2 Problem Solving Killers

What is the most recent problem solving situation that you have personally faced in the past few days?

How did it turn out?

Did you know that one trait of a person who is living a resilient life is the ability to problem solve and make good decisions?

I don’t know about you, but it seems that in the past few years with the rise of smartphones, tablets, and social media we are overwhelmed with choices which have lead to real problems for some people and that is in the are of decision making and problem solving.

There seem to two primary mindsets that keep people from dealing with the stuff in their lives. At least from my observations after living on this blue marble for over six decades.

The first is the Big D word, Denial. People that choose to live in this lane of life tend to deny the impact of problems and issues in their lives at all costs. They do their best to live in the delusional state of denial because they are scared spitless of seeing the reality that is right in from of their eyes. Because of this mindset, they develop finely tuned skills to avoid some of the tough things in life.

So where do you think this type of living leads a person? Well, in my opinion, this denial mindset will lead you down a twisted path of insecurity, anxiety, worry, fear, anger, frustrations, jealousy and a whole lot more of yucky stuff.

The second mindset of people who avoid dealing with life issues is that of being a perpetual victim. While this mindset has been around for thousands of years, it seems to be enjoying a new surge in this modern age.

The Victim mentality. People with this mindset choose to believe there is not a single that they can do to solve a problem or deal with their stuff. When, in more cases than not, they could. I have said this before, but it is like some people want to play emotional pin the tail on the donkey. They are continually seeking ways to blame either others or circumstances for all that is going wrong in their lives.

While it might give the person choosing to be a victim a little bit of relief, it will ultimately lead to anger, emotional impotence, learned helplessness and despair.
Why do so many people choose to swim in the river of denial or attempt to pin the emotional tail on the donkey by blaming circumstance on others?

The simple reason, I think is because there is a quick payoff. It gives them a rush, a buzz, and maybe some relief to push the responsibility off on someone or something else. It is a quick fix that allows the person, at least for a moment to escape life’s problems as opposed to seeing problems as an invitation to growth, and change to learn something and maybe experience grace and goodness.

Let me ask you a question.

What do you do when it comes to dealing with some of the problems that come from being a human? Do you run from them, deny them, or blame your parents, upbringing, your ex or your diagnosis? Your answer will determine whether your life will be enriching, rewarding or bland and mundane.

In my counseling and coaching practice, one of the first questions I ask a client is something along the lines of how can I help you? The replies usually sound “I want to be happier. I want more peace in my life. I want to be more successful. I want to improve my relationships.” All of these are worthy goals.

Typically, after we talk about that for a few minutes, at least to the point that I feel I have some understanding, I will they ask something like, “What are you willing to do to get it? What are you ready to change? What problems do you anticipate and how will you deal with it?

At this point, things seem to come into clear focus.

I remember a few years ago I was asked to be on the faculty of a writer’s conference at the Glorieta Christian Writer’s Conference at what used to be the Glorieta Baptist Conference Center. Part of my job was to visit with hopeful writers and authors about their dreams. Needless to say, it was a blast being able to participate in such a great event.

I remember, one of the benefits of attending this conference is that every day the staff would meeting in this large room to visit with and listen to aspiring writer’s pitching their book ideas. This was always an exciting and impressive time to meet these people, listen to their stories and proving encouragement, maybe even some further networking opportunities.

And then I began to pick up on a trend. I spoke in a massive group session on the second day and when people realized that I was a licensed professional therapist I was inundated with potential authors who wanted to tell me of their travail of abuse, and neglect. As I listened to some of these stories I begin to feel like I was back in my office as a therapist. Not a great place to be when you are providing the types of services we were at the Writer’s Conference. At dinner that evening I was processing this sudden increase in authors wanting my input to their stories with a couple of older, female authors that I really respected. Their insight was invaluable. Luckily I’d asked several of the women who’d shared their story idea with me to check back with me the following day.

Here is how it went.

Five of the ladies came back the next day, as well as a few whom I’d not yet met.

I made sure I was listening and tracking each of these unique and painful stories that these potential authors were sharing with me. And then I would say something like, “Would you like my input and suggestions? To a person, they all said yes. Here was my reply.

