The Prices You Pay for Winning an Argument

By Linda & Charlie Bloom
British summer

.craig via Compfight

 One of the widely held beliefs that threaten relationships is the idea that being victorious in an argument is a good thing. That notion is based in part on the assumption that when it comes to arguments, there are only two possible outcomes: winning or losing. It’s a zero sum game and if you don’t come out on top, there’s only one other place that you can go. Given this mindset, it’s no surprise that so many people, finding themselves embroiled in a relationship conflict, go for the jugular and pull out the big guns. “Big guns” are inflated or amplified threats, insults, and various forms of character assassination. “You’re just like your mother!” “No wonder your last wife left you!” “You’re the most selfish person I’ve ever known!” “I can’t take this any more. I’m calling a lawyer tomorrow!” “I should have listened to my friends who warned me not to marry you!” And these are just the mild ones!

Then there are the more subtle forms of coercion and manipulation that are designed to discredit the other person’s position or to invalidate their concerns in order to defeat their efforts to defend themselves in the face of an attack.

There are an infinite variety of strategies for winning an argument, but there are only a few motives that drive the compulsion to win. The most prevalent one is the desire to avoid an anticipated humiliation, punishment, or loss of power by defeating the other person and thus affirming a dominant position in the relationship. When there is not a high level of mutual trust in the relationship, both partners are likely to feel a strong need to be concerned with the degree of power and control they possess, since they are vulnerable to abuse, exploitation, and domination. The build-up of interpersonal defenses and aggressive behaviors, is not an effective deterrent to attack, not does it ever repair damaged trust. On the contrary, it adds to the problem and often provokes further aggression.

Consequently, trying to “win” an argument by defeating the other person not only fails to address the underlying problem, but generally intensifies it. While one person may appear to win the battle, both of them lose the war. When it comes to committed relationships, when one person loses in the short run, they both lose in the long run. When someone loses or gives up in resignation, trust goes down and communication closes up. Even though the active fighting may end, the underlying issues have not been adequately addressed and the differences between both parties haven’t been adequately resolved.

When this is the case, the spirit of mutual support and co-operation is broken and both partners begins to see each other as an adversary rather than teammates. on the same team. When this occurs, vulnerability is replaced with defensiveness, interrupting the flow of honest communication, and each person becomes more concerned with personal protection than the establishment of a mutually satisfying outcome. This diminishes the feelings of good will that are necessary to re-establish trust and shared respect.

At this point both partners are operating from separate personal intentions that are misaligned, making the relationship feel adversarial rather than cooperative. Now, each person sees the other as someone they need protection from and/or need to defeat, rather than a source of support and comfort. Fear, rather than love has become the dominant motivator in the relationship on both sides. Even when one person seems to be more angry than frightened, in fact, both are possessed by fear, but may be enacting different protective strategies (such as aggression and withdrawal or intimidation and accommodation).

When arguments fail to identify or address the underlying issue that has been activated, there is no way that that information can be accessed when both partners are driven by the need to protect and defend.  When this occurs it is likely that the real concerns will become submerged and go underground in order to create a truce which is a temporary disarmament that is necessary in order to engage in the relations that are necessary to continue and sustain normal life.

“Normal life”, however, is not synonymous with a mutually fulfilling and loving relationship. It is merely one in which active conflict is temporarily absent or minimized and the obligations and responsibilities of daily living can be satisfied. While this may be preferable to having a relationship that is actively antagonistic and mutually destructive, it is a far cry from what most couples envision when they initially share their intention to create a committed partnership. It is also far less than what is possible when two people are able and willing to hold and honor a vision of an ever-growing, ever- deepening, connection that becomes more loving and fulfilling over time.

Differences are inevitable in all relationships. Conflict is optional. When we try to settle differences by winning the argument rather than seeking to find greater understanding from it, we deny ourselves the opportunity to learn more about ourselves and our partner and we miss the opportunity to engage in the practices that can make us a more skilled, loving, and responsible person.

