EGO–how to deal with it.

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I’ve had a tough week.

As an accountant, I have had my share of meetings full of fragile egos and people who seem to exhibit sociopath tendencies and do not seem to care about throwing people under the bus.

Difficult people.  You know what I’m talking about. There should be a Difficult People 101 course.

Okay, you are right–I’m probably overreacting but I’m sure I am not alone when I say, dealing with difficult people sucks the life out of you and makes you wonder how you can deal with them.

Soon after I started my mindfulness journey, I began to really pay attention to the types of difficult people I normally deal with.  I started grouping them in the  following categories: 

1) Talkers (they talk more than they listen and they interrupt incessantly!),

2) Perfect (they are NEVER wrong),

3) Fake (they often lie to get their way),

4) Control freaks (they are controlling and their way is the only way),

5) Only Me (they bring down others to prop themselves up). 

I’ve thought of this long and hard and I think I may have a way that may ease the pain a bit.  I’m not saying that it will be roses and wine from now on but it may give you a new perspective on how to deal with difficult people.

E—Empathy.  Empathy is the ability to put yourself in one’s shoes and understand what they are going through.  In most cases, I have to remind myself that everyone has a back story.  It may be that they are under stress and feeling overwhelmed, or they have some personal issues they are currently dealing with.

G—Gratitude. Be grateful that you have a difficult person who you can practice your mindfulness on!  In the Buddhist tradition, difficult people are to be cherished. 

O—Opportunity. View difficult people as an opportunity for growth.  Pay attention to what your body is feeling.  Are you holding your breath? Did you just tense up? Tighten your jaw? Stay present. Stay silent and just listen with a beginners mind.  Perhaps, the difficult person may have a good point and emotions are getting in the way, or it may be YOUR EGO that is clouding your judgement.

One final thought–I always believed that these difficult people had inflated egos.  Now that I think more mindfully about it, it may be quite the opposite–they have deflated egos and they need to push people onto oncoming traffic because they believe that by doing so, they can attract more attention and elevate their own value.

What do you think?

At any rate, as I finish my second glass of wine, I am not looking forward to the coming week.  However, armed with a new perspective about ego and how to deal with difficult people, meetings may finally be something to look forward to.

Have a good week ahead, everyone!

Debbie.

 

 

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S.T.O.P. –A refresher…

 

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I had a little argument with Olivia on our way to school this morning.

I didn’t have time to make her lunch and I was a feeling a little vulnerable since I knew I have not been a model parent these past few days. I was on a training course and we were off our usual routine.  Although I get home earlier than usual, I do not seem to have enough time to do laundry, put away the dishes, or go for a run.

Although…I seem to have time for two glasses of wine and cheese, check the Raptors game, do some Amazon surfing for some retail therapy, sleep later than usual, etc…

At any rate, some consequences have certainly been felt the mornings after….I’ve been oversleeping, Olivia scrambling for clean jeans, no time to sit down and have breakfast (or even packing lunch), and both of us grumpy and testy in the morning.

I knew she was going through a rough patch too…she was worried she didn’t study enough for her Spanish test, she has a history project to work on, a finance test for DECA Ontario (an extracurricular finance club for young and upcoming junior executives), a math test to study for  (trigonometry, as I recall) and she was having some trouble prioritizing which one to deal with first….

Anyway, she said, “I’m hungry.”

For some reason, I took this negatively.  I immediately responded that we should really do better at planning our mornings or even consider laying out our clothes the night before and she should give me some ideas on what she would want for breakfast or lunch instead of relying on me to read her mind…and how late did she stay up last night that maybe she should be waking up earlier in the morning?

…all in my “pissed off” and “accusing” tone.

Silence on the passenger side.

Then I realized that with all the mindfulness practice and mantras I have in my arsenal, there are still times when I fall off the wagon and I revert back to old habits of mindlessness.

Anyway, I dropped her off and said, “Have a good day, honey”.  At this point, I was hoping that she had forgiven me for my outburst.  As I was waiting for the train heading downtown, I remembered one of the simplest techniques in my arsenal that I should have done:

S.T.O.P.

