Steps to Healthy Confrontation

The need to confront can be a stressful situation. As with most things, the problem is not the problem; the problem is how you see the problem. 

When the need arises to approach someone about a touchy situation, I like to call it “care-fronting”.  The premise is this:  I care about you.  I care about me.  I care enough about our relationship that I am going to confront this issue. 
That attitude puts a whole new slant to confrontation.  It sets the stage for you being firm, yet kind.  It sets the stage for the other person to be more willing to listen to your position, and be able to respond with his viewpoint.  It sets the stage for resolve.
1.  Work through your anger.  When emotions go up, as in anger, thinking goes down.  Take a walk and give yourself some “think time” so you will be cooler and more objective.
2.  You initiate the contact.  Whether you are the offender or the offended, find the courage to graciously approach the other person and confidently broach the subject.  Make the opening remark non-threatening, such as, “I value our relationship and there is something I would like to talk with you about.” 
3.  Set a convenient time.  Not only do you ask permission to speak, you also ask for a convenient time and place.  “I need to speak with you about something I see as very important.  Is now a good time?”   
4.  Be pleasant and positive.  Start by expressing your appreciation of the person and his/her contribution to your life/workforce. 
5.  Broach the subject in a general way, and obtain permission to challenge the issue.  A suggested approach would be, “I am concerned about the lack of communication between this department and shipping.  I would like to see if we can work something out.” 
Often a person will become defensive due in part by an offensive approach.  If an abrasive crow bar is used to pry information, the person will respond by hammering his mind shut.   
6.  Use “I” statements.  Communicate the issue from your point of view.  Admit you have given thought to the problem and need clarification.  Give your perspective.   
7.  Allow the person to give her point of view, and choose not to be offended by anything she says.  Filter out the tone of voice, and hear only the words.  Listen without pre-conceived ideas or foregone judgments. Encourage honesty and openness.  Do not interrupt or give “Yes, but” counters. 
8.  Seek understanding and solution.  Sometimes agreeing to disagree is a solution; but don’t just disagree, continue to hold the person in high regard. 
Relationship Building Tip:  Give compliments in public; reprimands in private. 


Our U. S. Heritage and Thanksgiving

I visited with a Russian immigrant and mentioned our upcoming Thanksgiving Holiday. He attested that America is special in so many ways and how appropriate for her citizenry to have a yearly holiday devoted to being thankful.

Of all the holidays, Thanksgiving is my favorite as it is the only one that remains unmarred by crass commercialism. It is a special time for us as a nation to pause and reflect on the things for which we are thankful. In spite of the recent destruction life and property by storms and other issues of unrest, there is much to be thankful for.

With the exception of the American Indian, all of us have our roots in other soil. We are all children of immigrants from oppressed countries who came to this land in search of freedom. One of the greatest freedoms sought is religious freedom.

The Pilgrims withstood hardships and seemingly insurmountable odds to come to a land and establish freedom of worship. The freedom to worship. The freedom to worship God according to the convictions of your one’s own heart, not according to the dictates of a church state.

Still today there continues to be a mass worldwide exodus of people leaving established homes in search of freedom. The freedom to be safe. The freedom to be educated. The freedom to worship.

As a child I learned Emma Lazarus’s poem that is inscribed at the base of the Statue of Liberty.

                   “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breath free.
                     Send these, the homeless, tempest tossed to me.
                     I life my lamp beside the golden doors.”

In spite of the destruction of life and property in recent storms we can always be thankful for what we have left. We can renew our appreciation for what has been, what is and what is yet to come. Renew an appreciation to value people and our homes as never before. A renewed appreciation to value the wonderful gift of life and to take nothing - and no one - for granted.

A renewed love for our neighbor – no matter the color, age, size or cultural. And to realize our neighbor is global. A renewed appreciation for the infinite worth and value of each individual - including yourself.

O Lord, that lends me life, lend me a heart replete with thankfulness.
William Shakespeare

A thankful heart is not only the greatest virtue, but the parent of all other virtues. Cicero

NEED A SPEAKER: Mona Dunkin is a Motivational Speaker, Corporate Trainer and Personal Success Coach. Contact her at mona@monadunkin.com 254-749-6594


A Progressive Blessing

May you awaken each morning filled with excitement over a new day.

May you eagerly taste the deliciousness of life.

May you revel in challenges presented and humbly triumph.

May heaven shower you with love, joy, mercy, compassion and faith to overflowing.

May you be overcome by the awe of a sacred moment.

May you embrace change and see it as the life-giving force that it is.

May you be healed of poverty, lack, intimidation, or anything that keeps you bound.

May you be released from unforgiveness, anxiety, or whatever that may keep you stuck.

May you allow God to love you and to bless you.

May you receive the gift of yourself.

May you be free from fear, doubt, scarcity and be empowered to risk success.

May you be encompassed by peace in the midst of turbulence.

May you experience restful sleep and pleasant dreams.

May your last thought of the day be one of profound, yet simple, “Thanks”.

© Mona Dunkin 2008


Developing A Spending Plan

“A budget feels like a diet. It curtails your freedom.
But with a spending plan, the choices are yours.” Deena Katz Moral

With the holidays upon us what better time to become spending conscious. Preparing for and living within one's budget contributes to peace on earth, good will to mankind.

1. Determine monthly income. Income is the money you bring in on a consistent basis and includes, but is not limited to, the following: regular income from primary job(s), regular overtime, tips, public assistance, child support, pension, social security, disability, commissions, bonuses, etc. If some of the regular income is flexible, choose a smaller amount but do include it in the total.

2. Determine monthly expenses. Expenses are things you spend money on/for and includes housing (rent/mortgage), utilities, telephone, car payment(s), car repair and maintenance, gasoline and oil, insurance, medicals, groceries, eating out, clothing, snack items, doctor visits, pet supplies, etc. Include small expenditures as well as large ones. Calculate yearly car repairs and maintenance (gas/oil/washes) and divide by twelve to arrive at the monthly expense. Do this on other items also that are not spent on a given date, such as groceries and clothing. Relegate the new school clothes purchases to a monthly expense. This way you will not be caught unawares and be in crunch time.

3. Know where your money goes. For the next two months, record all of your purchases. Record what you bought, the amount, the date and time, whether you used cash, check/debit or charge card, and your emotions at the moment. Note the impulse buys. Become aware of emotional purchases. Buying to feel good is a temporary false fix and makes you feel worse in the long run. Think and reason before buying. Remember, stuff does not bring happiness.

4. Look at other expenses and rank them in order of importance to you. Are you spending too much on fast foods? Where are you wasting money?

“Don’t worry that you’re going to lose your dignity. Engrave this motto on your mind,
‘Wherever I am, whatever I do, there is a way to do it for less’.” Mary Hunt

5. All successful spending plans require trade-offs. When you determine your core values and have something worth sacrificing for, it transcends the situation and sacrifice is not a sacrifice. “I choose to live within my budget; I will buy cool aid instead of more expensive soft drinks.” “We can rent movies rather than going to the movie house.” “I choose to live within my budget, so we can do without cable for a while.”

6. All successful spending plans require trade-offs. When you determine your core values and have something worth sacrificing for, it transcends the situation and sacrifice is not a sacrifice. “I choose to live within my budget; I will buy cool aid instead of more expensive soft drinks.” “We can rent movies rather than going to the movie house.” “I choose to live within my budget, so we can do without cable for a while.” Give up about keeping up with the neighbors. Make relationships more important than stuff.

7. Discipline yourself to paying by cash, debit card, or check. If the money is not in the bank, do not stress yourself by extending credit.

8. Limit yourself to one credit card and pay the balance each month. If you have existing credit card debt, pay off the high interest cards first, then use the extra amount to reduce the next highest, etc. This is also an excellent strategy to apply to reducing mortgage and car loans.

Have a Blessed Thanksgiving.