While not all relationships are “made in heaven”, a lot more of them have the potential to become heavenly that we may think, if we are willing to challenge and interrupt embedded defensive patterns that may be doing us more harm than good. Perhaps it’s time to trade in the old clunker for a new model!


What May Be the Best Advice Any President Ever Gave America

By Linda & Charlie Bloom

Creative Commons License Carnie Lewis via Compfight

Like many of us of a certain age, I remember President John F. Kennedy’s famous words that he spoke in his 1961 inaugural address:  “Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.” Over the years, I’ve found that this advice doesn’t just apply to one’s country but has applicability to many areas of life, and in particular, that of relationships. Yet while most of us would probably agree that embodying this philosophy in our daily lives is likely to enhance the quality of our relationships, actually doing so isn’t necessarily easy. Approaching life experiences from the question “What is it that I have to offer this person or situation?” rather than “What’s in it for me here and how can I get it?” is easier said than done.

It seems natural to be more concerned with our own needs and desires, rather than those of others. Yet, paradoxically, as many of us have learned, living life from an intention to give rather than to get is more likely to provoke feelings of fulfillment than doing the opposite. The attitude that we adopt and live from in our life may be the single-most important factor in determining the quality of our life experience. While it may seem counter-intuitive to choose to be more concerned with others’ needs than our own, doing so not only makes us more attractive to others and draws them into our sphere of influence.

This is not to say that obsessively focusing on others to the exclusion of our own needs is always a good thing to do. As many of us have learned, taking responsibility for others and ignoring our own needs creates another set of problems and not only promotes co-dependent patterns, but also inevitably generates resentment and codependence in relationships. Too much of a good thing is not a good thing.

Some of us are born with a predisposition towards giving, some develop it in the process of maturing. Some never do. Anyone can, at any age, can engage in practices that strengthen the quality of “generosity of spirit”. As this practice becomes more integrated into the fabric of our lives, the motivation to continue becomes stronger as it produces increasingly rewarding results. Our friend Bill Galt knows this from a lifetime of practicing this form of “enlightened self-interest. Here’s what he has to say about it:

“I’ve always known, even as a kid, that I was happiest when I was giving. Not just giving support, although I do enjoy doing that, but sharing ideas, offering comfort or giving from the heart as well as the wallet. I love being engaged in real conversations, and I spend a lot of time on the phone having them. I don’t do superficial very well, and I’ve found that when I get real, people almost always join me at that level.”

“My friends and family all know that they can always turn to me if they need any kind of help. It brings me pleasure to assist them in any way that I can. I’m always looking for ways in which I can serve. When my wife Gail and I lived in Baja California, we had a big hurricane that caused a lot of damage. After the hurricane, Gail and I got to work in the neighborhood and we had a blast! We put a roof on one person’s house and a door on another’s. Wherever we go, there are projects that call out to us to join in. In Baja, there was a huge overpopulation problem of beach dogs. We started up a “spay and neuter your pet program.” The local women were supportive of the idea, but their husbands weren’t, so Gail would wait until the men left for work and then go door to door to speak to the women. It seemed a little sneaky, but it worked! We brought in veterinarians from out of town, and by the time we left Baja, we had spayed and neutered several hundred animals!”

“Money has never been a major preoccupation with me. I’ve always trusted that here will be enough and there usually is. There was a time, many years ago, that money was pretty scarce with us and we didn’t have enough to pay our rent. If we didn’t come up with $500, we were at risk of getting evicted. After several days of frantically running around trying to hustle up the money, I finally scraped it. But before I could pay it, a friend came over who was in even more dire circumstances than I was, and after hearing his heart-wrenching story, I gave him the entire $500!”

“My wife pitched a fit! She was screaming at me that we might lose our house and there wouldn’t be a roof over our children’s heads. I thought she was so angry, that I thought she might actually divorce me, but I knew that it was the right thing to do. In less than a week, I had gathered together even more that the $500 that we needed to pay the rent”

I have had enough incidents like this one, although usually less dramatic, to feel absolutely confident that things will always work out and that I don’t have to stress out about things. When I look around me, I see so many people grasping and consuming. All this excessive materialism amplifies peoples’ fears and dissatisfaction. Professional marketers seem to know how to exploit inflame our desires and anxieties.”

