Second Thought, First Action

I am so glad I found Cine Club Los Cabos. Every Thursday they show movies for free at the local high school. This month will be French films with Spanish subtitles, which will be a fun language lesson for me. Last month they showed movies about and created by women. “BrØdre” or Brothers was one of the movies shown. Although it centered around two men, it was a film written and directed by Danish filmmaker Susanne Bier. The film shows the progression of the no-good alcoholic brother becoming a standup man, and his brother falling into violence and lies after being an upstanding citizen, good husband, and esteemed military leader.

The start of the fall begins when the older “good” brother has to make a life or death decision in wartime. He may not have made the choice we would hope he would, but it was during a war and he was going to die otherwise. I couldn’t really fault him for what he did. What did become difficult to watch was how he lied about the incident again, and again, and again. In one scene, he goes to visit the family of the man he killed. If ever there was a chance to redeem oneself, this would be it. But instead of telling the whole truth or at least that her husband is dead, he tells a massive lie which gives the spouse hope of her diseased husband coming home with no potential of it ever occurring. As I shook my head and sighed, I noticed the woman in front of me doing the same.

How easy it is to see what someone should do and how difficult it is for us to do it in our own life.

angry action
Photo by Heather M. Edwards on Unsplash

I have been doing a lot of personal work lately (again, still) and one of the things I am focusing on are my thoughts and reactions to situations.  I am noticing how my first thoughts when I am triggered are to blame the other person. I can put together a laundry list of how they are a bad person and how what they did is inexcusable. My first desire is then to attack them for how bad they are. Instead, now I try to stop and to look at my part. Once I can see how my words and actions caused or inflated the situation or maybe how I would act the same as they did if the roles were reversed, I can find empathy for the other person and find the right words to make it a growth experience for both of us.

It is not easy, or even commonplace, to not act rashly out of anger. Go on social media for 10 seconds and you can find 50 people who are more than happy to blame the other for the ills of the world. The other political party, the other race, the other gender, the other baseball team. Someone can always be found to blame for the bad in our lives. As a society we thrive off being justified in our anger, outraged, and attacks on the “bad guy.” What we are not good at is taking personal responsibility. I am certainly not perfect at this either. A concept I heard that helps me and has become my mantra in contentious situations is, “I am responsible for my second thought and my first action.”

Second Thought

We are human. More times than not our first thought will be self-serving. Our first thought will be anger. Our first thought will be attacking others. Our first thought will be self-protecting. Our first thought will be based on the fears we learned in our childhood. We are not bad people because we have that first thought. We all do and that is ok. Where the power and freedom and strength come in is when we pause and allow ourselves to have that second thought. When we can look past ourselves to what the other may be experiencing. When we can find empathy and understanding for their situation. This second thought frees us from how we always react. It frees us from mental pain and anguish. This second thought opens up better ways for us to approach our lives and our relationships.

First Action

Most of us tend to live life using knee-jerk reactions. We get cut off in traffic, think the guy is a jerk, and find ourselves flipping him the bird before we consciously choose to. Much of the actions we do during the day are done unconsciously and based on our first, not-so-ideal thoughts. When we take the time to stop and think a second thought, and have the courage to wait for that second thought before we act, we can create a brand new life.

As you go about your week, be aware of your first thoughts. Can you pause long enough to have second thought before you act?

conformity

I’m Not Normal, and it’s Awesome!

For my entire life, I thought I was not normal. Not being normal, not fitting in, made me sad. I had a hard time relating to my peers. I wasn’t good in groups.  I laughed at what others didn’t laugh at, and it was awkward. I perceived the world in a way that others did not. I was not like other people. I felt alone and longed to fit in.

conformity
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In my 30’s, I had a brief stint with the cool kids. I was accepted as normal.  I was part of a group.  We did everything together. At first it was exhilarating. Until it wasn’t. What I realized was that to be part of the group, I need to think, act, and speak exactly how they did. Individuality was not welcome. I watched as they all started to have the same catch phrases, clothes and haircuts. They had to do the same things and were always together. They were lemmings. Identical little robots. To fit in, to be normal, I could no longer be me. As soon as I began to be me again, the group went away.  And that was ok with me.

