9 Rules - Success and Happiness

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We all seek happiness. Add these 9 rules to your life and watch your dreams become reality.

Rule 1:  Know who you are - Be true to yourself

 There is no one just like you.  Your path to success is uniquely yours.  Let go of your  dated ideas about yourself that you may have adopted from the past, especially if they keep you from evolving into your best self.  Bring meaning to your life through intention and choice.

Rule 2:   Hold a clear vision - Follow your NorthStar

Reflect on what you envision for your life, aligning it with what inspires and feels meaningful to you. The more clarity you have about the kind of life you want and the person you want to be, the easier it will be to stay motivated.  Take consistent steps forward making your vision a reality.

Rule 3: Understand your mind. - Unleash your true self

Much of your perception and beliefs grew out of your earliest experiences and  interactions with your families, culture and the media. Learn to distinguish between the beliefs and ideas that support you and those that limit you. Perception does not always reveal truth.

Rule 4: Take control of your thoughts - Thoughts become matter

Thoughts are among the most powerful creative tool you have. Therefore, it’s crucial to be aware of negative thoughts before they take root and develop into destructive patterns or behavior. Through awareness, conscious choices and determination, you can redirect your life by releasing disempowering self-limiting thoughts and cultivating positive ones.

Rule 5:  Choose what is essential - Life is built on choices

Be aware of how you spend your time and energy, as every decision you make influences the direction of your life. We are all born with gifts and talents as well as challenges and limitations. The way we choose to work with these blessings and trials determines our success.

Rule 6. Be consistent. - Baby steps lead to big results

 Consistency will help build momentum and form new habits for success. Break your bigger goals into smaller tangible ones that are time sensitive.  Turn your smaller goals into monthly, weekly, and daily task to make them all doable.  Checking off daily goals not only gages progress but also increases confidence, resulting in motivation to continue.

Rule 7.  Surround yourself with inspiring influencers - Lift each other up.

You are influenced by the people you choose to spend your time with. Surround yourself with individuals who encourage you to be and do better. They should be people you look up to and trust, people who help drive you forward on your personal path to success.

Rule 8. Live mindfully -The power of the present

 We spend much of our time on auto pilot, missing the depths of our precious life. Living with more mindfulness requires you to observe and participate with awareness and without the filter of judgment. The more present you can be from moment to moment, the deeper the connection you will make with yourself and others, enabling you to live life more skillfully and with greater appreciation and wonder.

Rule 9. Stay the course - Tread the path daily

Success isn’t something you attain - it’s something you live. While working toward your outer goals, it is necessary to be aware of who you become internally  in the process that’s more important. Stay focused on cultivating the inner qualities of success; living with integrity, self-discipline and patience; valuing yourself and others; reserving judgment; practicing compassion and having gratitude towards the gifts already present in your life.

Total Wellness offers a variety of tools to help you take each of the above rules from concept to real life application.  We would love to become a part of your success. Let us knowhow we can help you - simply fill out the form below and we will respond promptly. We answer all inquiries.

Wishing Success,

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THE TRUE ALTERNATIVE TO FEAR

I am getting to that age when one is tempted to look back more than to look forward, to get lost in our memories more than to endeavor to create new memories. In short, it is easier to just float downstream carried along by the current of habits and predispositions rather than forge ahead and find undiscovered lands and challenge sedentary tendencies. I feel like Ulysses hearing the siren calls to cease the quest and find comfort and rest. But like Ulysses, I know that there is a greater mission within me and my journey is not yet accomplished.

But as I reflect back upon my life I now realize I have always had a tendency to “shelter in place” from the threat of change making it difficult to move forward. My impediment to growth has not been any external obstacle or internal deficiency but simply I have allowed fear to limit my progress. The product of fear is stagnation leading to death and it has usually taken experiencing a trauma or disaster in my life to give me the impetus to move forward.

I don’t believe I am alone in this predisposition. There is an axiom in the counseling world that goes like this: “We don’t change unless the pain of remaining the same is greater than the pain of change.” I see it all the time in my practice.

  • A man has lost the job that he hated and is now forced to consider another profession more suitable to his abilities

  • A couple’s relationship is falling apart and now must seek counseling to find new, healthier ways of relating to each other

  • A woman has lived with debilitating depression and only when her world is falling apart is now willing to look at her beliefs about herself to escape the pain

This is fear-based motivation and it is grounded in escaping or avoiding pain and we use it all the time.

  • I go on a diet because I don’t want to be fat

  • I exercise because I am humiliated by the way I look in a bathing suit

  • I work hard at my job because I’m afraid of being fired

  • I go back to school because I’m afraid of not finding a good job and ending up homeless

Does fear-based motivation work? Yes, of course, it works but the problem with fear-based motivation is that it is not sustainable and it doesn’t go away. When we reach a place of stasis in our life and we no longer have a reason to fear we also don’t have a reason to grow. If fear is our primary motivation then we will need to make up a reason to fear (irrational fear) or we will lose motivation for growth and enter into stagnation. What is even more important, fear is toxic to the body and spirit. Living in a continual state of fear will produce stress and stress is one of the leading causes of physical and psychological ailments.