Learning to Set Boundaries

A boundary is a line - visible or invisible - that defines and establishes identity. Boundaries (picture a fence) enclose and exclude to protect. Some invisible boundaries are beliefs, creeds, rules and regulations by which we order our lives. These bonds surround and define whether it be political, religious, military, civic, familial, gang or cult. This is who we are, what we believe, what we stand for and what we do. Without boundaries, you cease to exist.

Boundaries determine who you are. To establish who you are and who you want to become, clarify who you are not and what you will not allow. Examples: I am not a dumping ground or a punching bag. I do not like foul language so I will not use it or permit it in my presence. I am a person of value and will not be diminished, dismissed or disregarded.   

Speak up. Although being pro-active is preferred, in the learning stages post-active is okay. It is better late than never. Do not be too concerned about what other think. Whether the issue is addressed pre-present-or post, the other person (with selfish motive and raw emotions) may see it as nagging. That is irrelevant. You have to be confident that you are broaching the issue for the good of all. Yes, it will bring peace to you but know that it will also benefit them as they learn to become better citizens of family and society.

Be firm yet kind. Firmness shows respect for yourself and that your boundaries are not to be violated; kindness shows respect to the one being corrected. We teach people how to treat us. That they can dump or disregard and we will take it, or that we will not be treated in that manner. Until you become comfortable in speaking up, it may initially come off as hostile. Do not be put off by their off putting. Do not be intimidated and do not back down. As you become proficient in speaking up, your demeanor will be strongly soft and relationships will improve.

Change you; influence others. The only person we can change is us. Our changing greatly influences others. Human nature being the sheep-mentality that it is, most people respond in kind rather than being the initial change agent. I encourage you to be that influencing, initial change agent. Life is faithful to give us the lessons over and over until we either learn and the situation is relieved, or we learn and can stay sane and unstressed in the midst of the surrounding immaturity. Regardless, the limits we have set still hold whether they are respected in peace or in protest.

Picture it. Take a tip from professional athletes and see yourself making the shot before being on the court. In your mind re-live a boundary eroding incident and see you responding differently. See you specifically addressing an issue. Formulate the words needed that will clarify your position. Feel yourself being confident and politely forceful.

Learning to set personal boundaries may be intimidating but it is not difficult. Know that you are worth protecting and stand up for yourself. Work it, cause you’re worth it!


Dynamics of Change

It has been said that change is the only thing that is permanent. Yet many rebel at change. The following dynamics may help give you a handle on the inevitable changes of life.

When change is seen as threatening, it causes distress. When change is embraced as positive and welcomed, it can be seen as stressful, yet produce a good stress that pumps you up and keeps you going. Positive changes which can be a combination of good and bad stress include weddings, new birth, graduation, job change, moving, buying new house, etc., etc. Change can represent the end of comfort and predictability, but it can also be seen as a challenge to embrace. Change should not be approached in a random fashion, but seen as an opportunity for personal growth. The following dynamics may help give you a handle on the inevitable changes of life.

Give yourself permission to change. Give yourself permission to become something you have not been before (i.e. spouse, parent, executive). We have a friend who was a stocker with Wal-Mart. He is a nice guy, but rather shy and retiring. Failing health necessitated a change. Wal-Mart moved him from stocker to greeter, and he was stressed in a negative way. I encouraged him to “give himself permission to be friendly.” Once he saw a positive slant and gave himself permission to become something that had not come naturally in the past, he blossomed in the new position.

Visualize change in small increments. See the new position as something into which you can grow. My father was a builder. As a child I sat at the table with him drawing plans, and at age nine, designed my “dream home”. It was fashioned after Tara of Gone with the Wind – large columnar porch, winding staircase, and more rooms than anyone would know what to do with. When I married we moved into a small apartment, it was difficult to see us as changing into the type of people who would live in a Tara mansion. When we moved to an 1800 square foot home, the possibility became a little clearer. When we nearly doubled the size of our house through expansion, the ability to change into a “plantation owner” has become even clearer. We are not there yet, but thorough embracing life changes and goal setting, it will become a reality.

Look at where you were, to more accurately measure where you are. Because I was good at my job, I was advanced to an executive position. I felt like a fish out of water.
  • First, I gave myself permission to change.
  • Second, I saw myself changing from staff to executive.
  • Third, I looked at what kind of job I had done in the past that allowed the board to see possibilities in me that I did not see.

I knew a young lady who had been in a power position for two years and was still overwhelmed. I encouraged her to look at how much she had grown, how much she had learned, how much she had changed, how many good decisions she had made. When you recognize past change, future change becomes easier.

Change is scary because it takes more effort for transition.
Change is not the problem, but transition. - John Maxwell

We continually have to challenge our though patterns to see if they are serving us well, and when not, change them. When change is seen as threatening, it causes distress. Change can represent the end of comfort and predictability, but it can also be seen as a challenge to embrace.


A Case for Control

In our present world situation of unrest - economically, politically, morally and unprecedented destructive weather patterns - it seems that chaos has become the new normal. To avoid pandemonium in your life, consider the following suggestions for effective self-control.

Negative control focus: If you focus on what (or who) you cannot control, in reality, you put yourself out of control and into stress and chaos. People just will not listen and obey. They just will not mind us.

No one will change unless it is his idea including you). Turn the situation around. Accept what is and see how you can respond favorably and move forward. You do this by refusing to fight against things over which you have no control or to become obsessed by them. Allow your encounters with difficult people and hard circumstances to build gracious character qualities in you.

The discipline of self-control: You may not be able to keep a negative thought from ever entering your brain but you do have the power to control what you dwell on. You may not have absolute control over your emotions, but as you take effective control of how you respond, then the by-product is that your emotional reactions are within your control.

It is extremely important to know down deep in your knower that you can control what you think and how to act in response. And by default, you are getting effective control of your feelings. It is imperative to develop the discipline of taking responsibility for your thoughts, actions and feelings.

Control and choices: When things seem out of control it may be hard to remember that you always have choices. But you do. Always. You have the choice to stay or to go, to fight or to negotiate, to rage or to calm, to stress or to flow, to sass-back or to respond, to condemn or to accept, to belittle or to regard with esteem.

Clarification: acceptance does not mean surrender. Take time to consider your choices and do what is right.

Live in the present and make the most of life in every moment. Internal changes results in the ability to effectively influence changes in things outside your immediate control. Look for what is possible rather than stressing over that which cannot be changed. Evaluate what you can address and what is better left unmentioned. Assess your own economic situation and develop discipline. Grieve over losses and appreciate what you have left. Let the weather be the weather and adjust.


Peaceful Communication

We act on the way we think things are, not on the way they actually are. Use the following insights to improve your communication.

1.Discover the door-way to communication. Attitudes and behaviors create a doorway to you as well as away from you. If someone behaves according to assigned specifications, it equals an open door. If the person interacts (intentionally or unintentionally) against specifications, the door closes – partially, all the way or can be locked and bolted. Learn to recognize behavioral styles and adjust your style to permit open communication, win/win relationship building and lessening of tension.

2 Use your words. Words are powerful. Once spoken, they cannot be retrieved. Weigh them. Measure them. Gauge them. Use them in positive and creative ways. Do not shrug or give vague answers.

3. Information is power. Ask. Tell. Be truthful. Do not exaggerate. Eliminate “always” and “never”.

4. Determine the attitude you project in times of conflict and discover ways to temper it. Non verbal communication accounts for 55% of the message.

5. Use fair judgment; of yourself and of the other person. Do not excuse and do not accuse. Be realistic. Ban blaming.

6. Set boundaries, limits or conditions. Get to the point and do not beat around the bush.

7. Focus on the problem, not the personality. This helps you to take yourself out of the emotional issue and be more objective.

8. Say less. Avoid “victim deafness”. Address the issue before it gets out of hand, do not nag, and do not beat a dead horse.