I want you to look around this room and see how many women are here. According to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center 1 in five women and one in 71 men have been raped at some time in their life. One in three women and one in six men have experienced some type of contact sexual violence in their lives. And then I would say something like, “what makes your story different? In most cases, when I asked this, I would receive a shocked look of anger, and if stares could kill, I would have died 15 times that day. Fortunately not one of the emerging heroes bailed on me.

After I made that statement, I’d keep quiet and hope that they would ask a follow-up question and they did. After the initial shock of my statement they would ask, so what did I need to do.

This is the essence of what I told them. I would start off by telling them how proud I was that they were making a bold choice to share their story, but that to separate their story from everybody else they had to share how they addressed the problem of abuse and how they overcame it. I suggested before they wrote another word in their transcript that they exam what they were learning. In marketing terms, which you might feel is a little harsh, what was their unique selling point.

What was the principle, purpose, promise or prayer they were learning or had learned as a result of no longer denying their abuse and no longer blaming others for how they were dealing with the abuse?

I have to tell you the truth here, I did not want to hurt any of the women, but at the same time I wanted to challenge them to dig deep within and write their story of how they, with God’s help, found the courage to face their challenges and move from being a victim to an overcomer.

Over the next twelve to eighteen months I heard from several of these writers who thanked me for my comments. Two of them invited me to read and comment on their drafts, and a few of the others sent me notes and emails regarding my gently calling them out. I have to tell you, these women dared to not buy into the Denial Trap or the Blame Trap. And while there is a special place in Hell for people who sexually abuse other people, these ladies absolutely refused to let the perpetrator win.

These writers wanted a better life. They were beginning to understand that real, honest, long-term fulfillment comes through how we choose to confront and manage our struggles.


To be clear, I am not talking about “no guts no glory” or “no pain, no gain.”
Instead, how we face and manage our struggles, in large part determine our happiness and our success in this present life.

My wife says it best, “We are either in a struggle, coming out of a struggle, or preparing for a struggle.”
I think she is right on target. How about you? How are you managing the problems that come at you in your day to day life?

Ancient Wisdom
“I don’t mean to say that I have already achieved these things or that I have already reached perfection. But I press on to possess the perfection for which Christ Jesus first possessed me. No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it, but focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus is calling us.”
Philippians 4:12-14 NLT

Be sure to read my next post, when I will talk about a third way to deal with problems, which I call resilient decision making.

I would love to hear your thoughts.

7 Secrets to Building Resilience in Your Life and Business.

“Resilience is like a muscle. Flex it enough, and it will take less effort to get over emotional punches each time.”

Alecia Moore

Resilience, a buzzword that has become very popular in the past fifteen years. Today, I am going to reveal the 7 secrets to building resilience in your life, relationships, and business. While the term is a very old concept, Dr. Marty Seligman, known as the father of Positive Psychology, has spent his life researching and training others about the importance of developing resilience.

So, what is resilience? I will give you a couple of definitions:

Resilience is the ability to resist the manifestations of clinical distress, impairment, or dysfunction that are often associated with critical incidents, acts of terror, mass disasters, and personal trauma.[i]

One of the unique things about the 7 secrets to building resilience is you can develop and enhance it at any stage in life.

Another way of explaining resilience is when you are able to calm a frenzied mind after some type of negative experience. It is that internal drive, an inner force by which we can hold ourselves through all the downsides of life.

Emotional resilience is not about overcoming a particular challenge or winning a battle.  It is the strength to power through the storm and still keeps sailing. For those of you who are familiar with the Bible, the resilience piece combined with faith is a reliable and consistent theme in the Scriptures.

One of the adventures of my life was attending the North Carolina Outward Bound School in 1968, I was 16 at the time. The motto of Outward Bound, which is still very much a part of my being is “To Serve, To Strive, and Not To Yield.”

The founder of the Outward Bound School put it this way;

“There is more in us than we know. If we can be made to see it, perhaps for the rest of our lives we will be unwilling to settle for less.”