Today, I may not be fully and utterly myself each and every moment. But I am certainly more myself, more not-normal than anything else. I don’t fit anyone else’s mold. I don’t look and act like others.  And I am pretty happy. Normal is defined at “conforming to the standard or the common type.” If to be normal is to be made to conform, to be like everyone else, then no thank you. I’d rather be me.

I saw a terrific TED talk the other day by Caroline McHugh. She is in the business of helping people to know, accept and truly be themselves.  She believes that we all know who we are and what we are here to express. We see it clearly as children and then begin to see it again in our later years. We see our truth without the fear of what others will think of us and without the restrictions of other’s expectations. We are boldly and unapologetically us. Being oneself frees us from comparison. I am not trying to be someone else so being more than or less than them doesn’t exist. I am not comparing myself to them and their accomplishments. My only goal is to be fully, completely and solely me. As is mentioned in the TED talk, when “we have our own thing, that’s the magic.” We can never excel by imitation. Success, achieving our life purpose is found only by embracing the true self we were each meant to be.

In being our self, we not only remove comparison, but we can accept ourselves completely. I have been listening to an Insight Timer course by John Siddique called Self-Acceptance through Authenticity. In one of the modules, I finally felt a piece of myself integrate making me whole, maybe for the first time. For many years, I have rejected the judging part of myself because I thought it was bad. The Myers-Briggs assessment told me I was a judger. My honest appraisal of myself tells me I am a judger. I felt this was bad. Judging others is bad, right? But it is innate in me, so did that make me innately bad? I have tried for decades to get rid of it, but I can’t. Judging is second nature for me. What finally clicked through this course, is that my ability to see defects and flaws in others is what allows me to be a good coach. I don’t attack people with my judgment it as I did when I was younger. I use this ability to see clearly and deeply into someone helping them to see themselves fully, so they can use the information to become the best person they can be.  I can not help from seeing people’s glitches. And that is ok. It does not make me a bad person. It is actually one of the things that makes me, me.

Being normal, adhering to a standard is restriction. We are not meant to conform to a standard. We are not meant to be anyone else. We are not meant to fit a certain mold. We are each unique and different and are here to bring something special to the world. Stop blocking your purpose. Be weird. Be abnormal. Be you. And notice how much happier you are and how the world is better because of it.

queer eye

Lies and Truth

Have you caught the reboot of Queer Eye? Netflix has picked up the series with a new Fabulous Five and a mission this time to teach and learn acceptance. Both of the new Fab Five seasons are must see, but the Big Little Lies episode in the second season caught my eye. If you don’t have Netflix, you can learn a bit about the episode here.

It is easy to get upset with Ari, the young man the Fab Five are helping. He is a liar. It is easy to see from the first words that leave his mouth that he shirks responsibility and tells tales. It is also clear that he thinks he is charming people into believing him, but he isn’t. Like most liars, the only one who believes the lie is the liar.

queer eyeWhen we run into liars we want to call them on it. We want to yell at them to cut the bull and tell the truth. Unfortunately, if we do this, the only result is the person becomes defensive or combative and digs deeper into the untruths. In the episode with Ari, I thought they were going to call him to the carpet when they hooked him up to a lie detector, but then the show takes an amazing twist **spoiler alert** they don’t give him the results. In fact, no one looks to see if or what he lied about. Instead of the Fab Five being the condescending parent or authority figure calling Ari on his BS, they turn responsibility for Ari’s lies over to him. Ari is the only one who knows if he lied in the test and now he has to live with it.

When I first saw the episode, the lesson I took away was regarding my own lies and half truths about my time in the UCLA theatrical directing graduate school. I had been embarrassed that the school kicked me out, so instead of boldly telling the truth, I said “I left.” It was true. I did leave. What I did not express was the fact I was asked to leave. When Queer Eye did not force Ari to fess up to his lie, what I heard was that the only person who knows, needs to know, and needs to live with the truth is me. I did not tell the whole truth because I was afraid of being judged. It became easier to share my truth when I realized that I was already being judged – each and every day by myself. Being completely honest also helped me let go of the incident. I could let go of my fear of being imperfect and move on with my life.

