell you right now, FORGET IT! There is only so much any one person can accomplish at one time. We’re told we can have and do it all, but that is a bold faced lie, a sales pitch of productivity system marketing.

Be honest. Where are you falling short?

Full disclosure: I am a chronic over-scheduler, over-committer and plate-overflower ( I just made that term up.) I know I am not alone in the disease to “DO MORE.” But when we try to squeeze in more we tend to neglect the things that matter most, health, family, enjoyment of life.

In some unfathomable twist of brain logic we tend to spend time on those things that don’t really matter in the long-term picture of our lives. Why do we do this? I don’t know. It’s a puzzle of the human psyche. Perhaps someone wiser than I can figure out that puzzle eventually.

Mini: Mission: My marching orders are to figure out what really matters, place a premium priority and focus on those aspects of my life and cut back or delete those that don’t.  I invite you, no; I implore you to join me.

Time is our most valuable currency, yet most of us squander it so easily. (Feel free to tweet that.)

What are the things that really matter to you?

Are you spending enough time on those things?

What are the things that really won’t matter 20 years from now?

Are you spending too much time on the things that really don’t matter that much?

Do you check your email first thing in the morning instead of taking time to exercise or eating breakfast with your family? I’m sure you’ll be glad of that when your health fails and your kids are gone.

Do you spend too much time on social media and information intake? Unless that’s your job, (and sometimes even if it is your job,) you’ll get better results if you spend your time actually producing “work.” Those things are tools.

And while we’re talking about social media…is Facebook really more important than reading with your kids or having an actual conversation with your husband?

We don’t like to think that we’re squandering our time; I know I sure don’t.

But our schedule and habits tell the real story… Take a look…if you dare.

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Why a Clean Sweep Just Might Be The Key To More…of Everything

Photo by Jesse Gardner

Some great year-end advice…

Every once in a while I get the urge to just dump everything…well almost everything… that I’m doing and clear the decks. Just sweep them clean. Create a blank slate on which to write our aspirations, goals and dreams. We get so tied up and bogged down in everything we have on our plates; projects, commitments, habits, that we have no room to breathe. No space to experiment. Not even the tiniest crack in our schedule to stop and think.

Do I truly care about the projects I’m involved in?

Why am I doing this again?

Do I really need to do that thing?

Here’s the harsh reality. If you haven’t made any progress on those goals you set earlier in the year, you need to question if they really matter.

Now take a deep breath and let them go. Make room for new goals, fresh ideas, creative projects.

What would you do if only you had the time?

It’s almost a new year, time for a fresh start.

Time for some house cleaning, both literally and figuratively.

Originally published December 2011, but relevant and worth a re-print while I enjoy some much needed down-time with my family.

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5 Ways to Get the Most Out of Your Holiday

Christmas tree

Image via Wikipedia

When we look back on our fondest memories of Christmas past, it is probably not the perfectly trimmed tree and beautifully wrapped gifts that we most remember. It is rather those joyously happy, splendidly unplanned moments that were ripe with laughter (or tears,) family, friends and fun. It is the time spent helping others, connecting with those we love and embracing the good cheer of the festivities.

As the holiday fast approaches, it’s so easy to get caught up in the crazed busyness. Many of us have fallen victim to the pressures and pulls of the holiday chaos all around us, only to find that we have missed the entire meaning and joyousness of this special time. The gifts we cherish most are not the most expensive, but the most meaningful. The memories we hold dear are those filled with laughter and light.

Some suggestions to get the most out of your holiday:

Create Traditions – Whether it’s caroling or making snowmen, crafting gingerbread houses or baking cookies, volunteering or reading as a family it becomes so much more special if you make it a tradition. It’s often the simple things that are the most fun. Ask your children or family what they enjoy. Some of my children’s favorite traditions: Christmas layer cookies and wassail while we decorate the tree, answering questions from “The Christmas Conversation Piece” book, watching The Polar Express and the Grinch as a family and opening one gift on Christmas Eve.

Schedule Down-Time – Be selective about which social functions you attend. And don’t try to fit in too many family activities. Even well intended choices can become stressful if you don’t leave some time to unwind and just be together. I really cherish those evenings when we sit in front of the Christmas tree in our pajamas playing a game or watching Christmas movies.

Don’t Break the Bank – The biggest stress of the season can be the credit card bills that hit the mailbox in January. Don’t get tripped up by unrealistic spending. Stick to budget that you can handle, save ahead of time if you can and don’t make the mistake of thinking more expensive is better.

Forget Martha – I am not Martha Stewart and neither are you. Forget about perfection. Forget about making 12 kinds of cookies, expecting your home to look like a magazine and finding the perfect present for everyone on your list. Reality check. Martha has an entire crew to help her create and those homes in magazines are staged by professionals. Oh and those people on television who are always so elated with their gifts…they’re actors…

Have Fun – Most importantly don’t forget to have fun! Throw snowballs, make a snowman, dance and sing to your holiday favorites or visit Santa. Do whatever brings you joy and makes you feel like a kid again.

Make this the best holiday season ever!

What do you enjoy? Care to share a holiday favorite?

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