CONTROL: WHERE WE HAVE IT, WHERE WE DON’T, AND WHAT TO DO ABOUT IT [Guest post]

CONTROL: WHERE WE HAVE IT, WHERE WE DON’T, AND WHAT TO DO ABOUT IT

“Things are totally out of control!”

How many times in the last seven days alone have those words, or words similar to them, popped into your head? For me, it’s been at least a few times. Conflict, chaos, change. These things tend to leave many people spiraling, feeling a profound sense of powerlessness; a tiny raft adrift on the raging seas.

The scary thing?  In many ways, we are. Life is big, ever-changing, and so often, it’s out of our control. Are you feeling at ease, here? No? Me neither. This sense of discomfort, this dis-ease, has a lot to do with our definitions. Language is important here, as it is with all things, so I want to define a crucial term: control. Let’s come to a working definition, so that we can figure out what we can control in this largely uncontrollable world.

For me, control is: what you DO, with what you THINK and FEEL, right NOW.

A narrow definition, to be sure, but understanding all the things we can’t control can be rather freeing. So, quickly, what exists outside of this definition? Are you thinking about it? The weather. Yep, a lot of people think this one first. We can’t control that. It has nothing to do with our thoughts, feelings, or actions in this moment, so it’s out. That’s an easy one. Some harder, deeper ones exist, for sure. Here are three, and then at the end of this post we’ll talk about what to do about them.

The past and the future.

The past is easily understandable from a logical point-of-view. The past has already happened, and we can’t change it. Yet, in my work as a therapist I see plenty of people trying to do just that. What does it look like? It looks like the person continually punishing themselves for the mistakes they’ve made. It looks like shame, wherein people reduce the sum total of who they are to the mistakes and harmful choices they’ve made. They say, “I’m an idiot.” “I’m a horrible person.” “I’m not worth loving.” It’s ok to admit it if you’ve said these kinds of things about yourself. Many of us do, at times. When you beat yourself up over past mistakes, you might be attempting to control your past by staying in it and punishing yourself.

How about the future, though? I’ve had many clients tell me they believed they were capable of controlling their futures. It doesn’t take much tugging at the strings to see this idea unravel. What’s to stop the tree across the street from smashing down onto your house during the next storm? Without insurance and great friends who would put you up for a while, you, yes you, could see yourself homeless. Scary thought? Yes. But to attempt to control the future through excessive worry is disheartening, maddening, and at the very least, exhausting. We can’t control an unknowable future. For those terrified over the uncertainty following the presidential election, this may be exactly where they currently find themselves.

Our thoughts and feelings.

If some people argue that they can control their futures, it’s nothing to the people who tell me they have control over what they think and feel. Or, that they should have control over what they think and feel. “I shouldn’t get so worked up.” “I should be over this by now.”

I submit to you that sometimes, thoughts and feelings are outside of your control. Both are the result of complex chemical processes that operate outside of conscious awareness at times. Both are dependent on the kind of sleep you had last night. Many of your thoughts are responses to things that are so quick you might not even notice them. How can that be under your control? No, it’s our response to our thoughts and feelings that is ours to determine. It’s why the opposite isn’t true either. “I wouldn’t have said that if I wasn’t so upset.” Sadly, no. Getting mad might not always be under our control, but the way we get mad is ours to decide.

Other people.

This is one of the biggest ones. Wouldn’t we all like to be able to control someone in our lives right now? Go on, admit it. If you’ve ever been in a fight with a loved one, desperately trying to get them to see it your way to no avail, you may very well have been trying to control them. To change their thoughts, feelings, and actions to suit your liking. If I’m honest, there are people I’d like to control right now. One very important person, in fact. Hint hint, he has a comb over. But I can’t, and you can’t. And when the people we can’t control have very real power over our lives, it can be a scary prospect.

Feeling warm and fuzzy? Again, me neither. So where does that leave us?

What can we do about this? An answer comes to us from the many 12-Step programs. They have a saying, a prayer if you will:

“Lord, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”

Can we control the election results? No. Can we control our families? Nope. Can we control our futures? Sadly, we can’t. But there are things within us and around us that we can control, and there are things that we can influence. You can’t control the President, but you can write or call your congressperson. You can vote, you can get involved.

