Make a List: Inspiring People

The Dalai LamaInspiration is contagious. It is the act of giving without the intention of giving that touches people at their core and helps them move forward towards being better, stronger people.

When I take stock of my life, my behavior, my attitude, beliefs and feelings, I often discover that other people have contributed greatly to who I am. When people have contributed in a bad way, I say that because of them or something that happened with them, I got stuck in a bad place in my life. In a sense, I am blaming them for being part of my life. When they have contributed in a good way, I say they have inspired me or encouraged me to reach where I am now. I am grateful and happy that they have been part of my journey.

My mom and dad influenced me in different ways, because they were totally different people. As a kid, I had lots of criticism towards them. When I started my personal growth experience at the age of 16 (lucky me, I was young), I changed the question from “How did they screw up my life?” to “How did each of them inspire me?” It is amazing how many great answers I have received.

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Easy Divorce

Happy seniors hugging

Everybody also knows that divorce is painful to all involved. Regardless of your circumstances, both partners and all their children get hurt. Yet, the rate of divorce is soaring and being single again after having children is now part of many parents’ lives. Divorce seems hard to go through, but awfully easy to choose.

In the past, divorce was unacceptable in many societies. Once people got married, which was often by parental arrangement, they were stuck with their partners for life. Marriage was literally “until death do us part”. Being married for life was what everybody did. The average divorce rate was 0%.

Believing that ending their marriage while both partners were alive was not an option, the only available course of action was to make the marriage work. Sometimes, that was just as much fun as digging holes, but everyone dug 7 a day and kept their mouths shut.

Now, when you try to make a marriage work and you are committed to it for the long haul, you make decisions accordingly. You join bank accounts, split the responsibilities for best household performance and comfort, do your best to get to know your partner and try to be accommodating. In return, you could also rely on your partner to be there for you in times of difficulty, simply because he or she was as committed to the marriage as you were.

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State of the Union

clip_image003_thumbAs a parent, a life coach, a business consultant and a former corporate employee and manager, I have become increasingly concerned about morals. Until recently, I read or heard about people doing things that seem obviously wrong to do, and wondered how they could bring themselves to do them.

Now, I believe I know some of the reasons. Better yet, perhaps these reasons can lead us all towards a solution.

Almost invariably, you turn on the news or read the papers and find out about somebody who was caught scheming, embezzling or downright cheating. These people seem to have no regard for other people’s wellbeing, possessions or money. Sometimes, people are killed over what seems like a minor conflict, because the killer values something else – their wallet, their leather jacket or their girlfriend – over their life.

In response to Ronit’s posts on bullying, many readers have shared stories of workplace bullies who abuse their position, physical size or some weakness of their co-workers in ways that hurt them and ruins morale and productivity. Do these people follow a different value system to the rest of us? Given the rise of bullying, probably not.

So what is going on in the world? Has everybody gone mad? Is there nobody who still does the right things?

In his great book, Predictably Irrational, Dan Ariely presents a conflict between two modes of living: the “social norm” and the “market norm”.

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How to Manage Difficult People Using "Why?" and "What?"

clip_image008_thumbDifficult behavior is always a sign that there is an unfulfilled need. Most of the time, everybody focuses on the desires the difficult people express and not on their needs, while the difficult people are so stuck on what they want that they are not at all in a position to fulfill their own needs.

That can be changed by you helping them find what they need and by helping them get it.

The following technique was developed by observing 2- and 3-year-old kids. At the age of 2, they start with the question phase. Here is a typical discussion I have had with my own children and many kids I have worked with.

“What’s this?”

“It’s a card game?”

“What’s a card game?”

“It’s a pack of cards with things printed on them that we use to play a matching game”.

“What’s a matching game?”

“It’s a game where you have two cards that look exactly the same and you have to find them out of all the cards”.

“Why do we have to play a matching game?”

“It’s good for our brain. We learn to recognize things that are the same and others that are different”.

“Why is it good for our brain?”

And this conversation can go on forever if I could manage answering questions forever. The trick is always to answer calmly. It is a game, a very healthy game, and children learn a lot from it. You could say that this type of questioning is difficult behavior, but I think it is your reaction that makes it a learning experience or a difficult behavior. If you answer calmly, it is a learning experience. If you answer with anger, it becomes a difficult behavior.

