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Monday
Aug172009

“Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime” 

Over the years I have been so bad about letting my husband do things for me like fix my computer, figure out certain software programs and fixing things around the house. It just seems so much easier since he can figure anything out. Well, lately I’m asking him to sit down and show me how to do some of these things for myself. I know he thinks it would still be easier and quicker just to do it himself but I’m trying to challenge myself to be more independent. Accomplishing tasks on your own improves self confidence and self esteem. Depending on others becomes a crutch and can be very limiting. What if the person you depend on is no longer there or what if they are not available when a need comes up. You would have to put these tasks on hold or never accomplish them, which can be quite frustrating. Think how empowering it would feel to take that control back into your own hands. Clients often, when in distress, express a need to have things handed to them in order to get relief fast. Many even want a pill to take care of the problem. When this occurs I think of the quote above. I teach them coping skills to help them take their power back, and this way they have those skills available to them in the future to deal with various other obstacles that will surely come their way. I challenge you to expand your own skill set and knowledge base today. When this opportunity comes your way just ask yourself “Is this something that I am capable of doing with a little bit of effort and time on my part?” If so, why not try to master a new skill and see how different this feels compared to asking or expecting someone else to step in and do it for you. From my experience, I can tell you it feels great to be self reliant!

 

Tuesday
Jul282009

Gaining Wisdom from the Mistakes of Others 

Have you heard the phrase, “They have to learn from their own mistakes?” I’ve been thinking about this concept for a while now, and I have determined that it would be so much more sensible to learn from others’ mistakes. This has been my motto for the past few years. I observe others, and I really listen to what people around me have to say about their life experiences. I listen to their regrets, what struggles they have gone through, what they have found that works or doesn’t work for various issues, what they would have done differently and of course what they would avoid altogether had they known then what they know now. I value this information and I use it in my everyday life now. You wouldn’t believe how much time and suffering you can save yourself if you open your ears to those around you that have more life experience than you do. I consider them experts in life lessons. And the best part about this, is that all this knowledge is free. Most people want to share these words of advice with others if it means someone would benefit from their experience. Many people seem to be in their own worlds these days, and it seems they feel they will just learn from whatever life throws at them. But I say a wiser person would listen to those who have faced these same struggles before and gain as much knowledge as we can from as many people as we can. This way we can side step many of the obstacles that life throws our way. I don’t know about you, but life is hard enough as it is so I am happy to find any way I can to make things a little easier. Who says wisdom has to come from the number of years we have walked this earth or the number of problems we have solved. I say wisdom comes from the number of lessons that we have learned whether that be from personal experience or from gaining advice from others. If I can learn from someone else’s mistake and avoid having to experience that pain and consequence myself then that seems wise to me.


Quote “The way of a fool seems right to him, but a wise man listens to advice.”

 

Sunday
Jun072009

Pessimism or Optimism: Is there another option?

You often hear people advising to replace negative thoughts with positive thoughts to change your circumstances. Well, that is good in theory; however, it doesn’t always work that easily. I think there is another option. What if we replace negative thoughts with realistic thoughts? For those of us who are more on the pessimistic side of things this seems more doable. Often in therapy sessions with clients, I see their reactions to positive psychology talk. Many people won’t even give it a chance because they assume it will not work for them because it is so far from their current way of thinking. I often propose that clients then consider substituting those negative/pessimistic thought patterns with ones that are more likely to happen (this would be the realistic viewpoint). They seem more open to this suggestion. I think it is often too much of a stretch to ask someone to change from one end of the spectrum to the other. I have learned that even with myself shooting for a balance in between the two is something that is more effective for me. Many people are put off by seemingly “magical” solutions to their problems. The clients I work with have suffered greatly and are still in the midst of many struggles. They can’t envision their life miraculously evolving into a fairytale by thought substitution. It is more realistic to choose goals that are actually attainable and ones that are more likely to happen. It is more effective for them to work towards something that feels comfortable. Not everyone wants to snap their fingers and be the opposite of who they started off as.

Experience has taught me that therapy isn’t about creating a perfect life for my clients. Let’s face it, that isn’t going to happen. Life is hard; life is challenging. My goal is to help make life a little better for them and to make each day more bearable than it is now. Most of my clients are relieved when this topic comes up in our sessions. Many of them don’t buy into the notion that “positive thinking creates positive outcomes.” Now, I am not saying that there isn’t truth to that theory. Certainly in some situations that works. But for my clients’ sake, I have to face the reality myself. If attaining perfection isn’t really realistic for them, then why would I help them create a goal that sets them up to fail? So instead of suggesting that they replace negative thoughts with positive ones, I simply suggest the realistic options. I try to help them figure out what is the most likely outcome instead of the most ideal outcome. Of course, I still believe in shooting for the stars and pushing yourself to exceed all expectations. This type of thinking doesn’t change any of that. You can still aim high while remaining grounded.

 

Sunday
Jun072009

Viewing Therapy from A New Angle: Your Client’s 

As a therapist it is important to be able to view the world from the eyes of your client. Understanding how they feel and how they interpret the world can aid in the progression of therapeutic goals. Clients value the therapist’s attempts to relate and to understand issues from their unique vantage point. Recently a therapy client commented that they wished all therapists could understand how difficult it is for clients to make the decision to enter therapy and how intimidating the process is at the beginning stages, not to mention the negative stigma that still surrounds therapy. It is not an easy task for many clients to ask for help. I challenge each therapist to mentally trade places with your clients, even for just a few moments, to understand what they experience throughout the process of therapy. Envision how they feel as they are contemplating making that first call to schedule an evaluation, as they are entering your office nervously and cautiously for the first time, and as they reluctantly pour their heart out to you and bear their soul. Only then can we begin to realize how much our empathy, support, understanding and caring is needed to begin the process of healing. It is easy to get caught up in our day and to let the stress and strain of hearing others’ problems wear on us over time. But we must never forget that our full presence and compassion is necessary for each client and may make an impact far greater than we are capable of knowing. If we traded places with our clients would we be pleased with the care that we give on a daily basis? Would we see the therapist that we strive to be? Dare to view yourself from a new perspective. You may be surprised at what you find.

 

Sunday
Jun072009

Tough Times Call for a Change in Perspective 

In these economic times, everyone seems to be struggling and spirits are definitely down. Most are finding it difficult to find hope and inspiration. But just when we are feeling as if we are never going to dig ourselves out of a never ending hole, we encounter someone whose struggle is much worse than our own. It is in these encounters that we realize just how much we have to be thankful for in our lives. Basically, it all comes down to perspective! If we focus on the mounting bills that we have to pay, work tasks that are tedious, or things that we wish we could have but can’t afford, then we feel stressed, anxious and depressed. Everyday begins to feel like a hardship and is joyless. The simple act of shifting perspective can change the way we view our problems and life struggles. By approaching problems from a new angle, something that once seemed insurmountable can actually appear conquerable in a new light. For example, if we change our perspective on our current economic circumstances and start to focus on the fact that we might have a job, a roof over our heads, or our basic needs met, then our outlook is suddenly brighter. We may not have everything we want, but most of us have everything we need. No matter how tough our life is, there will always be those less fortunate who would change places with us in an instant. If we took a few moments to view from their eyes, our lives would look blessed and full. Let’s try to keep those individuals in mind when complaining about our day or when we are feeling sorry for ourselves. Shifting our perspective in this way can lead to hope, appreciation and gratitude for life’s many blessings. Your circumstances may stay the same but it’s your choice which pair of eyes you view them with.