I want to propose another, healthier and more positive motivation for change. This motivation can be summed up in one word.

Love

  • Love Heals

  • Love connects

  • Love inspires

  • Love’s motivation is applicable in all situations

  • Love is unending, unceasing and unconquerable

We live in a world where there is so much spoken about love but very little on its practical application. What we need is to somehow learn to apply love to the nitty-gritty of life. In many of us, fear is our default and even the thought of making love our primary motivation in our life is inconceivable. So here are some practical ways to transform fear-motivation to love-motivation.

Focus on those you love

When faced with a task or a job that is something that you would rather not do think past it to something that is an object of your love. A perfect example of this might be of times when we experience a difficult work environment. We all encounter times when we’re slogging through an arduous schedule or are involved in tasks that we have no desire to do. At times like these stop and ask this question, “can I dedicate this job to someone or something I love?” If you are working to provide for your family then think of them and consider your work as a way of providing them with food, shelter, and a future. Many a man and woman leave their home early in the morning and return late at night for the love of their family. I believe there is no more noble motivation than sacrificing for those we love.

Find something you love within the difficult work

Every job, no matter how it perfectly fits our personality, has elements that we find tedious. If we focus on these negative elements, we diminish our passion for the work and reduce our overall career enjoyment. So take a few moments and fill your heart with what you are passionate about and stop obsessing on those few things that you don’t enjoy. When you do you will find that the difficult parts of your job will cease to be so discouraging.

Focus on being grateful

Gratitude is a close relative of love and when it is regularity expressed it increases our capacity to experience joy and reduce anxiety.

What are you afraid of? What gnaws at your heart and keeps you up at night? Instead of allowing those fearsome future scenarios to dominate your thinking try to finding something

When faced with fear, chose the loving alternative.

When I look back on all these worries, I remember the story of the old man who said on his deathbed that he had had a lot of trouble in his life, most of which had never happened.
— Winston Churchill

Here are some loving alternatives to fear:

  • Choose to believe in your resilience and ingenuity

  • Choose to trust in an all-powerful and loving God

  • Choose to develop and execute a strategy

  • Choose to not catastrophize – reflect on times when you persevered through similar or even worse situations

  • Choose to reach out to loving family and friends for help

  • Choose to get up and do something creative, productive, kind and compassionate for someone who needs to be loved. Because love flourishes in us when we choose to give it to others.

What do you love? Make that the cornerstone of all you do, say and think. Tie this passion to your work and you will find extraordinary energy in your career. Tie it to your relationships and they will grow deeper and more satisfying. Refuse to do anything that is not somehow intrinsically tied to love and you will never run out of motivation for living.

If this seems impossible then challenge your internal programming, because someone, somewhere fed you a lie that life was not meant to be lived in love. It can be done, I know because I get up every morning with the desperate need to renew my commitment to love and every morning love is renewed.

If you want to discuss this or have any questions or concerns where we can help you don’t hesitate to reach out to us. Because our love-inspired motivation is to see true transformation happen in your life.

Five Steps to Intimacy: Creating Yours, Mine and Ours

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Do you ever think relationships would be easy if the other person was like you? We may not actually say that but often we act like it, especially when our partner is excited about something that we have absolutely no interest in.

When this happens we must choose a response.

  1. Act like we enjoy it: (ie. Fake it)
  2. Decline to participate: (ignore it)
  3. Negotiate for something you want:  (Leverage it) This becomes a “tit for tat” arrangement, something like saying, “if you’ll see the latest superhero movie with me I’ll go shopping for shoes with you.”

So how are these solutions working? Not so good ugh?

This is why …

1. Act like you enjoy it:

The first solution of acting like we enjoy it doesn’t work … unless we’re going for sympathy. This is because everyone knows how much you are hating what you’re doing and you’re probably so unhappy that they’re probably wishing you just said no to it in the first place. If that’s what you're going for you’d be better off just saying no. Which leads us to the second option.

2. Decline to participate:

So you’ve successfully avoided the hated activity but now you’ve got another problem. You’re missing out on something your partner is passionate about. Why is this a problem? I have found that it is one of the major complaints of that troubled relationships I work with because if you can’t appreciate the things that your partner loves it is very hard to convince them that you appreciate them. That’s right, the things we love are intricately tied to us so that if you are rejecting the things your partner loves they see this as a de facto rejection of them. John Gottman the renown research Psychologist has found that developing a culture of appreciation for your partner's interests and activities is fundamental to maintaining a good marriage.

3. Negociate

Now I hear you saying, “isn’t this just creating a good compromise?” Yes, I believe in compromise, in fact, compromise is at the core of being able to deal with perpetual conflict. In many cases, we need to compromise in order to maintain a healthy balance in a relationship. But if we ever find ourselves creating a relationship based upon, “if you do _______ then I will do ________” then we are headed for real problems. This is because healthy relationships are built on unconditional love and when we create a “you scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours” attitude then we find that our back never gets scratched enough and we begin feeling that we are scratching theirs too much. In addition, all the time we are “compromising” we are very likely slipping into the “faking mentality” which will end up making everyone miserable.