9. Use “I” statements. It is difficult to argue with a person’s specific point of view, so speak only for yourself. Put the communication monkey on your own back. Use the following formula: “I feel _________, when you __________, because ________.”

10. Don’t take comments or actions personally. You do not have to acknowledge every comment, behavior or attitude. Be willing to overlook some bad behavior to avoid “tone deafness.” Develop compassion by realizing everyone acts out of his/her hurts, frustrations and rejections.

11. Choose your battles. Do not make every issue an issue. It takes two to argue; it takes one to stop. Make the relationship more important than your opinion. When relationship is the most important, others are freed to be willing to listen to your point of view.

12. Know when to let go. Make molehills out of mountains.

Effective communication is also an asset in relationship building; it does not keep another guessing.


Let Go and Let Go

It has been said that the only thing permanent is change.  Many seem to think that the world’s change is on a downward slope morally, politically and relationally.

The totality of the world is an aggregate whole comprised of what we each believe as well as the wide variety of what our fellow life-travelers believe. We can know each other in peace and harmony only as we respectfully choose to try to understand each other, whether that is culture, life experiences, education or religious texts.

Disagree without shunning, exclusion or manipulation. Be true to yourself while allowing the other to be true to him self. I don’t see it the way you do. You don’t see it the way I do. Let’s break bread together. Maybe both will be enlightened. “In the breaking of bread their eyes were opened”.  

Choose to see a spark of Divinity in everyone and to treat each accordingly. We have a responsibility to stand up for those who are oppressed. Not to brow beat their choices but to graciously give room to grow. Understand that we are vital to each other and take pains to be a part. Go beyond tolerance all the way to genuine compassion. Start by choosing not to view the other as the other.

Even though Pope Francis views today’s morality as a threat to “the identity and survival of the family: father, mother and children” he also asserts - “Who am I to judge?” *

It may seem to you that I am riding the fence trying to be all things to all people. If I know my wisdom heart, it is for a loving Christ-like graceful inclusion that lumps all us sinners into one melting pot. Compassion for all sides requires the courage of humility. Except for the grace of God there go I.

Though we may disavow it, we mortals take comments of our adversary more seriously than those of our admirers.  We may rebel against their comments by trying to prove them wrong, only to find them right. Look for the good in others without compromising your own beliefs. 

De la Serna, Pope Francis’s Argentine friend said this about him: “He won’t change doctrine. 
What he will do is return the church to its true doctrine – the one it has forgotten, the one that
 puts man back in the center. For too long the church put sin in the center. By putting the 
suffering of man, and his relationship with God, back in the center, these harsh attitudes 
toward homosexuality, divorce, and other things will start to change.” *

We are all sinners. Those of us saved by grace are still sinners. Our confession of sin – from the minor to the major – brings immediate forgiveness and cleansing. God’s ear is not deaf and his arm is not short. He hears and answers immediately; we are forgiven and set free. We can breathe and laugh and dance and enjoy life.

So why do we stay entangled in the same ole, same ole? Could it be that we don’t believe that God’s loves us? Could it be that we don’t trust him?  Could it be that we dictate how the issue is to be solved? Could it be that we don’t follow Jesus’ hash tag to healing? #goandsinnomore?

The answers are within. Find them. Settle them.

A man was desperate to incorporate the phrase, “Let go and let God” into his life. Using colorful paper, he painstakingly cut out each letter and pasted them in a prominent place. His daily goal was to view and repeated it several times. Days passed and doubt still loomed large. He did not know how to ‘let go’ let alone how to ‘let God’.  

One morning he was inspired anew as he read the sign: “Let go and let Go ”.

The adhesive had lost its grip and the letter ‘d’ fell to the floor. Pursue truth and be surprised by the mystery

*Will the Pope Change the Vatican? Or Will the Vatican Change the Pope? By Robert Draper, National Geographic, August, 2015 


Who Am I? Who Are My People

Identity is an important aspect of our personality. We proclaim our self to be Caucasian, or Russian, or a City Slicker, or a Methodist, or Rotarian, or – you get the picture. We label each other by ethnicity, geography, religion, politics, associations (clubs, gangs) and a plethora of other venues.

Our identity in some areas is by chance. All of the lineage and circumstances were met for you to be born you. Some is by choice. We look around to see what we think we might like to be like and join those forces.

Our identity shapes us deeply, profoundly, mystically and undeniably. Our identity, as well as what tribe we are associated with, results in healthy or low self-esteem, effective or less effective relationships, acceptance or antagonism of self, community and the world populace as a whole.

Life is simple, only we often make it complicated.

Life simplifies when we choose to incorporate the dissonant fabulous and flawed aspects of our heritage and personality into humble acceptance of ‘this is who I am’. We look at what it is about our self that we can change or control. We ask and answer hard questions. We seek and employ wise counsel, while always being true to the illusive fact that we are each self-determining.

We complicate life when we try to change someone else. We simplify life when we use our influence to – ahem - influence. Gently. We increased influence when we hold all beings in high regard, speak truth in love, act kindly and respond graciously.

NEED A MOTIVATIONAL SPEAKER: Contact Mona at 254-749-6594 or mona@monadunkin.com


Being Hospitable

Using our words is one way in which we communicate.

We think in pictures; if you do not get the picture, you do not get the concept. Words paint pictures. Words develop meaning based on their use.

What image do you conceive when you hear the word hospitality. Does it conjure up a welcoming atmosphere amid friendly faces with caring service? What about the word travel? Do you see adventure and excitement?

Words are alive and grow and change and become obsolete. Hospitality is derived from two Latin words: “hostis”, which originally meant ‘stranger’, and took on the meaning of enemy or “hostile stranger”, and “polis” meaning “equalizing power”. Travel comes from the word “travail” meaning pain, anguish and torture.

In olden days travel was difficult, going by foot, camel, or caravan. The communities were wide spread and outsiders were seen as hostile – marauding, pillaging, raiding and looting. Prosperous community members would go out to meet the approaching foreigners offering food and respite. This show of kindness had an equalizing power. Only after the stranger was made to feel comfortable would he be asked his name and mission.

Hospitality also has the idea of protection and guidance. Hospitality is about compensating/equalizing a stranger (host) with a stranger (hostis-guest) by making him feel protected and taken care of and guiding him to his next destination. Hospitality is based on an individual’s felt sense of duty to family and community.

Each time you feel negative, stop, acknowledge that thought and deliberately dismiss it. Or at least reframe it. Look deeply to find the root of your emotion and consciously replace it with the greater truth of your potential. This practice is profoundly spiritual and life changing. Use it. Embrace it.

Incidentally, How could our travels become more pleasant as we extend hospitality to other road-travelers - even to the guy in the right hand land that does not turn right.

NEED A MOTIVATIONAL SPEAKER? One of America's most interesting motivational speakers can be enjoyed in person in a presentation tailored to your specific need. Whether organizational, business or civic, you will be entertained with her humor, challenged with her gift of uncommon insights, and motivated by her thought provoking poems. Contact Mona at 254-749-6594 or mona@monadunkin.com


Game Changers

We look around us to determine what is “normal”. Think of moving to another country with a different culture. Because of our genetic need to fit in, our programmed ego adjustment kicks in to bring us up to the status quo. To be able to adjust definitely has its good points.

This scenario is equally relevant in the automatic pilot ordering of our every day routine. We assess standards of conduct and search for evidence to confirm our perception. An unconscious involuntary mechanical regulator can be to our detriment. We internalize what we believe and carry it with us through life, even when it no longer serves us.

Most of us know ourselves only by hearsay. What we overhear about us may be right on – or not. We come up with notions about what is and is not true about ourselves. Others perception of us may be actual or eschewed, genuine or flawed, assumed or myopic.

We also come up with notions about what is and is not true about others in particular and about the world in general.

