The Illusion of Control

Control Key on Computer Keyboard

I have always struggled with the concept of “control.” Even in my family, I’m not alone; I come from a very long line of “control” junkies and it’s just who we are. It wasn’t until this phase of my life that I realized that “control” is just an illusion, and that the more I thought I controlled, the less life was truly in line with what was supposed to happen.

Never was this more true than when I interact with my patients. Recently, I spoke with a relatively young patient that told me that “Life doesn’t always go the way it is supposed to.” I told that patient that “Life doesn’t always goes the way YOU think it should go, but it always goes the way it was supposed to go.” Like that Rolling Stones’ song, “you can’t always get what you want…you get what you need.”

I shared with that patient that I don’t believe in mistakes or cosmic accidents, but that life happens exactly the way it is supposed to happen. The one thing I have wanted everyone to take away from life recently is that no one has complete control of every aspect of his/her life. There is no control in life except how we react to how we are treated. There is no controlling life’s outcome or believing that you have so much power in how it is going to end when there are SO many players involved.

Hopefully, it helps to know that no one is control of anything other than how he or she handles how they react to their situation. At best, you are in control of how you react to people around you. You are not in control of how people will interact and react with you, but that the only control you have is how you react to them. You don’t have to feel you failed because life didn’t turn out “the way it was supposed to.” The belief that you have control is an illusion… the knowledge that you are in control of how you understand people, is key!

-Cheryl L.

Dealing With Bullies

Being bullied by someone is not easy, regardless of what tools your support system (such as teachers, school workers, family and those you trust) provides you. It takes confidence and courage to stand up for yourself and others when bullies try to command power by knocking others down. It is important to find ways to handle these situations without engaging with the bully or reacting back. This video of the singing duo, Bars & Melody, has written a great song as a way to deal with bullies!

After watching the performance, what are ways you can combat bullying in a positive way?

If you want more information on how to handle bullying, check out the following link-

Smart Goal Setting

smart goal setting concept

I was given the honor recently to sit on a committee that selects scholarships for high school seniors looking for funding to help pay for college. One of the requirements for the application is to complete an essay asking “what goals have you set for yourself and how do you plan to achieve these goals.” While making my way through over 50 essays, I was sparked to write a blog post this week on goal setting in hopes of sparking some near-future list crafting of goals. Enjoy!

Goal setting is a topic I think is so great because it is a great exercise for personal development, achievement and fulfillment. I believe through setting and working to achieve goals, we are able to self monitor where we stand in our life journeys, and we are able to actively participate in decision making and choices (both personal and professional). I have always considered myself very goal oriented. I think part of it comes from the fact that I internalize everything and my brain is always moving (not always a good thing). For me, setting goals has been a great way to focus my energies when thinking about things such as: what do I want to be when I’m older, how do I want to be remembered and thought of by others, what interests me, and what would make me happy. Personally, I have a running internal list of goals in my head but I also keep a written list of short term goals in a planner of mine to help keep me on track of things I’d like to accomplish soon. I try to spend time periodically to check in with myself to see where I stand with goals:  have I achieved them, have my goals shifted at all, and whether I may want something new for myself and to set new goals.
Webster Dictionary defines goals as something that you are trying to do or achieve, and the end toward which effort is directed. Synonyms of a goals are: ambition, dream, idea, meaning, purpose (and the list goes on). I mention the definition and synonyms because they help put in perspective the importance of setting goals in order to live happy lives and spark personal development. There are both short term and long term goals. Short term goals are something that can be achieved fairly easily (such as I have a goal to go to Disneyland this summer or I have a goal to write a thank you note once a week), while long term goals are something to reach for and methodically plan towards (I want to get a graduate degree and have a family).
I was given the opportunity a few months ago to instruct a class of 5th grade girls on self-esteem and decision making. One of the topics discussed that day was goal setting. I found it interesting that pretty much every girl knew what self-esteem is, could list what they like about themselves, and talk about ideal characteristics and attributes a successful and likable person possesses. What I found alarming was that most of the attendees had a hard time expressing goals, knowing the difference between short and long term goals, and setting goals that would make them happy. The girls had a hard time putting pen to paper to express what they wanted to achieve. Although I was disappointed to see that we had some work to do that day, I was empowered because we were able to have a great conversation about the importance of goals and relevance of the goal setting process, or rather the importance of establishing S.M.A.R.T. Goals. S.M.A.R.T. goals are goals that are defined as specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and relevant, and time- based. Please see below for more of a breakdown of S.M.A.R.T. Goals.
S.M.A.R.T. Goals:
Specific- Which, what, who when where why, and what should be realized? Should be simply written and clear.
Measurable- How much or how many? How will you measure this? When they can be measured it becomes clear whether you have accomplished the goal.
Attainable & Achievable – Is it feasible? Do we have control over this? Goals should be achievable; they should stretch you slightly so you feel challenged, but defined well enough so that you can achieve them.
Realistic & Relevant- Is this goal relevant to my life? To be realistic, a goal must represent an objective toward which you are both willing and able to work. 
Time Based- When could this be achieved? What is a realist time frame? By placing a time frame, you create some sense of urgency
The process of setting S.M.A.R.T. goals was created to help provide the necessary questions to keep in mind when setting goals. They help in setting goals that can be attainable and relevant (the best thing about it is that they are personal and cater to who you are and what you need and want). Although I have considered myself goal oriented for years, the idea of S.M.A.R.T. goals is new to me as well. I love what it offers and I love the methodology it provides for people to really think about what it is that would make them happy and feel accomplished.
The high school essays I have been reading have got me thinking and reevaluating where I stand with my own goals. I have an exercise for each of us. Take a moment to think of 3 short term goals that you have and 3 long term goals. I encourage you to write these down on a piece of paper and use the S.M.A.R.T. goal process to see whether the goals you have in mind are well-aligned for who you are. Start to make this a habit. I also encourage you to check in with yourself in 6 months to see what progress has been made. Just imagine what we can achieve if we invest in the time to goal set just a little more!
-Alex W.


Stop, Listen and Empathize…

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I have so enjoyed writing for this blog and have really felt the challenge to rise to the occasion regarding issues of self-esteem, character, and leadership. This installment was different. The challenge with writing about self-esteem, character and leadership is that the issues are not the same for everyone, and you are constantly chasing the phantom of completion. There is no one way to get to self-esteem and leadership, each person will have their own road to understanding and awareness.

I already shared my thoughts on self-esteem and leadership, but now I would like to share with you my observations on how we understand our dependency on each other for survival and growth. You are probably wondering how this relates to self-esteem, character building and leadership, but that is just it… there is no me with out so(me)one else. We are dependent on each other to create what we were all meant to be individually and together as a society.

I am one of six children, five girls and one boy. My sisters and I are best friends (so is my brother but he lives farther away) so we spent a lot of time together talking about what is going on in our lives and what we see as our strengths, challenges, and opportunities. I started to notice that even though we each spent all this time talking about what was essential to us, we felt like no one else was listening… really listening to what we were saying. We would talk about our hopes, dreams and fears and the next family member would transition to their hopes, dreams, and fears without pause.

I come from a large Irish/Italian family so I chalked that up to the family dynamic. Until I had lunch with some close friends and we had that same dynamic. We each had some serious issues that we were looking to have heard and understood by each other and it was challenging to stop our internal noise long enough to truly hear what our friend needed to be heard. I began to realize that it is not just my family, close friends, or acquaintances that are not being heard.

Do you remember that phrase when a fire hits…stop, drop and roll? I developed a new phrase to help us relate to each other as we put out our personal “fires.” Stop, Listen, and Empathize.

First, Stop. Stop what you are doing. Put down the iPhone, tune out the work drama, let go of the insane traffic you had to endure that day, and just stop. Tune out the world for just one moment, and listen. Isn’t this what you would want for yourself?

Second, Listen. It is not enough to just stop what you are doing, but can you truly listen to what your family, friend or acquaintance is saying to you? Can you stop the dialog in your head and hear with the same passion you need in your own life? Truly take it in and try to understand where that person is coming from and why he/she needs you to understand it. Without judgment, without a sense of superiority, without apathy… just an ear to hear and a hear to understand.

Lastly, Empathize. If you were this person sharing something so personal, how would you want it to be received? Empathy is HUGELY misunderstood. Sympathy is to feel bad for a person’s situation, empathy is to put yourself in the position to feel the same person’s feelings if you were in their situation. We spend so much time asking people to “understand” us. What would we learn about ourselves if we empathized with our family/friend’s situation? There is so much wisdom in what that person is going through and what it can teach us about ourselves that it doesn’t make sense not to stop and feel. This last step is the most important because it highlights what this conversation was meant to show us about ourselves.

As you all may have realized by now, every human deserves to have you stop and listen to them. He or she also deserves to have you empathize but that is just not humanly possible. The power of empathy is reserved for those who you  truly care about or for those who need your understanding in a way that society hasn’t given them up till now. No one is asking you to Stop, Listen, and Empathize with EVERYONE…but would would the world look like if we all did it just once a day?

-Cheryl L.