Let me share some illustrations that I have find helpful when working with my couples.

INDEPENDENCE

 
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This is where the couple finds little or no involvement in one another’s life. It is characterized by the phrase, “they have their life and I have mine”. There is very little interaction, except in areas of necessity (paying bills, dealing with children, etc.) Often, I see couples at this stage when the children have left the house and now they are wondering why they got married in the first place since they have no mutual interests. They have become strangers to each other.

DEPENDENCE

 
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This is a state where one partner can’t move without the other. They are living in each other’s world even to the denial of their own uniqueness. Psychology calls it “enmeshment” and it is often caused by a fear of rejection or poor self-image. These relationships are suffocating because they don’t allow for the individuality and creativity of the other person and instead attempt to make it wrong for either partner to have an opinion or interest outside of the approval of their partner. When I see a couple like this it is often because one party is making a desperate attempt to find freedom and is pushing them into an “all or nothing” approach.  When this problem is not addressed it often leads to divorce.

INTERDEPENDENCE

 
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This is where both partners maintain their unique personalities and interest but find ways to share in the passionate pursuits of each other's world without the need to isolate or become enmeshed. It is where we acknowledge individuality (viva la difference) but also recognizes the beautiful contribution that this difference brings to the whole. The challenge is:

  • Develop a way to both maintain individuality without becoming independent.
  • Create interdependence without becoming dependent.

The five steps

1.       Celebrate the Difference: We have a saying in Marriage Counseling, “opposites attract and then they attack”. Basically, this means that we are drawn to our partner because of the unique attributes they possess that we find fascinating. But then as time goes on we no longer find these characteristics fascinating but irritating. One of the most common pairings I find is an extrovert marring an introvert. Here is how they become attracted and then attack each other:

When an introvert meets an extrovert they say, “wow, I love the way you connect with people and feel so at home in a crowd. When I’m with you I feel like I’m with a rock star!
When an introvert lives with an extrovert for a while they may say, “why do you always need to be with people … can’t you just stay home more often?”
When an extrovert meets an introvert they say, “You are so deep and thoughtful, I love your calmness and wisdom, I find it very peaceful.”
When an extrovert lives with an introvert for a while they say, “ why do you spend so much time alone reading your books, what’s wrong with you?”

Instead of celebrating our partner's difference we want them to become more like us because that’s more comfortable. But good relationships are not always comfortable – sometimes they require us to stretch. Healthy relationships have this ability to be both totally accepting of our unique peculiarities and also challenge us to grow to experience our full potential. So for an introvert living with an extrovert, there is a challenge to broaden their world of relationships and touch more lives. And for an extrovert living with an introvert, there is a challenge to develop a contemplative life and deepen their inner world. This growth requires that we learn how to appreciate the other’s gifts, abilities, and interests even if we have no desire in those areas.


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Getting to We

This is when we become aware of an interest in our partner's sphere and choose to find something in that interest we can authentically be excited about. That interest is then pulled into our sphere and we then share it in the "we" sphere.


2.       Identify your partner’s passions: You may know what they are or you may not. Sometimes when one partner has been hearing negative things about what they love they lose hope of ever pursuing them. This is a sad state where they live a hopeless unfulfilled life that offers no joy. We need to kindle our partner’s interests rather than dampen them.  A truly happy relationship is where we are the wind under their wings and they are encouraged to become all they were meant to be. So during this step, we need to sit down and take an inventory of our partner’s interests. Ask questions like:

  • If you could do anything, with no limitations, what would it be?
  • What have you always wanted to do but just never got around to it?
  • As a child, what did you like to do that never lost it’s fun?

Okay, I can hear some of you saying, “how is just doing what they want to do going to work for me?” Here are three thoughts about that.

Encouraging the loves and interests of your partner gives you a partner who is more fully alive and who, in turn, has the capacity to help encourage your passions.

Encouraging the loves and interests of your partner produces a deeper and more intimate relationship. We feel close to those who truly know us and to know and appreciate our unique passions is one of the best ways of feeling known.

Our partner will never feel truly loved if we do not appreciate those areas of interest and passion that is the expression of their unique self
— James Tillman

Encouraging the loves and interests of your partner opens you up to a new and expanding world of adventure that offers you a fuller richer life. This leads us to the third step.

3.       Find something in your partner’s interests that you can authenticly be excited about.

Here’s an example from one of the couples I work with.

The wife is passionate about all things fashion and loves to follow the latest fashion bloggers who have enormous influence in the clothing industry. The husband is a numbers guy and has no interest in the fashion industry. There seems to be no way that he will be able to find something that interests him in his wife’s fashion passion. But he did! He was able to look past the clothes and see that there are a few power bloggers who are able to move people to purchase clothes simply by using influence. He found this fascinating because he is in a company that would be greatly enhanced by applying some of the same principles to their product. So when his wife is looking at the latest trend in clothing on her smartphone he is looking over her shoulder at the way the clothes are being presented and the power of influence.  

You may need to get creative and expand your palate of colors but this is an opportunity to grow if you are up for the challenge. Because when you do you accomplish step four.

