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

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