“Gail and I have realized a degree of material success that allows us to see how hollow the relentless accumulation of money is. There is a big difference between needs and desires. We have learned to become very clear about this distinction and that makes it a lot easier to loosen our attachment things are non-essentials and focus our energies and attention on those things that really matter. We make sure that we only consume that which is aligned with our life vision, which is to serve society and the world. When we stay true to that mission, we enjoy long-term satisfaction. And it’s that sense of deep satisfaction and of having enough and being enough that allows us to continue to share all that we have. It’s the opposite of a vicious cycle. I guess you could call it a cycle of love.”

Better Than Happiness

By Linda & Charlie Bloom

Shooting For the Gold Viewminder via Compfight

It may sound strange coming from someone who has written dozens of blogs about happiness and taught a lot of seminars on the subject, to hear that happiness isn’t necessarily all that it’s cracked up to be. Or put another way, in terms of one’s overall quality of life, spirit, and degree of personal fulfillment, some things play a much more significant role than feelings of happiness. I’ll get to that in a minute.

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Marriage: A Good Deal or an Ordeal?

By Linda & Charlie Bloom

There are lots of expectations about what marriage will provide that motivate people to choose it over the single life.


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What’s your EIQ?

By Linda & Charlie Bloom

E-VolveCreative Commons License Keoni Cabral via Compfight

Here’s how to find out!

Chances are you’re familiar with the term “emotional intelligence”, that was popularized by the Psychologist Daniel Goleman in his 1995 best seller by the same name. To refresh your memory in case it needs refreshing, emotional intelligence, or “EI”, according to the 2008 edition of the Dictionary of Psychology, can be defined as “The ability to monitor one’s own and other people’s emotions, to discriminate between different emotions and label them appropriately, and to use emotional information to guide thinking and behavior.”  Goleman, however, wasn’t the first person to coin the term. That was done by the poetically and aptly-named Wayne Payne, whose doctoral thesis entitled A Study of Emotion: Developing Emotional Intelligence was written in 1985.

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Smiling at Fear

By Linda & Charlie Bloom

biG miNiaTURe wOrLd Sippanont Samchai via Compfight  A while back, Linda and I attended a weekend retreat led by Pema Chodron, a long-time practitioner of Buddhist meditation and the principal teacher at the Buddhist center, Gampo Abbey in Nova Scotia. The retreat was based upon the teachings of Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche, a Tibetan teacher of Buddhism and author of many books, including Smile At Fear, which happened to be the theme of the retreat. Both Linda and I have been long-time fans of Pema’s work and her books, especially the best-seller, When Things Fall Apart, which seems to have been written precisely for these times.

So naturally, when we heard about the retreat, which was held at a huge pavilion in the Bay Area city of Richmond, we signed up for it, and not a moment too soon. Despite the fact that the event was being held in a building that accommodates 3,000 people, we just barely made it in before it sold out. The hotel that the sponsoring organization had contracted with for the special room rate however had sold all of its rooms that had been reserved for the retreat. After many phone calls and much time on line, we were able to find a nearby hotel that had rooms available and we reserved one for the weekend.

At the end of the first evening, we drove to our hotel and because it was dark and there was a detour on the road, I found it difficult to follow the directions and because of a number of wrong turns that I made, it took us about three times longer to find our way to the hotel than it should have. I made a verbal note to Linda to get an early start the next morning to make sure that even if we got lost again, we would make it in time for the opening meditation.

It was a good idea, but fate it, seemed, had other plans for us. After having breakfast at a nearby restaurant, we got on the road, with plenty of time to spare and I proceeded to get us even more lost than we had been the night before. Still, I wasn’t worried since we had left early enough to deal with any unplanned meanderings and still make it in time.

When after about fifteen minutes going in what turned out to be the wrong direction, it became obvious to us both when we ended up at a dead end, that my instincts, which are not always 100% reliable, had unfortunately failed me and it was time for another game plan. The question was, “Now what?”

