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Showing posts with label choices. Show all posts
Showing posts with label choices. Show all posts

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Making good choices for yourself--not just for God or others

I learned a valuable lesson back in 2006 when I lost around 50 pounds.  Choosing to do what's best for you has to be a personal choice in order for you to best implement or stick with it.  My personal choice happened by 'accident'.  I hadn't been happy with my weight for a long time and I tagged along with my daughter's mom when she hired a personal trainer at the gym.  The trainer was actually very cool and didn't mind me working out along side her.  Anyway, in the process, I'd started running again and I started losing weight.  Once I dipped below 200lbs, it was like a light bulb went off.  I realize that I could really lose a significant amount of weight with exercise and diet choices.  In other words, I'd personalized the steps necessary to lose the weight.  I'd been teased about putting on the weight and I'd been told by my physician that I could stand to lose some weight.  Heck I remembered that the Bible even exhorts us to remember that our "body are a temple", which can be interpreted to include keeping ourselves fit or in shape.

Yes, despite wishing I could weigh less, teasing, my doctor's encouragement, and even biblical reference to respecting my body, I could not be moved to do what I needed to.  It was only when I embraced the choice to lose weight and become more fit that I actually did it successfully.


Part of the equation of losing weight was to realize that I couldn't just deny all 'bad foods'.  I realized doing so would just put me in a mindset that I was 'depriving' myself and in a weak moment that I would binge on junk food.  Once again, if I tried to avoid all 'junk food' at all cost because I was 'supposed to', I would fail.  I knew I could not embrace a total ban on junk food, so I did the next best thing, limit and replace--limit servings & proportions and replace with a 'less bad' choice when possible.  Once again, in order for me to be most successful in my weight loss, I had to embrace a wise choice.


I've come to see in myself and others around who have struggled at times with making the best choices and/or addictive behavior, that only we will make the best choices only when we are ready to.  It can be frustrating or upsetting for those close to or who live with such a person.  But, they have to be aware that it is rarely about them, but instead about the one who is struggling.  The person struggling with bad and/or addictive choices often times doesn't always feel like they are in control.  Shaming the person might work for a little bit, invoking or pointing out their religious beliefs (Christianity) might work for a little bit and even getting someone else to intervene for a bit might help, but ultimately the person has to be ready.  

It doesn't matter how much an addict loves his family, friends, God, etc.,  If he or she tries to 'sober up' strictly for any of them, he or she will likely fail.  If he or she on the other hand wants to 'sober up' because they don't like that aspect of their life and they are ready, then they have the best chance to succeed.  As a secondary motivation love of family and friends and love and obedience to God are wonderful, but it has to start with the addict.

Perhaps the biggest revelation on the matter occurred regarding my faith.  As a Christian, I used to expect that I should be perfect and I would beat myself up for being flawed, making mistakes and falling short.  Eventually, after so many failures, I became discouraged that I couldn't be a 'good enough' person to call myself a Christian.  So, I gave up trying.  It is only in more recent years, that I learned that I will make the best choices if underneath it all, I want to.  I want to be obedient to my faith and Higher Power, but I ultimately, it has to be something that in my heart I strive and long for.  For example, it is important for me to be a good father for my daughter.  If I were only do the right things for her because I wanted to keep her mom off my case, eventually, I'd fail.  But, it is my goal in my heart to be the best dad for her.

I am sure if I opened this post to everyone I know or friends of friends, literally, we could write a book on the subject matter.  But, alas it is late and I have to get sleep.

In the meantime, from what I see: When desiring to make the best choices, always, always make sure the choices are yours first and foremost.  You should desire to make the best choices in your life for others involved too, but you risk failure if they are the sole reason for your choices.

Anyway, the twelve steps of AA, effectively communicate this message (focusing on step 1 and 6):

  1. We admitted we were powerless over alcohol - that our lives had become unmanageable.
  2. Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.
  3. Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.
  4. Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.
  5. Admitted to God, to ourselves and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.
  6. Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.
  7. Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.
  8. Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.
  9. Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.
  10. Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.
  11. Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.
  12. Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to alcoholics and to practice these principles in all our affairs.

Hopefully, this post proves helpful to a person or two.

-- Rich

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Failing doesn't make you a failure

I am glad that this election cycle is winding down.  In my 47 years, this election was probably the most hostile/tense election season we as a nation have even witnessed.  As with any elections there were winners and losers.  I think it's pretty clear the 'winners' and the 'losers' in this election cycle and analysis thereof is being repeated ad infinitum.  So, I won't focus on that, but it does lend itself to the following concept:

Failing doesn't make you a failure.  

For anyone who has ever had a significant failure in their life such as:
  • Falling short of being elected.
  • Failure in marriage.
  • Falling of short of winning the big game.
  • Not getting the promotion/losing your job.
  • Failing in school.
  • Broken friendships.
it is hard to separate a particular failure or failing from the overall sense of being a failure.  It is akin to shame vs. guilt.  Shame focuses on self (and has a sense of at least semi-permanence), guilt focus on poor choices (and can be more passing).  Similarly, labeling oneself as a failure, implies feeling broken in a permanent way, whereas noting a failure implies limited--in scope and permanence--damage.

If one is labeled a failure, he or she has effectively had their successes negated or overwhelmed by the label.  If one is said to have failed, it is feasible that their successes before are still respected and that their chance of success after is recognized.