Kurt Hahn, Outward Bound Founder

We are living in an age of incredible, rapid change. Being alive in the era of a technological revolution means that we are having to adapt to things that have never existed in our lives before. From rigorous, rapid digitalization to the 24/7 news cycle, social media influence, the “Amazonification” of business, and the changes that commercial enterprises, it is only natural to feel emotionally in knots at times.

The word resilienceis an ancient word rooted in the Latin word ‘resilio’ which means ‘to bounce back’ or retaliate.

Emotional resilience is an art of living that is entwined with self-belief, self-compassion, and enhanced cognition. It is the way through which we empower ourselves to perceive adversities as ‘temporary’ and keep moving forward through the pain, suffering, and setbacks of life. As we actively look for ways to use the 7 secrets to build resilience, we will enrich both our lives and the lives of others

On a grand scale, building resilience in the areas emotional, mental, and even spiritual resilience means bouncing back from a stressful encounter and not letting it affect our internal motivation. It is not a “bend but don’t break” trait; instead, resilience is accepting the fact that I am broken and continue to grow with the broken pieces together. The Apostle Paul, in the New Testament book of Philippians 4:14 says, I press on to reach the end of the race.

Here are a couple of women who have a very unique look at what it means to be resilient. One is known to nearly everyone and that is Amy Poehler.

Amy Poehler, Comedian

“I see life as like being attacked by a bear. You can run, you can pretend to be dead, or you can make yourself bigger. So, if you’re my stature, you stand on a chair and bang a pan and scream and shout as if you’re going to attack the bear. This is my go-to strategy.” —The Guardian, July 2015

Another woman that exemplifies a resilient faith is my friend Gayla Unger. We have known Keith and Gayla for a number of years and watched her face some significant challenges with breast cancer. I am blessed to know a woman which such tenacity, grit, faith and optimism. She is a woman who has a stellar, powerful perspective as a person who, in her own words has been chosen, challenged and changed.

Gayla Unger, Senior Leader, Premier Designs Jewelry

“I am a woman of deep faith in God’s perfect plan for my life. Proverbs 16:9 is my life verse. This scripture reminds me that I can make all the plans I want but ultimately the Lord will direct my feet. I knew at that moment, that although I had not “planned to have cancer” that the Lord would direct my feet. I knew within 24 hours that I was chosen and He was not going to allow me to waste it. Joshua 1:9 Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go…
Make a list of what you love to do and make sure you spend time doing those things. Be a moment maker every chance you get. Let go of the stuff that doesn’t matter and cling with all your might to that which does. Create a life you love. I am so grateful I was chosen, challenged, and changed through this diagnosis. I won’t waste it. Be sure to check out her entire post. Link to her website

I hope you are feeling encouraged with these very brief snapshots of resilience. As a matter of fact, I want you to pause for a second and think about others that model resilience.

Resilience is our ability to adapt and bounce back when things don’t go as we have planned. Resilient people refuse to wallow in or dwell on failures, they don’t allow letdowns and setbacks to steal their energy. Instead, they acknowledge the situation, learn from their mistakes, and then choose to move forward.

There are three components of resilience:

  1. Challenge/Adversity– Resilient individuals see difficulty as a challenge, an opportunity as opposed to a disheartening, petrifying event. As a general rule of thumb, they look at failures and mistakes as lessons to be learned from and opportunities for growth. They refuse to let setbacks become a negative reflection on either their capabilities or their self-worth.
  2. Dedication/Commitment– People who demonstrate resilience are committed to their lives, goals, and vision. They live their lives with intentionality and have a sense of mission which gives them the drive to face another day. This drive is not just about work; they are committed to their relationships, friendships, and faith or spiritual practices.
  3. Internal Focus of Control – Resilient people spend their time and energy focusing on events and situations they feel they have control over. Because they apply effort where they believe it will have the most impact, they often feel a sense of empowerment and confidence. People who live with an external focus of control often allow challenge or adversity to control them, as a result, they feel lost, helpless, impotent and powerless to take any meaningful action.

Dr. Marty Seligman frames resilience this way. As he talks about resilience, he frames it in the context of optimism and pessimism. He says our ‘explanatory style’ indicates how we will respond to challenges and adversity.