Although I was totally unfamiliar with the terrain, I declined Linda’s suggestion that we might consider asking someone for directions. No need to do that. I did what any other man would do in a similar situation, one in which he had absolutely no idea of where he was or how to get to where he wanted to go. There was of course no need to ask anyone for directions. Yes, my instincts had just failed me, but there was no reason to believe that they would fail me again. After all how often does lightning strike twice in the same place? One misjudgment was fluke; two would be a near impossibility. Besides I was really sure this time that I knew the way. Linda was beginning to have her doubts, but bless her heart, she gave me another chance.

Well, you’ll be shocked… SHOCKED, to hear this, but it soon became apparent that I was wrong again. Unbelievable! But apparently not to Linda who once again asked me with great patience and mindfulness if I might want to reconsider my decision to not ask anyone for directions. By now it was getting late and there was a serious possibility that we might be late for the morning meditation, and come straggling in after it had begun, with the room absolutely quiet, and we would destroy the stillness and conscious breathing of the 3000 punctual yogis who would be sitting in perfect posture being perfectly mindful, immersed in the joy of perfect consciousness. No doubt, all of them would open their eyes just long enough to see who it was that was interrupting their blissful state. It would be planted in everyone’s awareness that I was the one who was responsible for breaking the perfect peace of the room and clumsily, tardily, exposing my unenlightened self.

With all this going through my mind, it was clear to me that it would probably be a good idea to take Linda’s advice and pop the question to someone who might know more than I did about the local terrain, which probably would have been anyone over three years old that happened to be in the vicinity. I went into a nearby convenience store and asked the clerk for directions. As luck would have it, he knew exactly where the pavilion was and provided me with very clear and simple directions to the facility. I got back in the car, no longer feeling anxious or distressed, and headed for the pavilion.

It looked like we were going to make it on time after all. When we began to see signs directing cars to the retreat, I knew that we were home free, or so it seemed. Unfortunately, this was not to be the case. Four blocks from the pavilion a flashing red light appeared up ahead accompanied by a clanging bell. The two cars in front of me stopped at the railroad crossing that was literally less than twenty-five feet in front of me.

My mood immediately got dark again with all kinds of very unenlightened thoughts and urges coming into my mind. In an instant, I went from perfect peace to perfect frustration.

I checked the time. We still had nearly ten minutes before the first session began and we were so close to our destination. Even if the train took five minutes to pass we would still have enough time to get to the parking lot and make it inside before the meditation began. No problem, except for one thing: The train turned out to be by far the longest train that I had ever seen in my life, maybe the longest train in the world. It took more than five minutes, more than ten minutes, more than fifteen minutes. It took over twenty minutes for that train to pass and for the crossing bars to finally lift to let the drivers in what had now become an incredibly long line of cars to restart their engines and resume their travels.

My initial reaction to all this was to be possessed by a frenzy of impotent outrage. In the midst of my expletive-filled rantings, Linda, gently but in a way that pierced my wall of anger, reminded me of three things that for some unknown reason, I was fortunate enough to be able to actually hear, that stopped me and my rantings cold in my tracks (almost literally!). One: There is nothing that we can do about this situation. Two: It is temporary and at some point it will end. Three: We came to the retreat to experience peace, greater awareness, and acceptance of the experience of the present moment.

My initial reaction was to feel the urge to redirect my anger towards Linda –How dare she deprive me of my righteous indignation and of the pleasure of feeling like a victim of unfair circumstances! Then in the next moment, I saw the ludicrousness of my reaction, given the circumstances of our situation. And I saw things from the perspective from which Linda was viewing them.

We had been given an opportunity to practice what Pema had spoken about in the previous night: to be able to bring a mind of openness, acceptance, and non-judging awareness into all of our experiences, not just those that go in accordance with our plans. Not because this was the right thing for us to do, or because there was some reward that we would get for being mindful, but simply because to do otherwise was a certain prescription for continuing to create pain and suffering, something that I had just experienced a vivid taste of. I looked at Linda. She wasn’t distressed at all. She was smiling, not at fear, but at the ridiculous spectacle that I had made of myself in thinking that if I got upset enough, reality might change. My anger melted in that moment and I experienced a feeling of incredible gratitude towards Linda and a release of the frustration that I had been feeling. In what seemed like a moment later, the last train car finally passed, and the gate lifted. I started the car and we drove into the parking lot which was only about 100 yards away. The five minute walk from our parking spot to our seat inside of the pavilion was delicious. I realized about halfway to the building that I must have been smiling, because nearly everyone that I passed with whom I made eye contact, seemed to be smiling back at me. I smiled through the morning meditation and I’m smiling now as I write these this.

I’m remembering the words of Swami Satchidananda , who was fond of saying that we can’t stop the waves from coming, but we can learn to surf.

Hang ten!

The Real Reason You Get Attracted To People Who Are So Different

By Linda & Charlie Bloom
Flickr- Mo Riza

Flickr- Mo Riza

Relationships aren’t just about togetherness and connection. They are also about the spaces of separateness. While togetherness time promotes greater understanding and connection between both partners, the times between experiences of connection are just as important to the health and sustainment of the relationship.

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Lessons from the Maestro

By Linda & Charlie Bloom

Tony-Bennett-PhotoAnthony Dominick Benedetto was born on August 3, 1926 in Astoria, Queens, New York to parents of Italian ancestry. His mother was born in America and his father emigrated from Italy in 1906. Like most of the children of emigrant families, who grew up during the depression, Anthony had a first-hand experience of poverty. Due to health problems related to a childhood in which he contracted rheumatic fever, his father John lost his ability to work when Anthony was a year old. He passed away nine years later, leaving Anthony’s mother Anna to raise, feed, and cloth her three small children. She did this by working as a dressmaker in a sweatshop in New York and earning one penny per dress.

Like his father, Anthony grew up with a love of the arts that sustained him during his childhood and beyond. He also grew up with an intense appreciation of family that has continued and grown even stronger over the years. It was, however, his great love of music, reinforced and rewarded by his immediate and extended family by the delight they experienced in hearing young Anthony sing, that held his passion and that ultimately became the driving force of his life. As a small boy, he was so distressed and saddened at seeing his mother come home every night with fingers that were bleeding as a result of the twelve daily hours that she spent as a seamstress that one day he promised her that when he grew up he was going to buy her a big beautiful house where she could live and would never have to work again.

Anthony kept that promise and he did buy her the house that she had always dreamed of having. Driven by both his love of music and his love for his mother, Anthony dedicated himself to fulfilling his vision of being a professional singer; not simply someone who could earn a living by singing, but someone who would become one of the most beloved performers in the world, whose voice was immediately recognizable and adored by millions, perhaps hundreds of millions of people internationally. Anthony Benedetto achieved a level of fame and success in his personal, professional, and family life that was literally inconceivable to him when made that vow as a child. But the road to success was not without its obstacles and detours. One of the things that he did along the way was to change his name. No longer Anthony Dominick Benedetto, he became Tony Bennett.

To say that Tony Bennett is an icon in the field of music would be an enormous understatement. His one-time hero and mentor Frank Sinatra, once referred to him as “the best singer in the business”. It would be easy to fill dozens of these pages with Tony’s achievements, but as impressive as his accomplishments are Tony is much more than a musical genius. He is a profoundly passionate, loving, and committed human being who has touched countless lives through his love, generosity and philanthropy.

Tony has known since early childhood that he was a singer and that he was destined to share his love of music with the world. Not unlike many other creative artists, his road to success was pockmarked with adversity. He was not only undeterred by them, but he used the obstacles to strengthen his will and drive to success.

