The Garage Sale Syndome

“It is more blessed to give than to receive.”

Giving liberates the soul and set one free. Giving allows you to be more appreciative of what you have. But can giving ever get out of hand? Yes, unless given in the right frame of mind. Sometimes givers cross the line and give to the extent of burdening themselves. Sometimes givers give, but do not know how to receive. When this happens, I question the motive of giving; has it unconsciously become the desire to be blessed? Godly giving is without hidden agendas or strings attached.

The apostle Paul recognized this when he said, “For if you have a willing heart, then it is not important how much you have to give, for God wants you to give what you have to give, not what you do not have. For you are not to give to the point that you are burdened while others are eased. Giving should be about equality. At this time your abundance can supply their want, and at another time, their abundance can supply your want.”
II Cor. 8:12-24 Mona's Paraphrase

I look at giving like a garage sale. I am getting rid of items no longer of value to me, but at great value to you and at give away prices. I am glad to see the stuff go, but do not take it personally as though I have done some great benefit for mankind. My motive is right, for I am not overly concerned with how thankful the receiver is. The receiver is glad to have it, but does not feel obligated to return the favor.

It is good to give, and it is also good to receive. I look at receiving like a garage sale. I look forward to going to their sale (and I am not offended if they are selling what they bought from me). Godly giving and receiving is in the right frame of mind and without hidden agendas or strings attached.

“The size and substance of the gift should be important to the recipient, but not to
the donor, save that the best thing one can give is that which is appreciated. ”
Maya Angelou in Wouldn’t Take Nothing For My Journey Now.

This article was originally written for Marketplace Ministries, December 2003

I Love You, Now Change

I have not seen the movie, but I like the title. And I think I understand the meaning behind it. That special someone is very loveable, but - if only he/she would adjust a few annoying quirks.
And, adjust them according to my specifications.

Our business has grown to the point of needing a promotional video to send to prospective clients. We hired a professional filmmaker, scheduled a “Live Taping”, and invited a few people.
After the presentation, one man spoke highly of the speech and how much he enjoyed it. He was genuine and showed me the notes he had taken, reiterating the salient points he was going to adopt. Then he said, “When you get the tape back, you may want to watch it and see if there is any thing you might need to tone down.”

There was a time when that would have offended me. Just as we need genuine encouragement to help us flourish, we also need sincere critiquing to help us grow. I appreciate the reassuring, yet kind way my friend addressed a delicate area. I like the way he made a suggestion, “you may want…”, rather than telling me what to do. I am thankful for the way he invited me to self-evaluate and come to my own conclusion, rather than point out my flaws or highlighting what he thinks needs to be toned down.

What if a person is harsh when he critiques? It is the same principle; helpful information is helpful information, no matter the tone of voice in which it is given, or the words used. We can choose to filter out attitude and supposed hidden agenda, and hear only the words. Then we can honestly consider the message.

Truth hurts only when it is supposed to. If it is an “ouch”, as in I-resemble-that-remark, then maybe you need to think about what you might need to tone down. If you genuinely consider it and come to the conclusion that you were being unfairly judged, then extend grace to the judge, and a healthy self-love to yourself.

I have found that our families are faithful to point out our character flaws. Have you ever thought that it might be because they love you and want the best for you? By the same token, I have found that we can be pretty faithful to point out their character flaws. How can we do it in a way that is more readily received? How can we present the critique in such a way that it will be sincerely considered?

Use a suggestion, rather than an imperative. State an observance in a matter-of-fact manner and ask the person to determine if you are right or being presumptuous. Present your comments in such a way that invites self-evaluation, which can lead to change.

If all the above fails, you be the one to change and love him anyway, warts and all.

This article was originally written for publication Feb, 2004

"We Are So-o-o-o-o Lost"

"You have not, because you ask not. And even when you do ask, it is for your
own selfish purposes, not to receive what is really needed." James 4:3

As I was going home one afternoon, a luxury late model car and I were the only two vehicles on a particular avenue. The car was creeping along, so I moved into the other lane and passed. After a short distance, the creeping car sped by, then slowed down again.

At the signal, the two occupants got my attention and I rolled down the window. The woman said, “We are so-o-o-o-o-o lost.” They were looking for I-35, which was a simple two lefts and two lights back down the road.

I said to them, “You may think you are lost, but you are not far off track.”

Life is a lot like that. We may think we are lost, but are really not too far off track. And we can find our way back the same way this couple found their main route. They became aware of being on the wrong road. They searched for a familiar landmark to reorient themselves. Finding none, they asked for help. Perhaps most importantly, they received the help offered.

They listened and evaluated that someone who had been down that road before, knew the ropes better than they.

They asked a stranger. Who do you need to ask for help? Who do you need to listen to? What do you need to become aware of? Sometimes information is more readily received from a stranger than from family.

Maybe that is because family has an annoying way of telling us we are lost when we know better. We know where we are going and what we are doing. Still, it may be good information, if we will only receive it, consider it, and maybe – just maybe – act upon it.

This article was originally written for Marketplace Ministries, November 22, 2003


The Right Way to Be Right

Can you do everything right and it still turn out wrong? I seriously doubt it. Here are some thoughts on the issue.

Check your perspective. You did everything right from whose perspective? Your perspective may be too shortsighted. The power behind self-evaluation is a healthy dose of self-doubt. Am I being critical? Do I have an attitude? Am I unwilling to see another point of view? How much grace am I giving? Does it need to be my way or my way?

Being right can be handled wrongly. Does your righteousness (right-ness) cross the line into a condescending self-righteous attitude? Your dogma may be rooted in fear that drinking, drugging and driving will result in death. Yet if the worse case scenario were a near-fatal crash, you want him to summons you to be there. Would the manner in which you have presented your displeasure alienate so that, although you are definitely on his mind, he refuses to call for you?

Check your amplified example. Does the old adage “What you do speaks so loud I cannot hear what you say,” apply? Do not expect another to be something you are not willing to be. Do you expect him to be neat when you leave your areas helter-skelter? Do you expect her to be honest when you tell untruths? Do you expect patience while you blow your cool? Do you expect him to perform quickly and cheerfully when your work ethic is slow and complaining? We can be quick to excuse our faults while accusing another. Excusing yourself sounds like, “I can’t help it, that is just the way I am, bless God!” Only, it doesn’t bless God. And it doesn’t bless you. And it doesn’t bless your family or co-workers. Accusing sounds like, “Why don’t you…”

Monitor voice tone and facial expression. In correction, watch your attitude. Focus on behavior not personality; it is the attitude or activity that needs correcting not his personhood. It is show and tell, not delegate and dump. Ask for change without demanding change. Change is effected by encouraging; everyone needs to hear an occasional “you are special”.

Check tyranny vs. accountability. State your position and hold them responsible. When the focus is on the person changing, judgment is relegated to them rather than to ourselves. When instructions are not being carried out, what is needed? More training? Improved relationship? When needed, impose compliance through removal of privileges. Do it as a means of correction, not punishment. Be strict on the behavior and gentle with the person.

Right is all you get to be. Even when you are right, right is all you get to be. You do not get to be superior. Wrong is all the offender gets to be. He does not get to be inferior.You cannot change the other person. Do not wallow in the frustration; feel the pain and move on.

Keep things in perspective. If your mate is the difficult person, remember that you chose him/her. I do not believe that love is blind. It is not that you do not see the negatives it is that love covers and initially they do not matter. That or we wrongly think we can fix them after the catch is made. Could the problem be that instead of fixing me I want to fix him and he will not co-operate. If the difficult person is your child, maybe your mom’s wish that you would have a kid just like you came true. Know that you are loveable and have many fine qualities despite character flaws. Look for good qualities in your mate, child, co-workers, and in-laws. Accent the positives while helping to develop the negatives into workable qualities.

Relationship is more important than being right. Quit talking to the offender and start talking with God. In life controlling issues, see it as a call to prayer and to develop compassion in you. In irritants, instead of seeing it as something to drive you crazy, see it as a humorous quirk to their personality.


Boost Your Brain Power

Regardless of age, a frequent complaint is the inability to remember names, events or where things are located. Use the following suggestions to improve your thinking skills.

Step it up. The body and mind is interconnected. To increase brainpower, increase the oxygen level through improved use of your body. Engage your body in different activities as a springboard to get your mind unto a new frame of reference for thinking. Walk a little faster. Stretch. Exercise. Get the blood flowing to stimulate thinking.

Water, water, everywhere. We are a nation that is drink obsessed and hydration depleted. At a recent holistic conference, Bill Yeary stated that 75% of Americans have chronic dehydration and this fact alone is a major contributor to pain and disease. The first thing he does in giving body assessments is to test for proper hydration by simply putting pressure on the hand to see how quickly color returns. The majority of participants were dehydrated despite the tables being strewn with coffee cups and soda cans. To improve overall health – mentally and physically - daily drink 8 ounces of undiluted water for every 20 pounds of body weight.

