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.

6 Ways Fear is Holding You Back

 

Too many of us are not living our dreams

because we are living our fears. 

Les Brown.

 

Fear serves one—and only one—purpose: to keep you alive. In its most basic, primal form, it is nothing more than a survival response. Fear can be a good thing. It is a profound biological instinct that can prevent us from doing crazy things that could kill us. For example, if you are working in your backyard and see a snake slithering into hedges next to your house—well, let’s put it this way—I doubt you are feeling peaceful and calm.

Fear can produce positive energy that moves us forward, help us make a life change, and gives us a new perspective. Unfortunately, while fear can protect us from pain and harm, fear is not always rational and healthy.

God didn’t create us to live our lives in fear. He created us to live with power, love, and a sound mind, as in courage

I love the way the Amplified Bible translates 2 Timothy 1:7, “For God did not give us a spirit of timidity (of cowardice, craven and clinging, but [He has given us a spirit] of power and love and well-balanced mind and discipline and self-control.”

Let’s look at what fear does to us and in us:

First, irrational fear is a very primal, gut function. It is a basic low-level brain function. While fear can become disarming and lead to self-inflicted sabotage, it can be overcome. When we take time to think through our fears, we usually discover that those concerns are rooted in irrational thoughts.

Second, fear can make us cowards. We, humans, tend to frame our fears in ways that soothe our egos. You and I will say something like, “I am prudent and cautious.” We might even say, “I am a little nervous.” Or we say, “It’s not that important.”

Here is a huge life tip:

If you want to start overcoming those irrational fears that keep you bound, you are going to have to call it what it is.

Instead of saying, “I am not doing this because it makes me nervous,” try saying, “I am not going to do this because I am a coward, and I am scared spitless.” You will be amazed when you tell yourself the truth—aloud. at is the beginning of calling it what it is. Trust me—this is a starting point.

Third, fear steals our integrity. It makes us hypocritical. Simply stated, integrity means acting in a way wholly congruent with our values and beliefs. When we want to do something and believe it is the correct thing to do, but we fail to do it because of fear, we violate our core values. Living a “True North” life means living in alignment with our principles.

The first time I heard the term “True North” was while I was in the Army. It is a term used in map and compass training which differentiates the True North from Magnetic North difference on a topographical map. Steven Covey borrowed this term and turned it into a metaphor about our bottom line personal ethics—the line we are unwilling to cross based on those ethics. Therefore, when you and I are faced, as we often are in this di cult life, with the question of what direction to take, we need to refer to our true north for direction. Metaphorically: Do I “cross” my personal line? (Lie, cheat, steal, be disloyal to a loved one, hit or be abusive physically or verbally, etc.). Never lose sight of your true north.

Fourth, fear leaves lament and regret in its wake. You and I have made, and will continue to make, missteps and mistakes. The key is: Will we repeat the same screw ups again and again or will we learn from them and make the necessary adjustments to change the outcome? If you and I allow fear to keep us from seizing an opportunity when it comes our way, then that is nobody’s fault but our own. Instead, we can trust that when the Lord brings us an opportunity, He will give us what we need to move towards it. But we have to get out of the boat.

Fifth, when we give in to fear, we give up control; we step away from the steering wheel, which could be deadly. You see—the Lord has given us life and choices. While He will guide us, He will not do the work for us. When we are ruled by fear, we abdicate our responsibility. at is not a good thing. You are the only one responsible for your life, no one else. At the end of this race, you and I will give an account. I want to hear Jesus say, “Well done, good and faithful servant.” Matthew 25:23 NLT

Sixth, fear stifles personal growth. There seems to be a universal principle in nature: You are either getting better—ripening, or you are ripe and ready to meet your full potential, or you are rotting.

So, let me ask you a question. Are you ripening, ready to pick, or rotting on the vine.

Today, you have a choice. You can choose to stay stuck, or you can choose to move forward.

In a couple of day,s I will show you some practical ways to overcome fear.

Action Plan

Purchase my new book, The No Fear Entrepreneur, an Amazon #1 Best Seller.

Fear and Public Speaking

In a recent survey published in my new book, The No Fear Entrepreneur, I found that of those who completed the project, 64.4% stated that fear of public speaking was one of their primary fears.

Why on earth would an individual feel such a deep, gut-wrenching, and sometimes almost incomprehensible fear of public speaking? Before we trivialize this fear, that individual who fears public speaking may fear the loss of identity that attaches to performing poorly, and that is very deeply rooted in our core survival needs.

In trying to understand the roots to this type of fear as well as some of the irrational spaces that this fear can take us in our heads, I discovered that Gavin De Becker had provided some vital understanding to this common, deep fear.