As a young grammar school student, Tony was in a class with a teacher who separated the children into two singing groups: the “golden birds” and the “black crows”. According to the teacher, the golden birds were the true singers and the black crows were pretty much hopeless failures who would never be able to carry a tune. When it came time to assign the kids to groups, she told Tony, “You are definitely a black crow.” Hurt and disappointed, but undeterred, Tony recovered from the insult and decided to prove his teacher wrong. “The crow comment, he said, “helped to shape my attitude about persevering and believing in myself, despite the naysayers.” And there were many naysayers along the way, among them members of his immediate and extended family who faulted Tony for “indulging” in his music after his father died, rather than going to work to bring in money to help out his mother who was “working her fingers to the bone” in the dress factory.

Tony’s family name, Benedetto literally means “the blessed one”, and he has lived his life in the experience of feeling that he is blessed, with a sense of gratitude, humility, and compassion that has generated deep respect and admiration from countless people throughout the world. Singing is the form that he uses to share his blessings with the world and for many people, listening to his music is a spiritual experience.

Committed to the intrinsic equality and dignity of all people, Tony has been a defender of human rights and racial equality his whole life. As a young soldier in Germany at the end of the Second World War, Tony was demoted, punished and transferred out of his unit after he had the audacity to violate the rules enforcing segregation and invited a childhood friend whom he had run into, who happened to be black, to his mess hall to share Thanksgiving dinner. He joined Martin Luther King in his march from Birmingham to Selma Alabama in 1965, and endured taunts, death threats, and intense hostility from the white bystanders.

He received the Martin Luther King “Salute to Greatness” award for his efforts to fight discrimination, as well as the UN Citizen of the World award.

Tony also (literally) puts his money where his mouth is. In 2001, he founded and funded the Frank Sinatra School of the Arts, a public performing arts high school in his hometown of Astoria, New York. The school holds one of the highest graduation rates of all of the New York City public high schools. In 2009, 97% of the senior class graduated and enrolled for college, despite the fact that over 70% of the students come from families that live below the poverty line. Recently, the class of 2013 completed 20,000 hours of community service. The schools graduates have gone on to study at some of the finest academic and art institutes of higher education in the country.

Tony is also a highly acclaimed artist whose work has been shown and exhibited in galleries throughout the world, including paintings on permanent display at the Smithsonian American Art museum and the National Arts Club in Gramercy Park in New York. He paints under the name of Anthony Benedetto.

Tony’s most recent autobiography, Life is a Gift: The Zen of Bennett, (a previous autobiography is entitled The Good Life), features a number of “Bennettisms” that capture the essence of this amazing man’s views. They not only stand as the foundation of his philosophy of life, but also can serve as guideposts for anyone whose intention is to embody the values and qualities that are inherent in a life of commitment, creativity, and compassion for humanity. I’m including a few of them here, since we all can use a bit of inspiration and wisdom to help us along the way:

“I’m 86 and at the top of my game”

“My goal is to improve all the time”

“Do everything you do with love”

“Obstacles are necessary for success”

“All people are created equal and should be treated as such”

“You can’t plan life. Life plans you.”

“You can recover from even the bleakest moments in life if you believe you can and simply persist.”

“War is insanity”

“I believe that we should dedicate our lives to world peace and to putting down hatred.”

“Pour your heart into your work, your family, and your friendships and you’ll be rewarded a hundred-fold.”

“Truth and beauty are the essence of what it is all about for me.”

“When you give back, you get back.”

“This too shall pass.”

You may want to pick and choose from this list or add some your own guidelines. You might even want to commit to living them. But if you do, don’t expect that the process will be without its challenges. Like the man says, “Obstacles are necessary for success”. Dealing with them is, after all, how we get stronger at the broken places. And even the most formidable ordeals do eventually pass, as do the most pleasurable of life’s moments. And that is both the good news and the bad news.

If at 86 Tony feels that he is at the top of his game, what does that say about the possibilities for the rest of us? If we are all truly equal, than we all have an equal chance to make the very most that we can out of the life that we’re given. Tony also said that it’s not about “being the best” it’s about “doing your best”. If at the end of our lives we can honestly say that we’ve done that, then we’ve succeeded. We’ve lived and died at the top of our game, whatever our game has been. What’s yours?