4.       Pull your partner’s “my interest” into a “we interest”: Finding something that interests you in your partner's passion will create an opportunity for you both to grow closer and experience a more enjoyable life together. Examples:

We both have a “we interest” in amusement parks: I like the rides, she likes the shows
We both have a “we interest” in taking vacations: I like exploring new and unusual sights, she likes finding new and interesting restaurants.
We both have a “we interest” in visiting museums. She likes learning about ancient cultures, I find the artwork fascinating. When you do this you accomplish the fifth step.

5.       Go for the win, win, win as much as possible: Let’s face it, we’re not always going to find something that peaks our interest in everything our partner loves. Sometimes we’re just going to need to love that our partner loves it. This kind of attitude says, “I can appreciate something simply because it gives you pleasure and that makes me happy.”

I like Disneyland … it must be because it holds some of my happiest memories when I was growing up. My wife has really no love for Disneyland (grew up in Kansas) and in fact, it would not be a place she would ever choose to go even if someone were to pay. But the other day she surprised me by planning a date to the Magic Kingdom. We had a marvelous time and she authentically enjoyed the park. This was because of seeing it through my eyes. One moment stands out as a precious memory. We were in the Enchanted Tiki Room. This is one of the most outdated but beloved attractions in Disneyland and definitely an acquired taste. During the show, she leaned over to me and gave me a tender kiss. I asked her what that was about and she said, “because I love to see you in your happy place.”

Wouldn’t it be great if we could get to that place more often in our relationships? Enjoying an activity simply because it brings joy to our partner. This requires that we are willing to cultivate a caring, giving and unselfish relationship with our spouse. This commitment will reward us tenfold in not only a more satisfying relationship but even more importantly a more beautiful character which, in the end, produces greater wholeness, wellness, and joy.

Get your Free "Getting to We" Couple's Worksheet

This workbook  is a step by step guide to help a couple discover their individual areas of interests and bring their partner into these areas so that they become something they mutually enjoy. 

 
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Expectatitus: The Disease that Stole Christmas!

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Are you without someone you love this Christmas season? Are you longing for a tradition that will not be happening this year? Do all the decorations and happy wishes make you wish that it were January? If so, you’re not a Grinch you probably have a bad case of Expectatitus.

Other names for this disease are the holiday blues or a bad case of nostalgia. It comes on when things are not the way they are supposed to be and our dream for that “perfect Christmas” doesn't come true. When this happens we are in danger of catching the disease Expectatitus.

Expectatitus: A disease of the spirit that is often caught around major holidays and special events when expectations are not met. Symptoms include a general malaise brought on by an unsuccessful attempt to recreate a past experience or tradition. Below is a symptom checklist

Diminished Vision:  Those afflicted become blind to the true joys of the moment and the beauty all about them.

Difficulty Hearing: New ideas and creative solutions are not heard

Negative Speech Patterns:  These and other phrases are common to those afflicted with Expectatitus “I wish it was like it was”, or “If only __________ were here”. Or “we’ve always done it that way” 

Perception Problems: Dilutions regarding a perfect past and flawless expectations are experienced by those afflicted with Expectatitus.   

Warning: Expectatitus is a progressive disease that ultimately affects the heart.

The Heart becomes rigid and obsessed with the past and unable to find contentment, peace, and joy in the present experiences.

If you or someone you know is showing any of these symptoms then it is critical that you take immediate action because this disease is both highly communicable and often genetic. Those with the disease spread it to others causing them to exhibit the same symptoms. It is also passed down from generation to generation through creating unalterable and pointless traditions.

Is there a cure?

Yes! It requires one to put aside their own preconceptions and unbending expectations to focus on the true nature of the event. In the case of Christmas, the afflicted person must stop making Christmas about what and more about who. The ability to be flexible, and focus on the true meaning of Christmas is essential to full recovery.

Mary: a case study of one who did not contract Expectatitus

The circumstances of Jesus’ birth was not at all what Mary had in mind for her first child. Nine months pregnant she was forced to travel hundreds of miles to a town where she knew no one. When she arrived she began to have contractions but discovered there wasn’t even a corner of a room for her to have her baby. An animal stall became her delivery room, her attendees were the displaced animals and the welcoming party consisted of a band of shepherds; societies outcasts. This wasn't even close to what she would have dreamt of much less hoped for. So how did she deal with this situation? The record shows that Mary took it all in and this was her attitude.

But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.
— Luke 2:19

Mary put aside her expectations and experienced the wonder of the moment. Even if she didn’t quite understand the significance of what was happening. She kept herself open to these experiences and in the coming years gained greater awareness of the miracle of Jesus’ birth in Bethlehem.

So that is the cure to Expectatitus? It is not in the forsaking of our dreams and traditions but rather in being open to all that is new around us. It is the ability to focus on what is truly important. So during this Christmas season let’s do what Mary did and treasure the unimaginable gift of God in the birth of Jesus and make our goal to share our love and joy to all around us. No matter what our circumstances.

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What I Learned About Relationships From Walter - My Rescue Dog.

LOVE DOESN'T HAVE TO STINK ......