S–stop and take a time out; pause

T–take a slow breath in and out. Take another one, for good measure.

O-observe what is happening inside you. Were you holding your breath? How about your shoulders–were they tense and up? Just notice. No judging.

P-proceed; having checked into what is happening, continue with whatever you were doing.  Maybe, just maybe…you are feeling calmer and clearer to deal with the present situation.

Anyway, as I write this blog on the train on the way home (the course finished early! yay!), I remind myself that there will be times when I will fall off the wagon, but it is okay.

I can always begin again.

Next time, I hope that I remember to STOP… before I blow things out of proportion.

Hopefully, you will too….

Have a good rest of the week, everyone!

Debbie.

 

 

 

It’s a nice sunny morning…

I missed my 8:17 am train to work today….

As I climbed the stairs to the platform, I thought “It’s okay if I miss the train. It’s a nice sunny morning and I will find a sunny spot on the platform and drink the coffee I made at home.”

As I felt a blur of people rushing past me, I thought “It’s okay to miss the train. It’s a nice sunny morning and I wouldn’t want to be stumbling on the stairs…”

As I reached the top of the stairs, I saw some people were not as fortunate as the sprinters…

As I caught the eye of a lady who seemed out of place with such a heavy coat on such a nice morning, I said out loud “It’s okay, it’s a nice sunny morning and…the next train is in 10 minutes.”

As I saw her pause, I realized that somehow she didn’t realize how rare these mornings are after our brutal ice storm just last week. She replied happily “You are right! It IS a nice sunny morning! It’s okay to miss this train. There is always the next train.”

As I walked away to find my sunny spot and enjoy my coffee, I thought “What a beautiful sunny day….maybe tomorrow, I’ll miss my train again…”

Have a wonderful sunny day, everyone!!

Debbie.

“Rage, rage against the dying of the light…”

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She is almost 100 years old.

Everyone just assumed she would live forever so it gave everyone quite a scare when she was rushed to the hospital due to a collapsed lung and the doctor said they she doesn’t have long to live.  The priest was immediately called to give her her last rights and there was even a heated discussion about what she was going to wear in her own funeral.

That was a week ago.

As I visited her in the hospital, I came face to face on how old she had become since I last saw her, which was few years ago.  I would have wanted to visit her sooner but her children and I had a falling out after harsh words were uttered. As you may recall, I take grudges to a whole new level. (See my previous blog about my relationship with grudges Holding on…). But, I digress.

She seemed so fragile and so very frail…yet somehow, she had the energy to watch one of the Batman movies “The Dark Knight” on her grandson’s iPad.  She was sitting up and other than a nose breathing tube on her nose, she looked to be in good spirits.  Definitely a far cry from the pictures I received a week ago.

She reminded me of a poem “Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night” by Dylan Thomas:

Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light

She also made me rethink about what I should be doing NOW so that in the event that it is my turn, no one will put me in a pink froufrou frilly frock from the 1960’s.

So, this is what I came up with:

  1.  Have a plan:

    ..and no, I am not just talking about a will.  Honestly, what good is a will if no one really follows it?  I’ve heard of stories where the will stipulated that the family home be sold.  Yet, somehow, it took years of bickering among siblings to finally follow through and honestly, I really didn’t think all the bad blood was worth it.  People just had to grow up and face reality that you can’t live in the basement of your parent’s house all your life, that’s all.

    What I am talking about is actually having a plan and having someone you can trust who will carry out your last wishes.  It may be a family member or a close family friend.  I remember when my father died, I was about 10 years old.  I don’t recall that he had a will.  What he did get was our trusted neighbour to video tape him so that there was no confusion on what he wanted when he passed away.  In his own words, he outlined what he wanted.  And he entrusted loyal friends to make sure that our family was taken care of.  Of course, you have to bear in mind that this happened in the Philippines in the early 1980’s when the country was in turmoil under the dictatorship of Ferdinand Marcos and papers (especially wills!) and lawyers tend to disappear conveniently.  But, again, I digress–but you get the gist.

