May 28, 2012

Other People’s Stories – 2

Welcome to the continuing saga of “Other People’s Stories”.

Since our last episode, I have had a few interesting conversations about this issue. I was informed that there was more to tell with regards to responding to complaints as well as co-dependency. I also realize that I did not cover other people’s expectations or the danger of continually comparing your life performance to the lives of others around you.

Problem Solving versus a Complaint Driven Life

Complaints are all around us. Every day we hear people complain about the weather or about some political issue. One main tactic to addressing life complaints is to consider if the complaint was just stated to “let off steam” or if the complaint was an indirect (or even direct) request for problem solving. Most of the time, it is easy to determine if someone is complaining to “let off steam” since this complaint focuses on their feelings and contains statements such as “well, whatcha going do?” If you have the feeling that the complaint is a request for problem solving, it would be valuable to run it through a few questions:

–       Is this something I have the influence to change?

–       Is this something that is important to me?

–       Is it my job or responsibility to change?

In my work, it is my professional responsibility to sift through other people’s complaints on a regular basis. When I am interacting with a staff member who is talking about a work issue that is negatively impacting their ability to perform his or her job, it is my professional responsibility to act on it. However, if someone is talking about an issue that I have no influence to change, I will listen compassionately and do my best to encourage the other person to consider their emotional response to that situation.

Co Dependent Directors

There are many co-dependents that do not see themselves as either “co-dependent” or as someone prioritizing someone else’s issues. Co-dependents can identify themselves, as caring are responsible people. One possible red flag for co-dependency is becoming a “director” of another person’s life. This is the tendency of setting situations up so that other people act or feel a certain way or expecting others to act or feel a certain way. If you constantly find yourself feeling a great feeling of dis-ease when someone is not feeling/acting the way you want, you may just be a co-dependent.

Other People’s Expectations

Remember, you are in control of your own character and your own life’s path. Own this responsibility! If we do not firmly take responsibility of our own thoughts, feelings, beliefs, habits or actions, we are prone to undue influence of other people’s expectations. The expectations that I am referring to are not the common social expectations that we are all subject to. I am talking about the expectations of others that lead us into action that we may not want. For example, if you know deeply that you are intrinsically an artist, but your father always though of you as a great candidate for medical school, you will most likely be fulfilled if you followed your true passion instead of donning the role of “doctor” to meet your dad’s expectations.

Healthy Comparison

There is an element of comparing yourselves to others that can serve a purpose. Most of the time the tendency of comparing ourselves to others in our peer group offers us a form of social feedback. However, once we establish a pattern of habitually comparing ourselves to others, we can lose our internal locus of control and begin to define ourselves by others’ around us. We are NOT the other people around us! We are our unique personality. If Johnny is better at basketball, that’s good for Johnny. We should not view ourselves as inferior if our performance at basketball is not as good as Johnny. If we are looking at our own performance, it is best if we measure our current performance versus our past performance. Otherwise, we are in danger of losing important aspects of our own identity.

It is wonderful to have other people in our lives. Other people can have a positive influence. It is beneficial to remember to remain in charge of our own identity and to be the best that we can be.

May 27, 2012

Other People’s Stories

ImageBeware of OPS (Other People’s Stories)

In life, it is always advisable to remember how you define yourself as a person (character) and what you feel your own mission (plot) is. Other people’s stories can easily side track us from our desired path. If we are frequently sidetracked by other people’s stories, it can be exceedingly difficulty accomplishing the tasks that we have determined to be important to us. When we consistently place other’s needs before our own, we can wind up being frustrated and resentful.


The first step to getting where you want to go is to specifically identify what you want in life. Write you character and your plot! Who do you want to be? What do you want to experience? If you are not clear of where you want to go, you have a much greater chance to be sucked in to being cast as a secondary character in other people’s stories.