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Wonderful Walter 2017

This is Walter – he is a 105 pound Rotty/Shepherd that we adopted from a local rescue, Whiskers and Tails in Rancho Palos Verdes, CA.  We quickly learned he loves to chase squirrels and eat all insects that fly -  including wasps. In fact,  he has a little Ninja that makes up his unique quirky personality.  When it gets dark he loves to patrol the back yard protecting us from … well only he knows and he’s sworn to the Ninja code of silence.

The other night he was patrolling the perimeter and we heard an unusual commotion so I ran out to see what was happening. It didn't take long to figure out what was going on because within less than a second I smelled it …... A SKUNK.   Yes, an unsuspecting Walter had come face to face....well, not exactly face to face but you get the picture, of the smelly works delivered by Mr. Skunk.

Quickly into the bathtub (ever bathed a stinky 100-pound dog 10:30 at night?).  We quickly surfed the internet for the "magic" formula to remove skunk odor and found a website that "guaranteed" the homemade solution would work.  My wife started mixing the potion and I got to work on Walter.  One hour later we had a 100 pound dog that reeked of wet fur and skunk wildly running through the house.   It has now been over a week and guess what – Walter still stinks. And not only Walter but whatever Walter touched smells too!

So now I can hear you thinking … “so sorry for Walter but what the heck does that have to do with relationships?”

Thank you for asking. 

Sometimes the stink from a fight, a careless word, or thoughtless action can stink up a relationship for days, weeks or even years. It often only takes a small thing for that odor to arise and stink up our relationship all over again. I admit it’s hard to remove the odor of a hurt. The pain lingers long like Walter’s smell. But unlike poor Walter, we actually have a choice how long we will allow our relationships to be polluted by these things.

After all who wants to smell bad to their partner?

Here are four steps you can take.

  1. Admit that you were hurt: Sometimes our pride gets in the way of our healing. We think we shouldn’t feel what we’re feeling so we go into denial mode but in reality, we’re just allowing the wound to infect other areas of our lives.
  2.  Forgive: Forgiveness is a unilateral is a gift we give to ourselves so that we don’t carry the heavy burden of resentment and anger throughout our life. Forgiveness does not mean that you minimize the wound – only that you choose to heal.
  3. Reconcile: If possible share with your partner how you were hurt and attempt to find a new way of relating to each other. Keep in mind that this requires that you both be willing to see each other’s perspective to get beneath the surface. In every harmful human interaction, there is always something deeper that is causing it. When this is understood it will change the whole dynamic of the relationship and create an opportunity for healing and avoiding entering back into the conflict.
  4. Let it go: Yes, we can also choose to let go of whatever it was that is stinking up our relationships. This means refusing to bring it up … ever!

Walter is smelling much better now, okay, he still smells like a dog but not like a skunk. The real question is what do you and I smell like? 

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1 + 1 = 3 Plus Freedom!

Are You at the Mercy of Someone or Something?

I have never been comfortable with this phrase I hear so often when something negative happens in a person’s life.

“You (or it) made me feel …”

Whenever I hear it I want to say –

Me: So, how did they do it?

Them: Do what?

Me: Get into your brain?

Them: My brain?

Me: Did they get microscopic and crawl into your brain through your nose and make you feel that?

Them: You’re an idiot … what are you talking about

Me: You know the thing that made you feel the way you feel – just how did they make you feel that?

At this point I know exactly what would happen, the person would shake their head at me and just walk away. That’s because we’re very used to 1 + 1 equals two. In other words, when someone treats us badly we react to that in a logical sequential way, we respond with a predictable emotion. (anger, frustration, sadness, contempt etc.)

I know what you’re thinking, “what the heck James how am I supposed to act – happy?” Let me share a secret – we don’t need to have our circumstances define our actions we actually can choose to respond to our circumstances the way we want to – not the way the circumstance dictates to us.

By the way, until we learn to apply this truth we will forever be at the mercy of every person or circumstance that we experience because whatever happens to us will dictate our response.

But don’t take my word for it, this is a central theme in Scripture and the hallmark of a true follower of Christ.

To this, you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps. ‘He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth.’ When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly.
— 1 Peter 3: 21-23 NIV

I have never been beaten, scourged, spat upon, humiliated and then nailed to a cross but Jesus was and he was able to say, while he was hanging on the cross, “Father, forgive them, they do not know what they are doing”.

It may not seem like it, but we do have a choice on how we respond to trying situations. The choice is this; will I let the circumstance define me or will I define the circumstance? Will I follow the broad road of predictable and unremarkable response or will I take this as an opportunity to bring redemption and healing into this situation?

Ultimately, our response to trials, difficulties, insults and personal injustice will define who we are and what we believe. Jesus’ response on the cross was as a result of his “entrusting himself to him who judges rightly” and therefore was able to defy human logic and reveal his true character.

We can too. But first, we must stop making feeble excuses for ourselves and accept responsibility for our own reactions. We ultimately choose how to respond, we have the opportunity to act in a way that is contrary to the “norm”. This ability is given to every believer and when we do we are demonstrating the character of Christ in us.

And here’s another secret – It is almost always counter to our initial emotional response. It is not “natural” for us to be kind when we've been treated harshly or be loving when we’ve been rejected – it’s supernatural.