Walter Cronkite, then the most trusted man in America, famously ended his nightly newscast with “And that’s the way it is.” His affirmation of absoluteness was based on unbiased facts.

What if we made a deliberate-on-purpose-game-changing choice to test, weigh and measure our perceptions. “Is this really true?” “How can I know it is true?” “When I think it is true, how do I behave?”

What if we chose to give grace to our assumptions, as in “Maybe I really do not know what he is thinking”? How would the interaction with that individual change when we extended a little bit of honest doubt?

What if we became aware of inflections, nuances, tiny shifts in thinking that makes huge differences? As in going from the all-inclusive statement of “I am stupid” to a more accurate assessment of “I made a stupid statement” (or choice; whatever the situation dictates). How would one’s self-esteem blossom when we see ourselves as individuals in legitimate transition of growing and learning?

What if we made a conscious decision to change from automatic pilot to intentional choice? What if we chose to explore options and accept the mysteries of unique viewpoints?

I’m game. How about you?


School Days, School Days, Good Ole Golden Rule Days

The year was 1960 and my life was interrupted. We sold our cattle and chickens. We found loving homes for our pets. We locked the doors of the house for the first time ever. We kissed family and friends good-bye. We left the lush rolling hills of West Virginia.

Without fanfare, my parents and I – looking somewhat like the Beverly Hillbillies – packed up Daddy’s white 1954 Chevrolet truck and moved 1200 miles to Waco, Texas.

Perhaps the greatest culture shock was going from a small one-room school house - where one teacher taught grades one through eight (and we had all been classmates since birth) – to a huge two-story-multiple-classroom-multiple- teacher Junior High School of 500 kids. All strangers.

The natives were not so friendly. They made fun of my back-woodsy vernacular. They laughed at my long hair slicked back into a bun. They sneered at my best flour-sack dresses. Although most of us were of English origin, we did not speak the same language. They had never heard of soup beans or pop. I was offered soda water and my stomach was not even hurting.

Back home I had been in the elite group at Lick Creek School, Lick Creek, WV. Actually, all 23 of us were in the elite group. That extended family atmosphere bound us together like few things can.

We studied together and played together and rode the bus together and adventured together and occasionally argued together. All ages were on the same team whether playing tag or marbles or softball. Oh sure, we would divide up, and sometimes that was scary to be the last one chosen. But even though I was told that I ran like a cow, they still let me play.

We jumped rope and played hopscotch while rhyming in cadence: First comes love. Then comes marriage. Then comes Jane with a baby carriage.

The creek that bordered Lick Creek School was a constant source of fun. In the spring and summer we waded, caught minnows and turned over rocks to unearth crayfish. In the winter we skated. No, no one had ice skates. Any kid with a little determination can scuff-off the tread of snow boots until they are slick as ice. Thankfully, as the youngest in the family, my yearly hand-me-downs were already a little worn.

If the creek was not frozen solid enough to hold us, the sidewalk was. Two minutes before the bell rang, we lined up at the one-armed pump for a dipper full of ice water. Oh sure, we need a drink after so much skating, but more importantly, we needed to maintain the skating rink. (Take a sip, pour remainder on walk, refreeze before next recess.)

We took field trips. Where did we go? We went out into the fields.

We learned birds; their colors, their song, their names and their nesting, eating and migrating habits. We learned trees and shrubs and weeds; how they benefited or harmed mankind and animals. We observed wildflowers, berries and animals. We watched the sky and knew cloud formations and the meaning behind their colors and signs of when to plant or harvest.

We did book learning too. We learned our numbers and letters and how to use them effectively (without verb conjunction or misplacing modifiers). We would read history and then go out to recess and recreate what we had been taught.

From our wall map we knew world geography better than many today with all the modern technology.

Civics? We lived it. Barn-building or hog-killing people showed up with tools and food in hand because we were family. Election day the schoolhouse – all decked out in red-white-and-blue bunting – became a hub of community activity. The school bus and a few private vehicles scoured to the ends of the county providing travel so everyone would be able to perform their civic duty. Decoration day produced a flurry of activity cleaning cemeteries and paying homage to our local world-citizens heroes. Our soldiers kept us safe at home while putting themselves in harms way to protect our unknown neighbors ‘over there’.

Not only were we taught, we were also allowed to learn on our own. Our small library contained renowned classics still favored today. We taught each other. Beginning in third grade – while the teacher taught the older kids inside - I was allowed to take the first and second graders outside under the big tree (a super special place) and help them learn their phonics and practice reading. This student teaching continued all through grade school. Little did I know that was career building?

Those were days of structured study and discipline. They were coupled with wild and wonderful days of unstructured play and imaginative minds let loose to dream and create.

Oh, such wonderful, wonderful memories. Not only are memories forever, they are foundations to build upon. The simplicity of those days continues to haunt me, overshadow me, protect me and compels me to replicate the love of relationship and the fun of learning into everything I do.

There is a special place in my heart for all my former classmates, grades 1-8; and for my two teachers, Mr. Frank Brown and Miss Gladys Neely. Thanks for the memories.

Don’t Cope. Overcome. Although that rhythmic cadence of love-marriage-baby-carriage may seem removed from the standard of today, I suggest the principle remains as founding truth. Whether formal or casual, planned or impulsive, loving or unloving, the union has holiness to it. The office is untarnished.

The child, regardless of the circumstances surrounding conception, is innocent and came from the original source of divine love. Whether the home produces benevolent leaders or malevolent dictators, all of us share in the propagation of light and darkness. The human condition is a complicated mix of good and evil. Correcting the slippery slope or climbing to a higher plane is all ‘Thanks Be To God’.


Reading and Comprehension

What is smarter? The ear? Or the eye?

As babies we learned to speak by hearing the spoken word; and in as many languages or dialects to which we were exposed. Are we not equally capable of reading by being exposed to the written word?

Whether aware of it or not, you “read” everything you see. You walk into a room of fifteen people and unwittingly scan the room – from left to right. Suppose that you are only in the room for a few seconds and leave. You meet someone going into the room that asks, “Who is here?”

How many can you name? When you scanned the faces they automatically registered as familiar or unfamiliar. Current faces were mind-matched with familiar pictures and given a conclusion. New input needed was alerted and left for more learning. Although you did not start from left to right and say each person’s name aloud (or even mentally), in reality you “read the room”.

You already are a speed-reader more than you give yourself credit for. What about billboards that you understand even as you speed by without deliberately paying attention. You instantly grasp the meaning without sounding out every word. Reading faster and for more comprehension is obtainable through recognizing the phenomenon of the eye being smart. Embrace it and expand upon your eye knowledge.

Information enters the brain through one of the five senses - see, hear, smell, taste and touch – and is stored in the mind. The more senses involved, the greater the comprehension; seeing, hearing and doing holds onto more information – and thus stores into long-term memory - than hearing alone.

Everything has a learning curve. Familiarity with the alphabet necessitated the mechanics of observing the shapes, drawing the letters, hearing how the symbol sounds and the placement of letters to form words. We meticulously read aloud and were graded on our ability to do so. We decoded the symbols.

As we moved from grade to grade and quit reading aloud, although our lips were stilled, did we continue to read word-for-word in our mind? What about comprehension? If one’s mental reading speed is in the 200 word-per-minute range, more than likely you are silently reading word for word to yourself.

Eye-movement accounts for only 5% of reading time. The remaining 95% involves the mental association of one’s past knowledge with present information. Speed reading/learning is about thinking meaning, seeing pictures (for comprehension) and recognizing symbols as familiar friends.
  •  See it as a fun challenge and a new adventure in learning.
  • Predetermine why you are reading the material. Information? Entertainment? Obtain skills? Testing? This will set you up for the depth of attention needed to obtain desired comprehension results.
  • Learn as much as you can before delving into the text.
  • Set yourself up for greater comprehension by looking at pictures and reading the info under then, notice what has been marked for emphasis, scan for new words and define them, go to a map and determine the world-location in which the event takes place, take the end-of-chapter comprehension test first.
  • Become a reading detective. From news articles to fairy tales, look for who, what, when, where, why and how. Is the information clearly given or inferred?
  • Focus on bunching words together, rather than word-for-word mental recitation. Remember the billboard?