You can’t control your past, but you can work on forgiving yourself. You can’t control your family or loved ones, but you can control your actions toward them, your responses to your thoughts and feelings as you relate to them. It involves becoming aware of these things, challenging these things, and that’s hard work. But. It. Can. Be. Done.

You can’t control the future, but you can influence it. Influence involves doing what you can, within the realm of what you can control, to affect something that is outside of your control; being ready to accept the results if they don’t go your way.

Ask yourself this question: What can I control in my current situation? What do I need to try and influence? What do I need to accept? To answer these questions is freeing because it allows us to spend less time on things we can’t change. So go. Be free. May you find the wisdom to know the difference.

This is a guest post by licensed professional counselor and author Collin Pearman. His novel, A Timeless Abandon, deals with themes of faith, loneliness, politics, depression, and making difficult choices in dire circumstances, set against the science-fiction backdrop of a beautifully-rendered world.

A Parenting Book Your Husband Would Read

I’ve written a parenting book.  It’s at the rough first draft stage.  I don’t even have a title yet but I think the sub-title might be “A Parenting Book Your Husband Would Read.” It’s a mixed martial art and Brazilian jiu-jitsu approach to parenting, on surviving and winning the battles of parenting.

It started out as a silly fun idea, a book to give to my friends at the gym.  I thought it might be 50-60 pages.  But as I wrote I became more serious about truly being helpful and it ended up being over 180 pages and 96K words!  I’m getting it ready to send to an editor.  Here’s something I shared with my Facebook friends as I neared the end of writing:

Writing self-help sounds cliché and people won’t trust you if you aren’t willing to share your stories.
I’m trying to finish my last two days of writing strong when I realized this.
This book on parenting is actually a book on overcoming fear.
And yesterday as I tried to pour out my best words and figure out what’s the best thing I could write to encourage you in your battles, I circled back to best part of our story: my incredible wife, my amazing kids and our faith. And I broke down driving home grateful for them and for God’s love and grace.
See, my biggest battles are not out in the world, at work, online, in leadership – my biggest battles with fear and insecurity have been within the walls of our home and in my own head and heart.
And it’s been amazing to look back at what our family has been through and look ahead with clearer eyes and a braver heart.
I want the same for you guys.
So, I’m battling guys, to keep up the pace and get this book to you. Tomorrow I’ll write my last entry and then spend the next 4-6 weeks prepping to send to editor.

In the meantime, don’t give up.
Don’t give up on your marriage.
Don’t give up on your dreams.
Don’t give up on yourself.
Don’t give up on your kids.
With God, all things are possible.

Over the course of daily writing over two months I got into the habit of writing so I wrote this morning too.

An undealt with past affects your children’s future because your past impacts what you trust,
what you fear,
how you cope
and what you believe about yourself, life and others.
You choose how to respond to your past,
your kids didn’t.

You need to be brave and face your past because our kids won’t just end up battling their fears,
they end up fighting ours too.

What are the battles you’re facing as a parent these days?

I hope my book will help you.

If you’d like updates on the book and the blog, I invite you to subscribe by entering below.

On asking God: What should I do?

I went on a leadership retreat for our church last month. We spent a lot of time talking about discipleship, being a disciple a Jesus. And exploring what that means, what it looks like for our church this next year.
We didn’t want to come up with another program, something to make us busier with religious activity.

One thing that I’m always concerned about how to encourage people to live out their faith without it only being motivated by a sense of duty. And what I realized today was letting go of doing something out of duty doesn’t mean giving up something that’s hard to just do what comes naturally or what is easy.

Sometimes letting go of doing things out of a sense of duty is extremely scary.
Doing things out duty is actually kind of easy, everything is spelled out for you.
Listening for what God is leading you in means defending something mystical. Something that seems foolish. Something you can’t quantify or put on paper.

You have to risk disapproval.When you stop and listen and replace the question “What should I do?” with “What do I sense God saying to me? What is God calling me to do?”, you have to wait on God.

You have to slow down.
You have to be patient.
You have to give up controlling others because the answer isn’t one size fits all.
You risk being different, stepping out of line.
You risk being seen for who you are, you risk exposing the passions and longings of your heart.