Gossip offers us interesting, emotionally charged story lines. As stated in the post on gossip, there are many social functions of gossip and not all of them are destructive. However, when listening to gossip, consider all the implications involved if you accept the gossip as fact. Will you start to avoid another character based on what someone told you they did? If you act in relation to a piece of gossip, will you become a part of the gossip storyline? If you spread the gossip or spread counter gossip of your own, you are now a part of the “sub-plot” related to this gossip. Many times, plots or character actions related to a piece of gossip can not only take you in a direction that you may not like, the course of action could be damaging. Shakespeare’s Othello is a great example of what can happen to you if you listen and act on a piece of gossip. I can tell you from personal experience that the times of my life where I let the voices of gossip become a part of my own personal story, I felt greatly dissatisfied about my life’s situation.


It is best to listen compassionately to the complaints of those that are close to us since the majority of the time our friends are seeking emotional validation. However, complaints can be poisonous if intricately woven in our personal narrative. If complaints become the format on how we engage in social narrative, our brain will consistently scavenge complaint worthy examples to enhance our complaint driven dialogue. If we consistently see other’s complaints as a call to action, we may drift from our own purpose and go on a quest to rectify our friends cause to complain. When listening to complaints, consider if this is the issue that you want to define yourself? Is this cause something that is consistent with my mission? Do I need to take any further action that listening compassionately?


Co-Dependency could be described as the habit of prioritizing other people’s stories. When one is “co-dependent”, that person defines himself or herself by the help or action that they take in relation to another person. With that being said, there is nothing inherently wrong with helping other people. However, it is dangerous to lose our own sense of self or character based on the needs of others.

Remember; beware of OPS, since it can take you off your own path.  Define your character and stay focused on your mission!

May 22, 2012

Social Stories

Social stories are en excellent example of the importance of our own internal narrative. “Social Stories” was developed by Carol Gray, a speech language pathologist to help children with autism how to learn social skills. Social stories are essentially scripts that teach the rules of how to engage in social situations. These stories work since the students review the stories on a daily basis so the social scripts become a part of their internal dialogue. The social stories are reviewed prior to the relevant event so the script can be practiced in a natural context. Families and teachers that use “Social Stories” report many success stories about how effective this strategy is in facilitating appropriate social skills.

If social scripting can work for people with Autism, it can work for us as well. We can write our own scripts on the beliefs, feelings and attititudes that we want to change. We can benefit from reading positive affirmations on a daily basis. We can reap rewards by writing and reviewing the goals that we wish to achieve. We can consciously change our perception of the present and change our internal dialogue as well.


May 21, 2012

What’s Your Story?

Most of us do not realize the power of our own internal story telling. We assume that our identity if fixed and we are just experience life as it comes to us. What we may not realize is the fact that how we choose to experience our life is influenced by many unconscious assumptions related to how we are “writing” our own story. Once we realize that we are authors of our own story, we are better able to guide the narrative of our lives.

The setting is really just where you are in the moment. It is your specific location in time and place. The setting is just part of our story. It can have an influence on us, and our actions. Our current setting does not define us. Just because you may have lived in the same location for your entire life does not mean that that will always be the case. You can change your setting is you so desire. If you do not like a particular setting such as living with someone who gives you more frustration that affection, then you have the ability to leave. Our setting has an influence on us, but it does not control us.
You have control over the elements of your character. Your thoughts, feelings, beliefs, habits and attitudes guide your actions. How you frame your role in different situations will affect your response and possible outcomes to these events. The role of your character may change depending on the setting, how you view your involvement in the current “plot line” and in relation to the others around you. You may perceive your role as:
– the victim
– the hero
– the complex misunderstood character
– the comic foil
– the central character
– the social observer
– etc.
Remember, you are the one constructing the narrative in your own mind. How do you want to see yourself?
We are in control of the perceiving meaning that we discern from our life’s events. However, we do not have control over many things that happen to us. Based on our beliefs of our role in our lives settings and routines, we will distill meaning from what happens to us.
If we see ourselves as the unfortunate victim of life events, the coffee that we accidentally spilled on ourselves on the way to that important job interview will be construed as a tragic element in a series of unfortunate events. We may proceed even further with our internal plot line by acting in some unfortunate subconscious way that leads to a nervous unflattering job interview that leads to losing the prospective new job.
When we see ourselves as the fortunate protagonist, the coffee spilled on our dress shirt will just be a minor obstacle to conquer. Our plucky character will find a napkin and soda water to clean the stain or even would use the incident as a humorous anecdote to start the job interview. Even if this perceived “champion” does not get the job, our internal dialogue will weave the story as just one step of many in the quest for optimal employment.
How we “write” our plot will control how will remember the event. When we tell stories about our lives at the end of the day, it is clear to the plot lines that we see ourselves in and the role our character plays.