Speed-reading is a lot like learning a second language. Not to worry, the eye is just as smart as the ear. A mark of intelligence does not only know the answers but also where to go to obtain what is still needed.


Secrets of Success

Want to know a secret? The secret is that these tips for success are not a secret.

Everyone who is successful in any area of life has learned them and uses them. Another secret is that most anyone who has been down the road is more than willing to share with you.
After years of writing training materials for other organizations, I decided to bite the bullet and go out on my own. Here are a few of the secrets used to pry me away from a secure environment into a world of unknown possibilities.

You make your own success.

A job pays you what the job is worth; whereas being an entrepreneur you earn what you are worth. That can be a sobering statement. Never think of yourself as self-employed. Do not take your employee mentality with you and thereby create the same yet different job for you.

Make your own success by taking full responsibility for your life, your thoughts, your actions, and your attitudes. Learn to think like and to behave like an entrepreneur, albeit a hard-working one. There is a big difference in being a business owner verses being self-employed. The shift in thinking propels.

Let love replace fear and intimidation.

Become your own best friend by developing a healthy self-love – not an over-inflated ego, but a healthy esteem. Healthy self-love recognizes that you have infinite worth and value as a human being. You have unique talents to give that will contribute to making individual lives and the world a better place either through a service or a product.

You were formed with greatness in your bosom. Sure, someone one else may have a similar idea or product, but it is not from your special viewpoint. One’s gift makes room for her, but it must be implemented and put into action.Love recognizes that others have worth and value also. This truth produces humility and cooperation. Compete with yourself and your own potential.

It's okay toot your own horn. Be proud of yourself.

Go for excellence and give up perfection.

Perfection is a goal that cannot be met, or, if it were to be met, it would be the end of the line. Once something is perfect, the only way to go is downhill. Lower your expectations and experience a new found liberty. Going for excellence sets you free to take risks, to fail, and to try again. Going for excellence motivates for continual improvement. Going for excellence is rewarding, fulfilling, and contributes toward happiness. Give yourself and others room to grow.

“It is better to be green and growing, than ripe and rotting.”
Ray Krock, founder of McDonald’s

Let go of the past, both failures and successes.

Each day is a new day, and each opportunity is a new opportunity. Allow past failures to serve as a learning tool to motivate you to overcome, and past successes to be a motivator for repeat action.

Grow into the position and refuse to allow yourself to become discouraged. You do not have customers because you are in business; you are in business because you have customers. You will stay in business by thinking about ways to grow your company. Search for ways that you can add value to their lives.

And then put those ideas into action.


Opening A Closed Mind (Yours or Theirs)

There are times when critical thinking is, well, critical.
  • Before commenting, judge your perception of the situation and your attitude regarding the persons involved.
  • Before responding, judge your perception of the situation and your attitude toward the persons involved.

Have an open mind by holding loosely to your convictions, just in case you are proven wrong! You will believe what you believe until you believe something else. What is more important, your opinion or the truth? What is more important, your point of view, or the relationship? What is more important, your prejudice or the relationship?

Learn to respond rather than react.
Take the critiquing seriously but not personally. Do not take every comment or action as a personal affront. Do not be emotions driven. Know your strengths and limitations. Set healthy boundaries, limits or conditions.

Use fair judgment; of yourself and of the other person. Do not excuse or accuse. Be more interested in dialogue that in debate. Discuss rather than argue. Speak and listen. Dialogue invites understanding of another point of view, whereas debate is trying to convince another of your position.

Differentiate between what to acknowledge and what to let slide. Do not make an issue out of every comment and do not search for hidden agendas. It takes a wise and mature person to overlook some human flaws in a presumed difficult person. Be objective. Hear the comments only and filter out attitude, motive, or perceived hidden agendas.

Do not take things personally. Choose to lower your emotions. Have no hidden agendas. Be open, honest and forthright. Be firm and kind. Firmness shows respect for you; kindness shows respect for the other person. Develop an open mind and a tender heart.

Have no point to prove. Truth is truth is truth, and will stand regardless of counter attacks. A lie is a lie is a lie, and will remain a lie regardless of defenses. A person convinced against his will, is of the same opinion still. Adjust your vision. Binoculars magnify or diminish depending on which end is viewed through.

The problem is not the problem as much as the problem being the way you see the problem. We act on the way we think things are rather than the way they really may be. See the issue as a learning experience. Choose your attitude. Focus on the problem not the personality.

Difficult people are not obstacles to unhappiness, but opportunities for self-improvement. Disagree without being disagreeable. Acknowledge an impasse while continuing to hold the person in high regard. Defuse the issue. Empathize. Distinguish between “feeling” and “thinking”.

Don't Cope. Overcome. Determine the attitude you project in times of conflict. Your position is not relevant to the customer, co-worker or boss. Whether the other person’s mind is opened or not, when you keep a welcoming attitude, it is a pretty sure bet there will be other opportunities for dialog.   


America, Bless God

We have just celebrated another of America’s birthday with song, festivities and fire works. Most of us chime in with “God Bless America”, verbally as well as in chorus. And he has. And he does. And may he continue to bless our great country.

Francis Scott Key ended all four stanzas of The Star Spangled Banner with either a question of or a declaration for “the land of the free, and the home of the brave.”

Advertisers are apt at turning a phrase so a different slant sheds different intent. Or insight, as the case may be. I love the flag magnet on my refrigerator with the saying “Home of the free because of the brave.” I equally love the poster proclaiming “Home of the brave because we are free.” All three statements have a ring of truth. All three slants are meaningful.

All things in life are mysteriously, albeit intricately connected.

Being blessed is contingent upon blessing; blessing is subject to being blessed, and so forth and so on over and over again. Our forefathers blessed America as a country hallowed for freedom of religion, a place in which free enterprise can flourish, where all people are to be treated equally and established a government in which all of her citizens have a voice.

What if we, as Americans, on this “land that we love” and “from sea to shining sea” were to make it our mission to bless God? How can we, individually and collectively, bless God?

We bless God through acts of human kindness:
To self. Take care of you; it’s a very loving thing to do.
To others. Everyone is carrying a heavy load.
To those we know. They really are pretty special and need a little TLC.
To strangers. We are more alike than we are different; compassion goes a long way.

We bless God by choosing to be respectful to others while simultaneously behaving in a way that earns respect from them. Respect looks different to each of us. Focus on earning respect rather than deserving it.

We bless God by welcoming the “huddled masses yearning to breath free,” by valuing diversity and having a willingness to appreciate and incorporate differences. Most of us American born citizens have our ancestral roots in other soil.

We bless God by respecting planet earth. Go green. Reduce. Reuse. Recycle. Live within your income. Conserve natural resources. Replenish fallow land. History confirms that a broken land begets a broken people.

We bless God by having a thankful spirit. Being thankful in all things. Being thankful for all things. Not because on the surface all things are worthy of thanks, but because we become a happier and more productive person when we look for something in the situation for which to be thankful.

Be thankful, because of and in spite of.

Life, in spite of difficulties, is good.
Parents, in spite of their flaws, are honorable.
Mates, in spite of their differences, are blessings.
Children, in spite of the frustrations, are rewards.
Work, in spite of the hassle, is a gift.
Victory, in spite of the defeats, is sweet.
© Mona Dunkin 1986

America, in spite of her flawed inhabitants, is “the land that we love.”


Sight, Insight and Emotional Intelligence

There are a lot of training and books on Emotional Intelligent. Being emotionally intelligent has a lot to do with how one perceives events and what one believes in mind, heart and soul about the person or event. Perception is one’s personal point of view. Conversely, the way we perceive things becomes our reality. Only it may not be real.