Pervasiveness– Resilient individuals refuse to let setbacks, challenges, and adversity impact other unrelated areas of their lives. They might say something like, “I am not very good at this” rather than “I’m no good at anything!”

Personalization– People who are resilient don’t blame themselves when negative events happen. Instead, they see other people or circumstances as a possible cause. Once again, in the workplace, they may say, “I didn’t get the support I needed to finish the project successfully, rather than “I screwed up that project because I cannot do my job right.”

They have a positive image of the future. They maintain a positive outlook and envision brighter days ahead.

Here are some other common traits about resilient people:

They have solid goals and a desire to achieve them.

Resilient people tend to be empathetic and compassionate. However, they don’t burn up any calories worrying about what others think of them. As a general rule of thumb, they have healthy relationships but are slow to bow to peer pressure.

Individuals who are resilient never think of themselves as victims-they focus their time and energy on changing things they have control over.

So, what types of challenges, setbacks, or adversity are you facing today? 

You see, how you and I view adversity and stress will dynamically and kinetically impact how we succeed, and this is one reason that developing a resilient mindset is so important.

The truth is that you and I are going to have “face plant” moments and setbacks as we live our lives. The only way to avoid this is to live an isolated, sheltered and meager life, never trying anything new of taking any risks. Who wants to live like that?

Instead, we should have the courage to pursue our dreams, despite the genuine risk that we will fail in some way or another. Being resilient means that when we do fail, which we will, we will bounce back. Being resilient mean that when we fall down, we get back up, we have the strength to learn the lessons that we need to learn, and we can move on to bigger things.

Here are the 7 secrets for building or developing and strengthening your personal resilience:

  1. View every experience as a growth opportunity. This directly relates to maintaining a “Growth Mindset.” Be sure you take a couple of minutes to view this video, it will not disappoint. 
  2. Find meaning and purpose in your work, maybe even seeing it as a vocation. Martin Luther (1483-1546) asserted that the term ‘vocation could be applied not only to those who are ‘called’ into the ministry, priesthood, or holy order. Instead, Luther preached that all Christians have a vocation: wherever God has allowed the opportunity to work or start an enterprise, was one’s vocation. In other words, work is sacred.
  3. Learn to reframe stress and anxiety as helpful feelings and emotions. When we are stressed and feel the tension in our chest, we need to remind ourselves that our body is getting ready for action. These feelings and emotions can be helpful in that they are designed to help us perform better. Recently, my wife and I attended a Jeff Foxworthy show, and in the early part of his show me made the following statement. “You know, I still get a little nervous before every performance, I have learned that as long as I am a little jittery, I will do a great job.
  4. Play and relax more. Research time and time again reveals that people are most creative and solution-oriented when they feel relaxed, curious, and happy.
  5. Recalibrate your thinking to a long view. Life is a marathon not a sprint. Remember our lives have a start date and a end date what will you do with the dash between those two dates?
  6. Remember, resilience is a life skill that is best developed in the context of relationships and social support. These intentional connections are mutually beneficial and life enriching. There is an ancient text that says, “As Iron sharpens iron, so a friend sharpens a friend.” Proverbs 27:17
  7. Practice Self-Compassion. Self-care explained – Do you remember the safety briefing from your last flight? When the flight attendants get to the part about the unlikely event of sudden cabin depressurization, they explain that the oxygen mask will drop from the ceiling and at that point, they instruct you to put on your mask first, then and only then, help someone else with theirs. Self-care is sort of like this in a way. It is a very intentional, active choice that we do to take care of our mental, physical, spiritual, and emotional health. It’s putting ourselves first…because we can’t care for or be the best help to help others unless we first take care of ourselves. 

Wow, that was a lot of material!

Let me ask you a personal question. How would you rate your personal resilience? If you are married, how resilient is it? Here is an article I wrote for Christianity Today on Resilience in Marriage. Here is another link about resilient marriages.

Do you feel pretty good about how you manage the ups and downs of life? If you’d like more information, here are some links that you might find helpful.

Be Blessed!

I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Six Steps to Dealing with Criticism

(c) 2015 John Thurman  Shepherd, Old Nazareth

The fear of criticism robs a person of their initiative, destroys imagination, limits initiative, destroys dreams, steals self-reliance, and does, Lord only knows how much more damage.
-Napoleon Hill
Have you ever given a speech, lead a breakout, or shared your art and had it evaluated?

