Sunday, October 30, 2011

Winds of Change

By Julie Rahm
Obvious to county residents, it is windy here in North Carolina. Allegedly, Chicago is the windy city. However, I think not. It was no mistake two bicycle making brothers from Ohio chose to fly their aircraft here. Orville and Wilber didn’t fly their craft on the banks of Lake Michigan. They came to our Outer Banks at considerable inconvenience. The winds are a mixed blessing. Sometimes, the winds arrive bringing a pleasant change of season. Other times, the wind roars into the county leaving a path of destruction unlike anything in recent history. Regardless, the wind always brings change. I wonder what causes the change in people’s lives. I guess that change is part of life and being human. I see that some county residents deal with change better than others. There are a lot of theories on change acceptance. But generally, the experts think there are four stages of change as they relate to human emotion.

The first stage of change is Denial. My husband, John, gets stuck here a lot. I know because often, the first words out of his mouth are “No way” or “You gotta be kiddin me.” Words like these are evidence of denial. An extreme example was John’s Grandfather. He was stuck in denial when, in 1954, the Philadelphia Athletics baseball team moved to Kansas City and eventually Oakland California. He refused to call the team the Oakland A’s. Until he passed away in 1997, John’s Grandfather always referred to the Oakland A’s as the Philadelphia A’s! Forty-three years is really being stuck in denial! It is important to move out of denial and into the next stage which is Anger and Blame.

Anger and Blame are easy to recognize. This stage of change is charged with emotion. It can be paralyzing and extremely unproductive for the individual. At times, the worst in an individual surfaces causing unintended consequences. Self discipline and self awareness are good remedies to move on to the next stage of change which is Reluctant Acceptance.

Reluctant Acceptance is often characterized by bargaining and compromise. Children are masters of this stage of change. They usually move quickly through Denial and Anger and into Reluctant Acceptance. Most children, as dependents, realize they are not masters of their own destiny and focus their efforts in this stage of change in order to minimize the impact of the impending change. As an example, when children change schools, they attempt to negotiate for return visits, Skype accounts etc. This bargaining is evidence they are through the Denial and Anger.

Commitment is the final stage of change. Commitment is also easy to recognize. John says commitment in the Marine Corps is like the turkey at Thanksgiving, you’re all in!

So, when the winds bring change into your life, remember the four stages of change. When you recognize them in yourself and others, your awareness will lead you to a more productive mindset and a better outcome. Learn more at my website www.themindsetmechanic.com.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Stuck in Punctuation

By Julie Rahm


Written language does not come easily to me. Writing this column requires a lot of effort. I struggle with most sentences. I’m reluctant to learn how much time each of my words takes to move from my mind onto the paper (or computer monitor). It probably takes an inordinate amount of time per word. A subset of the struggle to compose a column is the punctuation. If writing is difficult, then the punctuation really requires effort. I still recollect my English teacher administering tests that required us to properly add the punctuation to sentences. For me, and most, the tests were nightmarish. I dislike punctuation. One week, while writing this column, I left out all the punctuation. I omitted all the periods, commas, question marks, exclamation marks and apostrophes. My thought was; it wouldn’t matter and I would be able to capture my thoughts without all the punctuation. I just slammed my thoughts into the computer with total disregard. Well, the column turned out a real mess. I could not decipher anything I wrote. I had to start all over from scratch making sure to include the punctuation. Then it occurred to me. Punctuation is a natural part of life. The universe and all things natural require punctuation. Even relationships require punctuation. The punctuation in your relationship helps organize the details.


As my own example, most times, when my husband John asks me “What to do?”, he is not asking a question. Before the words leave his mouth, he has thought about the possibilities and outcomes. He knows what he wants to do before the “What to do?” question comes my way. He has usually mentally discussed “What to do?” before he asks me. Therefore, in our relationship, the “What to do?” questions come my way without question marks. John’s “What to do?” questions come with periods instead. With these questions, I understand the punctuation in our relationship. Instead of “What to do?”, I have learned to hear; “I have thought about this and already know what I want to do. I just want a little discussion to ensure I have chosen correctly, offer you a small opportunity to voice an opinion and gain your concurrence with my choice.” This is what John exactly means when he asks me “What to do?”.

Another example of relationship punctuation is my use of exclamation marks. When speaking, I over use exclamation marks!!! Most sentences that leave my mouth have exclamation marks!!! I am passionate about everything!!! John has mastered the punctuation and mentally omits the extraneous exclamation marks. As a result, he doesn’t get excited about my excitement. It calms our dialogue and we have more productive conversations.

Mastery of punctuation in a relationship is an acquired skill that once learned provides great reward. So when listening to your significant other, consider the punctuation. Is the question really a question? Is an exclamation mark really required? Enjoy better conversations and a healthier mindset!

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Bare Spots

By Julie Rahm

Hurricane Irene trashed our landscaping. Water from the creek uprooted then swept away our shrubs, small trees and pine straw. For a few hours, we really had property on the water or rather, in the water! When the water did recede, our yard resembled a trench warfare scene from World War I. Everything was scoured and stripped bare. We’ve spent hours hauling fill and mulch back onto the yard to cover the bare spots. The yard cover up has been a huge effort. As we neared completion, it occurred to me people also expend a lot of effort covering up their own bare spots. Similar to us covering the bare spots in our yard, some people go to great lengths to cover their own shortcomings.

Why are some so concerned about their shortcomings? Do they have a fear of being judged? Will we like them less if we know them more? Some people practice image control as a hobby. I once had a client who wanted desperately to have her own business. The community had a need for what she wanted to offer. I had no doubt her business would be an overwhelming success. However, her fear of being judged caused her to constantly lie about how well the business was going. She never could catch up with her stories. The energy she expended on image stifled her creativity and initiative. Even though her business seemed destined to be successful, her fear of failure kept her merely limping along. The root of her concern was the inevitable criticism from her family should she fail at her new business. It was sad to see a vibrant and intelligent entrepreneur stuck in the status quo.

How often do we fail to make our relationships better because we’re worried about exposing our “bare spots”? Especially during the early part of any relationship there is marketing. Bare spots are definitely covered up. Everyone puts their best foot forward in order to woo a perspective mate. And then it’s difficult to meet expectations later. I credit the success of my marriage to John with not having those first six months or so of good behavior. We met at work during a meeting when neither of us was looking for a relationship. The mother of all arguments ensued between us and in front of everyone. I not only won the argument, but also earned a new nickname, the Blond Pitbull. So when John asked me to dinner the following year I had a sudden thought that maybe a relationship between us could work. The opportunity for marketing ourselves to each other had long since passed. And yet he still wanted to have dinner with me, “bare spots” and all.

The next time you find yourself masking your “bare spots”, take a moment for self-reflection. It takes a lot of energy to be something you’re not. And who you are may be exactly perfect for the situation at hand.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Do You Care?

By Julie Rahm


I’ve visited different parts of our county to witness firsthand how the hurricane recovery effort is progressing. I’m pleased to report we’re making great progress with still a great distance to cover. Help arrives from all over. But, the best assistance doesn’t come from Washington D.C. or Raleigh. The best assistance comes from within the county itself; from neighbors, friends, relatives, clubs and churches. County residents truly care about one another. So, it is “caring” that brings you my message this week. You see, caring is not just a way of feeling. Caring is also a way of behaving. Often, we treat “care” like an adjective. We say “I care”, when we describe ourselves. It is too often used a passive descriptor. In reality, the word “care” is a verb and implies action. In relationships, couples stop “caring” because behavior has changed. Feelings follow behavior. Without caring behavior, there will be no caring feelings. Here are some small behaviors that will rekindle the caring in your relationships:

Do it, don’t say it. Your actions speak louder than words and hollow words are a worthless commodity. Of course, this doesn’t mean you don’t have to say it. You still must communicate your feelings. Words still matter. But, what matters even more are the actions behind the words. Do what you say.

Refuse to argue and pick your battles. You can be right or you can be happy. The choice is yours. My husband John says, “Great countries don’t fight small wars”. Letting the “small ones” go is a good strategy for a successful relationship. Keep in mind the end state you’re trying to achieve. What will be the cost of winning a particular argument? To their detriment, couples often lack a long term perspective.

Apologize even if you’re not wrong. And, apologies must be genuine. “I’m sorry you were hurt by that”, is not an apology! I prefer the words “I apologize” rather than “I’m sorry”. The latter just describes how you’re feeling and offers nothing to your partner. Again, “sorry” is an adjective and “apologize” is a verb. Verbs are more effective.

Do something unexpected. Unexpected is one of the ingredients of romance. Unexpected doesn’t have to be big or expensive. Bring home her favorite food. Leave a note in his shoe. Do your partner’s chore. I get huge appreciation when I drag the trash can to the curb. You’ll get big points for unexpected. Romance doesn’t have to be expensive.

Sharing is caring. Everything must be, at the very least, offered for sharing. Sharing is the foundation for a relationship. Even the bad things must be shared. Successes and failures must be jointly experienced. No sharing equals no caring. Food, drinks, finances etc. without exception.

Fake it till you make it. Behaviors foster feelings. If you’ve lost the spark, do those caring things that earned you the relationship you remember. For more tidbits, visit my website at www.TheMindsetMechanic.com.
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