Learn new things. Exposure to fresh experiences and information forces the brain to make new connections. Read challenging material outside your familiar genre. Take up knitting, carpentry or paint a picture.

Do mental gymnastics. To develop mental acuity, take a familiar sequence and mix it up, add to or take away. Recite the alphabet backwards. List the birth order of family members from oldest to youngest. This exercise allows you to relate to each item individually while also seeing them as a whole. Play word games and work puzzles. A good online source is www.sharpbrains.com.

Love and laugh. Love, giving and receiving, is healing. Laughter is a tonic for whatever ails. Love deeply and laugh often. Make relationship more important than mental sharpness by bestowing and accepting compassion for memory slips.

Meditate. To meditate is to think deeply by mulling over in search of profound insights. In the hustle of life we lose touch with the wonderful being we are. Our emotions and senses become overloaded thus thwarting free-flowing thoughts. The letting go through contemplation releases you from the fear of health issues, estrangement, aging and death. Reflection frees you to live one-day-at-a time and to find humor in the absurd.

Even the youngest and the healthiest have occasional lapse of memory. Be patient with yourself and do not berate those “senior moments” as a personality flaw. Accept them as an occasional reality, reconnect and get back in the game of life.


Rules and Rebellion

A dad was frustrated over his stepson’s refusal to take out the trash. He saw it as a personal affront and it became a no-win situation. Here are a few tips on balanced parent/teen rules and rebellion.

1. It’s all about relationship. Think back to where your relationship began to unravel. Ask yourself some tough questions and be honest with the answers. How have I contributed to the breach? Do I demand? What is my tone of voice? When the task is completed, do I say “Thank you” or do I withhold my appreciation as a form of punishment.

2. Respect is more an attitude than a behavior. Make amends and move forward with a new attitude. Respect is denoted through tone of voice more than words used. Do not be put off by the teens off-putting. “Treat others the way you want to be treated” still works.

3. Pass it on. The parent must help the teen to grow into a responsible adult. Often we expect them to become responsible individuals without training. Realize it is a good thing for the child to break away and form his own independence.

4. Training is more caught than taught. Training is to “stimulate the appetite for.” It is show and tell. Give guidelines, state reasonable expectations and do gentle follow-up. Do not excuse your faults while accusing his. Excusing you sounds like, “ I can’t help it, that is just the way I am!” Accusing sounds like, “Why don’t you…” or “If only you would…”

5. There is no par for the course. Do not keep score. Through force or manipulation, you may “make” the person perform the task. That is not winning, it is bullying. It may be a quick fix in that the chore is done, but the relationship is compromised and the rebellion in both parties is strengthened.

6. Keep things in perspective. Do not see the trash not being taken out as an act of rebellion. It may be juvenile irresponsibility. You can be so right you are wrong. You did everything right from whose perspective? Your perspective may be too shortsighted. The power behind self-evaluation is a healthy dose of self-doubt. Am I being critical? Do I have an attitude? Am I willing to see another point of view? How much grace am I giving? Does it need to be my way or my way? Even if you are right, right is all you get to be. You do not get to be superior.

7. This too shall pass. The fact remains that you cannot change another. Set an environment in which he is willing to change. Do not wallow in frustration. Feel the pain and move on. Instead of seeing it as something to drive you crazy, see it as a humorous quirk.

As the relationship between the dad and stepson improved, they went to ballgames and shared fun times. The kid took out the trash most of the time. If not, dad gently reminded him.


Moving Big Walker

This article was published in the Anchor News January, 2004.

“Whoever shall say to this mountain, remove yourself and be cast into the sea, and does not doubt in his heart, but believes what he has said, it will surely come to pass.” Mark 11:13
There are so many juicy truths in this simple verse. First, “whoever shall say...” God is not capricious. He responds to faith, not personality or accolades. Second, if only we could fully understand the power of our spoken word, for good or for bad. Third, speak “to this mountain.” It is necessary to be specific. Faith does not work in generalities, but in specifics. If you are not specific, how will you know when the mountain is gone?

Fourth, we think in pictures; if we do not get the picture, we do not get the concept. Not only do you speak to the specific mountain, but you also picture it being removed and being drowned, never to rise again. Fifth, you do heart surgery and get rid of doubt. You give no place to the possibility of failure. Sixth, it will surely come to pass. Faith is not necessarily instant. Keep on eradicating doubt, keep on believing, and it will happen.

When Joshua scouted out the Promised Land, he found a specific mountain he wanted as his inheritance and said to Moses, “Give me this mountain.” (Joshua 14:12) It took time; it took crossing the Jordan River and fighting the enemy, but the mountain eventually became him.
I have a vivid imagination and I also like quick results. So in picturing this mountain being cast into the sea, I see the mountain come alive like a cartoon character, flutter her eyelashes, daintily heist her antebellum skirt, quickly tiptoe to the ocean edge, and dive in. My faith walk has proven that it does not happen that fast. Often the Scriptures proclaim, “In the fullness of time”.

I am from West Virginia. In the 60’s my father moved the family to Texas and each of the four siblings married a Texan. All of the mountains in West Virginia are scary to foreigners, but Big Walker is particularly ominous. It has become tradition that anytime we take a Texan back home for the first time, we intentionally go out of the way so we can traverse Big Walker.
Imagine my disappointment when I took my husband, and Big Walker was being reduced to more like a molehill. Traffic was delayed as we waited for mountain moving equipment to load trucks for excavation. It was not an easy mountain to cut down to size. It took over a year of construction, much dynamite, and many workers.

My picture of a quick-sprint-of-mountain-Olympics has been replaced with the Big-Walker- marathon. In the process my faith has grown tremendously, and my patience has greatly increased. In believing and waiting, I have developed a calm assurance that God really is in control, even though he allows me to participate in the miracle.

Moses told the Israelites what would await them when entering Canaan. It would be a slow conquest. The reason was so the Israelites would grow in number, in abilities, and in wisdom. If success comes too quickly, we can become cocky and useless. Too much self-confidence can be a liability. The wait time is developing character in us.

Perhaps that is the biggest mountain to move.


How Do You Make Choices?

ASK MONA: Insights into perplexing questions

Dear Mona,

How do you make choices?


Dear Rodney,

That is a broad subject and a difficult topic. Let me see if I can give you a few guidelines that will cover a wide array of circumstances.

First, you need to determine what you value and what your priorities are, as this acts as your compass for life. Next, take a pad and pen and make a list of pros and cons. Be specific and be honest. Weigh the pros and cons independently, not necessarily against each other.

After thoughtful evaluation, make a decision and go with it for a few days or weeks, giving it your all. After a period of time, re-evaluate by revisiting your options and choices. Does the choice need to be continued, dropped or revamped? If the choice results in inner peace, improved relationships and increased success that is a pretty good indication you are on the right track.

Happy decision making,


Balancing Family and School

ASK MONA: Insights into perplexing questions

Dear Mona,

I work, go to school, and take care of my family, so I feel I have to do everything I do, but I never feel like I accomplish anything. How do you feel accomplished?

Frazzled Student

Dear Frazzled Student,

I think part of the problem comes with your feeling that you “have” to do everything you do. Life is all about choices. With everything there is tradeoffs. You have chosen to go to school to better yourself, and I encourage you to choose to attend class and choose to do the homework and choose to study.

You have a family that you choose to take care of, so choose to go to the grocery story and choose to prepare meals and choose to do laundry or cleaning as a way of showing your love. Making things your choice is a great stress reducer over the dread of “have to”and also lends itself to a sense of accomplishment.

May you truly enjoy your family in the midst of your learning experience.



Creating Customers For Life

People vote with their feet. If they do not like a product, they quit buying it. If they do not like the service rendered, they look elsewhere. People interact with people and do business with businesses that add value to their lives. Following are insights into improved customer service.

Check and recheck your focus of people. People are our most important assets. Businesses have to continually assess the bottom line, and I would suggest that people are the bottom line. Businesses have two kinds of customers, internal and external, or, employees and clients. How each group is treated will be a major factor in determining your success.

Develop Social Capital. Not only does a business need financial capital; it also needs social capital. Remember the old saying, “It’s not what you know, but who you know.” And you get to know people by networking, not just at networking functions, but in your everyday situations. Everyone you know, and those yet to meet, are major players in your social capital.

Understand your sense of purpose. There is a big difference in making a living and knowing how to live. You are in business because you have clients, not visa-versa. To help you better understand your sense of purpose write a mission statement and develop a code of ethics.

Embrace diversity. Author Thomas Friedman declares “The World is Flat”. Like it or not, we are living in a global society. In order to thrive in this new economy, learn to appreciate and embrace cultures, personality types and changing technology.