And that my friend is the gospel at work in us. A gospel the world longs to see.

Love you. 

How to Live With Our Differences?

Real realtionships happen when two imperfect people find something in the other person that causes them to want to go deeper, become better and experience more than they could alone.  But that’s just the point, we are all conflicted people. We want the good feelings that come from relationships but we don’t want to put in the work it takes to get there. It’s called ambivalence and it is an entirely human condition often characterized by this statement, “opposites attract and then they attack”. Yes, that’s right we are attracted to something in the other person that is not like us. That something attracts us like nothing else and causes to say, “I’ve got to have that!” But when we get it the excitement wears off and the difference that we were so attracted to begins to become an irritation. So instead of celebrating the difference, we want to tamp it down and get them to be more normal – like us.

But real growth happens when we choose to celebrate the unique (and sometimes weird) in the other person and integrate their lives into ours. We then become more than we could possibly be without them. It’s a humbling process where we are continually challenged to love at our deepest level.

I admit this is hard – I’m just as addicted to my “comfort zones” as you are. I hate it when I have to put aside my cherished ways and accept that there may be different way of looking at the world.

But that’s how we grow, pushing past our limiting insecurities to become the best version of ourselves.

Sounds great but can anyone do that?

Try this, instead of focusing on the differences as a problem, focus on the difference in a positive way.

  • Are they not talkative? They're a deep thinker.
  • Do they take a lot of time getting ready? Call them fashion aware.
  • Do they talk too much? Call them socially adept.
  • Do they worry about money? Call them financially responsible.

We really do have a choice of what we focus on and what we focus on will determine the level of happiness we experience in our relationships.

We always welcome your comments and thoughts … let’s grow together!

5 Steps Towards A Great Relationship

You Deserve A Healthy Relationship..........So Where did it go wrong?

In our counseling practice,  we often meet with clients who have experienced multiple failed relationships and who seek guidance to try to “fix” the problem. After they share their  painful and frustrating relationship failures We will ask , “So what do all these relationships have in common?” At this point, a blank stare usually replaces their tears and then a spark of awareness comes over them as they say – "me".  Years of research indicates that when we have a healthy relationship with ourselves we will attract and nurture healthy relationships with others. Or as some wise sage once said, “hockey players date hockey players” - meaning we inter into relationships with those who see us as we see ourselves. 

Yes, we are the one constant in all our relationships. Therefore if we want our relationships  to be richer, deeper and more fulfilling we must begin looking at the relationship we have with ourselves.  So the million dollar question - What can we do to build healthier more intimate relationships? 

1.       Know yourself and become self-aware:

 How well do you know you  - your strengths,  your challenges,  your passions, your dreams? What brings you happiness or what fills your eyes with tears? Take a journey of self-discovery because it is only when we truly know who we are deep inside that we are able to share this unique and beautiful self with another and build a truly intimate and dynamic relationship.

2.       Accept yourself:

This does not mean that you think you’re perfect nor need to be. It means that you are comfortable in your own skin (warts and all).  If you are unable to see and accept the beauty within yourself  first then it will be very difficult  to accept the respect and admiration  from another,  fracturing the basis for a healthy relationship. 

3.       Commit to growing:

Relationships are never static they are either growing or dying. This is also true of the relationship you have with yourself. It is fun to be in a relationship with someone who is growing and expanding – emotionally, spiritually, intellectually, and / or relationally- is that you? Challenge yourself to explore new wonderments - be more interested and you will become more interesting. 

4.       Become Transparent and Authentic

Being transparent and authentic requires that we place a higher value on our own opinion of ourselves then we do on other’s opinions of us. If we derive our self-esteem from the judgment of others then we will conform ourselves to what we think others will accept and admire and hide behind this façade – never really allowing others to know us. Eventually those closest to us see through the facade and may feel deceived creating trust issues.  So start every relationship being the true you - if someone doesn't like the authentic you they are not the one you want to invest in. 

5.       Love yourself

Loving yourself means that you are committing to becoming the best you can possibly be. It is not narcissistic because when we truly love ourselves it increases our ability to love others. Those who possess a healthy self-love are not at war with themselves and able to look outside themselves with empathy. When we love ourselves we are able to give the best of ourselves to others without fear of being overwhelmed, consumed or oppressed. This is because those with self-love have healthy boundaries and employ good self-care. Therefore they are attracted to, enter into, and maintain good relationships.    

Due to our human nature no one gets through this life without bumps, bruises, and a few scars.   We all, at times, need to step back and reflect on who we really are and who we really desire to become.   We invite you to experience the  "self-reflecting" 10 Day journey of Self Love.  Check out this  thought provoking book and learn how to have your best relationship with YOU. Click Link Below and Start Your Journey  TODAY

 

Do you have a story of how "Self Love"  changed your relationships with others. We would love to hear it..... Please send to connect@totalwellnesscenter.net.  All stories remain confidential.

Resuce Dog to Guide Dog: Part 2

Buddy Meets “Way of the Dog”

For those who are just joining us on this journey with Buddy  he is our 90 plus pound bundle of K9 energy who was rescued from wondering the streets of Southern California and chosen by Cheri to become her service dog.

Buddy has many of the qualities to become a great service dog. These are:

Intelligence

Willing to please

Endurance

Size

Lack of aggression

But he is like a raw gemstone that needs to be cut and polished to show off its innate beauty. And just like people’s strengths come with corresponding weaknesses so Buddy’s attributes had some rough edges.

Intelligence: Because Buddy is highly intelligent he is naturally looking for ways to get what he wants and needs from us, often in inconvenient ways. He also gets bored easily and LOOK OUT WHEN A ROTTIE/SHEPHERD GETS BORED!

Willing to please: Buddy is highly social and constantly wants our attention. This can become very, very trying. Ever had a 90 pound dog who all he wants to do is sit on you?

Endurance: Buddy has seemingly boundless energy which is great for our 10 mile hikes. The downside is if he doesn’t get the exercise he needs he becomes a 90 pounds bullet speeding through the house knocking over anything or anyone in his path.  Or he becomes JAWS and chews whatever he can get a hold of.

Size: Well that speaks for its self – great for feeling safe walking down the street but hard to control when he gets a full head of steam.

Lack of aggression: Buddy is a scared-e-cat. Yes, for all his bad ass dog looks he’d rather run than fight. This is a problem when we’re on walks and he sees something that he thinks is dangerous (like a blowing leaf or kids playing soccer)

Let’s face it we’re over our heads in the dog training department. Although Cheri worked with Clifton, a highly trained Guide Dog, for over two years the training that got him to that place was done long before she and Clifton became partners. We don’t know the first thing about how to make Buddy into a Service Dog. So we began our search for the right trainer.

Our first encounter was with a delightful lady who came to our house for a couple of hours. She soon had Buddy sitting and staying and other tricks. We were very impressed. But when she left all the issues that made living with Buddy so hard were still there. Buddy is so intelligent that he can learn just about any trick in minutes but what we need is a way to relate to him that goes far beyond treats and puts Cheri in the position of innate authority. In other words, we need to become the pack leader and our authority needed to be there with or without treats in our hands.

That brought us to Brian Lee and “Way of the Dog”.(see the link below for more information) Brian is a no-nonsense dog trainer who tells it like it is. Our first meeting with Brian went something like this.

Us: We can’t seem to control Buddy. Everything we do just gets him more riled up.

Brian: (looking at Buddy and then looking at us) That’s because Buddy owns you and is basically having a party at your expense. He’s the ultimate “party animal” taking belly shots off you.

If you know me you know I had to have this explained since I’m not acquainted with barroom behavior. What he meant was Buddy was in control and having a great time. We were the miserable dutiful servants cleaning up after his messes.

Brian explained that until we understood Buddy’s mentality and he saw us as his leaders we were never going to have the dog we wanted.

So we went to a dog trainer to get trained! Now my counselor “Spidey Sense” was alerted. Maybe this is not all about Buddy – Maybe we’ve got to go deeper in who we are if we are ever going to help Buddy experience his full potential. What we’re heading into is not just a course in dog training but in revealing the weaknesses in our own personality. Dogs like Buddy are acutely sensitive to us and they know when we’re authentic and when we’re putting on a show. In a lot of ways training Buddy will be like putting a mirror up to myself and seeing who I truly am. He is the ultimate litmus test to see if I can become the leader he needs me to be which will have an impact on every other area of my life.

Stay tuned for more of “Buddy’s (and our) Story”

To Unfriend or Not: Three Penetrating Questions to Ask Yourself

We have just been through a brutal election. One where many felt it was their duty to post the most vial, hate-filled and despicable language I have ever heard. People who I have been friends with for years have allowed their dark side to come out in unadulterated spewing of contemptuous drivel. And if their own thoughts weren’t plentiful enough they scoured the Web for filth and proudly re-posted it for all to see.

Congratulations folks we have proven the theology of total depravity.

So what do we do about it? Do we unfriend the malevolent toads? I know some of you have and I am not here to stand in judgement, but I would like to add some perspective that may make living with un-redeemed humanity a bit easier. After all, some of our posts may have been categorized using the above mentioned adjectives. And truthfully, I have croaked with the best of them.

Here's a question to ask - What is your purpose for using Facebook?

If you envision Facebook as a nice and cozy garden club full of happy congenial friends who swap recipes and always share the same opinions then by all means unfriend those who do not meet this standard. We all need places where we can meet and have pleasant, uncontentious conversation. If Facebook is that place for you then you need to choose your friends carefully. My only warning is this; that is not the real world we live in and you may find yourself out of touch with reality. We live in a messy often crass world full of people who don’t agree with us. Many have attempted to escape this reality by setting up communes and secret societies but eventually these break down because that is not the real world. Somehow we need to learn to live and hopefully make better this sorry state and that means mixing it up with our fellow man. Facebook can be a great place to do that – but it’s not perfect. Nothing is.

Next question - what are your boundries and how do you know when someone has crossed them?