You will seem foolish, people will misunderstand and assume things about you.
They’ll think you are being judgmental and self-righteous and impractical.
They may even try to put you back in your place.
(All this and this isn’t even addressing your own negative self-talk or self-limiting beliefs!)

Sometimes we are so afraid to ask “What do I *want* to do?” or believe that what we should do is always different than what we want to do. I think the better  question is “Who does God want me to be?” not “What does He want me to do?” but “What life does He want me to live?”

The cool thing is, there is a hard, lonely and scary way ahead that if you choose it, could lead to life instead of boredom and death.

What Good Will It Do?

This week has been an eventful one for our nation.  A new president was inaugurated and celebrated or protested on social media or by participating in marches and events.

There’s a question that gets raised in different ways but you’ll see it:

“What good does it do?”

Sometimes it’s raised as a critique, the implied answer or point being made that it doesn’t.  Sometimes it’s asked honestly, seeking understanding; maybe even by the person attempting the action.

Will it do any good?  Does it make any difference?  Why do it?”

The question reminded me of two quotes.

“Do for one what you you wish you could do for everyone.” – Andy Stanley

“Be the change you wish to see in the world.” – Ghandi

We can only control what we can control. And we can only offer small, humble offerings to others into this world. We may not be able to help hundreds or thousands of people. But we can join with hundreds and thousands.  We can choose to give our all and give a hundred percent to the person right in front of us.

Regardless of the outcome.

What good does it do? We don’t have to wait to see the outcome to answer the question for ourselves.  I believe the good that is done is done regardless of what follows because no act of love or courage is wasted. The act of choosing is what makes it worth it. We grow by choosing. Even though we don’t see the fruit of the choice that we make. It’s just like loving our kids, it’s worth it. It can help to be hopeful about the good it could do, what might result.  But in the long run how they respond and what results isn’t really entirely up to us.  What matters is that we chose love.  That we don’t stay stuck or powerless or victimimized or silent. 

This morning I remembered the story of the young man who came upon an older man throwing starfish back into the ocean.  He asked what difference does it make, there so many. And the elderly man replied, “It made a difference to that one.

That’s what I do with counseling. As I was driving into the office, I thought,
“Oh, today I’m going to drive in and throw some starfish back into the ocean.”

But then I realized.  My clients aren’t starfish.  I’m not saving them.

The clients that I see are also on the shore line and I join them there. The shoreline between the crashing raging ocean their past and the shoreline of their present and future. And they can’t move away from their past, they feel stuck on this shoreline.

They feel bog down by their pain, by their choices. By what has happened to them. And this shoreline is littered with their pain and their wounds.

They’re faced with the questions:  

Is it worth it?

Why do I have to face all this? 

Why do I have to go there?

What good will it do?

And just like the original story, it might not make the difference for everything but in that moment, for today, it’ll make a difference for that one, for that hurt, for that wound, that memory.  It’s not everything, but it’s a worthwhile start.  You won’t know where it will lead, until you’re brave enough to start. 

If you don’t know where to start, we can start with the one that you’re holding, right now, in your hand. 

We can begin there.

When You Have to Change On Your Own

 

Getting healthy is threatening to others. The sabotage and criticism won’t just come from “haters”, it could come from those closest to you.

Carl Rogers once said this about change:

“The curious paradox is that when I accept myself just as I am, then I can change.”

There’s another paradox to deal with when it comes to change:

Sometimes you can’t do it alone and sometimes you have to.

I was shoveling snow in the driveway this sunny winter morning and I was reflecting on the phrase “The people that love you the most…”

The people who love you most will understand.

The people who love you most have your back.

The idea being that the people that love you most will support you, no matter what. They will be there for you. They’ll cheer you on. They will have your best interest in mind. They’ll be so happy for you.

The fact of the matter is that the people who love you the most often don’t want you to change. And they won’t always support your change and growth. Sometimes they’ll even sabotage your efforts to change.

You’ll see this when someone who announces that they are signing up for the gym and wanting to lose weight and their friends, spouse or their kids say “Yeah! That’s great!” And then turn around and bring home a cheesecake for them to eat. You’ll see this with a couple where the husband says he will do anything and everything to save their marriage or be a better parent but won’t take the time to go to counseling or attend the parenting workshop together.