Develop communication skills and empathy. If you think communication is all talking, you haven’t been listening. The word origin of client is the Latin cliens that means listener. When we listen with purposeful understanding we become better able to communicate to our customers how our product will benefit their lives.

Continually take initiative. Be innovative. You can’t keep doing what worked one time because everything around you is changing. To succeed, you have to meet the challenge head on and stay in front of it.

Get customer feedback. New York Mayor Julianne was famous for asking the man on the street, “How am I doing?” Ask for input through surveys, evaluation forms, call numbers and signs inviting comments or complaints. Honestly evaluate the responses for praise and areas for improvement.

Never give up first. Persistence is paramount. It is through spaced repetition that we learn and how we become acquainted with services offered. Wait one more day. Go back one more time. Call once more.

The customer is always right, even when s/he is wrong, s/he is right. Never argue with a client/customer. Empathize with their point of view and acknowledge how your company failed in their eyes. Sometimes all a person needs is validation. When validation occurs, the customer can be extremely forgiving and willing to give you another chance.

Be Systems Oriented. Develop an operating system, hone it to be a well running machine, and train all personnel to use it effectively.

Our continuation of business depends on service rendered. Put the above principles into practice and monitor the effectiveness.

CREATING VALUE: True success involves mutual gain. Mona’s book, Creating Value, an intangible in a tangible world, deals with developing a dual bottom line of being cost-effective and people effective by balancing a three-legged stool of being, doing and having. It explores Einstein’s Theory of Relativity and applies the physics principles to human relationships. Buy it today.


Children and Culture

ASK MONA: Insights into perplexing questions

Dear Mona,

In our culture, we have a coming-of-age celebration on the 12th birthday. Mine was a big deal and I loved it. I want the same thing for my daughter, however, at age five she wants to wear make up and carry a purse and I want her to wait. I have said “No” to make up until age 12 but she still wants a purse. What should I do?

Young Mother

Dear Young Mother,

Give her a purse. Does she have a doll even though she is not of child-rearing age?
Sure she does. It’s a toy. It is a way of looking forward to being a mommy and practicing nurturing skills. Let her do the same thing with appreciating her female status and budding femininity. Be pleasantly firm in the boundary of a certain age before wearing make-up while allowing her to have pretend toiletries such as plastic lipstick and compact. And give her a purse to keep them in.

In the process of learning about and respecting your culture, allow your daughter to be true to herself.



Grace for the Addict

Every choice a person makes affects every one who cares about him. Emotional investment causes one to project an ideal image onto the addict and becomes frustrated when this ideal is not being realized. This frustration stimulates the creative system to find answers. Statistics indicate more hot line calls are from family members than from the substance abuser. Here are thoughts about living peacefully with an addict and aiding his recovery.

Recognize the hard truth. You cannot fix him. You feel powerless because you are powerless over the addict. He is self-determining in the addiction and in the recovery. You are self determining in the “enableing” and in the “tough-love” of a change-encouraging environment.

Prepare for the long haul. Do not assume you are dealing with a normal person. Substance abuse distorts thinking, emotions, moods and the ability to relate to others. The bonds of an addiction are too weak to be noticed until they become too strong to be broken.

Understand your role. Do not minimize your position. Your input and influence are significiant, even though it may not be readily visible. Taking a fix-it mentality sets you up to be an enabler. Understanding facilitates your becoming a needs-fulfilling element that allows the addict to evaluate her own behavior and discover her own destructive actions. Understanding does not administer manipulation, coercion, threats or fear tactics. Understanding loves without controlling. Within generous limits, abide the addicts self-destruct behavior until she comes to the conclusion that she needs help.

Total recovery involves total behavior. Focusing on a single area can severely limit recovery. The body, mind, spirit connection is vital. Statistics show that the majority of addicts seek help from clergy before other professionals, even non-believers.

It takes a village. A wide support system plays a key role in recovery. Just as “your sickness is in your secret,” so also your healing is in openness. Without blame or shame, acknowledge the problem and be open to receive insights and prayers from others.

It is my premise that all of us are broken and all of us are in process of recovery. Caregivers need caring too. Al-Anon is an excellent organization for those who care about the self-destructive behavior of a loved one.

Mona Dunkin, Motivational Speaker, Corporate Trainer and Personal Success Coach of f Solution Principles, specializes in maximum people development. Contact Mona at 254-749-6594 or mdunkin@flash.net Read past articles at http://www.monadunkin.blogspot.com/


Overcoming the Empty Nest Syndrome

Family is the backbone of civilization and is always in transit. The gift of children not only enriches our lives, they also consume our energy, time and resources. And what a void there is when they go out on their own. Here are some thoughts on fulfilling the emptiness.

Appreciate and let go. Rather than bemoan the inevitable of the child growing up and living independently, acknowledge that the relationship has taken on a new and exciting dimension. Your role becomes more friend, advisor and confident. Embrace his adult maturity and enjoy the fruits of your labor.

Plan ahead. You had nine months to get ready for the birth, now put preparation into the pending transition into interdependent adulthood. Give yourself something to look forward to. Be proactive by scoping out new activities and become involved. Check out going back to school, to work or commit to volunteering. Continuing your education or complete your degree. Do not engage is self-pity or self-imposed abandonment. Become a vital part of the community; group activities are a good antidote to isolation.

No shrines allowed. Welcome your newfound freedom with all its promised opportunities. Turn the extra room into a home office, hobby room or exercise parlor. Home will still be home whether the room is intact or not. I remember the wise advice of our daughter in my dilemma over redoing her room; “Mom, when I say I miss home, I mean you, not this floor plan.”

Reconnect as a couple. The marriage bond is a permanent contract and needs constant renewal. Travel to discover new lands, local or faraway, and rediscover the adventure of relationship building. Spend leisure time over morning coffee and discuss local events. Make it a point to develop an interest in your mate’s activities and become a supporter. Reflect together on the pleasures and problems of the wonder years; see how each brought you closer as a couple/family.

Begin those “someday I’ll’s”. The time has come to complete those one-of-these-days- promises. Redecorate the living room. Organize closets. Become a Master Gardener. Put your life accumulation of photos in order and scrapbook. Write the family history. Everyone has a book inside them so begin your novel.

Get involved in the community. Redirect your need to nurture into volunteer work. Fulfill your need to connect by becoming involved with church, AARP, political interests or social clubs. Reconnect with family and friends.

Walk it off. Get physically active - this is good not only for physical health, but also for your mental health, plus it is a great stress reliever. Movement keeps you limber for getting on the floor with your future grandchildren.

Change your perspective. Instead of seeing yourself as being put out to pasture, embrace your life accomplishments and revel in a job well done. Know that you will always be an important part of your children’s lives.

Being an involved parent in the formative years is vital. Good parents work themselves out of a job. Relax, appreciate and learn to be your own best friend.

Mona Dunkin, Motivational Speaker, Corporate Trainer and Personal Success Coach of f Solution Principles, specializes in maximum people development. Contact Mona at 254-749-6594 or mdunkin@flash.net.


Common Sense Parenting

Parenting is one of the greatest fulfillment of life and also the most challenging. Someone rightly said, “Children are such a good way to start people.” But, sometimes we expect these little people to be, and know, and act like an adult. We often expect our children to be something that we, their parents, are not willing to be - things like patient, kind, mannerly, and honest. Here are a few common sense thoughts on parenting that makes childrearing a joy.

1. Survive and Thrive. To survive, children need air to breathe, water to drink, food to eat and protection from harm. To thrive, they need love. The Apostle Paul admonished the older women to teach the younger women to love their children. (Titus 2:3-4) This seems to indicate that love does not come naturally but must be learned. Oh sure, most parents love their children, but they find it hard to “like” them; and that is exactly what Paul meant. To love means, “to be kindly disposed toward.” In other words, learn not only to love but also to like and enjoy being with your children.

2. Acceptance does not mean approval. In learning to like your children, you must accept them as they are! You may not approve of your child’s laziness, but accept him in spite of this character trait and teach him responsibility. You do not approve of your child’s disobedience, but accept him in this weakness and teach him to obey. A child needs to be acknowledged as a person. Show common courtesy to your children; introduce them to friends and acquaintances rather than ignoring their presence.

Children need to make choices so they can learn to reason. Be careful that the choices are not too overwhelming. Do not ask your child, “What do you want to wear today?” Give two alternatives, say, “Do you prefer to wear this outfit or this outfit?” Allow them to help make simple family decisions such as the choice of the restaurant when dining out.

Include your child as an important family member. This sounds so simple, yet it is often overlooked. I know a couple that purchased a house and were ready to move and the children were totally unaware they were moving until the big day arrived. When a major decision has been reached, at least let the children know what is going on so they will feel like a necessary part of your lives.