It is easy to say tell someone who is in the midst of a particular failure that they aren't a failure, but it can harder for them to accept it.  What they've got to realize is that 
  • Everyone has failings in their life.  After all, if that weren't the case, why would we have the need for a Higher Power (God)?
  • Some of the people we consider 'successful' failed time and again before they hit on their life's success. Successful people who have failed:
    • Henry Ford went broke 5 times before succeeding at Ford Motor Company
    • Bill Gates dropped out of college and failed in his first business (Traf-O-Data) before starting arguably the most successful software company (Microsoft).
    • Oprah Winfrey was born poor to a single teenage mom, was abused as kid and became a teen mom--child died in infancy--before she landed a radio job which ultimately led to her billion dollar production company.
  • Not everyone wins 'the big game/election/promotion', but that doesn't nullify their accomplishments.
    • Ernie Banks never made it to the World Series, but his Hall of Fame induction gives lie to the concept that this made him a failure.
    • Tim Tebow had limited success in the NFL, but no one can take away his Heisman Trophy and National Championship at Florida.  Additionally, he has carved out success in broadcasting.
    • Adlai Stevenson is remembered by many as losing the Presidency to Eisenhower twice, but no one can take away his time as Governor of Illinois, Ambassador to the U.N. and his efforts in making a JFK presidency possible. 
  • That it is okay to visit (mourn) a particular failure/failing, but it is not okay to live there.  Visiting or mourning failure appropriately and moving forward can strengthen us.  Living in failure can be very disabling or debilitating. 
  • Our faith can be a strong guide, however, we are not born with an individual instruction manual.  Our Higher Power and true friend and family in our lives understand that we will at times not make the best choices of ignorance or maybe even hubris.  That doesn't mean that we are stupid or a bad person, it just means we don't always have all the answers.  See my post on the Fog of War and Decisions/Choices.  

One final note: We've all heard the term 'narcissist', but I'm convinced of a concept that I call 'negative narcissism'.  The idea being that a negative narcissist finds it easier to live in the concept of being a failure than having a more balanced view of their lives.  If you label yourself as a failure, it makes it easier not to accept responsibility for individual failings.  It also, makes it easier to justify not taking steps to try to succeed.   After all, if you are a failure (or destined to it), then well, you couldn't help it anyway and why bother trying?

Anyway, whether our candidate or team wins or loses, they don't have to be considered a failure.  If a particular endeavour in our life ends in success or failure, we can own a failing, but we don't have to own being a failure.  Just some post election musings.

-- Rich

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Decisions/choices we make and the "fog of war".

This will be a short sweet blog this morning.   This reminds me of a blog that I did on Finding peace in the eye of the storm vs. shelter from it.

I was talking to a friend the other day and he explained to me that if he was back in the situation he was years ago he'd have approached things much differently.   As the famous saying goes, hindsight is 20/20.  But what does that really mean?

  • Clearly we just learn more over time.  We are exposed to more circumstances that we have never faced or been through.   We also are exposed to similar circumstances multiple times.  This is to say, we can't help but pick up more knowledge and/or a greater understanding.  For example, we may empathize with a friend who lost a parent, but until we've lost a parent and had to handle that, we just don't know what all goes into dealing with the death of a parent.  Hindsight being 20/20 means if we'd known all that goes into it before it happened, we'd possibly have made better decisions.
  • We 'had the knowledge' at the time we faced the circumstances in question, but there was something blocking us from truly seeing it situation completely and/or executing the choices/decisions we should have.  This is what I refer to as "the fog of war".  Here are a few examples of the 'fog of war':
    • We know what we need to do, but our pride gets in the way.  We simply can't get or see past it.  For example, we might be struggling to find a job in our field, but we also need to pay the bills.  In this situation pride might cause us to not take a lesser job for a while, while looking for the job we 'should be able to get'.  After our pride has cleared, we will realize that we probably brought on more hardship than we needed to.
    • We feel shame or guilt over something in our own life and let it get in the way of decision-making/choices.  In other words, shame and guilt cloud over our thought process.  For example, I think it is common for divorced parents to let the guilt or shame in their role in the unraveling of their marriage get in the way.  Also, guilt or shame over the damage of divorce to the children, can get in the way of their parenting.   If someone feels like they played a large role in the failure of their marriage, it might leave them feeling compromised, for example.  If they feel guilty about what a divorce is doing or has done to their child, then they may be lax in discipline or let things slide that they normally wouldn't.  When you feel bad about yourself, it can be harder to hold another accountable the way you should.  After the feelings have subsided, it will likely be much easier to see past the guilt or shame and just focus on exactly what needs to be done.  We might look back and said I tolerated too much disobedience and I wish I'd be more assertive.
    • Someone close to us is dying or dies.  We are busy mourning their passing or imminent passing.  We can be overwhelmed with thoughts about the situation.  Our normally clear thinking can take second place to the intense hurt or passion of the situation.  As a practical matter we are focused on the (impending) loss and we just don't have enough emotional space to allow our clearer thoughts to take root.  After the situation has calmed down or we've had time to grieve, things can be much clearer.

The long and short of it is this.  When the passions, emotions, guilt/shame or other demons are present, we may know on some level what choices to make, but we may get distracted from making the best choice based on those obstacles to our 'sight' or not having the strength to move past them at the time.  We may unintentionally rationalize our decisions/choices due to our lacking strength or courage.  That is to say, if we are not up to making the best decision, we may just make the decisions that we are able to and find a way to rationalize it as the 'best decision'.  This isn't meant as a criticism, but an unfortunate reflection of the reality at the time.

I guess this all points to the following plan of action:

  1. Doing the best we can do with the information we have at the time.
  2. Considering that unseen and underestimated obstacles might be in the way of our making the best decision or choice.
  3. Praying for wisdom and insight into making the right choice. Praying that we can see past any obstacles.
I believe if we work those three basic steps we can cut down on hindsight or regretful thinking no matter how things turn out.