Even though I believe I live in the real world I don’t let people poop on my lawn. When opinions are shared that are clearly meant to hurt and demean others I draw the line and politely invite them to leave. But I also have to ask; am I being oversensitive? Do I offend too easily? Just because someone holds an opinion that is abhorrent to me is that a reason to reject them? If I believe it is then maybe I need to toughen up and allow someone to hold a belief I loathe. Or better yet, be willing to enter into a respectful dialogue with them so that I can better understand their position and maybe bridge the gap between us.

Next question - are the things I am posting insensitive and hurtful to others?

Somehow Facebook, Twitter and all the other social media have made cowards brave and emboldened bullies. Stupidity reigns supreme because anyone with half a thought or an unsubstantiated opinion can express them without facing the consequences. This lack of accountability is frightening. It is the same cover that created the holocaust and numerous other anonymous atrocities. When one feels there will be no consequences for one’s actions we have the Lord of the Flies all over the place. Before posting anything picture yourself standing before a group of people and presenting what you are about to post. If you hesitate then DON’T POST IT! We all need to take personal responsibility for what we publish even if it is just a “share”.

Check your heart. If you are one of those who think “truth at all costs” then let me share a word of wisdom that I have learned from my many years of being “brutally honest with people”.

Truth without love in meaningless

That’s right. We can speak our truth with gusto and in utter conviction but if we don’t love those whom were sharing it with we are - in the words of the Apostle Paul

… only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal
— 1 Corinthians 13:1

My “truth” will never rise above the din and be heard because it will be like all the other “truths” and dissipate into the cyber-air. We will be so much noise in a very noisy internet. We must truly care about the other person if we are ever going to be able to communicate the truth we believe so deeply.

So check your heart. Do you hate? Do you despise? Do you hold in contempt those with different views than yours? Then the only people who will read your diatribes are those who also hate, despise and hold contempt in their hearts. If that’s the community you want to create for yourself then keep on posting the poison. But in the end the person who will die from it - is you. But, if you want to be a source of inspiration and hope then be that everywhere including Facebook. 

As always if we at Total Wellness Resource Center can ever be of service to you please don’t hesitate to reach out. We’re here to help you become all you were created to be.

Huh … What’d you say? How to Predict a Failed Relationship

There are a few iron clad predictors of lasting relationships according to John Gottman’s forty years of research and one of those predictors is what he calls “turning to” rather than “turning away” from your spouse. Let me explain.

I’m sitting on the couch very quietly minding my own business reading the latest news of those incredible Cubs and how I’m sure they are finally going to break the 108 year old world championship drought … but I digress. So while I’m reading, my sweet, beautiful and extremely talented wife chooses to ask me a question about the menu for the week. Let me say upfront that I am not one of those discriminating fussy eaters. There is almost no food that I do not enjoy and especially anything that Cheri would prepare. So I almost never have any opinion about her meal planning and what’s more, I think she should know this after numerous times of her asking and me responding with; “duh … I dun know”. So do I choose to enter once more into this dead end conversation or do I ignore her question and remain engrossed in fantasying about the Cubs? If I choose to be silent then I am heading right into one of the leading predictors of relational trauma. It is so easy to do and obviously (at least to me) so justifiable. Why respond when I know exactly what the outcome of the conversation will be? Am I not entitled to pick and choose which conversations I engage in and which I leave to parish from neglect?

Marriage can be a beautiful dance of give and take, call and response that binds the two together into an intimate friendship.
— James Tillman

If I am committed to loving my wife and being the husband that I believe God wants me to be then I am also committing to communication even when it is inconvenient, seemingly unnecessary or uninteresting. Yes, I am committing to connecting with my wife whenever and wherever the opportunity arises. Please understand that I am saying there won’t be times when we ask not to be interrupted or we may respond by asking for time since we are in the middle of something. What I am saying is healthy marriages are about a hundred little moments throughout the day when couples share their thoughts, feelings or observations with each other. Marriage can be a beautiful dance of give and take, call and response that binds the two together into an intimate friendship. But let me give you some whys. When we turn toward rather than away from our partner it …

  • Defeats propensity toward selfishness
  • Opens up opportunities for shared encounters
  • Shows respect
  • Improves communication
  • Breaks down barriers
  • Demonstrates loving kindness
  • Sets a great example to our children

If it is such an important part of a healthy marriage why don’t we do it? The bottom line is that we cease making our relationship a priority by making it less important than our comfort, convenience or a particular interest of the moment. That article about the Cubs will still be there in a few minutes but the chance to connect with my wife over something that interests her will not. It doesn’t even need to be a long dialogue. Turning to your partner can be as simple as acknowledging them with a grunt, a laugh or a quick statement of agreement. However, if you want to supersize your “turning to” skills then go out of your way to acknowledge your partners statement with your own thoughts, feelings or observations. For me that would go something like …

Cheri: So baby what would you like for diner this week?

Me: (looking up from my beloved Cubs article) Diner? Let me think. You know I’m not picky, I like everything you make. What would be fun for you to cook this week?

Okay, I’m not that good but you get the message. Turn to not away when your spouse is speaking to you and you will find a friend, companion and someone who you are blessed to share your life with.

We at Total Wellness Resource Center are committed to you becoming all that you were created to be. If ever you need support or encouragement please let us know. You can contact us a connect@totalwellnesscenter.net.