Why is that?

See, the thing is the people who love you the most sometimes love the current version of you. They’re comfortable with the way you are. It’s familiar. You’ve found a homeostasis, a rhythm, and way of life, a pattern or a cycle that works for them and has worked for you. On some level. Even if it’s not healthy. The status quo is the best kind of security blanket; it is especially warm and fuzzy because you made it yourself.

Whether it’s intentional or not, they’ve played a part in who and where you are today. They’ve done that by either colluding with you and the way you are by allowing what’s gotten you where you are. Or by not confronting you, holding you accountable or shielding you from consequences of your behavior.

Or maybe they’ve tried confronting you and giving you feedback and they’re tired. And now that you want to change, they are frustrated. They don’t trust you, they’ve heard it all before. It may even bring up some bitterness or anger they haven’t wanted to feel.

They may love you but they may not actually believe in you. That could mean they don’t believe in your potential or your ability to change and be something other than what you are. Or that could mean they don’t believe your word. Maybe they’ve heard you talk and think about making changes and they’ll believe it when they see it. In the meantime, they’re not going to get excited or be hopeful; they’ve been disappointed or burned too many times. If that’s the case you can’t really hold it against them that they’re not super excited that you’re wanting to get healthy.

There’s another dynamic in place that can sabotage change: even if you don’t say anything, those who love you the most, those who are closest to you, may feel the pressure to change. Even if you say they don’t need to change or even want them to change, you will inevitably influence them toward change.

Getting healthier involves changing:

the rhythm of your life,
the habits you make
the things that you sacrifice for
your priorities
the way you spend your time
the way you spend your energy
the way you spend your money
That’s going to have a direct impact on them, depending on how close they are to you. While you would hope that they would be happy for you, if you start to change and get healthy, it can highlight their insecurities or areas in their life where they may need to change or could change and get healthier.

And people can get defensive about that. Because change is scary.

What if you change? What if you change the way you see yourself?

Changing what you believe and see in yourself can be a threat to those who love you because if you see yourself in a different way then maybe you’ll see them in a different way. And maybe you won’t like what you see. Maybe you’ll start to believe that they’re not good enough. There’s something wrong in the relationship. When you start to get healthier, it can be empowering. You can start to shed limitations – external and internal – and start to dream and open up your mind to new possibilities. For those close to you, they may not like the new directions you want to go. Or they may like the direction but they may feel like they aren’t ready to go there with you.

What if you change how you see me?  What if you don’t like what you see? Will you want me anymore? 

No one likes to feel like they’re not good enough. And no one likes to be left behind.

The battle to lose weight and go to the gym is not so simple. When you consider the ones who love you the most.

You’ll see three types of reactions from people when you want to change.

  1. support
  2. some people try to talk you out of it
  3. silence
    You’ll see this when you want to make improvements to your physical health when you want to make mental health or relationship changes. Or changes with your spiritual growth.

So don’t be surprised. Don’t be discouraged. And don’t let criticism, sabotage or lack of support deter you. Stick to the changes on the growth that you want, whether that’s eating healthy, getting active, going to counseling or going back to church.

Change can be lonely. You can’t do it because it feels good and you can’t do it for affirmation from other people. Not only will it not feel good, you may even feel worse. You may feel physically sore and achy, your ego may take a beating and you may even feel isolation and anxiety as you make changes in the ways you relate to others. You may even choose to spend less time with friends who don’t support the changes you are making.

This past week I talked with a couple. The husband needed to eat healthily and get more exercise. And he blamed his wife for not being able to do either. Sure, it would be nice if his wife went to the mall with him so he could walk or cook different meals. But she doesn’t need to change in order for him to change and get healthier.

If you want to change, grow, get healthier – you have to do that for yourself. You have to take responsibility and you can’t blame other people for your lack of progress or lack of change. Yes, one of the reasons you may want to get healthier is so you can be there for your family, to see your children get married or meet your grandchildren. But that can’t be the primary reason or only reason.

We care for what we value. If you start without considering your worth and why doing the work of growth and change is worthwhile, you won’t last long.