In closing, I realize there is so much more to say about this topic. I want to give a shout out to Lem at  The Identity Specialist  ( and Karen Wan at Writing your destiny ( since they thing about these concepts as well.

Now go write yourself a good story!

May 20, 2012

Ghosts of Habits Past

I fervently wish that I could write to you all and proclaim, “I have made it! I have no more non-productive habits”.  Sheepishly I have to admit that this is not the case.

Lately, I have experienced the influence of old habits as if they were haunting me like an old ghost crying, “feed me”, “pay attention to me” or just “hang out with me like the old days”. These habits can sneak back into our lives since them seem so familiar and in an odd way, comfortable. They fit us like a well-worn pair of shoes, they fit our feet snugly but they stink really badly. These “bad habits” may give us a sense of comfort, but we may forget the customary price we pay each time we engage in them. We may have initially adopted these habits as a form of escape. Now these proverbial “old friends” come and visit like an errant college buddy and sidetrack you from your goals.

When I made a goal to attain my optimal body weight, I worked on developing a new habit of avoiding snacking after 7 PM. This seemed like an easy habit to develop. It made sense that there was no point to eating shortly after dinner and so close to going to bed. One day after having a small party at our house, I was surrounded by crunchy, tasty salty snacks. Unconsciously, I grabbed a bowl of grub and sat down in front of the TV after the kids went to bed. My old habit sat comfortably next to me on the couch.

Some times these unscheduled visits from wayward patterns of former behavior can serve as a reminder of why you tried to leave these unproductive traditions in the past. Another item that was left at our house at our house after the party was multiple forms of alcoholic beverages. I assure you that this plethora of alcohol did not lead to me drinking myself into a drunken stupor every night. However, I did start drinking one or two beers a night for a while. After about a week of this habit, I noticed I was waking up tired and more dehydrated than usual. I also noticed that I did not feel that incredible after drinking as well. I realized that my longstanding habit of drinking socially upon occasion was a lot more enjoyable of daily adult beverage consumption.

Photo Credit:

The next time old unproductive habits stop by your house for a visit, be cordial and acknowledge what these habits have meant to you. As soon as you can, show these old “friends” out the door.

Related Articles:

–       21 Days To Create a Habit

–       5 Self Improvement Tips

–       Developing Good Habits

May 20, 2012

Positive Cookie Attitudes (tm)

   Today’s Positive Thought is by J. Sig Paulson.

“I accept and approve of myself as I am, an individual and ever-unfolding expression of the universal Creative Spirit.”

View original post

May 20, 2012

I love coffee! I also love sharng mealtime with my family. Both my little guys want to help cook. I thought this pot was very tasty. I found this article from Holistic Me, but the original blog is at:

May 18, 2012

Benefit of the Doubt

I have to admit that I have a sarcastic sense of humor. My ironic attempts at merriment frequently fall into the sar-chasm (the gap between the attempt at a

humoristic sarcastic common and the stoic perception of the recipient). More simply put, there are some people in life that do not appreciate a sardonic humoristic style. More simply put, sarcasm is not always funny. In fact, many people interpret sarcastic comments as possibly hostile or passive aggressive. However, I feel that if you know me fairly well personally, you would understand that the intent of these proposed humoristic barbs are meant to generate levity and not cynicism. That is why I typically reserve my more playful side for those who understand my intent. If you know me, I would hope that you would give me the benefit of the doubt regarding my intentions.

In many life situations, I believe that we would all want other people to give us the benefit of the doubt. Most people do not go out into the world with malicious intent. Most people are just living their lives and are tying to get their own needs met along the way. The majority of people in supermarket lines and driving in traffic are have no harmful intent. Therefore, we should always do our best to give other people the benefit of the doubt. In situations where another person’ actions could be explained by either innocuous or malevolent means, why not just assume the more positive explanation?

When we are interacting with our friends and we do something awkward, we would like them to give us the benefit of the doubt about our intent. If we make some off hand snide comment, we would hope that they would give us the benefit of the doubt and realize that there is no intent to hurt another’s feelings.