3. Children need to be useful. Often it is easier to do a task for a child instead of taking the time to help him learn, but this is damaging to his self-esteem and produces a lazy, dependent person. Remember that children are children and are not as proficient at chores as you are, but trial and error is an effective way to learn. Resist the temptation to redo the child’s effort, at least in the presence of the child. When our daughter was learning to make her bed, it was hard for me not to go behind her and smooth out the wrinkles and straighten the lop-sided spread. Instead, I would praise her effort and overlook the imperfections.

Those times it was too sloppy to overlook, I would straighten it while saying to her, “When you are a little taller you will be able to reach the middle of the bed better, and smooth out these lumps.” Or, “When you are a little bigger you will have stronger muscles to pull the spread”. Using the term when projects to the child that it just a matter of time until he/she will be able to perform the task as well as you. With loving guidance, she learned to make the bed beautifully.

4. Children need to be trusted. Set moral standards before them, teach them honesty and responsibility and then trust them. Of course, this does not mean they are turned loose on their own without monitoring. Children need to voice their opinions; to speak for themselves as to what their feelings are. Children need time alone just to think. In other words, children’s needs are much the same as yours.


I often receive heartbreaking letters from caregivers needing help with troubled youth. This is my reply and suggestions:

“My heart goes out to both you and to the child. Sounds like you have a lot on your plate and I cannot imagine how difficult it is and has been for you. I appreciate your willingness to be his advocate; he needs someone in his corner. In addition to therapy and the doctor's regiment, I would suggest the following:

Build relationship. Relationship is about the quality way in which each of you relates with/to the other. Anger and disappointment get in the way of relationship. Unrealistic expectations get in the way of relationship. Relationship is about acceptance of the totality of the person - the good, the bad, the beautiful and the ugly. Please note, acceptance does not mean approval, it simply means I accept you as you are. Out of this uncomplicated acceptance you can build a mutually satisfactory relationship. We are all flawed individuals. Humility is one flawed individual willing to receive correction from another flawed individual. It is through acceptance of flawed humanity (ours and theirs) that we are in a position to heal our wounds and positively influence healing in others.

Limit over-expectations. If a person has a broken leg, is he expected to run a marathon? Have there been individuals with crippled legs that run marathons? Yes, either haltingly or in wheelchairs, but they are few and far between. We applaud those of such outstanding feats and are willing to give grace to a handicapped runner. If you were the crippled runner would you want grace? All handicapped in one way or another and some more than others. Gently train by receiving grace for your weaknesses and giving grace to those without your mental or physical abilities.

“Make order. Order does not mean perfection or a military-type regimen. Order means not complicated, not messy, not wasting a lot of time. Order is honestly assessing your time, resources and abilities and not taking on more than you can accomplish. Order is setting realistic goals for you and your child so neither one is disappointed. Order is not taking on more than you can reasonably manage. Order is not demanding of the child more than he is reasonably capable of accomplishing. Order sets you free. Order is planning and scheduling and following through and having a feeling of accomplishment. Order allows you to set a healthy, relaxing daily routine and discover how much control you have gained over your life. Go to my blog www.monadunkin.blogspot.com and click on the articles under organization for additional help in establishing order. I will in the next few days do an article on ADHD helps and will post previous articles on effective study skills.

“Learn to be assertive. Assertive is taking care of you so you can help take care of others. It is knowing that you cannot give out of an empty basket so, as the airlines instruct, "put on your own oxygen mask before helping a child of crippled person." Assertive is not doing for another what he/she is capable of doing for himself. Assertive is standing up for your own legitimate rights and not being lost in the hassles of life. Assertive is setting healthy boundaries and firmly, yet kindly, enforcing them. Assertive is asking for change without demanding change. Assertive is not making excuses for you or him, but honestly facing the issues straight on, with courage and dignity. Assertive is truth or consequences. Assertive is graciously receiving the rewards of your own truth or humbly suffering the consequences of your own untruth. It is maturely allowing another to suffer the consequences of his wrong actions and supportively acknowledging and encouraging his participation in his own truth.

“Know who you can control. The bottom line is, the only person over whom you have control is you. You can threaten another, manipulate, coerce, reward or punish - all of which are ineffective long-term and are relationship destroying. As you take effective control of the thoughts you think, the words you say, the tone of voice you use, the expressions on your face, the actions you make, the way you behave, the choices you engage in, the places you go, the company you keep, the way you spend your money, etc., etc., etc., then the greater the positive influence you have on others. And, it is relationship building. Nothing influences like a good example. Being the good example puts you in a position to encourage the same in your child and to set limits when it is disobeyed. To demand and not example, is to be a “talking head” with negative results. See blog, Ask, Don’t Tell.

“Make quiet time. It is imperative. The answers are within and are discovered through contemplation. In quietness your soul can hear the still small voice of conscience. In quietness you are attuned to truth. Through honest reflection you become aware of strengths and weaknesses. Getting honest about weakness conquers egotism, fear and ignorance and paves the way for teamwork. Being candid about strength enlightens, energizes and promotes cooperation. It is through quiet contemplation that potential energy is transformed into enthusiastic force. As you realize your spiritual purpose you are refreshed and enlivened.

“You can purchase my book, Creating Value, an intangible in a tangible world, which gives invaluable help in building relationship. Chapter four is entitled Receiving the Gift of Yourself and Chapter five is Developing Yourself and Others. Send $15.00 and I will send one to you. Mona Dunkin, P O Box 774, Elm Mott, TX 76640.

“In addition to my book, Creating Value, purchased through me, I recommend Dr. William Glasser's book Unhappy Teenagers and what Parents/Grandparents Can Do About It. You can buy Dr. Glasser's books at Barnes and Nobles. I send out a monthly motivational e-letter and have added you to the list.

“Using the concepts of Reality Therapy and Choice Theory, I do individual sessions. I charge $65.00 per session and would love to work with you or your grandson.

“As God brings you to my mind, I will whisper your names in prayer.”


It's Better Late Than Never

The best laid plans of mice and men are not always followed through, resulting in guilt and shame. Here are a few personally tested and verified suggestions.

Distinguish between true guilt and false guilt. True guilt is when you have broken a promise or caused another hurt. This guilt indicates a working conscious; heed it and take corrective measures. False guilt is the nagging shame that you have not lived up to expectations - yours, societies, a certain someone or dogma. This guilt indicates hypersensitive emotions. Recognize the inappropriate guilt trip and dump it.

Think it Through. If it continues to bother you, even on rare occasions, it still matters. It needs to be settled so you can move on. Put emotions aside and use sane, reasonable and logical thinking to assess and evaluate.

Challenge Your Excuses. Why are you not following through or correcting inappropriate behavior? Is it because you are fearful? Lazy? Unorganized? Don’t know how? In denial? Disillusioned? Lack of self-discipline? Don’t care?

Seek Trusted Counsel. An incest victim was encouraged to privately share with her counselor the pain that kept her bound. In time she healed enough to break the code of silence on a family secret. Other family members acknowledged pain of either having been wounded or of having suspicions but failed to address them. Together they confronted the perpetrator and sought legal justice. Generational cover-ups were exposed and multitudes of wounds were healed.

Peacemakers Make Trouble. Peacemaking is not peace-at-all-cost by ignoring the situation and trying to pacify everyone. Peacemaking is stirring up the troubled waters to be sifted and settled. Healing came to a family, even the repentant abuser.

Incorporate AA’s Steps 8 and 9. “Made a list of all persons we had harmed and became willing to make amends to them all … except when to do so would injure them or others.” Relationships are always worth restoring. Whether you are the victim or the perpetrator, proceed with wisdom, caution and humility.

Give a Simple Explanation. There is a difference in an excuse and an explanation. An explanation accepts and clarifies an oversight whereas an excuse covers up irresponsibility. Do not go into a long tirade of reasons; in Dragnet fashion, state “Just the facts Ma’am”.

Be Sincere. In the Greek agoras, statues were mass produced one at a time. The artisan covered up his slip-of-the-chisel with a cleverly molded wad of wax. The buyer unawares bought the flawless statue, pleased with his purchase until the hot sun either melted the cover up or discolored it. Truth in advertising prevailed. True Greek artisans stamped their crates “Sincerieta”, meaning without wax. Be genuine and without false humility. Do not gloss over your mistakes, remorse, shame or embarrassment. Be an adult and make amends with grace.

Rest in the End Results. Whatever the outcome, be an adult and receive the person’s response with grace. Embrace a relationship restored and communicate to keep it healthy. For a brief time, grieve a restoration rejected and move on, continuing to hold them in high regard as a person of worth and value.

Live in a State of Self-Evaluation. Continually evaluate your attitudes and actions and be responsible for your responses. Is what I am doing helping or hurting? How is it helping? How is it hurting? What can I do to improve my communication skills? How can I develop a greater empathy? Do I push people away or draw them in? How am I being a jerk? How am I maturing and overcoming?

Some of the greatest lessons learned are those we missed the first time. Life is faithful to give us the tests over and over until either we pass or die. We’ll still die even when we learn from past failures, but perhaps death will be more peaceful with friends and loved ones nearby.

Problem Solving Techniques

The bad news is, “Life is filled with problems.” The good news is, “We can learn effective problem solving techniques.” How we approach problems has a lot to do with the outcome. Here area few proven tips for success.

Define the problem. Failure to define the problems lends it to growing out of proportions. Be specific and do not stack complaints. What exactly is the issue? Is it mechanical or personnel? Who is involved? What is their level of involvement? Do they need to be involved? If yes, for how long and in what capacity? If not, why not? What is the desired outcome?

See the situation as solvable. Defeatist thinking has never worked, plus it is stress producing. Turn your focus from a problem to a challenge and experience the creativity to overcome. See it as an opportunity to stretch, learn and grow while developing patience and determination.

Brainstorm. Get the creative juices flowing and the fun flourishing. Consider many possibilities, whether rational or irrational. Think with pen and paper in hand and jot down a cluster of ideas without weighing and measuring them as to ultimate possibility. Do not worry about your idea being absurd; with modification it may be just the trick. Do not judge. Laugh. Enjoy the process whether alone or in group.

Determine what is needed. Is it expertise or tools? If it is more information, who do you consult or what training is needed? Is it an attitude adjustment? Do you need more people? Less people? Resources? Time constraints?

Get counsel. Someone not so close to the situation has fresh eyes, is less emotionally involved and can be more objective. Be willing to receive input, knowing that the final decision is yours.

Come to a conclusion and go with it. Do not analyze to the point of paralyses. No decision is a decision you just have not let yourself know it so you continue to agonize. Weigh pros and cons and make a decision. If the solution is long term, set short-term steps and take action.

Continually evaluate the effectiveness. After putting the plan into implementation, be open to adjustment if needed. “No” is not fatal and “Yes” is not final. This is not promoting wishy-washiness but flexibility and growth.

Procrastination rarely has positive results. The axiom, “action is the distraction”, is applicable in problem solving. Happy conclusions.

Change Blockers

A ship left its port-of-call for an eight-day sail across the ocean. On the 8th day, friends and family gathered on the other shore to welcome the arriving ship. Only it did not come. They waited and waited and no sight of the ship. The coast guard was called. Eventually the cruise ship was found, in tact, everyone safe but scared at being lost at sea. An investigation revealed that the radar mechanism was off calibration by a mere 1%. Only 1% off, yet hundreds of miles off course.

“Human beings are build for success but programmed for failure.” -
John Roger & Peter McWilliams in Do It!

Here are some attitudes that can cause us to go so far off course, and become lost in a sea of frustration, scared and alone.

1. Justification. I call this the “Big but syndrome.” Agreeing but disagreeing. “I may be wrong, but you are too.” “I see what you are saying, but I just…..” “I know this is not my best work, but…” Justifying excuses ad nauseaum. Justification refuses to recognize truth.

2. Rationalization. This is akin to justifying, only dressed up a little. It is more intellectual and sounds more plausible. Regardless, it blocks honesty, admitting mistakes and changing for the better.

3. Denial. Denial is saying one thing and doing another. “No, I don’t watch too much TV!” Really? Do a time log to see how much time is wasted in front of the boob tube. “I don’t have an attitude!” Really? Make a recording of you interacting with a client or family member with what you think is your okay attitude. Wait three days and then listen to the recording again. Denial leads to delusion that believes the lie you have told yourself.

4. Dishonesty. Dishonesty is stretching the truth. Dishonesty is refocusing the situation to put you in a good light and make someone else the bad guy. Dishonesty is leaving out, even to yourself, anything that might make you look bad. Dishonesty is being fake and counterfeit.

5. Fear. Fear is seeing the need to change, only being afraid you cannot change. I know how to be obnoxious, but I do not know how to cooperate. I know how to be sarcastic, but I do not know how to be honest. I know how to demand, but I do not know how to ask or to make an appeal.
The willingness to take risks is our grasp of faith. George E. Woodbarry

6. Arrogance. Arrogance is thinking you are always right without considering the other side. It is obstinately and intolerably devotion to your own beliefs or creeds. It is putting on “airs” and pretending to be someone you are not.

"It was because of my great pride that I began to attack everyone who did
not see everything just the way I did." The Final Quest by Rick Joyner

We human beings are a peculiar lot. We want change, yet are afraid to change. Or maybe we want the situation to change, while we stay the same. After all, “I am not the problem.” But what if I am at least a part of the problem? Even a tiny amount like 1%? Think about it.

“Nothing of value gets lost in the change.”
- Anthony Hopkins in The Dawning


My Job Is...

In our society we often define people by what they do. A common meet and greet question is, “What do you do?” In the process of doing, we fail to become. You cannot always choose the consequences, but you can choose your choices. You did not make a conscious decision to be fired, get divorced, become incarcerated, or sink into financial ruin; however, in the choices you did make you chose the difficult road.

Mrs. Brown (not her real name) was hired to be a Quality Control Specialist at – her definition – “the roach motel”. She was dreading the job. She was certain they were going to be difficult to work with because they did not really want change. We did a simple exercise to determine her responsibilities verses the business’s responsibilities and to not get the two confused.

My Job Is… My Job Is Not: Mrs. Brown’s job is to assess the current situation and make recommendations to management. Her job is to leave the decision with them and not try to force the owners to follow her sage advice.

Give up the judgmental attitude. Surface situations do not indicate intent. Looking at circumstances in a disparaging manner blocks the obvious aim of management to make improvements or they would not have put the job position into the budget or made the effort to hire a Quality Control Specialist.

Discard the “I'll-fix-it” mindset. My definition of synergy is “all of us are smarter than any of us.” It really does take a village – in child rearing, in community efforts and in business endeavors. Be open to options by co-workers and actively seek outside advice. Be willing to accept the fact that if it is working – even at a limp – management may not want it fixed.

The final decision lies with the one in authority. Hiring is a two way street; you choose to work for the company and the company chooses to hire you. When you accept a position, their goal automatically becomes your goal and the final decision lies in their hands, thus taking the stress off of you. It becomes a symbolic relationship of meeting your need to serve as well as your financial obligations and meeting the establishment’s need to provide service/products and to make a profit.

It’s all about relationship. In my younger years and in my, my-way-or-my-way attitude, I set out to correct the inefficiency in the handling of mass monthly mailings. The supervisor was set in her ways and resistaed my organizational suggestions. It became a dreaded project and tension headaches. One day I decided that since I could not control the situation anyway I might as well give up control and enjoy the lady’s company. It was a routine task so we began to exchange funny stories, recipes and dreams. The duty became enjoyable, helter/skelter though it was, as I looked forward to working with my friend. And one day she asked if I had any ideas as to how the system could flow smoother.

In our society we often define people by what they do, and the more you do the more successful you are. Only in the process of doing, we fail to get to know who we are and who we can become. Who we are determines the type of job we choose, the quality of work we perform, the attitude toward our labors and the stress level we carry.

Past Due Remembrance

I once served on a board of our community where frequent mention was made of a founding member and his contributions to the organization. The gentleman had been deceased five years. Mingled with appreciation was regret over not having formally made tribute to his family. How does one go about making amends?

Face your fears. You may be hesitant to contact the family for fear of opening fresh wounds. The hurt never goes away and you remembering the loved one, even if tears are shed, will aid in the healing process.

Waylay the guilt. You may try to assuage your guilt with the excuse, “But they may not remember.” You do and you matter. Whether they ever thought about your lack of social etiquette or not, they will be blessed by your current act of love. It is never too late to remember and pass it on.

Some is better than none. Do not be concerned over the smallness of the attempt; little things mean a lot. A few belated words are better than continued silence. A small gesture of remembrance is better than grand plans unperformed. A simple belated mention of the loved one’s name can bless the family and alleviate your guilt.

Choose your words. Think about what you will say and practice it before knocking on the door. The manager and I visited the widow with a beautiful potted plant and a card signed by all board members. With no mention of the time lapse, we spoke of how the man’s influence continued to bless the individuals who knew him personally and the community at large.

Call ahead of time. Make an appointment rather than just dropping by. This sets the stage for your intentions and gives the loved one time to look forward to your visit.

A loved one’s name is music to the ears. In future encounters, do not hesitate to make mention of the loved one’s value to family and friends. Share stories of heroics and misadventures. Laugh and cry together.

Receive the thanks. Graciously receive expressions of gratitude and do not discount your efforts because you acted out of guilt.