Lying is a defense mechanism used to protect ourselves from how we think others see us. Lying on the deepest level is a way for us to hide from ourselves. It is hard to be 100% open, honest, and truthful with others and even more so with ourselves. It is scary to see ourselves naked and vulnerable; to be an open book. It takes courage to be completely open with everyone, including ourselves, in every moment. But when we do, we are empowered like never before.

Without the lies hiding our fears, we are free. We can tackle anything because we are free of the bondage of our lives. To move forward in life, we need to release our fears, let go of the lies, and share our truth. Fear and lying only hold us back.

Fears

What are you afraid of sharing? What is keeping you from being 100% honest? Many times it is our fear of being less than. We are afraid of others being upset or leaving us due to our actions, thought, or beliefs. Yet these fears may be unfounded. We can never know 100% how people will react until we share our truth.

Acceptance

We may think we are getting away with a lie, but usually we are not. A lawyer friend of mine used to joke, “Nothing is illegal, unless you get caught.” Many of us live our lives lying under the radar. And many times we can get away with our lies. Either no one knows or no one calls us on it. We think we have gotten away with something and in one way we have. But in a much bigger way we have not. We have to live with our lie. We are the ones up sleepless nights worrying about being caught. Our lies and fears eat away at us day and night.

Courage

Being 100% honest in everything, takes a lot of courage. Many of us have told little white lies to protect someone’s feelings or not ruffle feathers, but is it truly the best choice? Every time we run from our whole-hearted truth, we are making a small tear in our relationships. We should never share a truth that would intentionally hurt another, but everything else is fair game.

Watch yourself this week. What lies are you telling? What are you trying to cover up with the lie? What are you afraid of? What do you need to accept about yourself? Do you have the courage to tell the truth?

books

What Can You Trust?

Like many coaches and psychologists, I have looked at the famous Stanford prison experiment to show how power and perception of rank changes how we treat each other, see our place in the world, and believe in our ability to affect change. The results of this experiment state that those pretending to be guards began to treat those playing inmates harshly as soon as they were given the power. The inmates in turn became depressed and powerless. Truth is though, the experiment, which is still being included in college text books, was falsified. Additionally, it turns out this experiment taken as real for years, is not the only one purposefully or unintentionally misleading.

When I ran across this great article exposing issues with currently accepted psychological experiments, it reminded me of a time when I was doing marketing research for a company. The research did not reflect positively for the goals of the sales department. The managers of the company pressured me to manipulate the research data so that it was more convincing for our clients. I refused. The managers, however, adjusted the results on their own, eventually winning the contract and creating issues when the product did not perform as well as the doctored research.

books
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Never in my lifetime have I seen more of a need to qualify and confirm the information being presented to us through books, articles, and news sources. In this time of easy information and no supreme governing body over the quality of information, it is very important to analyze the source of the information, the quality of the information, and the conclusions drawn.

Analyze the Source

What is the agenda of the source? What does the source have to gain by swaying you one way or the other? If your best friend of 40 years tells you that your new spouse is cheating on you, but your spouse says s/he is not, who has the most to gain by lying? Even when I read news from a source I trust, I often look for corroborating reports. I’ll especially look for news outlets removed from the topic so they have less of a tendency to create bias as they have no stake in the issue.

Analyze the Quality of the Information

Where is the information coming from? Is it first-hand experience or a game of telephone? What scientific, objective methods were used? Can what is being told be proved? Is the information presented as tangible facts or conjecture? Is what is being relayed objective or an interpretation?

Analyze the Conclusions

Before we could see the subatomic particles of an atom, we thought the atom was the smallest component and therefore any conclusions around that topic were limited by that belief. Are the conclusions in what you are reading limited by what we currently know? Are there facts missing which would affect the presented conclusions? Is there social or cultural bias affecting what is being presented? Can you see alternate conclusions based on the facts?

If you are only trusting one source, or even one person for your news, you are giving your power away. Gather a broad palette of information and then question everything before accepting what is presented. We can be easily deceived by those who are intentionally or unintentionally trying to manipulate us for their own purposes.

yoga studio

Step into the Front of Life

In yoga, I usually grab the back corner. I don’t want anyone to see me doing yoga. I am recently back to the practice, round and not stick-figure-toned, and usually older than most of the other practitioners. Most of the time, I am surrounded by fit, thin 20-somethings and feel like the ugly duckling so I retreat to the back. However, from the back corner, what I see is not just the instructor but all the participants. As my focus is on them, I find I often compare myself to them. I am not judging them as much as I am judging myself, my ability, and my worth by their ability and appearance.

yoga studioOn Friday I arrived and no one else was there. I took a place upfront because I knew the instructor would make me move anyway. Well by the time the class started, there were three rows of people. I took a deep breath and prepared for being on display. What was interesting was being in front made me less conscious of others, less self-conscious, and less judging. Because I didn’t see anyone else, I could release the comparison and solely focus on myself.

What I realized was hiding in the back didn’t protect me. It actually made me more self-conscious because I saw the others in front of me. Being in the back put more focus on others and allowed me the opportunity to compare myself to them. Being in the back did not hide and protect me, but actually hurt me because I choose to compare.

By making myself first, in the front of the room, I could not see the others. The others didn’t matter when I couldn’t see and focus on them. By putting myself first, I removed “the other” and allowed me to focus on myself. That day in class was one of my best practices I experienced because it was just about me. No comparisons. No self-consciousness. Just doing my best and accepting myself as I am. Because I was not focusing on others, I was able to go within (the whole point to yoga). I was able to focus on my moves, my practice. I found strength I didn’t have when I was self-conscious. Without the yoke of comparison, I was free to explore each pose. I found this practice to be one of the best I ever had.

As you go about your day, how much time is spent comparing yourself to others? How much of your focus is on what others are doing and saying versus what you believe and think? How are you stifling yourself because you don’t think you are as [insert adjective here] as others?

This week be aware of the comparisons and judgements you are making. What do they mean about your self-opinion? How are they keeping you from moving forward? Are they creating resentment and sadness? Then try to shed the comparisons and notice how you can free yourself. When we put ourselves first, we unrestrict our purpose and heart and we are more powerful. Stop hiding behind others, and step into the front of life.

walking in anothers shoes

Walking in Another’s Shoes

I watched a terrific TED talk the other day by an individual who has a unique view on gender issues and authenticity. Paula Williams started life as a man and is now a woman. Due to her experiences, Paula has a very unique view of both genders and has experienced firsthand that they are equal, but there is not equity for both. She shares funny and sad examples of bias and favoritism. She said she lived life from both sides and the “differences are massive.”

I’ll let Paula’s message focus on the gender issue. What I want to focus on is our assumptions and unconscious bias, and the power we give away to others.

Releasing Assumptions

walking in anothers shoesPaula has a unique opportunity to really learn what it really means to be and experience life as a woman, and a man.  For most of us, we only know what we know as our gender. We can have an idea of the injustices and differences but can’t know firsthand how both genders experience life. This is true for almost everyone we meet. We all have unique journeys. We are born into different bodies and different environments. We learn and experience different things growing up. It becomes all too easy to dislike or attack another because of one aspect we see. Yet, we don’t know the full picture. Unless you can truly walk in another’s shoes, you will never know what they experience, think, and believe. We can assume, but our assumptions are clouded by our own experiences and beliefs.

Next time you have a disagreement or negative reaction to another, stop. Step back. Try to look at the big picture of who this individual is, where they came from, and if other issues they may be experiencing may be coloring their actions. So much of the online and offline rage and arguments we see are based on assumptions and “the other.” When we can release our own bias, it allows us the space to see the full picture of the other person – and start an intelligent dialogue.

Empowerment

For those of you who are struggling with self-esteem and your voice, Paula has some great words of encouragement. I have experienced people throughout my life, and even recently, who sought to put me down and belittle me in one form or another. If we hear – and take in – this negativity for too long, we can start to believe it and take it on as our own. No matter what others say about you, remember that you are intelligent and worthy. Stay true to yourself. Stay true to what you know. Don’t question yourself just because others do. The key to strength and power is to believe it inherently. When we look to others for approval and confirmation, we have already given away our power. Reclaim your strength by owning it.

As you go about this week, notice the assumptions you have about others. How much do you really know about them? Can you identify and, hopefully, release your bias? Who are people who make you doubt yourself? Why are you triggered by them? What do you need to own about yourself? This week, follow Paula’s lead and honor the journey and the differences of others, and yourself.