If you are like me, you are very gracious when the results of the evaluations are given to you. And I bet you are like me, you want to show how cool you are and not even take a peek at them until absolutely no one is around. For me, I will get to the bathroom or some other private space as soon as I can to see how I did. Don’t just love going through them and reading all of those affirming words. You’re giving your self a high five and tell yourself, “I killed it today!” That is until your alert eyes open wide when you read those, shall we say less than stellar comments. Immediately you begin to doubt yourself and if you are not careful you will spin into the death spiral of self-pity.

On a personal note, for years friends and family members suggested that I enter some of my photos in the largest juried show for New Mexican artists at the New Mexico State Fair. I had avoided doing this for years, basically being fearful of what the judges might say. Isn’t that crazy? I had never entered anything in an art show because of fear.

The image at the top of the post was the first piece of my art that I’d ever shown and it won Honorable Mention and a ribbon.
The truth is, anytime you put your head above the crowd there is the potential that you will become a target of criticism. I hope that as you continue to lean into life, you will take the risk to live the life you were intended to live.
I sincerely hope that typeset ties will help you embrace the next step.

Six Tips to help you deal with criticism.

Tip #1—People are going to criticize you no matter what you do. So why not give them something to talk about? As you grow, become more visible, and share your gifts, vision, and expertise, others will criticize.

As you step into this adventure of pushing back the fear of criticism you will only have two options:

Option #1— Gripe, complain, moan and groan. Complain about how unfair things are and how we should all just love and respect each other. FYI: this will do nothing but make you more miserable.

Option #2— Accept the fact that people will be critical which doesn’t mean you have to like it or let people walk all over you. Once you have done that, then take what you need and dismiss the rest.

Tip #2—Learn to look inside and discover the beautiful person God created you to be.

Recently, I attended the Fellowship Church in Gonzales, Louisiana and heard an excellent sermon about the Woman at the Well in John 4:4-42. Read it today; I promise you will be blessed.

This story is only in John’s gospel, and it is about a nameless Samaritan woman’s encounter with Jesus, the longest one-on-one conversation of Jesus recorded in Bible. This interaction gives us a brilliant insight into how the Lord sees us, warts and all.

She was a Samaritan, a group of folks who were hated by the Jews of Jesus’s time. In addition, she was an outcast from her own culture, marked as an immoral woman, ve times divorced, living with a man who wasn’t her husband.

I just love how Jesus read her mail and identified her and her actions yet did not condemn, belittle, gossip about, or disrespect her. Instead, this immoral woman, who would probably be labeled a sex addict today, was one of the early people to whom he disclosed his true identity.

As a result, Jesus’s encounter with the Woman at the Well teaches us that God loves us in spite of our corrupt lives. God values us enough to actively seek us, to welcome us to intimacy, and to rejoice in worship. And God uses our brokenness to bring others into relationship with Himself. As a result of this conversation and the woman’s testimony, scores of Samaritans came into a relationship with Christ.

People believe two lies. The first is that our sense of self-esteem should be based on our performance. The second is that our self-esteem is based on what others think about us.

Now, while it is important to be the best employee you can be in the workplace, that has nothing to do with healthy self-esteem.
A healthy sense of self-worth is based on God’s love for me; he knows how bad I can mess things up and yet He chooses to love me and be a dynamic part of my life if I allow Him to be. He gives me a purpose for living.

Tip #3—Listen to your inner critic and disagree. Learn to challenge your thoughts. In 2 Corinthians 10:3-5 (NLT) we read:
We are human, but we don’t wage war as humans do. We use God’s mighty weapons, not worldly weapons, to knock down the strongholds of human reasoning and to destroy false arguments. We destroy every proud obstacle that keeps people from knowing God. We capture their rebellious thoughts and teach them to obey Christ.