Make a tribute in his/her honor. The board made a plaque to hang in the corporate office expressing thanks to the community leader and his family. Plant a tree in the person’s name. Make a donation to a charity in her memory. Send flowers to the hospital as a remembrance. Make an ordinary Sunday special with altar flowers in honor of a life departed. A friend of mine keeps a picture of her neighbor’s son on her piano as a silent memorial.

The past cannot be relieved but the present is always available. And expressions of caring is never out of place. Do it with regards, not regrets.

If I would paint a rainbow every time I think of you,
My world would soon become a lovely, golden hue.
But if I never tell you, then how are you to know,
How much your life has touched me, and helped me oft to grow.
So may this tiny gesture wing its flight your way
To cheer you up on sunless days when your skies are gray.
© Mona Dunkin, 1997

Taking Back Your Life

One of the first phrases a child says is, “I do it.” And that is good. It shows the social need of serving is in tact. Anything can be taken to extreme. The need to serve can become so distorted that you try to become all things to all people while being so out of balance that you will not allow someone to serve you (and resenting it in the process). Here are some thoughts as to how to step off the merry-go-round and take back your life.

Recognize that “I can’t do that.” One of your greatest strengths is to know your weaknesses. Look at your priorities to see how you have neglected them in lieu of low-pay off activities. Be honest with determining how much you have over-committed.

Being good at something does not obligate you to do it. Just because you are good at baking or carpentry or leading scouts, does not mean you are mandated to do it. Do not commit yourself to a task unless it is a passion and you have time and resources for it.

You are more than a workhorse. Who you are is not defined by what you do. You are a multifaceted individual with multiple talents to share and needs to be fulfilled. Although who you are is a factor in the quality of work you do, the fact remains that you are more than an activity.

You are more than your job. You are more than your looks. You are more than your possessions. You are more than your clubs or social events. The student is more than his/her grades.

Make choices. You always have options whether you realize it or not. Become aware and use them. Do not short change yourself by settling for the status quo or another’s demands. If you are not actively engaged in making choices for yourself, someone else will make them for you.

Speak up. We teach people how to treat us. Set boundaries by using your words. Use phrases such as, “I need you to…” “I need you to stop…” “I need you to know…” “I choose to…” “I choose not to…” “I like…” “I don’t like…” I feel…” “I think…” “Thank you.” “No, thank you.”

Enlist help. You need them to need you and they need you to need them. One of the greatest ways to develop relationship is through joint projects. Ask, don’t tell. You can tell but asking produces a more favorable response.

Give yourself permission. Remember when you wanted to grow up so you could make your own decisions? It is time. Give yourself permission to say “No” when it is in your own best interest; others will benefit also. Give yourself permission to not like someone; you can still be kind. Give yourself permission to not be perfect; you are still loveable. Give yourself permission to put yourself to bed, to follow your dreams, to not keep up with the Joneses, to give up dieting, to take the day off… the list is endless and so empowering.

Life is the greatest gift that God and our parents gave to us. Only sometimes it becomes the greatest burden we bear. Using these suggestions will move you forward to regaining the joy in living.


The Art of Persuasion

In Dr. Seuss’s famed childhood book, Green Eggs and Ham, Sam-I-Am persistently insisted that the Cat-in-the-Hat try just one mere morsel of an objectionably looking delicacy. Let’s look at Sam’s art of persuasion.

Speak from experience. It is hard to convince someone of that which you are not fully persuaded. Try it. Test it. Be comfortable in the performance, concept or principle before passing it on to others.

Make the presentation interesting. Give concerted thought to the words to use rather than rambling. Use examples, props, visual aids or other venues to illustrate your message. Present in different formats, keeping in mind the vast array of learning styles.

Do not give up easily. Keep on keeping on. A “No” is not necessarily final. Be willing to do more research and contact at a later date. Although there may come a point of needing to let go, through developing a relationship, the issue is always available to be revisited.

Be more concerned with client’s need than with your sale. Whether an item or an idea, when you have the other’s best interest at heart, your doggedness has more substance. There is a difference in motivation and manipulation. Manipulation is external and for personal gain, whereas motivation is internal and for the benefit of all involved.

Remain pleasant in the face of opposition. Always remember the other’s humanity and do not be offended by objections or misunderstandings. Guard your facial expressions and monitor your tone of voice. Show respect by acknowledging that everyone is right from their own perspective. Make relationship more important than being right.

Do not gloat over having persuaded another. We are each self determining and make our own decisions, whether persuaded in one direction or not. You did not make someone come to your conclusion. If you think you did, it was manipulation and not persuasion. A person convinced against his will is of the same opinion still. If your influence made a difference in the outcome, recognize it for what it is – encouragement and not determinism, effect and not cause.

Try it, you’ll like it. Give yourself room to grow by being open to new experiences.

CAUTION: Whether being the persuader or the persuadee, check with your conscious that what you are trying will not lead to addictive or destructive behavior.


Change is a Choice

Confucius said, “Only the wisest and stupidest of men never change.” If you do not fall into one of those two categories, here are some thoughts on choosing to change. Change is good. Change is the only thing that is permanent and our adjustment to it keeps life in balance.

1. True change comes with an adjustment in thinking, feeling and doing. It is with intellect that we reason, weigh, consider and understand the issues of life. It is with our emotions that we feel the issues of life such as joy, sorrow, pride, shame, etc. It is with the will that we decide the issues of life, such as “I will do that…” or “I will not do this…”; we say "yes" or "no" to opportunities, "yes" or "no" to temptations, "yes" or "no" to actions.

2. We think in pictures. If we don't get the picture, we don't get the concept. Change often seems impossible because we continue to keep old pictures in our mind while trying to bring a new reality into focus. To change your life, change your mind. Change can be scary, but the rewards are worth the struggle.

I am afraid I am only a dreamer who hasn’t the courage to change.
Kuki Gallmann in I Dreamed of Africa

3. The current pictures in our mind were developed in indelible ink. There are no gaps in communication, for we fill in the blanks with our imaginations or pre-conceived ideas. Perhaps we sensed someone’s emotional state, and pictured it as a logical stance. Perhaps we read the body language or facial expressions and misinterpreted it. Even though emotional imprints are powerful, the truth is, our mental pictures can be wrong.

4. Challenge the mental pictures you have. Is it real or imagined? Have I lied to myself? Am I keeping myself boxed in and not growing? Most of our pictures come from past experiences that say to us, “What has happened will happen.”
In workshops, I like to ask participants to “picture it”, then call off a litany of objects, i.e. dog, car, tree, building, house, etc. The result is that most people picture their own dog, their own car, a tree in their own yard, etc., thus showing how we carry yesterday into today, thus failing to expend the energy or creativity to think new thoughts which results in new adventures and change.

So, change your mind. I would suggest that just as you easily changed your mental picture from dog to car, so you could just as easily change old prejudices into new accepting attitudes, and change outgrown labels into new realities of who you are becoming.

5. Become the “little engine that could”. Even though the hill may be long and arduous, keep on keeping on until you reach the summit of change. It is okay to grow up emotionally and leave home. Put away childish things. Develop and use skills you have now which you did not have as an innocent, defenseless child.

You’re always competing with your own past. It’s the reach muscle. You have to reach for something new in life. - Steven Spielberg

To change your life, take new pictures. Visit new vistas. Whet your appetite to learn different ways of dealing with issues. Change your mind. Get a paradigm shift. Live more from imagination than from memory. Dream dreams. Develop the attitude of “When I see it, I will believe it.”

“Nothing of value gets lost in the change.” - Anthony Hopkins in The Dawning


Steps to Becoming Assertive

“Assertive behavior promotes equality in human relationships. Enabling us to act in our own best interest, to stand up for ourselves without undue anxiety, to express honest feelings comfortably, to exercise personal rights without denying the rights of others.”
Your Perfect Right by Robert Alberti & Michael Emmons

Assertive behavior is being able to stand up for self without undue anxiety and to express honest ideas and legitimate feelings without denying the rights of others. Assertive behavior does not come naturally. Here are some steps to becoming assertive.

1. Become aware of your own behavior and attitudes. It is easy to get along when things are going smoothly, but under pressure agreeable behavior often turns to control. Because we see behave sensibly most of the time, we may be unaware of how passive or aggressive we may become at times. Observe your behavior for assertiveness when not under pressure and replicate that behavior in stressful situations.

2. Observe and emulate an effective role model. See someone who handles a difficult situation well and begin to take those character qualities for you own. A note about role models: one person will not be the answer to all situations. Just because the person is a good example in one area, does not mean he/she is to be emulated in all areas. It really does take a village.

3. Take personal responsibility for your actions, your attitudes and your agendas. Do not blame others. He/she may have done something irritating, but he did not “make you mad.” You chose to become angry in an attempt to control the situation. Become aware of your agendas. Why does this matter so much to you?