The next time I make some off color sarcastic quip, please give me the benefit of the doubt.

Related Articles

May 13, 2012

“Surf Lessons”

Today my buddy and I surfed Windansea, one of the more noteworthy surf spots in San Diego. This place is known for its’ competitive local attitude. If you are not a decent surfer and if you are not familiar to the other guys in the lineup, you are prone to verbal insults or being “ganged up” on by the local crew. Why surf here? It is an awesome wave and it can be really fun.

A few years ago when I surfed this legendary surf break I did not feel worthy. I wiped out a couple of times and I felt out of place in the lineup. I also received some rancorous comments from the local surf crew. I left this session feeling inferior and depleted.

This morning was quite different. I have become a much better surfer in the last few years and I have total control of my board. My friend and I easily caught as much or more waves then the other guys in the lineup. All the interactions with my fellow surfers were positive. I felt worthy. I had an awesome day!

Between waves, I reflected on all of the life lessons that were applicable:

1) Accept feedback – When I last surfed Windansea, I was not “good enough”. At that time, I did not have the requisite skill to be in the lineup. It was beneficial to acknowledge that I needed to improve ability before going back.

2) Practice, Patience and Persistence will get you where you want to go. – If you want something, you need to put in the effort and have patience for your desired outcome. In the blogging world, it is best to keep writing to hone your craft, be persistent through times where you do not feel inspired and be patient for the possibility of an expanded readership.

3) Don’t Take Anything Personally – As Don Miguel Ruiz stated in “The Four Agreements”, “nothing other people do is because of you. It is because of themselves.” There is always a chance that you are going to run into “grumpy” people in the community or in the surf lineup. Their attitude is their issue. Don’t make it yours.

4) Remember that you are in control of how to respond to every situation. –  As discussed yesterday, how we respond to the actions and reactions of others can affect how a situation can play out and can affect your emotional response.

5) Be here, now and “go with the flow”. – When you find something you truly enjoy, it is easier to live in the moment and feel the joy of the situation. Surfing does this for me.

Thank you for your patience for all of my surfing metaphors. Have a great day!

May 11, 2012

Choose Well!

Today, I experienced a situation that was a prime example of how choosing your response to a given situation can effect how you feel about a given situation.

This morning, I went surfing with a friend of mine at La Jolla Shores. This surfing spot is characteristically crowded and frequently has surfers of a wide range of abilities. In general, if you get up set if there is someone “in the way” every time you paddle for a wave, you will most likely have a very frustrating surf session. If you surf within your ability and are aware of where everyone is in the lineup, you will more likely enjoy yourself.

For those unfamiliar with surfing, each wave has a “peak” where the wave starts to break. A surfer can choose to surf on the right, or on the left of the peak. On one of the waves that I was planning on paddling into, I clearly pointed right indicating that I was going right and I angled my board to the right so it was clear where I was going. As I stood up on the wave, a surfer who was to my right angrily shouted, “where are you going”? At this point I could choose to respond to this person by explaining to them that I had clearly communicated my intention and that it was all surfer’s responsibility to look both ways down a wave before taking off. The option that I choose was to let it go and keep surfing. Later in my surf sessions, a surfer with less experience got in my way on the inside of the wave causing me to cut out early. This surfer apologized for getting in the way. At this point, I could have chosen to angrily shout, “What are you doing?” Instead I choose to say, “no worries, it is all good” and we chatted for a while about the characteristics of the surf spot.

At the end of the session I felt great. I caught waves consistently. The water was warm and the surf was fairly consistent. By remembering to respond to others with forgiveness and understanding, I was able to remain in a calm, positive emotional space. However, there is an alternative reality of what could have happened. If I had initially chosen to respond to the angry surfer with anger, we would have had an angry exchange in the lineup. We would have both likely “bummed out” the surfers around us and the entire experience would have been defined by that anger. I would currently be writing a story about how inconsiderate other people can by and I would likely frame my role as either the “victim” or “hero”.

Choosing our reactions to situation can be one of the most important things that we control. How we choose to respond can significantly influence the others around us.

Choose well!

Photo Credit: