Growing Pains

As the end of 2015 drew to a close, I had the “pleasure” of visiting a chiropractor for the first time. A few weeks prior I strained my back and just couldn’t get past the pain. It felt like I had compressed a couple of the lower vertebrae in my back and anytime that I stood on my feet for a period of time, my back hurt. If I sat too long, my back hurt. The pain would leave, and return frequently. So, I visited the chiropractor to find out what was wrong.

The X-ray at the chiropractor’s office revealed that my left pelvis (hip) was turned to the left. After years of displacement, the doctor explained, I had strained my back by moving or lifting something heavy. It was only a matter of time that the stress on my pelvis would cause an injury or require surgery to repair (or even replace) my hip.

The chiropractor explained to me that he was going to need to do a series of treatments to get my pelvis back into its correct position. Once it was in position, I would need to work at keeping it in place by stretching and doing some exercises. In time, I might need to do therapy to help me build up my muscles. You see, some of my muscles have gotten lazy, and some of them have been stressed because of my pelvis was in the wrong position.

On my first visit, the doctor did a few minor adjustments. My back, shoulders and hips made a cracking noise as he did the adjustments to put my bones back into their rightful positions. He explained that they had been out of place for so long, that they would naturally try and return back to the incorrect position. My body had grown so accustomed to being out of place, that it would feel uncomfortable and even hurt, to get my bones back in their proper places.

Believe me, it hurt. I felt like I had just played a game of tackle football- it hurt so badly. I had joints and bones hurting that have nothing to do with my hips or my back. My bones felt like they do when I’m running a fever and fighting the flu. It’s crazy how it felt. It took everything within me to not snap at people and to not be hateful because of the initial pain that my adjustment caused.

The main thing that is helped me to get through the pain was the realization that the pain I suffered from the adjustments was a small price to pay for how well I’m going to feel later. The doctor informed me that the adjustments will likely prevent hip surgery in the future IF I continue to use good posture and strengthen the weak muscles. I know the pain I am experiencing in these early adjustments will be to my gain. It’s to my advantage to experience this now, rather than avoiding the pain and requiring corrective surgery in the future.

As I reflect on my physical body, I can’t help but think of how it parallels our emotional bodies. How often are we uncomfortable or even pained by things in this life that hurt us? How often do we emotionally feel as if our joints are being pulled and twisted in their sockets? Maybe someone we trust tells something hurtful about us. Maybe we don’t get the big promotion that we thought we had earned. Maybe we have been mentally or emotionally abused and it has impacted our walk. We walk with a limp, or we cannot straighten our backs because of the pain. Our emotional bones feel out of place.

Fredrick Douglas once said, “If there is no struggle, there is no progress.”  Recovery is a painful but necessary process. We need to embrace the pain and suffering that is sometimes required in the healing process. We have to know pain intimately at times in order to help us move from where we were to where we need to be.

It hurts so good to know that the pain of healing pales in comparison to pain of continuing to walk in our afflictions. Knowing that the momentary agony of setting things right will only last for a season is rewarding. Ignoring the emotional damage can further damage us or even destroy us if we don’t seek healing. We need to embrace the pain of change and recognize what is beyond the pain. You could say, we have to know pain to know gain.

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A Sea of Sameness

Have you ever noticed how most of us in the American culture fear standing out from the crowd? We try our best to fit in with the herd, to be normal. We don’t want to be too tall, too short, too fat, or too skinny. We don’t like our looks if our nose is too wide, our skin is too dark or too light. We want to blend in and not draw attention to ourselves.

Somewhere at sometime in our lives, we discovered it wasn’t safe to stand out from the crowd. Blend in and it’s safe. Bringing attention to yourself isn’t safe. Above average, below average, don’t be noticed. We are average. We want to fit in.

Oddly enough average people admire those that excel. We cheer on the successful and dream of being like them, yet we unwilling to pay the cost. Then when the successful become too successful, we turn on them. We despise them. You doubt me? Look at Michel Jackson, Walmart and Microsoft. We loved them until they were bigger than life, and then we were threatened by them. We looked for any dirt we could find on them to prove they didn’t deserve the status they had gained.

In contrast to our fascination with success, think about how we look at the less fortunate.We see the handicap, the poor, the ugly, we look the other way. We’re not comfortable with “them”. “They” look different, or act different than we do, so we don’t trust “them.” We are most comfortable with people that look like us and act like us. That’s likely a large part of the racial divide in our nation. We like sameness and we fear things that are different.

I have a theory about why we like sameness. It may start out that when we’re young, we’re picked on for being different, but I believe it’s deeper rooted than that. I believe that when average meets different, average gets uncomfortable, because average then has to question itself. Why am I different? Am I right, or are they right? Should I do more, or am I doing enough? Are my beliefs true, or are their beliefs true?

We fear different, because we don’t like the confrontation that happens in our minds. We dislike different because we are forced to confront ourselves, our actions, and our beliefs. We’re afraid that we may have to make a shift in our thinking or our behavior if we don’t like what is uncovered by confronting ourselves. It doesn’t feel good. It’s hard to change. It’s easier to hide in a sea of sameness. It’s easier not to change.

I challenge you to face your fears. Boldly surround yourself with those that are different. Embrace the discomfort of confronting who you are and why you are they way you are. Don’t settle for average. Don’t try to fit in. Be who you are. You’ll be the better person for it. You’ll be stronger for it. The world world around you will be a better place because of it.

How to Handle Conflict

I saw a posting online this week asking the question, “how to you handle conflict?” I couldn’t help but thing about some of the past jobs I’ve held. I have been fortunate enough in my career to be in a leadership role in many of the jobs I’ve held.

Somehow in the job that I had the most people reporting to me, I became the disciplinarian. I had 65 people that reported to me (4 managers and 60 hourly employees). My boss made me perform the write-ups and have the employees sign them. It was painful!

I had to work with these people every day, so the last thing I wanted to do was upset them enough to negatively impact their performance. How did I do it? In time I learned the steps that I have outlined below. By focusing on the expected future behavior and not focusing so much on the wrong behavior. So, here it is…

Advice on how to handle conflict:
1. Remain calm. Screaming will not fix things faster.
2. Don’t present yourself as superior, or better than, the person you are in conflict. No one wants to agree with someone that’s a jerk.
3. Demonstrate empathy. Try and have some sense of understanding of the opposing view.
4. Strive for a solution that serves the business and not the individuals.
5. Don’t attack or blame – what is done is over – describe the desired future behavior or outcome.
6. Never use absolute words (“you always”, “you never” etc.) – it creates a feeling of helplessness and also feels like a personal attack.
7. Treat people like they had the best intent, regardless of the results that caused the conflict.
8. Don’t stomp on people’s feelings – you’re going to see that person again.
9. Build on any agreements made during the conflict discussion.
10. Don’t part mad. You may not end the discussion with a hug, but there is no reason to end a conflict with either party having hurt feelings.

Remember, a conflict is simply two or more parties having differing views. It doesn’t always mean they are looking for different results. They may want the same end result, but have differing views on how to get the desired results.

Let me know if you find this helpful. Did I leave anything out? What do you do differently?

Pound and Cents

It’s funny the lessons you can learn in life when you least expect it. This past month I had the opportunity to travel to England. I have never been outside of North America before, so this was a big deal for me.

I did a little homework before I left. I knew that I wanted to buy some souvenirs for the family, so I wanted to figure out how much money I might need to exchange, and where to exchange my money. Did you know that England uses British Pounds instead of Euros for currency? Who would have thought?

The British Pound, like the Euro is currently worth about one and a half US dollars. So, I knew my bucks weren’t going to get me as far as I would like.

A buddy of mine suggested the best way to exchange currency was to use my bank card at the airport ATM. He said the rates are the most accurate, and the cost is lower there. I don’t know if that’s true or not, but that’s what I did.

A funny thing happened to me when I exchanged my money… First, I didn’t think about the fact I would need to tell the ATM how many Pounds I wanted to withdraw. Silly me. I thought I could tell the machine how many US dollars I wanted converted into Pounds for me. Not so. I did some quick math and guessed at how many Pounds I would need based on my estimates on the US dollars I had intended to spend. Whew! Quick thinking paid off.

The most interesting thing about the currency didn’t happen until later. When I made my first purchase, I had a real revelation. I bought a day pass for the public transit system so I could ride the city bus or “the tube” (subway) anywhere that I wanted. It was 15 Pounds and change, so I threw down a 20 Pound note. (So far so good…) Then when they guy gave me my change, he asked if he could give me a lot of coins because he had so many. Not a problem. When he handed me a fist full of coins without any paper money, I realized I had a problem. What are the coins worth?!!

The One Pound coins were clear. They use coins instead of singles, but what about the others? What is a Pence? He gave me 5, 10, 20, and 50 Pence. What the heck?! No half pounds and quarter pounds?

Suddenly I felt like a little kid. I had to Google and find out what I had in my hands. The size of the coins and the numbers didn’t coincide with US coins. I had flashbacks of when I was a kid needing to pay for something with my own money, and I didn’t have enough. I had counted wrong. I couldn’t even count this stuff! Again, what the heck is a Pence? I had no idea of the value of what I was holding in my hand.

That my friends is where the lesson comes in….

How many times have you met someone that has no idea what they possess? (I’m not talking money now.) Think about it. Think of a person who sings better than you and thinks it’s not a big deal. Think about the person who does math in their head while you scratch around for a calculator or at least a pen and paper! Think about the person who intuitively sees the needs of other people without having to be told.

Yet, if you were to ask any of these people what they possessed, they wouldn’t know. Most of them would say they “don’t have anything” or at best they would say they “don’t have anything of value. Like me with my fist full of foreign coins, they don’t know the value of what they have!

I would say that each of us have a fist full of coins that we’re born with (talents, attributes and behaviors) and so few of us ever discover the value of what we possess!

You may have bigger coins than I do, but my coins may be bronze and yours are silver colored. What does that mean? Nothing! Especially if you don’t know the value of what you have.

Without question, you will have a different mixture of coins than I have. None of that is really important. What is important is understanding what you possess and where you should be investing what you have.

Once I Googled the coins that I had, I discovered that some of the big coins were of a lesser value than some of the smaller coins. What was more important was knowing what I possessed regardless of the size of the coin. I was now able to invest my coins into purchasing something meaningful because I knew what I had.

How many of just never really realize what unique qualities we have? We’re always looking at what other people have and thinking they possess something of greater value than what we have. Perception doesn’t matter! What does matter is that we each need to understand what gifts, talents and abilities we have so we can invest them into something meaningful.

What do you possess? (skills, talents and abilities)

Do you realize what they are worth?

Where are you investing your possessions?

Are you spending them wisely?

(For those of you like me that didn’t know; there are 100 Pence to a Pound. Now you know.)