Almost everyone I talk to in my capacity as a life coach and friend has said to me at some point “I just don’t like confrontation.” If you read my March 2013 article Confrontation or Communication (and if you haven’t you might want to) then you know that the word confrontation has a bad rap. More to the point, 90% of the time when you think something is, or will be, confrontational, what’s really at stake is that you need to tell someone something you know they don’t want to hear and therefore assume they will become defensive, which makes you offensive – or the bad guy.
But I’m here to tell you that while truth is hard, truth is always better and more beneficial than passive aggressive attempts to soften a blow, or worse yet, sheer avoidance. So take stock of your life and relationships, and see if there’s something you need to say to someone that you’re just not saying.
Are you afraid you’ll feel guilty – that’s usually what holds people back from sharing a important truth? Let me remind you that guilt is an emotional trigger designed to let your heart know when you’ve been ethically or morally wrong to another (or yourself). Telling the truth about your feelings, especially if done with tact and respect is never ethically or morally wrong. As for tact and respect, that does not mean candy-coating or making the ‘lead’ be so buried under tangential fluff that the recipient never really understands your feelings. How you keep tactful and respectful is by staying succinct, on point, and keeping it about facts and YOUR feelings.
Say for example your friends or family want to come visit for a week-long vacation. You haven’t enough room to house them all comfortably, and you have too much on your plate with work, kids, after-school activities, budgetary concerns, etc., so it would be highly inconvenient for them to stay in your home for an entire week, especially when you are not on vacation too.
You’re reluctant to tell them the truth and hurt their feelings, disappoint them, or screw up their plans, especially since it would feel like the dreaded “confrontation” because they’ve made it clear that this is happening regardless of your feelings. That is of course, because you haven’t been upfront with your feelings!
So you say something like: of course you’re welcome, but I can’t take any time off to be with you and we don’t really have enough beds for all of you. They say not to worry, they don’t mind sleeping on the sofa or floor and will be gone most of each day sightseeing . But you know that you’ll feel the stress of wanting to keep your house clean, keep your kids on their routines and schedules, and just have your own space after a long day of work.
Then you try the more direct approach, though still veiled: any chance you can schedule this for the week of [blank] because they kids have no school then and I can take some vacation days or even join you at a hotel and have a staycation? Once again, they appreciate your idea or concern, but assure you that this is the best for them and they’re okay with you not being available.
Either way you been passively vague about how their visit would affect you, and neither approach took care of your needs. Now my response from the start would be I would love to see you but I have to be honest the weekdays are just not good for us to have guests. I hope that doesn’t mess up your plans, and if you need any help finding affordable hotels in the area I’d be happy to get you some recommendations.
Most people will appreciate that you didn’t martyr yourself and in many cases they would feel the same way about a disruption to their work/school week. Others may not, but again I remind you that you have not been wrong to them, you’ve been honest and right for yourself and your family. If they are disgruntled by this it’s because they wanted or needed to save money and you’ve thrown a wrench into that. But is it fair that they put a strain on your resources and family’s’ needs because they want a vacation they can’t fully afford?
I understand that with family these concepts are often unimaginable due to the idea that family means unconditional acceptance and family-imposed burdens are a fact of life. But I feel that even with family, once we’re all adults, we have the right to put our needs and feelings first if the opposite would cause a detrimental disruption to our lives. Of course, I’m not talking about emergencies / crises – that’s when we do whatever is needed to be there for each other. My family and friends know that’s my code. But when their needs are voluntary or elective, then I speak the truth. Ultimately I do believe your friends and family will respect you for it, and if not, at the very least, you’ll have a less stressful week! Think about it, and as always I love to hear your perspective.
I overheard two nine year old girls talking the other day at a friend’s home. One tall, one short, neither thin, neither overweight – but clearly built very differently. The taller one was urging the shorter one to get on the scale to see what she weighed. Finally, reluctantly, she obliged and weighed in four pounds heavier than the taller girl. The taller girl then responded “ooh, maybe we should run around more at recess.”
What does this tell me? It tells me that the tall girl has probably been overhearing her mother lament about being over-weight. It tells me that at by third grade, she’s already assumed most adults’ belief that what the scale reads, defines how you are seen. It also shows me how much our kids are listening to everyone’s obsession with weight.
It’s not just the girls mind you, I’ve caught many a group of elementary school boys quickly (albeit amongst themselves) dismissing a girl based upon her weight, having learned early on that thinner is more attractive. All it takes is one tossed away comment by a Dad watching a model-eating-burger commercial like “now that’s hot” to take root his son’s head. (Don’t get me started on the irony of those silly commercials!)
If you’ve read my blog for any length of time you know that I do not own a scale, and berate my clients who use one to gauge their fitness. You should also know that I am trying to raise awareness with the world at large, as well as in my own home, that body fat vs. scale weight vs. internal health are three different things and should not be lumped together.