4. Self-evaluate your actions, attitudes and agendas. Be specific. Did it hurt? Who did it hurt? In what ways did it hurt? Did it help? How did it help?

5. Make a plan. Just wishing and hoping will not bring effective change. Make concrete plans to stop negative behaviors. Make conscious efforts to stop bad attitudes. First, change your verbiage. Do not call the person names or say ugly things, even if you have to bite your tongue. Second, curtail your actions. Do not throw things or gesture wildly. Third, modify your thinking. Give some latitude. Realize that you do not know where the other person is coming from, what he thinks or how she feels. Fourth, and this one comes about automatically, your feelings begin to change. You begin to feel good about you and being in effective control of yourself. You also may begin to feel empathy or compassion for the errant one. You have more control over the talking, doing and thinking, than you do over the feeling, but it will follow suit.

6. Imagine yourself in a similar situation again and handling things differently. Do not nurse, curse and rehearse the situation; that leads to becoming angrier. Tiger Woods pictures himself making the shots before going onto the green. See yourself handling the difficult situations in a pleasant, assertive manner.

7. Get feedback. Ask, “How am I doing?” Ask for genuine input, not to feed your ego or to become supersensitive.

8 Get bottom line honest. This is really the secret of accomplishing numbers

No matter how many excuses you may impose, the bottom line is we are each self-determining and are each responsible for our behavior. Assertive behavior is treating others fairly while teaching them to be fair with you.


Overcoming Negativity

Attitude. Everyone has one. Where did it come from? What impacts it? Can it be changed? Here are some thoughts regarding the construct and reconstruct of attitude.

Attitude is an intangible display of a person’s likes or dislikes based on hypothetical construct of an item or situation. Attitude can be positive, negative, neutral or ambivalent. Positive is for; negative is against; neutral is not taking a stand either way; and ambivalent is the simultaneous possession of both positive and negative bias.

Attitude is nurtured by environment through observational learning. In an attempt to fit in, an individual will most often adapt to the environment. A byproduct of environmental change is attitude change. A cooperative person may become rebellious through association with dissenting peers. A negative individual will become increasingly positive in an encouraging atmosphere.

Attitude is based on judgments influenced by three unconscious factors: 1) how the situation does/will affect the individual, 2) assessment of behavioral intentions, and 3) thought processes drawing from a storehouse of experiences. One may judge asparagus as bad tasting based solely on a disliked for green food, coupled by Mom’s insistence that it is good for you and mental ascent to Kermit’s declaration that “It’s hard being green”.

Attitude is impacted by experience. Remembrance of a rain-soaked vacation may dampen your outlook on that region of the world. Keep an open mind

Attitude is ultimately a choice, conscious or unconscious. Much maturity has been attained by a deliberate decision to step up to bat and accept responsibility. Conversely, victim mentality is frequently manifested through unwitting thought processes.

Attitude demands feedback. Become aware of reaction toward the attitude you project. Like produces like. Rather than become upset over someone’s off putting, be a change agent by evaluating your attitude. Instead of being resistive, choose to become inclusive. A healthy attitude listens to understand what is being said and acknowledges that what is said is important to the speaker. Respond calmly and respectfully, without profanity or sarcasm.

Attitudes are adjustable. What a change can be transformed through the knowledge that you have the power to control your attitude and the practice of being deliberate about your attitude.
Try it, you'll like it.

DON'T COPE, OVERCOME: When you have negative thoughts, use this formula to overcome.
1, Acknowledge it
2. Denounce it
3. Replace it with positive slant that brings growth

Loser’s Attitude: Try, Fail. Try, Fail. Quit.
Winner’s Attitude: Try, Fail, Adjust. Try, Fail, Adjust. Try, Fail, Adjust. Win.


Settling Issues

Without effort, things have a way of piling up. For years I chaired a community garage sale fund-raiser for our fire department. As we packed the leftovers for Salvation Army pick-up, a helper suggested we cull a few items as “seed” for next year. Before long the storage unit overflowed with stuff.

This principle applies to unresolved issues. As strange as it seems, unresolved issues begat unresolved issues. Without effort they stack up. You keep adding to the pile. Consider the following thought to become settled.

Unresolved issues are merely unmade decisions. If looking at your desk, file cabinet, closet or garage produces frustration, it is probably you have unresolved issues begging for a resolve. Unresolved issues lurk in the background, distracting your thinking and prohibiting lack of focus. Pushing it to the proverbial “tomorrow” takes a toll on productivity, creativity and stress level.

No decision is a decision. It’s just that you have not let yourself know that you have made the decision to not decide. If the relationship is deteriorating or debt increasing, you have chosen to not address it. You are inert. You become stuck in limbo. Proclaiming, “This is driving me crazy” is to go around in circles without coming to a conclusion.

Resolve: Do not be like Don Quixote jousting at windmills. You must have a target in mind. What needs to be settled? Here are categories to consider:

  • Relationship issues like too much time apart, lack of communication, or unaddressed hurt feelings.
  • Neglected experience such as touring Europe, taking a hot-air balloon ride or mountain climbing.
  • Uncompleted projects like the partially read book or the shed half painted.
  • Postponed tasks; for example planting a garden or remodeling the kitchen.
  • Delayed goals such as more schooling, change jobs or build a new home.
  • Shelved finances needs like get out of debt, tithe, live within income, become investment savvy.
  • Deferred health decisions like exercise, balanced diet, rest

    Making that hard decision is so liberating. Stop the madness. Lay all the cards on the table and determine a game plan. Weigh and measure options and come to a conclusion. It energizes you. It clears your thinking and solidifies your focus. It releases the nagging “shoulds”. Go with your decision without second guessing. After a while reassess for possible adjustments.

    Out of sight, out of mind. There is some truth to this. Be selective with your choices. If you choose to store the unfinished project and relegate it retirement, it is out of your current energy field. If the errant child is sent packing your relationship problem increases. Perhaps you could waylay the issue by agreeing to disagree. Even in dissent, always hold the individual in high regard as a person of infinite worth and value.

    Ask the hard questions. Consider the following possibilities for the delay.
    · What resources are needed? (Or possibly have been mismanaged?)
    · Is it a lack of expertise? (What training needs to be acquired?)
    · What is the unconscious payoff of not doing it?
    · Is it a passive-aggressive way of control?

    Just do it. Go back to the hard questions and check all the reasons or excuses that apply. Determine if the unsettled issue is still viable. If so, give it the attention needed to begin and set a definite plan for follow through. If not, get it out of your energy field and let yourself know it.

    Revel in the liberation of having made a decision. Make a concerted effort to resolve issues within a timely manner. Set a maximum of thirty days.


Networking Strategies

Whether it is a planned networking event or common everyday encounters, make it a priority to meet new people. Be more concerned with the contact than the results. Always be prepared with a ready supply of business cards and/or brochures and have easy access to pen and paper on which to take important notes. Here are some other strategies to consider.

Act as a host. Unfamiliar events can be disconcerting. Acknowledge you are an invited stranger amid other invited strangers. Take the initiative to reach out to others in a welcoming way.

Approach expectantly. Smile as you move forward. Send out the aura of acceptance: you to them and they to you. Put the other person at east as you make a friendly, yet professional approach.

Wear a name badge. Write the name by which you wish to be called in large letters and include your business in smaller letters. If a nametag is not provided by the event, choose to have your own commercially made and wear it religiously.

Small talk before business. The eyes connect before the ears are engaged. If you start immediately with your name, the individual’s visual inspection lends to your voice falls on deaf ears. Use an icebreaker such as “Have you tried the wonderful cheese dip?” “How about those bears!” “How many Starbucks can be built in a two mile stretch?”

Make it stick. State your name clearly and with a tag line that makes it memorial. I extend my hand and say, “Mona Dunkin. Mona as in the “Mona Lisa” and D-U-N-K-I-N, like Dunkin’ Doughnuts – no relation to either.”

Strike up the band. A person’s name is music to his ears so let the melody flow. Repeat the person’s name in a questioning lilt as if to indicate, “Is that correct?” Ask for clarification in pronouncing. To help you remember, ask for the story behind an unusual name or interesting accent.

Listen. We have been given two eyes, two ears and one mouth. Use accordingly.

Engage. Body language speaks volumes. Show interest through eye contact, appropriate nods or gestures and an occasional sound like “m-m-m-m” or “Really?”

Actively make small talk connections. Be aware of paths conversation can lead to. If you mentioned the Baylor Bears and she responded with a bear claw and “sic ‘em”, inquire about her connection with the university. If he mentions the weather is perfect for hunting, find out his prey of choice and favorite haunt.

Discover commonalities. Find out what connects the person to this particular event then share your experience. “Is this your first time here?” “How long have you been a member of the chamber?” “How do you know Sharon?”

