Saturday, May 29, 2010

Overwhelmed by Problems? Read on and Feel Better

By Julie Marie Rahm

In my last blog entry I mentioned a client who feels like he is in quicksand, overwhelmed by life’s challenges. If your metaphorical level is tilting from being overwhelmed by problems, read on to find out what to do about it.

Step one: Write down every problem you have. List them all. If you want to call them by a gentler term like “issues” or “challenges” feel free. Sometimes they really just feel like problems. If that’s the case refer to them accordingly. You can work your way up to better-feeling nouns. In the process, understand that you are not your problems. And, you can handle them. "Life is what happens while we're making other plans." (John Lennon)

Step two: Read each problem and decide if it is really your responsibility to solve. For instance, are you giving your adult kids money to pay their mortgages with no end in sight? Is that your responsibility, or are you depriving them of an experience the universe is providing to prepare them for something in the future?

Step three: Take out your metaphorical plumb bob and let it point to the heart of the matter. Identify which problem is the most important one to tackle first.

Step four: Use your metaphorical utility knife to cut your thought connection to the other problems on your list. Relieve yourself of the thought burden and confusion they create. Set the remaining problems aside so you can come back to them once the first problem is solved.

Step five: Use the Plumb Bob Priority Quiz below to prioritize issues in solving the problem.

Answer the question: What is the end result you can’t live without?

Get to the heart of the matter and determine your priorities by answering these questions.

1. Is there a physical safety risk?

2. Is there a financial safety risk?

3. Is there a relationship risk?

4. Is there an emotional/mental/spiritual risk?

5. Is there an integrity risk?

6. Is there a values risk?

Repeat this process until your problems are solved.

Whatever legal, moral and ethical path you take in problem-solving, know that no path is right or wrong. Each path simply provides different experiences. Some experiences feel better than others. You can handle it.

Friday, May 21, 2010

The Answer You Need When You Need It

By Julie Marie Rahm

Are more people living lives of “quiet desperation” today, or are more people who are living such lives finding me? My male clients have been particularly metaphorical lately. One describes his state of mind as if he is clutching the stick of a fighter jet with all his strength and placing his entire focus on ensuring the plane does not spin out of control. Another says he feels like he is in quicksand, falling in more deeply with every move.


For both men and for many of my clients, confusion is the predominant cause of such thoughts. Our world presents us with too many answers, too many possibilities, too many judgments, and too many unknowns. People want their lives to be different. They want better relationships, better jobs, better finances, better fitness, better health – more overall prosperity. They want to know where their unhappiness comes from. But how?

This is a job for their metaphorical “plumb bobs”. Their “plumb bobs” keep them centered by pointing to the heart of the matter, to what is most important, to the answer. The first cause of confusion is too much advice. (Yes, I realize the irony here.) Conflicting advice is everywhere. The first step they need to take is to turn off the advice and tune into their hearts and values. Are they aligned with their “plumb bobs” that point to them being true to themselves? Or are they being true to something or someone else? Whose opinion matters most? That is the first place to make an adjustment.

The second biggest cause of confusion is their life purpose. Often people are confused about whether their lives, their work, their sacrifices have even mattered. Their “plumb bobs” point to a resounding yes. People do the most good when they have no idea they have done it. In difficult times, people need to be kind to themselves knowing they have done the best they could with the knowledge, skills and abilities they had at the time. And, if they did not do their best, they need to forgive themselves and move ahead smartly now. It is never too late.

Planning for the future is the third source of confusion. People know they want a certain lifestyle and do not know how to ensure they have it. In that case their “plumb bobs” point to what they cannot live without. The rest is gravy.

Confusion stifles action. Action creates results. Having too many answers is worse than having no answers at all. During times of confusion your “plumb bob” is your handle out of the quicksand. Climb out and get back into action with confidence.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Is Life a Series of Random Events or a Purposeful Dance?

By Julie Marie Rahm

Do you ever have those days when it seems everyone in the world is just trying to block your progress and tick you off? My husband, John, has had several days like that over the past few months centered around attempting to title a Pennsylvania truck in North Carolina. The truck belonged to his father who died last August. His father had lung cancer for almost three years. Near the end of his life when he could no longer drive, he signed the title and sent it to John. Later, John signed the title and had his signature notarized. And then he went to the NC License Plate Agency.

At the Agency, the woman behind the desk asked him if the sale was from a family member. John informed her that it belonged to his father who died. She coldly responded that he needed paperwork from the estate attorney that said he should have the truck. Frustrated, John returned home.

A few weeks passed. Paperwork and title in hand, John returned to the NC License Plate Agency. This time the paperwork was in order, but John’s Florida driver’s license precluded him from registering the truck. The same woman informed him in her same cold manner that the truck could only be registered to someone with a NC driver’s license. Just to ensure that was always true, John went to the Agency in another city. Yes, it was true. The state of Florida allows people to renew their driver’s licenses online, a much easier process than in NC. John had a Florida license throughout his 26-year Marine Corps career and did not want to relinquish it.