Here is what he said in his book, The Gift of Fear: Survival Signals That Protect Us from Violence.

For all social animals, from ants to antelopes, identity is the pass card to inclusion, and inclusion is the key to survival. If a baby loses its identity as the child of his or her parents, a possible outcome is abandonment. For a human infant, that means death. As adults, without our identity as a member of the tribe or village, community or culture, a likely outcome is banishment and death. So the fear of getting up and addressing five hundred people at the annual convention of professionals in your field is not just the fear of embarrassment—it is linked to the fear of being perceived as incompetent, which is connected to the fear of loss of employment, loss of home, loss of family, your ability to contribute to society, your value, in short, your identity and your life. Linking an unwarranted fear to its ultimate terrible destination usually helps alleviate that fear. Though you may find that public speaking can connect to death, you’ll see that it would be a long and unlikely trip.”  Gavin De Becker.

Doesn’t that rock the way you might be thinking about the fear of public speaking. In my opinion, he captures the essence of how far irrational thinking can take a person if it goes unchecked.

De Becker’s insight has cause me to think and at the same time has re-affirmed my understanding that irrational, unfounded fears can stop you dead in your tracks.

 

Action Plan:

With that in mind, rather than give you an “Steps to Overcoming the Fear of Public of Public Speaking,” I would like for you to offer some solutions. Here is the question, What are some ways that a person can overcome their fear of public speaking?

I am looking forward to your wisdom through your comments.

 

 

 

 

 

Seven Secrets to Building Resilience in Your Marriage

Picture

 Resilience is the ability to resist the manifestations of clinical distress, impairment or dysfunctions that are often associated with critical incidents and personal trauma.
Dr. George Everly, Psychological Body Armor.”Last week Sara got so mad she threw her shoe at me. It missed my head by about three inches!” Larry said.”At the time I thought he deserved it,” Sara admitted. “But the fact that I could do that really scares me! I feel as if our marriage is in serious trouble.”While not every couple throws shoes—or anything else—that sense of uncontrollable anger is not uncommon for many couples regardless of creed, ethnicity, or social status. Unfortunately, some feel that the heightened level of emotion is the beginning of the end of their relationship.

In my more than 35 years of counseling and  45 years of married life, I’ve observed that how couples respond to an event such as Sara’s shoe-throwing can help them develop resilience, the ability to bounce back or recover quickly from change, misfortune, and unmet expectations.

As we explored their past ten years together, I knew that even though they were now in a difficult season, Larry and Sara had built resilience into their marriage. To create a resilient marriage, your commitment to the relationship must be stronger than your history, mood, or situation. Couples who are resilient have these seven qualities in common.

1. Resilient couples don’t fall prey to misconceptions about marriage. 

One thing that can damage our resilience is the mistaken notion that a good marriage equals a calm and peaceful one. In the ten years, Larry and Sara had been married, five jobs, one miscarriage, five harsh financial seasons, four moves, and two adventure-filled boys had taken their toll. Not to mention the fact that they came from two different family styles: Sara’s parents were divorced. Her dad had cheated on her mom multiple times, and then abandoned the family when she was ten. Larry, on the other hand, grew up in an intact family—his parents are still together more than 40 years later.

As we talked, Larry nailed one of the great Christian misconceptions about marriage: “We had no idea how difficult marriage would be. If you listen to people at our church talk about their marriages, it would be easy to believe nobody has been through what we’ve experienced.”

It amazes me that in this day when marriage ministries and materials are so prevalent, couples still believe a great relationship will be a peaceful one. They often feel invincible, especially in the early stages of marriage. This can lead them to deny the impact of stress and family history.

Many couples mistakenly think that loving each other means always getting along. But conflict is an inescapable part of marriage if the couple expects their relationship to grow and mature.

2. Resilient couples find help when they need it.

Many couples “go it” alone—trying to deal with their issues without getting outside help from a trusted source who can offer biblical encouragement, guidance, and support. Those are typically the couples who end up with broken relationships.

Larry and Sara had always been involved in small church groups, which had been invaluable sources of strength when difficult circumstances such as miscarriage and job loss came along. But when they felt more “out of control,” such as Sara’s shoe throwing, they knew it was a signal to seek professional help.

3. Resilient couples remember the good things about their marriage and each other.

“He’s a good father to our boys,” Sara mentioned when I asked them to list each other’s good qualities. “And he’s patient. He puts up with my quirks.”

“I love how loyal and passionate she is,” Larry added. “Sometimes she goes overboard, but I know her heart’s in the right place.”