Be discrete. Show interested without being intrusive. Do not interrogate or overstep your bounds. I find it irritating when a too friendly grocery checker verbally inventories my purchases or makes assumptions about my going to have a party.

Give your “elevator speech”. Business Networking International encourages individuals to have a poignant thirty-second spiel introducing your business and its benefits.

Have we met before? In those instances where I am unsure if I should know the person, I will approach pleasantly with a quizzical look and say, “Do I know you?” If I recognize, but do not remember the connection, I will ask, “Please refresh my memory. How do I know you?” To be on the safe side, I am careful to end with “Good to see you” rather than “Nice to meet you.”

Let others in. Be aware of another approaching, step aside to make room for him to join in, smile and direct conversation to him. Make introductions as needed: you to him, or he the one with whom you are conversing.

Graciously move on. If you approach a small group and they fail to make way for you to join the huddle, do not become offended. Smile politely and go refresh your drink.

Aspire to remember. We teach ourselves what we need to know. The use of mnemonic or association tactics can be helpful, but be careful. Remembering that “Mr. Harrison has no hair” may result in you calling him Mr. Baldwin. A concrete reference made on a business card and frequently reviewed solidifies the information with the person.

Want to connect. We need people. Barbara Strisand sang that “people who need people are the luckiest people in the world.” One of my philosophies is that I want to connect with everyone I meet. Whether for a moment, a season or a lifetime, I choose to put the person into my quality world.

Networking is a necessity in finding and retaining customers and resources. Relax and enjoy yourself. Go with the attitude of making friends and let the positive results just happen.


Stress Stoppers

Stress is neutral. Physically we need stress in order to remain upright. Too much stress and we become rigid and break easily. Become aware of necessary stress escalating into distress. Here are some thoughts for effectively handling the stressors of life.

Keep things in perspective. If you’re late, you’re late and breaking your neck to get there will not make up for lost time and cause you to miraculously arrive on time. Don’t rush and don’t dawdle. When you reach your destination, be there and do not waste energy excuses or blaming.

Care giver vs. Savior. People we care about make demands on our time and resources. You can become overwhelmed with their neediness if you see yourself as the answer rather advisor or aide. In giving advice also give leeway for the individual to reject your input. In giving aide, know what is helpful and what is intrusive.

Respond vs. react. Respond to the need to clean up the milk rather than react to the messy floor or the child’s childishness. Respond to the person’s frustration rather than react to his emotional outburst. Responding seeks resolution, whereas reacting compounds the problem.

Tame the taunting critic. Listen to your self-talk and see how you are your own worst enemy. Sure you have made mistakes and you have also had a lot of successes. Focus on those. Picture the worst-case scenario then tap into your untapped strength and overcome.

Reassess priorities and schedules. Are the items on your to-do list real or self-imposed? What would happen if you didn’t attend that meeting? Are radish rosettes worth your sanity? Do the elaborate decorations make you a more gracious host? Will the sun not come up tomorrow if you miss a deadline? Would the organization fold if you did not chair the committee?

Have faith. Faith is looking forward to something that has not happened yet. Have faith in your ability to stop doing as well as to do. Have faith in others to step up to bat and take responsibility. Have faith in God to be faithful regardless. Have faith that this too shall pass. Have faith that hope, energy and clear thinking is restored through sleep.

Say “No” and feel good about it. You cannot give out of an empty basket. Never say “Yes” just to be liked. Failure to say “No” when it is in your own best interest leads to a bad case of the “overs” – over-commitment, over-scheduling, over-spending, over-indulging, over-re-acing… being over-bearing. Leave ‘em wanting more. Say “Yes” only to what is in the scope of your dreams, talents, time and resources.

Establish boundaries. Although undue stress may seem inevitable, it is alleviated through establishing boundaries. A relative of mine was an avid fan of a company whose products were sold through a home party plan. She had to have so many hostesses a year to book from her so she could win a butter dish. She could always depend on Mona. Saying “No” was painful, but not fatal. In the long run, it was also freeing to her. If you don’t have someone to aid and abet, why start the process? Stop the stress and start living.

People we care about make demands on our time and resources. You can become overwhelmed with their neediness if you see yourself as the answer rather advisor or aide. In giving advice also give leeway for the individual to reject your input. In giving aide, know what is helpful and what is intrusive.


Let's Get Organized, Part 3

Sunrise. Sunset. Life is a continuous, on-going process. Planting, weeding, harvesting and canning. As much as we accomplish, there is always more to do. As much as we know, there is always more to learn. Here are a few thoughts on prioritizing and organizing.

Identify the most important. Write down all the needs for the day, arrange in order of priority and tackle number one. Stay with number one until completed. Continually assess, “What am I doing now?” Weigh the current activity against what you have identified as the most important.

Make it a part of your everyday routine. Remember the hare and the turtle? It is better to consistently devote one-hour a day to planning and implementation than hours of stressful catch-up. Habits form character and determine destiny.

Practice the One to Four Ratios. Time management experts say that for every one of planning reduces execution by four to ten times. One hour of advance preparation can take up to ten hours off the finished project. One day of concentrated planning can reduce the job by four to ten days. One week of deliberate groundwork can knock off ten weeks from the completed task.

Preto’s 80/20 Law of Predictable Imbalance. This principle ascertains that 20% effort produces 80% results. Using this predictable imbalance, 20% of your outfits are worn 80% of the time, leaving 80% of the items in your closet as clutter. Busy-ness does not mean business. In a given workday, 20% of your activities produce 80% results, leaving 80% as non-productive bustle. Twenty-percent of your social interaction will produce 80% of your leads. By eliminating 10% public commitments, you will gain time to develop better customer service.

Simplify through elimination. Be realistic about what you can do, what you cannot do and what you do not intend to do. Rather than delaying and denying, let yourself know your conclusion. Schedule in and pursue the can do’s and will do’s. Obtain help where needed and discard the rest.

Be an investigative reporter. Budget your time by asking pertinent questions, such as who? what? when? where? and how? Who needs to be involved in this task? Who will benefit from my completing this chore? What resources are needed for efficiency? What results are anticipated? What benchmarks point to accomplishment? When will supplies be available? Where do we eliminate fluff? How does this element compliment that component? Keep these qualifiers and quantifiers in sight to help you stay on track.

Find balance. Live one day-at-a-time while planning for the future. Plan around your entire life; being diligent to include family.

Much of the business of life is repeated over and over. Michael Gerber states that the “solution is in the system.” Developing a smooth running system reduces frustration, increases productivity and is easily taught to new workers.


Benefits of Meditation

The words “medicate” and “meditate” have the common root “to heal”. To meditate is to think deeply about a situation to obtain insight that will result in immediate and long-term resolution. Here are some of the benefits of meditation.

Know Who You Are. Meditation awakens the reality that you are more than your physical body. You are more than your job. You are more than your possessions. You are more than your associations. You are a creative part of a loving God. You are a unique individual with infinite worth, inestimable value and inherent dignity. You are gifted with talents to bless yourself and the world. You are a work of art with a designer label. You are loveable. Through meditation you transcend time and connect with your place in the scheme of things.

Receive More Love. When you understand that you are loved - warts and all - you become willing to be vulnerable to receive love. It starts with accepting a compliment, whether you agree or not. You become less alienated.

Feel Energized. It is through quiet contemplation that potential energy is transformed into enthusiastic force. As you realize your spiritual purpose you are refreshed and enlivened.

Get Honest. Through honest reflection you become aware of both strengths and weaknesses. Getting honest about weakness conquers egotism, fear and ignorance and paves the way for teamwork. Being candid about strength enlightens, energizes and promotes cooperation.

Find Answers. The answers are within and are mined through concentration. In quietness your soul can hear the still small voice of conscience. In quietness you are attuned to truth.

Worry Less. Though spiritual deliberation you become aware of your potential as well as the limits of your own abilities. This releases you from trying to control what you cannot control and empowers you to be in command of your own actions.

Change Bad Habits. Seeing your true you provoke the release of energy to overcome harmful habits, negative attitudes and self-sabotaging actions. Instead of relying on willpower you are wonderfully empowered to triumph over.

Live Healthier. Mental and spiritual progress empowers you for improved physical health. Even though you are more than your body, you have a renewed appreciation for your body and a committed application to wellbeing.

Spiritual Fulfillment. Our bodies need so much maintenance it is easy to overlook what spiritual beings we are. Meditation puts you in contact with your own spirit, with God’s higher power, and with your connectedness to all mankind. As we shut out the noise of the world we become attune to the still small voice of our own moral conscious.

Meditation is not magic but it is a mystery. Studies have proven that calm reflection for a mere thirty minutes a day, five days a week, for one month produces amazing results mentally, spiritually, physically and relationally. Begin today and reap the healing benefits.