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How to Manage Difficult People: Helping a Difficult Person

Alphabet of emotionsAs you have seen in the previous post, every difficult behavior can be mapped to an unfulfilled need that the “difficult person” cannot find other ways to fulfill. Each need is a strong belief that they must have something, they cannot live without it and they can only get it by “being difficult”.

Now that you understand the missing feeling that difficult people are searching for, you are probably asking yourself, “What do I do to give it to them?”

One of the biggest challenges of helping and supporting difficult people is the fear that giving them what they want will make them think their obnoxious behavior is a good strategy of getting what they want and it will only make things worse. I have heard this claim millions of times when working with children – “If a child is behaving in a bad way and you give him what he wants, he learns that this is a legitimate way to get what he wants”.

Well, that is not the case.

Focus on needs, not desires

There is a big difference between giving children what they say they want and giving them what they need. Much like difficult people, children do not know that they behave the way the do to fulfill a need. If they knew, they would give themselves that thing without the difficult behavior.

If you focus on giving them what they need, then after a while, when the need is fulfilled, they will calm down and ease their demands. I am not saying, “Give them what they want”, I am saying, “Give them what they really need”. Give them what they are missing, because they do not know how to give it to themselves and may not even know what it is.

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War and Peace are Personal

Captain AmericaPeople often wonder how a large-scale conflict, involving hundreds of thousands of people, causing numerous deaths and leaving countless people emotionally and/or physically maimed for life can occur. Yes, I am talking about war.

All around the world, no matter when you look, there is some war going on. Sometimes, they are obvious confrontations of armies. Other times, they are a wide spread collection of small events and often involve civilians, but they are wars nonetheless.

Wars are stupid. Wars are cruel. Wars are wasteful. Nobody truly wins in a war. Yet, they are always there. Worse, they mostly involve people who have no desire to fight whatsoever.

This week, Ronit and I watched two war movies: Letters from Iwo Jima and Captain America. That made me realize the extent to which everyday people can be mobilized to serve some external cause. The Japanese had their tradition, their emperor and their honor. The Americans had the propaganda that told them they were protecting their country and their freedom. In the end, many people fought on both sides, many people died, many were injured and many families suffered.

Watching a war movie, we do not count deaths. There are just too many. In reality, each dead soldier has a mother, a father, friends, maybe a partner and maybe even children. Each dead soldier has a future and then, nothing. A hole in the fabric of society.

Read more about how to live in peace

Good Parenting is Easy

Happy parents and babyGo online any day, open your email inbox, read the papers or turn on the television and you are sure to find heaps of parenting advice, all claiming to teach you good parenting. Since you are here, even this blog is full of ideas, stories and tips on how to be the best parent you can be for your kids.

The downside of having so much information and possibly conflicting views on the same issues is that it can quickly become confusing and give you the impression that being a good parent is really hard. In fact, maybe it is so hard you are never going to be good at parenting.


Good parenting is easy.

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In Excess

Old farmhouse In the not-so-distant past, most people lived in small places and had to do things themselves. They grew crops, cared for animals, sewed their own clothes, built their own houses, met the same small group of people from childhood to old age and learned about the rest of the world only when strangers came to town.

When something broke, those “olden days” people had to fix it themselves or take it to a specialist, such as the blacksmith or the cobbler. Time was cheap and materials, like metal and medicine, were very expensive and hard to get. There was a lot of time, so life was slow. There was a lot of space and travel was slow, so there was little change.

The world’s culture evolved around this lifestyle. The main values taught to kids were self-sufficiency, industry, thriftiness, modesty, discipline and courtesy. When they grew up, they also learned faithfulness and responsibility.

I have a feeling your parents may have tried to instill some of these values in you too, even if your life was quite different. I know mine did, as did the parents of all my friends.

The general focus of people was on getting things and keeping them. There was little choice, so what people got, they enjoyed.

Today, life is radically different for most people. Most people live in big cities, have easy access to large amounts of food, drink, clothes and other goods and are exposed to a never-ending stream of high-pressured information through the TV, the radio, the Internet, the mobile phone, printed media and various other means.

The general focus of people should be on choosing things and enjoying them. But it is not.

Read more about how to relax