When it comes to change often the people you need to make the change aren’t the ones who love you the most, they are simply the ones who can and will help you.

Three things that can help if you notice that those close to you are unsupportive or sabotaging your efforts to change.

1) Talk to them about it. Check whether or not this is going on. Don’t assume what you’re experiencing is them sabotaging you, do it in a soft way not making a final judgment. Communicate you are trying to understand and give them a chance to think or talk about it. They may not even be aware that they’re doing what they’re doing.

2) Besides talking to them about it, invite them to make changes too. Understand that if you’re already taking action on changes, you might be several steps ahead of them in the process. Be patient. If you have talked about change and not followed through in the past, own up to that and apologize. Validate that their skepticism is legit.

3) Honor their autonomy and respect their differences. They don’t have to change at the same pace. And they don’t have to change in the same way. Invite them in and support what they would like to change. There may be things that you each need to work on separately.

If you listen well, make the invitation openly and genuinely (instead of manipulating or controlling them) you will greatly improve your chances of being able to brainstorm, problem solve and come to agreements and action plans about things that you can work on together.

If they decline the invitation to make changes, then you’ll know that you gave it a good shot and you’re still free and responsible for the changes that you want to make. You can’t blame them or hold them responsible for what you need or want to do.

One key thing to remember, just because they’re not ready now doesn’t mean they won’t be open to it in the future. So handle that conversation well and they might leave the door open to talk about it again in the future. It might help to even ask them if it’s okay if you check in with them about it in a month or two.

If you are making changes or getting to ready to make changes this year, I want to encourage you to keep going.  Stay tuned for more blogs on habit change and sticking to your goals.

 

The power of simple words and small beginnings

Happy New Year!

In the past few weeks you might have seen folks on social media posting about their word or theme for the year.  You can also see people writing about their resolutions and goals.  Do you have a word or goal for the year?  Here’s something I’m focusing on:

I got an early start and started writing a parenting book in December.  As of today I’ve written 24 days straight and I will write every day until I’m done.  The plan is to publish it later this year, likely in the Fall.

As I was writing this morning, I was musing about the why and how and what of writing. I’m writing to help parents, dads and mom, overcome insecurity and fear.  I’m writing about how what I’ve learned training, competing and coaching Mixed Martial Arts and Brazilian Jiu Jitsu can help with relationships and life.  And I was struck by the question of writing enough, not just “Will it be good enough?” but “Will I say enough? Will it be long enough?”

Not only do I want to encourage parents, as presumptuous as it may sound, I want to write to change peoples’ lives.  I don’t want to shy away from that.  If I’m not writing something that could potentially change someone’s life than why bother.  I want my words to have that type of impact.

This week I started listening to Tim Grahl’s Book Launch podcast and in episode two he emphasizes that you have to believe in the book you are writing will help others.  As I’m writing, I know it will because it is helping me and what I’m writing has helped my counseling and coaching clients and patients for many years.

While writing I was listening to some worship music oo YouTube from the Passion Conference 2017 being held this week. I realized that in songs, the number of words isn’t what makes them powerful.  Complex and artful prose may be impressive but simplicity can be significant and even more helpful. I listened to 4-6 word phrases that shifted my heart and mind and I thought of other songs in my life that have changed my trajectory or kept me on track and it made me realize the number of words and pages my book isn’t the most important target to shoot for.

There is power in simple words and small beginnings.

I’ll go with you.

I’m sorry.

I have a dream.

Amazing grace, how sweet the sound.

I’m proud of you.

You’re hired.

It’s not the critic that counts…

I will…

You don’t have to be perfect.

No.

You can do it.

I need help.  

Thank you.

You are not your past.

I forgive you.

I’m not there, yet.

God, grant me the serenity…

Welcome home.

I’ll listen.

I can’t…but I can…

Let’s start over.

I miss you. 

I love you.

Small shifts in our thinking, in our communication, in our habits can undo patterns that have been in place for decades.  Living a different way, achieving a different outcome often doesn’t just mean changing our outward behavior – the most powerful changes often involved changing what we believe and how we see ourselves.  And if we are trying to make an impact in others’ lives, just the right words, at the right time – even if it’s just a handful – can make the difference. I hope in the stories and metaphor, illustrations and teaching, of my book many of those simple phrases above will sink into my readers in new and deeper ways.  And I hope in the meantime I will write blogs here that will encourage and support you this year.

Are you beginning something this year?  Are you starting over?

What’s something simple but powerfully true that you can tell or remind yourself of today?

What’s one small habit you could start that would make a big difference in your life?

Feeling Stuck and Self-Sabotage, A Video Blog

feeling-stuck-overcoming-self-sabotage

Last month I did a daily Facebook Live video challenge on a variety of my favorite topics.

This video from Day 2 was on getting unstuck and the power of the word WHY has to either keep us stuck or to motivate us to grow and change.

It explains the importance of answering our unanswered WHY’s.

It also explores why insight, introspection and over-thinking aren’t enough to grow.

I wrote a post that offers other questions that are more effective than why?

Calling All Prodigals

perfect

God doesn’t just have a heart for prodigal sons and daughters.
He waits for prodigal parents and spouses too.

You can be going a million miles an hour and feel like you’re not going anywhere.
You can be surrounded by family and feel alone, a million miles away.
You can have a place of your own and not feel at home.

The saying goes: “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”
Sometimes that provided strength is simply the ability to stop and ask for help.
Or the strength to look around and realize how far you’ve drifted and turn towards home.

We are all sons and daughters and dearly loved.

National Suicide Prevention Month 2016

SuicidePrevention-Teaser

Today is the start of National Suicide Prevention Month.
I recently read about a mom who lost her 14 yr old son to suicide then her 18 yr old son a week after the memorial.
This week I spoke with a parent who was still grieving losing their adult child, a few days before they had a scheduled appointment with a counselor.
Have you lost a friend or family member to suicide?
I’m praying for you today.

The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention site and the American Association of Suicidology sites are also helpful.

The problem can seem overwhelming but seemingly small acts of kindness, compassion, just listening and being there for others can make a huge, life-saving difference.
Someone you know or cross paths with could be struggling with depression and contemplating suicide.
If you are hurting and struggling, one thing that makes any suffering worse is suffering alone.
Don’t suffer any longer or more than you have to. Reach out and get some help, tell someone what is going on inside.
If you don’t have someone or know who tell, feel free to message me. I’d be happy to help and help figure out what to do next.

Three ways sharing your stories can help your kids

Three ways connect with kids

Looking forward to starting a month of connecting with my kids and helping other parents connect with with theirs on The Words I Would Say Facebook Group on Sept. 1st.
It’s a month long event to help parents spend less time on social media, watching TV and the news and arguing about politics and more time talking and telling their kids stories.
There’s a few other benefits for writing or talking to your kids. Here’s three ways.

The first is that sharing your stories connects them to their past and helps them make sense of it.
It gives them a sense of heritage and belonging.
It tells them where they came from.
Our stories form a significant part of our identity and when you are share them with your kids, it becomes a part of theirs.

The second place that connecting with your kids through sharing stories and memories helps them is in the present.
When you take the time to intentionally communicate and share yourself, you give them a sense of how important your relationship with them is.
With whatever they may face this year, it can help them know, that they aren’t alone.  It’s an opportunity to turn away from Netflix or sports or being productive and prioritize them; to help them experience how important and special they are through your actions and attention.
Some of the writing prompts will be of the when-I-was-your-age variety; when you as mom or dad share what you thought, felt and did at their age it can help them realize you understand what they may be going through. At least a little bit.

The third place that writing or talking to your kids this month can help them with is the future.
Sharing your memories and stories, positive and negative, can help them make important decisions about their future because stories and experiences are a great way of illustrating and teaching your values, your lessons learned (mistakes), the way you think and see the world and your heart and passions.  It’s also great way to help them discover and explore theirs.
And some day, when you aren’t around anymore, your words and your wisdom, the time you took to share memories and you, may help them through some rough seasons and bad days. The words we say are a big part of the legacy we leave them.

This month long event will be fun, it’s for staying connected in the busyness of the start of the school year.  It’s also about leaving a legacy, something that will endure in their lives. Something they can hold onto and remember; the best parts of you.

I hope you’ll join me this month and that you’ll have a great time connecting or re-connecting with your kids through your stories and memories.