Reality does not create your point of view; rather your point of view creates your reality. How so? What we see – what we take into our brains through our eyes - is processed on different levels. This processing is done emotionally as well as physically.

Physically our eyes see in stereo-effect depth. My Optometrist prescribed vision correction in a counter-intuitive way by having me wear only one contact lens. The eye without the contact lens focused on distance while the eye with the corrective lens focused close-up. Since our eyes adjust independent of each other - with a short learning curve - my eyes regulated to work in tandem to recede or to advance depending on where I focused. It became automatic. I didn’t give it a second thought.

Not only do our eyes see from different depths and angels, but also what is seen is dual-filtered through our conscious (aware) state of being and simultaneously filtered through our unconscious (programmed looped recording) identity of self.

One’s “conscious state of being” is the level of awareness at any given moment; i.e. sleepy/alert, hungry/satiated, frustrated/calm, happy/grumpy, ill will/good will – and a myriad of range within each. When a shift causes us to see something in a different light our understanding is automatically altered.

One’s “unconscious preprogrammed looped recording” is those things agreed to and embraced before having any choice in the matter (i.e. culture, beliefs, attitudes, values) and which challenges us when we choose to behave different from the initial training.

Oh what a conundrum. We interface with situations – and people involved in those situations - based on our skewed, limited and selfish point of view. That’s where emotional intelligence comes into play. It is developing the right mindset to handle the problem. It is to come from a position of responding to need rather than reacting to one’s neediness.

Emotional intelligence is preparing yourself mentally, emotionally and spiritually to take on the day just like you prepare yourself physically to go out publicly. It is to look inside to see who you really are and how you are capable of behaving.

Emotional intelligence is to gain insight and to act accordingly. Insight is to see what is true, genuine and authentic, albeit not always obvious, in self and in others. Insight has the power to instantly correct illusions.

Emotional intelligence is nurtured through self-love. Self-love is any simple act of treating you – body, mind and soul - with love, tenderness and compassion. Notice tension in your body and listen to what it is telling you that it needs; sleep, movement, healthy eating, rest or laughter.

Heed your guidance system and say “Yes” or “No” when it is in your best interest to do so. Renew yourself through walks, meditation, reading, hobbies, time off, or a nice long soak in the tub. Pamper yourself with a massage; connect with a friend, or make time to just be.

Your emotions will thank you.

For Success Coaching, Counsel or Conference Speaker
contact Mona at 254-749-6594 or mona@solutionprinciples.com


Improved Relationships

“But I’m doing the best I can.”

I’ve been tempted to use that excuse myself. Only my self-awareness, social understanding and spiritual consciousness prod me until I do some self-evaluation. Asking and answering defines the problem and seeks solution.

Look at your own history. Do you have a string of rocky/broken relationships, unsatisfactory jobs, contention with authority, stressful living and overall lack of happiness and success? Do not joust at windmills trying to fix everyone else. Look at the common denominator – you.

Pointing out a problem is not enough. Look for your underlying motive through reflection and find solutions through trial and error. The path includes honest thought, sincere planning, decision-making, willingness to sacrifice and unassuming action.

Questioning your hidden agenda is a good place to start. There is faith in honest doubt. Will you meet your need to belong by following the crowd or by being true to your authentic self? Listen and heed the still small voice inside. And you must become quiet to hear it.

Conscious is an inward knowing of right from wrong with a compulsion to do what is right. One’s faithful life purpose always includes doing what is best for you and, by default, is also best for others. We are all connected and our lives enter-twine.

Be responsible for your thoughts and your actions. Placing blame on someone puts the situation outside yourself and causes one to think and act like you have to fix him/her. When you identify your part of the problem and take responsibility for you – your thoughts, your attitude and your actions – you have something you can work with.

That is not to say that you work independently. I/we messed this us. I/we are each responsible to some degree. I/we need course correction. The thing is, the only one whom you have control over is the “I” portion, not the “we” factor(s). To take personal responsibility results in immediate empowerment. You have found the one and only locus of your control.

It is always need verses need. Once you make the decision to quit blaming and to take responsibility for your part, the atmosphere mysteriously softens and the seeming opponent is placed in a more comfortable position to follow your lead. Or at least to hear your input.

The greatest threat to taking charge of your own life is comparing yourself with others and deeming self as having fallen short. This leads to following the crowd and participating in group-think. It becomes a self-depreciating way that leads to stagnation and conflict (with you more than them).

Understand the necessity of self-imposed limits. I define responsibility as “having ability to determine how to respond”. It is through discipline that we move from dissatisfaction to hopeful. Placing limits leads to fulfillment.

Don’t Cope, Overcome: Flourish and overcome by really doing the best you can. Think it through, make a choice, act upon your decision and relish the feel good results. Your life is a gift worth receiving (or taking back).

For counsel or speaking engagements, contact Mona at mona@solutionprinciples.com 254-749-6594


Make STRESS Work FOR You

Make stress work FOR you! Surely you jest!

Yes, we can make stress work for us by...
· Using stressful situation as a motivator to move – exercise or rest.
· Allowing stress to cause you to refocus on your priorities and values.
· Using stress as a springboard to develop new attitudes and habits.

Here are eight strategies for instant stress relief.

1. BELIEVE - Believe that life has a purpose. Believe that things will work out. Believe in God. Believe in yourself. Believe in others.

My search led me to try to define what is meant by the word stress and its many uses. Then I turned to the world of anatomy and medicine to develop an understanding of how the body reacts to stress…. From my study I discovered the magnificent stress coping mechanism we have been given…. My conclusion is that stress is essentially a spiritual problem.” Dr. Lloyd J. Ogilvi

“There’s pressure every day in coaching. But pressure can be good. It can be a motivating factor to strive for excellence, unless you let it become fear. Because my faith is where it all starts, that pressure is not fear.” Kevin Steele, Former Baylor Head Football Coach

2. Make everything your choice. Even if it is a seemingly “have to” situation, refuse to be put upon by choosing to accept the task as a part of character development.

"Dr. Bernie Siegel, MD shocks his cancer patients when he asks them ‘Why do you need this illness?’ He claims our bodies break down to give us a message… and many times it is a message that we have been ignoring.” Pain, the Gift Nobody Wants, Dr. Paul Brand and Philip Yancey

3. Develop good communication skills. Be specific. Avoid the stress of repeating yourself.

4. Spend quality and quantity time with your family – and approach it with the right attitude.

“I tell my patients to release the work day and surrender to ‘kid time’. It’s a time when we can breath more deeply, laugh spontaneously, and just take in the natural loving energy that children bring to us.” Naomi Swanson, Ph.D.

5. Live one day at a time, and appreciate that one day for what it is and for who you are.

“Do any human beings ever realize life while they live it? – Ever? Every minute?” Thornton Wilder, Our Town

6. Determine “Who owns the problem?” If it is not your problem, do not make it so. Take yourself out of the middle so you can see more clearly.

7. Play and have fun. A playful mind is a de-stressed mind.

“Good mental health is the ability to work and play.” Sigmund Freud

8. Hurry less and relax more.

“Hurry, but don’t rush.” Coach John Wooten

Don't Cope. Overcome. Put these strategies in to play daily. They Work.

For success coaching, counsel or speaking engagements, contact Mona at 254-749-6594 or mona@solutionprinciples.com


Brain Training for Pain Management

My sister is elated with her Pain Management classes and promising results from her chronic discomfort.

The teacher had the class to imagine cutting, smelling and tasting a lemon. My sister was delighted how real the feel, aroma and acidic tang seemed.

The teacher then had the students measure their pain.

She took them through a mind movie of visiting a pleasant and passive place for relaxation and enjoyment. Again they were to measure their pain. Once again my sister was delighted with the results.

She mentioned how nice it was but lamented that “it’s only temporary as you can’t do something like that all the time.”

Ah, contraire, dear sister and dear friends, it can become permanent. Here’s how:

1. The initial exercise was an adventurous trek into uncharted brain matter.

2. Each repeated mental work-out wears the path a little deeper.

3. Eventually the brain is trained to think that way.

Remember, practice makes permanent. So when you become aware you have wandered back onto an old highway of pain… at those junctures we have a choice. Slide back to the former habitual - although painful ways - or employ the newly discovered discipline to build inroads into the possible.

Your choice to living in possibilities consists of two essentials. One is the initial training and two is scheduled daily meditation. Daily. Same time. Same method. Same practice repetition. Those dedicated moments in the morning sets the pattern for your brain to follow the rest of the day.

As the mind is trained to pay attention to a possible interloper, you will find yourself growing in strength and resiliency. You will be able to handle challenges with grace and ease. You will become resourceful, creative and pain free.

In Practice of the Presence of God, Brother Lawrence, a Carmelite monk (1640) spoke of making himself spend time in quite reflection each morning. To his surprise, the previous mundane chore of peeling potatoes and washing dishes became a joy.

Life being what it is, there will be times when you just do not want to do it or you just do not feel like doing it. Since it’s all about the rest of the day, your conscious decision to mentally overcome your feelings comes into play.

That is when it’s “Niki Time”. Just. Do. It.

Do the math. Put too much distance between the lethargic mood and the solution and you have regret. Start the day in a good mood with an active pain reducing mode and have up to 18 hours to enjoy it.

Need trainer? Mona Dunkin leads individuals and companies to greater levels of success. Contact her at mona@solutionprinciples.com View training topics at www.monadunkin.com


Listen To Your Wisdom Heart

                                                  “As a man thinks in his heart so is he.” Jesus

Or so he becomes.

Thoughts vs. Feelings: Thoughts ‘spin’ our reaction to experiences in such as way as to override our wisdom-heart. If a gun was put to your head, “I’m going to die”, is a thought. Panic is a feeling. Anger is a feeling.

“Unless you can describe it as a sensation, whatever is going through your mind is not instinct but thought.” Life Coach Martha Beck

Vision Board: – Having a vision board is nice but does not impact reality, It is the process that impacts reality. The process of selecting the images is what sticks in your automatic success steering mechanism that drives your choices in a direction that turns thoughts into things. GPS – (Godly-Positioning-Spirit) Global Positioning Satellite position.

Let It Be: - Observe what is going on inside you. Say, “yes” to the experience. Say, “yes” to the anxiety, the fear, the tension, the anger or whatever.

Saying “yes” gives space for feelings to unfold so you can get in touch with and heed your wisdom-heart. By saying “yes” to seemingly negative situations you give yourself permission to relate to life differently.

Failure is Not Fatal: Neither is a slump. Do not allow setbacks or discouragement to paralyze you. Rest, re-think, re-group and get back in the driver’s seat. Allow the obstacle to slow you down just long enough to reawaken within you and observe how deeply this dream is a road map to your destiny.

Look and Learn: Pay attention to mistakes or lethargy and allow those missteps to work for you. Growing research shows that we can rewire our brain to approach old habits of thought or action with challenges.

Be Good To You: The key is to turn paralyzing fear into activating energy. But how? Try a little self-compassion. Psychologists tell us that compassion is the most healing emotion there is. Love yourself enough to believe that you can do better and deserve better.

Talk to the Heart: It is listening. Beating yourself up has never accomplished anything positive. Instead, say things like, “Try not to be so hard on yourself” or “It’s okay. Everyone has a down day” or “If your dream was impossible you would not have thought it up!”

Nurture your growth by treating yourself gently.

Don’t Cope - Overcome" It really is all about you. External validation does not matter as much as your own internal self-evaluation. We generate the results we believe we deserve.

For success coaching, counsel or speaking engagements, contact Mona at 254-749-6594 or mona@solutionprinciples.com


Practice Makes Permanent

Autopilot programs an airplane to steer according to a preset pattern. In much the same way our early training encoded us to certain ways of thinking and behaving.

If those patterns do not currently serve us, thinking about the process of acquisition or even understanding the mechanics does not turn the autopilot off. Thinking and understanding may help you see the possibilities for change and the freedom it would bring; but they only prolong the inevitable, which is action.

So what action is necessary?

Actually, the action is to practice.

It is to practice something counter-intuitive to today’s busy lifestyle. It’s a spiritual practice. It’s the spiritual practice of breathing.

One may protest. "Practice breathing!" "Surely you jest." "I breathe automatically."

Right. We unconsciously breathe like we are on – say - automatic pilot?

Consider: When you are anxious, do you hold your breath without realizing it? You are not even aware of it? Or so excitable that you hyperventilate?

How is your breathing during angry or fear or rushing? Is your oxygen intake shallow? Or do you fully engage the lungs and diaphragm?

The adage “practice makes perfect” is true only when we practice with pure intention. When we continue without meaning, purpose or aim - as in autopilot - we stay in the same ole rut.

Understanding does have its place – which is illumination – never for blame.

We are born into families whose beliefs, mannerisms and values were imposed on us. This is called conditioning. Right-on or off-target, good or not so good, nurturing or neglectful, their conditional climate set the atmosphere in which we were reared.

We learned family function/dysfunction dynamics. We learned what seems to work and what seems not to work – and in the process, we creatively formed our own function/dysfunction to join with or protest against. This is called adaptation.

We learned it so early and so completely that neurological pathways were ingrained in our brain to the point that we behave as though “that is just the way I am” and “I can’t help it.”

By default we pass on the same human condition. The contradictory condition of either following established patterns or rebelling against them or both/and.

Although your ancestors – immediate and far-flung (back to the fifth generation) – contributed to you being you, do you really have the right to blame them for your lack of happiness or success?

Although you have made your share of errors do you want your offspring blaming you for their lack of happiness or success?

Are we not each self-determining? Are we not a product of our free-will choices? Do we not have the ability to love anyway and still rise above?

“As a man thinks in his heart so is he” Jesus

Or so he becomes. To become who we were created to be is aided by focusing on our breath.

Huh? What?

We begin to realize that we do have some control over an otherwise natural function. Deliberate breathing is the practice of internal music and harmony.

It is the practice of hearing your soul’s still point wisdom. It’s the practice of honest meditation that transforms potential energy into actual energy.

It’s the spiritual practice that carries you emotionally back into the arms of God from whence we came. It is the practice of transformation into permanence. It is the proverbial caterpillar into becoming a butterfly.

Invite Mona to speak to your group. mona@monadunkin.com


Accidental Grace or Clumsiness

You have had times when life flows effortlessly. When all the pieces fit together? A plethora of events - including people and places - collide for accidental grace.

Or an accidental mishap? When something negative happens that we did not knowingly choose it is often labeled as an accident. It may seem to have ‘just happened’ but in truth all the conditions were met.

All accidents, happy or otherwise, are intentional.

Events are intentional even though we may loudly protest that we did not intend to… (fill in the blank).

And that is the crust of the problem. All accidents, positive or negative, are life displaying itself by design or default.

Can we set ourselves up to lean toward grace? To be accident-prone toward happy outcomes?

Yes! It’s called by a number of names like meditation, self-evaluation or living in the now. Life becomes more gracious when we live on purpose. When we let ourselves know that we are making the choice to do or not to do.

As in, choosing to drive distracted and thereby greatly increasing a wreck outcome. (Note: A wreck is a by-product of reckless driving – or living.)

Embrace the act of being aware of what you do and taking full responsible for the outcome of such action. And not just every now and then.

The proof is in the practice. Neuroscience says we can build new pathways in our brain that will reroute our thinking and become our new default position thus eliminating old habits of thought and action.

You can cultivate the habit of being fully present and mindful and engaged and happier. Practice until it becomes habit. Practice - like the habit of brushing your teeth – where you feel fuzzy until you meditate. Practice until a new supersonic highway bridge is built over the old reactive turbulence.

That is not to say that others are not contributors; but it is to acknowledge that you have no control over the part they play. It is to say that you will lean toward positive influence as you interact with clarity, grace and calm.

Every area of your life benefits – relationships, work, health – everything is enhanced through meditative self-evaluation and conscious decision making.

Go on. Not only is the proof in the practice but also practice makes permanent.

Mona Dunkin, Solution Principles, Maximum People Development. Please remember us for your training needs. mona@monadunkin.com


Do You Love Me?

If you love me, keep my commandments. Jesus
  • Love shows itself.
  • Feed my sheep.
  • Take out the trash.
  • Clean up after yourself.
  • Be punctual.
  • Speak in a respectful manner.

Showing love goes hand-in-hand with the golden rule:

“Treat others the way you would like to be treated.” 

Respect is treating another as though you were the other person. Respect looks different to everyone. You know what respect looks like to your mate (child, boss, neighbor). Give what s/he wants not what you want in a similar situation.

Suppose your favorite dessert is chocolate cake and my favorite dessert is ice cream. Both of these delicacies are at my disposal but I choose to give you ice cream because I like ice cream with no regard to offering you chocolate cake.

One might protest.  “So. What’s wrong with that?”

One might argue that I treated you the way I wanted to be treated.

But did I really? Or did my preference supersede your liking?

I’m not talking about splitting hairs on minor matter; it’s just that little things lead to bigger things. The way we do one thing is the way we do everything. When we get real honest with ourselves, our heart knows what that means even though our mind may play brain-games.

Showing love is being selfless while maintaining a healthy self-love. It is manners dressed up in its Sunday best, even on grungy Friday. It is deliberately giving of respect to the one with irritating qualities.

Emotions are fragile. Love, trust and respect are easily broken and difficult to repair.

Star, our outside cat, loves to spend her days in the storage shed. She has a cozy warm bed to curl up in and a window ledge from which to observe the world. She has food and fresh water at her disposal.

One day a stray cat wandered into her sanctuary and disrespected her territory. She fled. She spent her days hidden in the culvert and nights in the tree top. Our cajoling failed to satisfy Star that her abode was safe.

Frustrated, I said, “Okay, Miss Independence, have it your way.”

Immediately my spirit was checked. It is my own independent spirit that draws me to liking cats! Yes, Lord, teach me to show my love to you by keeping your commandments rather than rebelling or running away hiding or doing it my way.

Eventually Star returned to the storage shed and purrs loudly when we approach.

I’m still working on being secure enough to allow God’s love to give me grace to respect others in keeping with his commandments. It starts and stops with me loving me (or not).

Mona Dunkin, Solution Principles, Maximum People Development. Please remember us for your training needs. www.monadunkin.com mona@monadunkin.com


Thanks Be To God

Life is filled with tension. What to do? What not to do? What is too much? What is not enough? Knowing. Not knowing. Not caring. Emotional highs and lows. Joys and disappointments. All at the same time!

Thank be to God for this Holy Easter Holiday. When rightly observed, Easter can teach us to die to life's tension in order to live abundantly. With the approaching of Ash Wednesday, I wish to share my last year's Lenten experience with you.

Although I have celebrated Easter all my life, I had never observed the 40-day Lenten fast. 2014 was a first for me. I am sad to say it had never seemed that important in preparation for Easter. How blind I have been.

We must choose to be awake to receive the Son-rise.

My Lenten fast was actually pretty petty. I choose to forgo the 2PM-4PM-half-price-drinks-run to Sonic. This everyday 44oz drink habit I had fallen into had taken on a life of its own. At 1:30 in the afternoon – I don’t want to miss it - my attention was drawn to my senses. Like Pavlov's dog, I salivated just thinking of the treat.

Everything is spiritual. How is it that denying the self can be as fulfilling as satisfying the self? Lent is not about the ego-self (edging God out) but the true-self (centering God in).

Self-control is an essential part of the spiritual life. As the appetite is tamed the soul flourishes. This iota of surrender made an enormous shift in my thinking. My afternoon attention is being refocused from Dr. Pepper to the Great Physician. My thirst is being translated from soda pop to Living Waters.

And in the process every sense is becoming sharper.

God’s silence speaks volumes and my stillness listens and my wisdom heart hears. How many times does God speak and we do not hear for our spiritual ear is dulled by the illusion of pleasures and pains of life?

In The Liturgical Year, Sister Joan Chittister relates the story of a disciple who heard a voice calling, “Who is there?”

Sensing a holy moment, she replied, “It is I, Lord.” But there was only silence.

Years later she again heard the voice and again she answered, “It is I, Lord. It is I.”

But there was only silence. In later years, the voice called a third time, “Who is there?”

This time she answered, “It is You, Lord, only You.”

Apostle Paul expressed it as decreasing so that God might increase.

Diane Bardwell sings, “Ever dying into You am I, until there is only You.”

Everything we learn in life, it is all Thanks Be To God.

For counsel or speaking engagements, contact Mona at mona@solutionprinciples.com


Put First Things First

In a cold February, Valentines and love celebration is a welcomed warm spot.

But what is love anyway?
  • Is it a word we casually attach to people, pets, pleasures, places and provisions?
  • Is it a fickle emotion we precariously fall into and out of?
  • Is it something we take for granted?
  • Is it something we demanded when it’s absent yet discounted when it’s genuine?
  • Is love an illusion?
  • Is love the only thing that is real?

Dr. William Glasser, founder of Choice Theory Psychology, identifies love as a genetic need that drives us to belong. Love is a physical and psychological need to fit in.

Love is a spiritual need that drives us to fit into our world. When loved the way we need to be loved, we are more whole and content. 

Love is the need for relationship. From the cradle to the grave life is all about relationship. No matter the venue – home, workforce, salesmanship, community, government, law enforcement, time, money, energy or breakthrough science like Albert’s Einstein’s theory of relativity, it is all about the state or quality of one thing relating to another.

  • It is about one thing -you - relating to one thing - me.
  • Love is about our relationship with those near and dear to us.
  • Love is about our relationship a Supreme Being.
  • Love is about our relationship with self; being comfortable in our own skin.
  • Love is about our relationship with stuff (time, money, energy, possessions.
  • Love is about our relationship with the rest of the world- as in the IT Tech in China, all the drivers in all the cars on the highway in this universe, all the workers in all the business in all the cities and townships, and all seven-point-two-billion souls on planet earth with unknown names and unseen faces.
  • Love is about our relationship with theories, science,politics, religion, education.... the list is endless.

WOW. That’s a lot to relate to.

How do you cultivate a loving relationship? How do you nurture, develop and grow love for self let alone for all of humanity? How to you sustain love for those “near and dear to us” when they are flawed?

And that brings us to the title of this article: Put First Things First.

Put First Things First is actually habit #3 in Stephen Covey’s best-selling book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.  Covey says, “You have to decide what your highest priorities are and have the courage- pleasantly, smilingly, non-apologetically, - to say “no” to other things."

We were a twinkle in God’s eye long before a spark in dad’s. God first loved us. As we receive God’s love and bask in the source of Love from which we came, our love tank becomes full and is continually topped off. In the overflow, we can effectively relate to others.

“When I have learned to love God better than my earthly dearest, I shall love my earthly dearest better than I do now. In so far as I learn to love my earthly dearest at the expense of God and instead of God, I shall be moving toward the state in which I shall not love my earthly dearest at all. When first things are put first, second things are not suppressed, but increased. Second things are corrupted when they are put first.”
C. S. Lewis

Mona Dunkin, Solution Principles, Maximum People Development. Please remember us for your training needs. mona@monadunkin.com