    2.  Take care of yourself

…and no, I am not really talking about getting a massage and a manicure while you are at it.  Well, on second thought, maybe a massage once in a while.  What I am alluding to is to actually take care of your body inside and out.  I read about this 105 year old from Norwich, England who does yoga and drives a Mini.  Perhaps she has good genetics but the fact that she keeps fit, eats reasonably sensibly, and drinks a glass of wine (or two) a day, but I would certainly want to try to look as good as her when I reach my nineties!  Google her…her name is Eileen Ash.

3.  Be there for your loved ones

I think this is the easiest one to do.  I recently heard about a young mother who had a brain aneurysm and never woke up.  She left two young children and a grieving husband who just could not accept such a tragedy.  So, kiss and hug your loved ones everyday–you never know what can happen in an instant.

4.  Finally, just put things in perspective

This is one lesson that my daughter Olivia has taught me.  There would be times when I would be stressed out at work or juggling several things at one time.  Of course, I would not be the nicest person to be around. She always seemed to have a knack of figuring out what is bothering me.  And one day, she asked “Mom, if you died tomorrow, would this issue even matter?”

Silence. I’m speechless.

So, really, put things into perspective when things don’t go your way.  In the grand scheme of things, what was bothering you may not really be that important.  All this would result to less stress, better outlook, and longer life…win-win.

So, there you have it, my plans to live a longer and you bet I will “rage, rage, against the dying of the light…”

How about you?

Have a good rest of the week, everyone!

Debbie

P.S. If you’re reading this, thank you so much for supporting my blog! Much love.

It started with an offer of Kleenex…

I caught a really nasty cold this past week…it may have been the flu but nonetheless, it devastated my whole entire week.

I even missed celebrating our Canadian Thanksgiving. I am not a big turkey fan but hey, I didn’t get to enjoy the long weekend it came with.

I think I caught it from the person who sat beside me on the train on my way to work.  It started with me offering her a Kleenex. In fact, I even texted my good old friend Joya the dilemma I was going through…

 

Joya suggested that I should move…

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I should have, now that I think about it…

Would you have taken a Kleenex from a total stranger?

I mean, I look like a perfectly respectable person, I take a shower every morning so I’m sure I smelled alright, and I had the obligatory Starbucks mug…and I was offering a brand new Klennex packet!  Brand new!!

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The “Debbie smile” as my dear friend alluded to has been known to create confusion. My former boss had once asked… “why is Debbie smiling that weird smile…there is so much to do!…and she’s smiling??!”. Needless to say, she hated it when I smiled my lunatic smile…as if I’m going to lose my marbles…

Anyway, at this point, I was clucking like a lunatic after Joya reminded me about “the smile”…

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Well…I caught the cold..img_3382

So there you have it, folks!  It all started with an offer of a Kleenex to a complete stranger who was in grave need of one…

So what have I learned from all this?

You probably think that the moral of this blog is never offer a Kleenex since it will just be rejected and forget about being all martyr-like and sticking by your window seat since you are comfy and you got there first…

Nope.

The moral of my story that I got from this is…

I am grateful to have very good and dear friends like Joya who would stick by me even when we have inane and silly text conversations like how an offer of a perfectly good tissue morphed into the flu…and actually remember to check up on me.

She is who I am thankful for.

What are you thankful for?

Happy belated thanksgiving, everyone!

Debbie

Multi-tasking: Debunking the Myths

images   I used to work for someone who would be drafting an email, “supposedly” listening to me, and scarfing down a late lunch, all at the same time. When I paused, she would look at me and say “Continue, I’m listening.”

I am not sure if she really was listening but did you know that multi-tasking is not only counter productive, but it is may also be damaging your brain?

The Myth:  “I’m good at it!”

Reality:  No, you’re not.  Our brains were not built to multi-task.  In fact, it can only focus on one complex thing at a time (note the words “one” and “complex”).  This means that while you can read this article and chew gum at the same time, it is a different story when you try to do two input-rich activities –like balancing your budget while talking on the phone with your lawyer.  In reality, our brains switch back and forth between tasks. In the process, we have to disengage neurons involved in one task and activate the new ones and paying less and less attention to either task.  Studies have shown that this task-switching results in an average of 50% more errors and it takes about an average of 23 minutes to get back on track on what you were doing previously, resulting in about 40% decrease in productivity.  Ouch.

The Myth:  “No harm done”

Reality:  A study by the University of London found that multi-taskers experience a drop in their IQ levels comparable to someone who has missed a night of sleep. In some cases, the IQ dropped by as much as 15 points, a level to which would be comparable to the cognitive equivalence of an 8 year old.  In addition, MRI scans have shown that brains of multi-taskers have less brain density in areas that impact our sense of empathy and emotions.  By multi-tasking, we may be damaging our brains in the process….

Definitely something to bear in mind the next time you receive an email that sounds like your gradeschooler wrote it and sounds a tiny bit snarky…

The Myth:  “Hands-free” 

Reality:  If you have not seen the movie “Dr. Strange” starring Benedict Cumberbatch, I suggest you do as it is due to multi-tasking that we have a movie.  Driving a fancy fast car while trying to look at an x-ray is just plain stupid.  To dumb it down for us mere mortals, it would be the same as driving and texting at the same time.  Hands on the wheel, eyes on the road, and focus on driving, people!

The Myth:  “I can just stop” 

Reality:  I dare you to just stop, cold turkey.  Not so easy, is it?  A further complication with multi-tasking is that we become addicted to it.  What we perceive to be a “successful” multi-tasking increases our dopamine levels–the hormone responsible for the feeling of happiness and thus, we don’t want that excitement and stimulation to end. However, the dark side of this equation is that in addition to dopamine, multitasking also releases adrenaline and other stress hormones that contribute to long term health problems.

So, what to do?

Taking all of the above into perspective, multi-tasking really is just another bad habit –like nail biting.  You need a concerted effort to be more mindful and stay present.  This may include chunking out the time for specific tasks.  For example, check your email only at specific intervals during the day and actually booking a meeting with yourself for an hour to get through without interruptions.  Taking little breaks between tasks also helps in reseting our brain and our mood to what needs to be done next.

In addition, being a role  model of being a “unitasker” goes a long way.  For example, in meetings, put aside your work phone and focus specifically on what is being discussed. Sending out an email during a meeting is not only rude but distracting to the presenter.

So, the next time when you feel that you have that urge to do two things at one time, pause….and say, “Just One Thing at a Time”.

Debbie.

“Under construction…”

I hit a raised maintenance cover today. You know the one that is almost always spray painted orange?   The road to the train station is under construction and being repaved…

It actually gave me a quite a jolt.

My first thought was “Dang, I hope I didn’t ruin the car.”

My second thought was “Where did that come from?! I didn’t see it..!”

My third thought was “I wasn’t really paying attention, was I?!”

My last thought gave me a shocking revelation…I was not fully present when I hit it head on. I don’t even recall what I was thinking at that moment…

I remember a story my first mindfulness teacher once told…you would be driving along and you don’t really realize how you got from point A to point B until you get there. But even then, you are already on the next item on your mental list…

That’s the tough part, isn’t it?

It’s hard enough to stay present…but to be present ALL THE TIME…is almost impossible (well, for me it feels insurmountable!)

The “old” me would have berated and admonished myself to nauseam such that my whole day would have been shot. The words of the day would have been “fail, fail, fail.”

The “newer” me did something that would have given the “old” me an ulcer….I gave myself a break. The words of the day were, “this is not a big deal.”

…and you know what?  It really is not a big deal.

Sharon Salzburg (she is a mindfulness teacher who focuses on how we can practice loving kindness–and no, it’s not the mushy kind of stuff!  Google her. She is awesome! ) says give yourself a break. Be kind to yourself. Don’t be too hard on yourself.

So, there you have it. My secret weapon. I have learned to give myself a break.

I also realized that I will probably be “under construction” for a long time…things ultimately will break down and I would have to rebuild…

Come to think of it, I like “under construction” better than “work in progress” since some days, I don’t feel as if I’m progressing at all…but I’ll save that for another blog…

Have a great week, everyone!

Debbie