The longer we talked, the more relaxed they became. “We’re not quitters,” Sara said. “When I see how many of our friends have crashed and burned in their marriages, I’m glad we’ve hung in there.”

Larry looked embarrassed but said, “We had no idea what we could endure as husband and wife. But we still love each other.”

Resilient couples choose to focus on the good as opposed to camping out on the bad.

4. Resilient couples accept the differences in their personalities, views, and ways of getting things done.

Sara entered marriage fearing the sharp conflict she’d watched her parents experience, while Larry came expecting the intimacy and commitment he’d seen his parents enjoy. For several years, they acted out based on the marriage models and communication styles they brought with them.

Sara tended to over-talk everything. Then if she felt Larry didn’t “get it,” she’d become angry. “When I try to talk to Larry,” she told me, “he always seems to run and hide. He’ll either collapse in the recliner and be sucked into the television, or he’ll retreat to the computer room. When he does that, I feel like going ballistic, and sometimes do.”

Larry responded, “She has an opinion about everything, and when I don’t engage in the conversation, she gets heated, so I retreat. Then she throws a shoe at me!”

Men and women really do have different needs.

For guys, we want to feel competent and needed. We want to feel respected. One friend of mine used to say, “Men are like dogs, they need three things: someone to feed them, play with them, and occasionally say, ‘Good boy.’”

I encouraged Sara to be more mindful before sharing an opinion. She also became intentional about giving Larry positive feedback on things he did around the house and with the boys. She even began to find herself being more sexually provocative with him.

For women, the key is to help her feel valued and cherished. If she feels her husband can love her the way she is, then she feels more secure. When a man listens to his wife, without trying to fix her, for instance, he’ll be amazed to see how she can engage him physically. Larry noticed that as he listened intently to Sara, she actually talked less. He even began to buy her flowers, knowing how much she appreciated the gesture.

Sara and Larry became more focused on their communication styles and began to senseless tension and more hope. Larry was choosing to stay connected and not withdraw, and Sara was trying to lower her intensity level.

“We’re not the same,” Sara mentioned. “And I’m starting to appreciate the fact that that can be a good thing.”

5. Resilient couples develop and maintain an internal locus (focus) of control rather than an external focus.

I asked Larry and Sara to recount some of the difficult times in their marriage and how they got through. They told me that six months into their marriage, Larry lost his job. It could have been devastating, especially since Sara’s part-time job didn’t bring in enough money to cover their bills. When many couples would take out their frustrations, fears, and worries on their spouse, Larry and Sara decided instead to focus on the possibilities.

“We knew we loved each other,” Sara said. “It wasn’t Larry’s fault he was downsized. We weren’t sure how it would work out, but we believed Larry would find a job and that God would lead us through this difficult time. And he did.”

“So what keeps you two together?” I finally asked them.

“I love him and want us to get better,” Sara told me.
Larry agreed. “We believe God can and will help us work things out, but it’s tough.” They both took their marriage vows seriously and didn’t want to become another statistic. They hoped to survive this rough time and were committed to the process.

6. Resilient couples manage their emotions.

Larry admitted to me that he can be a “control freak” at times. Sara, on the other hand, is a “free spirit.”

As the weeks went by, Larry and Sara started to focus on their personal responsibility for their portion of the relationship’s troubles and move forward.

After Sara’s fourth overdrawn check, Larry had had enough. Instead of blowing up or withdrawing from her, which had previously proved unsuccessful, Larry took another approach. He waited for a couple of days so he could calm down. Having a measure of control over his emotions, he could talk to her in a calm, rational way and they were able to resolve their money issues.

7. Resilient couples reinterpret past failures and use them as growing points instead of perennial negatives.

In other words, they look at past mistakes to make positive, life-changing applications.

Sara admitted she felt she had to punish Larry with angry outbursts to get him to do anything. As she worked on her side of the responsibility equation, she realized some of her anger was rooted in bitterness toward her dad. So Sara began to pay close attention to the things that could trigger her emotions. In the course of our counseling, she was able to see the hurts for what they were and began to come to terms with the damage. In the process, her feelings about Larry grew softer.

Both Sara and Larry let go of the old hurts and took active measures to reconnect. Larry is “staying in the room” when Sara is struggling. Sara is feeling more secure in her relationship with Larry as she sees the changes he’s making. They use the words, I was wrong. I’m sorry I hurt you. Will you forgive me?

In the six weeks, they were in counseling with me, Larry and Sara were able to receive enough mercy and grace to forgive each other and make adjustments necessary to move forward
Today they report that shoes are no longer a weapon of choice, but something to wear.

Call to action:
Are you interested in getting help in your relationship?  Feel free to email me: john@johnthurman.net

Comments welcome.