Clearly, being a personal trainer, there’s a lot of discussion in our home about nutrition, body fat, body acceptance, etc. My daughter is built on the short and stocky side, yet she is strong and healthy, and not fat. But put her next to her taller and leaner friends, sure she seems “thicker” – a perception that to the ignorant child/adult could be referred to as fat.
I work diligently to maintain her healthy self-esteem so that she will not suffer in middle-school, high- school and beyond. Young girls’ and boys’ feelings of inadequacy because society has deemed them inferior if they’re not built like models, starts in the home whether you’re aware of it or not.
My hope today for those of you who read this (and hopefully you’ll pass it on to reach more) is that everyone who worries about their “weight” should stop verbalizing their issues in front of their children. Husbands, wives, fathers, mothers, boyfriends, girlfriends – we all need to realize that one little innocuous sentence (“I can’t lose the last ten pounds, I hate the way I look”) can plant a very destructive seed in a little person’s brain.
So think about what you say around your kids, and what they might internalize about themselves from it. Engage in open discussions about health, nutrition, the differences in body types, and most importantly, that ultimately we must not judge books by their coverers – beauty is more than skin deep – and any other words of positive reaffirmation to remind them that life is about being a good person – not being perfect.
Today I wanted to share with everyone a very simple tool I offer my life coaching clients to help them keep on track with achieving balance in all aspects of their life. It’s an easy assignment, quick, affordable, yet effective: I call it a “Life In Balance Chart.”
Get a large dry-erase board, magnet board, or poster board and draw seven vertical columns and seven horizontal rows (creating 49 boxes of equal sizes – with enough room to write that week’s “achievements”).
The headings for the rows are: The headings for the columns are:
Friday Social (Friends)
Saturday Family & Home Life
The idea is to do something in each life column daily or weekly that enhances that area of your life. The rows (one for each day of the week) do not need to have all seven columns filled in, but to successfully achieve life balance you need to tend to each column at least twice a week. Columns like Intellectual and career might only have two achievements for the week, while emotional, physical, and family could (and should) have four to five.
Here’s a sample board to further illustrate the concept.
So next time you find yourself feeling imbalanced, unhappy, unmotivated – make a Life In Balance Chart and you’ll soon be on your way to better life fitness!
We all know that certain times of year there seems to be not enough time to get everything done. December is most certainly the busiest time of year (I even missed posting a blog last week because of my commitments and chores). I listen to my clients grumble that they have to go buy this, or committed to bake that, and they can’t make their training sessions because they promised the kids they’d take them ice skating though they “haven’t the time or energy.”
But something I have learned in my quest to maintain a martyr free life is that no matter how busy, no matter how many things you think need to be done, there is always time to stop and smell the gingerbread! The Holidays are supposed to be a time of joy, not stress and forced smiles.
Ultimately all any of us really want is to spend time together in a relaxed atmosphere, enjoying a cup of hot-cocoa (always quick and easy to make) and just sharing good times. Even kids would rather have your attention at home playing a card game, than ice skating if it means that you are uptight and irritated by the crowded (and often expensive) ice rink experience.
Traditionally, the holidays were a time when families gathered to enjoy the comfort of a warm home, a hearty meal, and laughter around the table. Simple, and often homemade gifts were exchanged, and most importantly the holiday period itself was 2 days (Christmas Eve and Christmas Day). Now we suffer the onslaught of holiday regalia and commercialism starting as early as October! The pressure is on to buy, bake, decorate, celebrate goes on for way too long!
So I say step off the holiday bullet-train. None of this really matters in the long run. Life goes on, friendships continue, and a life less stressed is worth more than the gratitude of that gift you hastily purchased in a crowded mall when your budget was already shot.
Short on time, money or ideas for gifts – give homemade cards that offer a “lets go see a movie together in the new year” or an invitation to “dinner at our house next month,” etc. Give your kids arts & crafts gifts that you will make with them during the school break. Stay home and just be with your loved ones.
As for me I make the following promises to myself every year:
- I’ll make time for the gym but I won’t worry about my calories
- I will give thoughtful but affordable gifts and won’t worry about if I’ve given enough
- I will remember that Christmas dinner does not need to be an exhausting production – just put a turkey in a roasting bag, throw some veggies in a casserole dish, and pour lots of wine.
In the end if will be the relaxed fun around the table that my guests will remember and they will know I love them — which is all anyone really wants at the Holidays!
“Money makes the world go around.” “Time is money.” These are adages we hear frequently. Almost everything we do equates in some way to the saving of money or the saving of time. Was one of the factors behind the choice of your current car it’s gas mileage, or it’s speed (because it would get you where you need to go faster – saving time)? Do you shop at Food For Less instead of Whole Foods because you get more groceries for your dollars, or are organic co-op produced foods more important to you?
Think about how many decisions and choices you make daily that meet one of these two criteria – money or time. Now ask yourself, how much are you worth? Is there a price? Equally as important, what is your time worth?