I just renewed my NC driver’s license in April, so I was able to advise John that he would save a lot of time if he made an appointment. No one at the Department of Motor Vehicles office would have volunteered the information that appointments are possible, as I witnessed firsthand while I waited my turn. The next available appointment was three weeks in the future. Although he had asked questions of the person who made the appointment for him, he did not think to ask everything, and she did not volunteer the information. John needed to show his Social Security Card to get his license. He had everything but that with him. Although his military identification card has his social security number on it, that was not good enough. Since then, he has also learned that to prove he lives in NC he needs to bring a utility bill or something with his address on it. That’s where we are today. No truck registration. No driver’s license.

Throughout the process, John has had a number of great opportunities to be angry if he were looking for a reason to be. Not one of the government employees he spoke with volunteered anything to help him. In fact, they appeared to be void of compassion.

Remembering his metaphorical level, John has maintained his mental and emotional balance by looking at life as purposeful vs. random. On one side of the level life is a series of random events. On the other side of the level life a purposeful dance of events that teach lessons and cause personal growth. If John focused on life being random, his level would tilt and he would likely be angry about the treatment he received. Instead, John focused on the title and license exercises as a well-orchestrated ballet between himself and the government employees choreographed to teach him patience. Consequently, he harbors no anger, no resentment. No one wronged him. No one needs to apologize. No one needs forgiveness.

Patience does not come easily to John. It may be a lesson he is on earth to learn. If that is the case, he will have more opportunities to “dance” until he learns the lesson.

What verbal or written exchanges have you had with people lately that left you feeling wronged? Is it possible that those exchanges were really opportunities to learn an important lesson? Is there a “dance” that continually presents itself in your life? Check your metaphorical level. Is it tilting with thoughts that life is merely a series of random events? If so, try changing your focus. Use your metaphorical hammer and hammer out bad-feeling thoughts one at a time. Then, hammer in thoughts you believe and that feel better. If you feel enraged, find another thought you believe that brings you up to mere anger. Are you angry? Find another thought you believe that brings you up to blame. Hammer in one thought at a time and climb the emotional ladder until you feel a glimmer of hope again.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Regarding Moms

It’s Mothers’ Day, a day to celebrate and thank our moms for who they are and all they do. I’m glad someone thought up the holiday. At least once every 365 days moms can count on a word of appreciation. Often for the other 364 days we just expect moms to do what they do. After all, they are the moms - an all volunteer service.

Thank goodness moms have mastered motivating themselves. They know they are the “unknown architects” behind their husbands and children, creating a family and a household that is the best it can be. They know that raising children to be educated, good citizens is the most important job in the world. In fact, it ensures a brighter future for the world.

Most people talk about looking for another job when faced with bosses who expect them to do their jobs and other duties as assigned, void of appreciation or recognition. Another job in which their bosses will notice their sacrifices, efforts and creativity. In fact, many of my clients come to me in a career crisis, because they feel so undervalued. Moms, we appreciate you not changing jobs!

The question is do we crave words of affirmation because we have not discovered the real meaning in our work? Can knowing our daily lives have purpose and meaning balance the need for appreciation and recognition? Here is yet another application of our metaphorical levels – the balance between purpose and appreciation. Whatever we are doing at the moment is our purpose, and the world evolves best when we do our best. Whether I am washing the dishes, weeding the yard, or speaking to hundreds of people I am living my purpose. Each task has value even if only to me. Moms intuitively know this and that is why they continually execute their daily routines with competence and grace despite an appreciation deficit.

So here’s to moms. They bring us into this world and raise us to live in it. They persevere, sacrificing their needs for ours. And for one day each year, we honor and celebrate them. Congratulations, moms, on jobs well done!

Sunday, May 2, 2010

The Secret to Unlimited Power

By Julie Marie Rahm

This weekend I had the delightful experience of watching the movie Kung Fu Panda. The secret to unlimited power was revealed. The secret is there is no secret. What makes someone special is simply the belief that they are special. All we have is ourselves, our belief in ourselves, and others’ belief in us.


In the movie, Po the Panda was named the Dragon Warrior, the greatest warrior China would ever see. He had dreamed about being the Dragon Warrior, “blinding his foes with his sheer awesomeness”. In reality, he saw himself as an overweight panda that was unskilled in Kung Fu. Po’s metaphorical level tilted with negative thoughts from inside himself and from the mean words of the Furious Five as they told him he could never be the Dragon Warrior. It was Po’s father who helped him hammer out the negative thoughts by revealing the secret to his Secret Ingredient Soup. There was no secret ingredient. The soup was special because people believed it was special. With those words, Po hammered in the framework for success. He simply had to believe he could be Dragon Warrior and his actions and results followed, manifesting in his defeat of the evil Tai Lung and peace in the valley.

If you keep a list of inspirational movies, add Kung Fu Panda to the list. It’s terrific!
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