Paul uses a military term to describe this warfare with sin and Satan. God must be the leader, even in our thought lives. The idea of walking circumspectly is being situationally aware of your thoughts, your “at risk” areas of life, where you can be tempted. When these thoughts—even self-defeating thoughts—come to mind, capture it and give it to Jesus. When we are exposed to toxic thinking or toxic behaviors, we always have a choice. My challenge to you is to recognize the danger, the self-defeating thoughts, and actions, and refuse to let them take hold of you. Instead, ask God to give you discernment and find a trusted friend who can encourage you.

Tip #4—Remember, you’re an adult, and you get to choose. Choose wisely.

Tip #5—Don’t be intimidated by criticism. Look for wisdom in criticism. When people who love you are critical, trust that they love you and have your best interest in mind. Cut them some slack and meet them with an open heart and mind.

Tip #6—Move from being emotionally fragile to emotional resilient.

You can do this, I know you can. If you are a person of faith remember these words, “I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.

Action Plan:
1. Sign up for my mailing list-I will producing a number of short, free video lessons to help you deal with this common fear.
2. Buy my book, The No Fear Entrepreneur, and read chapter 2.
3. Click this link to take my free 20 Minutes the Could Change Your Life online course.
Be Blessed,
John

 

 

The Leadership Style of Gentleness

Picture

I write about leadership. But today I want to focus on qualities that are not always associated with leadership. However, if you do not have these qualities no one will follow you. And if you have no followers you are not a leader. That’s pretty plain and simple.
The qualities are kindness, gentleness, humility, and graciousness. Unfortunately for the segment of society that is most often associated with leadership, the choleric, these qualities are often lacking. These qualities are often lacking in me.
Telling people what to do is not effective. It is offensive. No one wants to be told what to do. They want servant leadership, not a dictatorship.
Using strong language to make a point only turns people off and offends their sensibilities. People seek shelter from a blast. They are never drawn to it.
Accusing others who do not get it of being stupid or lazy does not motivate anyone to change, it only motivates them to stay away from you. If someone has a different opinion than you, it does not make them stupid. And if you act like they are, you have completely lost your ability to win them over. If someone doesn’t do what you think they should do, it doesn’t make them lazy. It just means that you didn’t do a good job of motivating them.
Sarcasm is never an effective motivational tool for anyone. The only point it makes is that you are a toxic person who will hurt others.
Abruptness does not promote connection or conversation. It makes people feel devalued. It makes people feel like your thoughts and feelings and presence is not important. It makes people feel used. You got what YOU needed. You are done.
People will forgive almost anything except for arrogance. No one has a problem with people who make mistakes. Everyone has a problem with people who feel like they don’t.
If you want to make people pay, teach them a lesson, put them in their place, or make them feel like they made you feel, you will not only be a miserable person because you will be eaten up with bitterness, but no one will want to entrust themselves to you. They are not willing to pay the payment you will extract if they make a mistake.
Smugness does not prove a point. It only makes people want to slap you. If you get that look, you stand a better chance of people following you if you are wearing a paper sack over your face. You can turn people off without saying a word. You cannot lead or influence a person who is turned off by you. If you don’t know what “that look” is, I’m sure your spouse does. Ask them.
No one operates better under an atmosphere of guilt than they do under an atmosphere of praise. One of the best word mantras to live life by was written by Ken Blanchard in his classic book, “The One Minute Manager.” He said to “catch someone in the act of doing something good and tell them about it.”
Being opinionated is the opposite of being teachable. Even if you are completely correct, if you say it in such a way that puts everyone else down, people are not going to take your side.
People are more drawn to the way you relate to them than by what you say to them or what you have achieved. They will only follow someone who makes them feel safe.
Power is found in gentleness. Jesus said, “The meek will inherit the earth.” Kindness is the most motivating tool in the world. Humility will cause people to follow you on many mistakes. And graciousness will create an atmosphere that people will flock to.
If people are not following your leadership it is time to look inside. And the “you” in this entire post is directed toward me, Gayle Foster. I hope you have benefited from reading the private notes I wrote for my own benefit.
I would love to hear your thoughts on leadership styles and what is motivating or demotivating. Do you see anything that can be improved upon in yourself? Do you see where you have been hurt by someone trying to lead you and how things could have turned out differently? Let’s all help each other.
Gayle Rogers Foster