Robert Kiyosaki who wrote the popular book series Rich Dad Poor Dad asks this question. If you have a $10 error on your credit card statement, and it takes 30 minutes or more to dispute, was that worth your time? If you were paid $20 hourly, you just lost $10-20 fighting that $10 charge. What else could you have been doing with that time that might have netted you income (or much needed time for you that has no price tag).
Unfortunately, many of us focus on time or money as external to our personal value. Are you as valuable as your spouse, children, or parents? The answer is you and your health are invaluable. You cannot put a price on them. So why then, do you often put yourself last to the wants and needs of those around you? There’s a reason flight attendants instruct parents to place the oxygen mask over their faces before placing it on their children. It’s because without you, the rest of your family is lost. So when you make a choice that negates your own well being, you are negatively affecting those around you.
I’m speaking primarily to all the “super” women out there who take care of everyone else’s needs above their own. The quality of your life may be suffering by your insistence to do it all, be it all, and yet not expect and insist upon proper reward for your hard work. If it’s not in money, it needs to be in reciprocation of time off, emotional support, or sharing of responsibilities/chores.
Spouses need to be equal partners in sharing the load. Children need to learn to handle chores and responsibilities and appreciate what they are given. Family and friends need to return favors, initiate get-togethers, and offer their shoulders to lean on when it’s your turn to need support.
So the next time you feel resentment that you aren’t appreciated enough by those around you, look within. Do you value what you do and who you are? If you do, insist upon that from others. The famous quote from the movie Jerry McQuire suddenly has much more meaning: “Show Me The Money!”
Late August is that wonderful relaxing time of year when kids go back to school and life at home resumes a calm, happy routine. Breakfast is laid out with precision by a Mom in pearls and heels as children descend the stairs dressed and ready for their generic day of learning. After school kids play, do a smidgen of homework, then sit down for a hearty meatloaf with both parents present and communicating. Bedtime is quietly enforced at a strict hour of 8, after baths, tooth brushing, and good night kisses. Yeah, right, time for a reality check!
These days, many families live in a constant state of hectic home chaos. Whether married or single, Mom works a 9-5er too, so forget about pearls and perfectly placed hairdos! The kids are non-stop and noisy, shuttled between after-school sports, extra-circular academic courses, and three times the homework of yester-year. As for meals, especially dinner, that’s where order really falls apart.
Several of my clients state their biggest daily stress occurs between dinner and bedtime, and the “breakfast-get-ready-for-school/work hour.” It just shouldn’t be this hard!
Well it doesn’t have to be. Despite the increase of responsibilities and obligations on all family members, a simple plan of time management that involves both parents and children can eliminate that morning and evening stress. You might find these ideas either rigid or so simple that you wonder why I would even suggest them. But believe me, I run across so many people who suffer from a lack of organization and routine during these two periods of the day and all it would take is a little forethought and teamwork to alleviate the Hectic Home Blues.
1. Use Saturday or Sunday to pre-plan breakfast, lunch, and dinner menus, then grocery shop with a precise list. This doesn’t mean you have to follow or create specific recipes for these meals. Just have an idea of what you can serve (chicken and veggie stir fry one night, turkey burgers and a salad the next, turkey sandwiches with carrot sticks and grapes), etc.
2. Create a month-at-a-glance family calendar, color coded for each member of the family, listing ALL events, obligations, chores, and appointments. It should be updated weekly, and reviewed on Sunday by the whole family. This eliminates last-minute scheduling surprises.
3. Depending on where you can carve out a small block of time (morning before work, or evening after dinner), conduct any food prep for the following dinner (i.e., marinate the meat/chicken/fish; slice up the veggies, or just get all the pans and condiments out and ready on the counter).
4. Make all lunches the night before.
5. Involve your children in all activities from cooking to cleaning. Even a 4-5 year old can participate in some small cleanup chore, or simple food prep. Assign involvements/chores weekly.
6. After dinner is cleaned up, set the table (or counter) with breakfast dishes, and set out any thing such as cereal boxes or other non-perishable items.
7. Before bed, help the kids set out their clothing for the next day, and make sure school bags are packed and ready.
8. Finally, all young children should be in bed by 8:30 p.m. at the latest. (It’s even a good idea for teenagers as new studies show that teens are suffering in their growth and brain development from not enough sleep, due to earlier school starts times and in some cases, long commutes to school.) If they’re not ready to sleep, they can read, study, even feed their text message and IM addictions in their own rooms, but no more TV, and no more infringing on Mom and Dad’s evening space. You deserve that time!
Bringing these eight simple steps of order and logic into the house will give everyone a little more peace of mind. Children respond favorably to routines, once they know these are house rules. Consistence is key. Your stress will be reduced knowing there’s one less thing for you to worry about as you head into your busy day. Your evenings will be more relaxing, giving you and your spouse quality time together, or just some solo time to rejuvenate your spirit. This will afford you a better night’s sleep as well.
August (and all 12 months) can now feel more like those idyllic days gone by: a little slower, a touch calmer, and a time when each day starts and ends in House Harmony instead of Hectic Home Blues.