Saturday, September 24, 2011

Snow Shovels

By Julie Rahm

Three weeks after hurricane Irene, our yard is getting back to normal. We have moved tons of washed-in debris off our property and onto the curb. At least it seems like tons! All this debris was not ours. Most of it washed in with the storm and got deposited on our lawn. During the cleanup, we found our snow shovel’s lost utility. It has only been used once or twice since moving down south. But, we almost wore it out shoveling the lawn. The amount and coverage of the lawn debris was amazing.

Interestingly, the storm was good at carrying debris in but not out. To me, the lawn debris is a mental metaphor. I liken the debris to another person’s judgment and criticism. Like the storm’s debris, unwanted judgment and criticism arrive and stay. Criticism lingers on our mental lawn ruining the landscape and our perspective of ourselves. When inevitable criticism does arrive, it must be met with resilience and maturity. Often, we feel anger when criticized. This is our ego defending us. Our unconscious mind asks, “What if this criticism is true?” and reacts with a dose of anger in defense. Unlike football, the best defense against criticism is not offense. The best defense against criticism is actually defense. Don’t personalize criticism. Keep it on your outside. If the criticism is true, embrace it and work harder at becoming better. If the criticism is not true, deal with it in a constructive manner. In either case, criticism must be processed on the outside of ourselves. Don’t let anyone leave storm debris on your mental lawn.

Sometimes criticism is not intended. Many critical people don’t know they’re critical. Once, I was hired by a company to “fix” a middle manger. He was viewed as confrontational and critical. Productivity was suffering along with the employees. Lacking self awareness, this manager viewed himself as helpful and constructive. The real issue was his delivery. My husband John says, “If your only tool is a hammer, you see every problem as a nail.” This manager just needed some more tools. After a few short sessions with me, he learned to always lead with a positive and understate the negative. He learned to think about the end states he desired and best way to achieve them. And, after learning some effective techniques to change employee behavior, the critical work environment in this company morphed into a positive healthy place.

In life, storms come and go. At some point, we can all expect a storm surge of judgment and criticism to sweep into our lives. The key to happiness is a quick clean up. So, don’t let the debris come to rest on your mental lawn. Meet judgment and criticism with resilience and maturity. Snow shovel that unwanted debris right to the curb where it belongs!

Get your own metaphorical snow shovel and remove storm debris from your mental lawn by visiting my website at

Friday, September 2, 2011

Should Be and As Is

By Julie Rahm

Hurricane Irene has ripped into Pamlico County leaving a huge amount of devastation. Unfortunately, with the devastation, often comes despair. When the storm surge subsides, despair remains behind. It is not the destruction left behind by hurricane Irene that is fatal. Often fatal is the despair that remains long after the hurricane has moved up the coast. The loss of possessions will not ruin a life. But the accompanying despair will ruin those things most dear. Relationships, marriages, employment and health will all eventually fall victim to despair. Despair is a mental cancer that spreads into a life leaving the victim hopeless. Even worse, a case of despair is not easily cured.

However, some Pamlico County residents handle the devastation and despair with little effort. They are credited with resilience and positive attitudes. Their strength is touted as an example for all of us to follow. But as I examine these residents, I have learned the resilient are fundamentally different than the rest of the majority. They view their world in a fundamentally different way. Those that thrive, in any circumstance, view the world “As Is” not as it “Should Be”. They are focused in a constructive way. Being focused on things “As Is” makes individuals neutral about their personal losses from hurricane Irene.

For example, when the entire first floor of their beautiful home gets blown back into the Neuse River, the resilient are not focused on “Should Be”. They are focused on the fact that the first floor is gone, “As Is”. Despair doesn’t take hold in these residents. They remain in the present; ready to move forward with their lives. As a contrast, those focused on “Should Be” are stuck facing backward. They cannot move on from the thought that their first floor “Should Be” here. They cannot move forward because they are not in the present. A focus on “Should Be” leaves the door open for despair to arrive and thrive.

As another example of “As Is”, a Pamlico County resident was without electric, water and phones for days. His car was totally flooded. This resident was completely cut off from everything comfortable and routine. However, he was not focused on his current plight and what “Should Be”. He was focused on “As Is”. A few days after the storm, I found him barbequing his soon to be spoiled freezer contents for his neighbors. He was still cheerful without an ounce of despair. He camped out on his back deck and enjoyed things “As Is” without a thought of how his circumstances “Should Be”.

The distinction between “Should Be” and “As Is” cannot be overstated. It is a very subtle but substantial difference in the mindset of people allowing them to thrive despite the circumstance.

Get your prescription of “As Is” by visiting my website at And, listen to the Mindset Mechanic Radio Show, Saturdays at 5PM on FM107.1 WTKF.

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