The Critical Ingredient to Success in Your Career, Relationships, and Your Life

By Linda & Charlie Bloom

Creative Commons License Jackie Martinez (#31103)mark sebastian via CompfightMy friend Tony had always wanted to be police officer.  Even as a child Tony’s dream was to wear the uniform, and proudly serve the community.  The only usual thing about Tony’s dream is that Tony is a girl, or more precisely, at this point, a thirty-three year old woman.  Her dream wasn’t typical of the girls who she grew up with, most of whom had more conventional desires, like becoming rock stars, models, actresses or mothers.  But Tony can’t remember a time in her life when she didn’t want to be a cop.

When she met Ray, the man who would become her husband, she told him about her career goal and Ray thought that was a pretty cool thing, and his response was “that’s great!  I think it’s a terrific idea.  You’d be great at that.”

But as we all know, talk can be cheap, and while it’s one thing to encourage someone to pursue their dream, it’s another thing altogether to actively support in fulfilling their vision particularly when it means making sacrifices yourself.

But Ray’s support didn’t waver, even after Tony completed the very demanding application process and was accepted into the police academy.  Even while and after her life was completely consumed with the demands of the training during the nine months of the program.  Even after having to hold down the fort and pick up a lot of the slack at home with their two kids while Tony was struggling to manage circumstances that were more challenging than any she had ever encountered before.

In a program with fifty cadets, there were seven women.  Only three of them would eventually graduate.  Tony was one of them. Tony told me that the four women who left the program were all strong, capable and intelligent, but the changes that they went through and the demands upon them destabilized their relationships to the point where something had to give.  In their cases, it was the job.  Tony thought that the partners of these women felt threatened by their growing strength and found it difficult to support them in their commitment.  Without that crucial support, successful completion was impossible.  What separated Tony from these women was the presence of a network of loving, committed support.

Ray wasn’t her only cheerleader.  Tony lived in a big house, inhabited not only by her, Ray and their two pre-school daughters, but both of Ray’s parents as well.  Not only that, but Ray’s aunt, his mother’s sister and her husband Jim lived nearby.  Close enough so that they too, could be active members of the support team.  And they were.

While it would have been easy for any or all of these people to complain about Tony’s absence and the stress that it put on the rest of the family, none of them seemed to mind the extra work that her time away was requiring of them. The all pitched in to allow things on the home front to run smoothly and to help Tony to fulfill her dream. They cheered her up when she got discouraged.  They continually reminded her of how much they loved and believed in her.  They did the dishes, took out the trash and helped manage the household and family responsibilities.  They created a seamless network that allowed Tony to focus completely on her commitment to successfully complete the training program.

While in the training, Tony left home at 5:30 in the morning and often didn’t return until after midnight.  It was a grueling experience, but she took enormous comfort in knowing that the kids were in good hands and that everyone in the family was helping out, not simply to do her a favor, but out of love for her and from the awareness that everyone would ultimately benefit from Tony’s success. It was an exercise in “enlightened self-interest”; the ultimate win/win game.

Dozens of Tony’s friends and family attended her graduation celebration.  They all knew that it wasn’t just Tony, but the whole team, the whole family, that had earned this achievement.  It was an especially moving moment for Tony and her family when her Uncle Jim, who himself had been a law enforcement officer, stepped forward to pin Tony’s badge on the lapel of her uniform at the ceremony.

Tony is currently employed as a fulltime police officer and she loves her work, which she characterizes as “being in service.”  Her supporters have completely recovered from any hardships or sacrifices that they experienced during her training period and they all are thriving.  Tony’s sense of self-respect and pride has grown enormously out of this experience, and continues to grow as she takes on new challenges in her personal life and career.

If you have a big dream and have been holding back from going after it, it might be that you have not yet created the platform of support that is necessary to fulfill that desire.  It’s easy to feel discouraged or fault ourselves when we fail to fully commit to the fulfillment of a cherished vision, but sometimes what is lacking has less to do with our own capability, than it does with degree to which our life includes the believing eyes and supportive words and actions of those who affirm our possibilities.

When we are possessed by a passion for something and we fail to honor it, the consequences are a diminishment of our self-trust, and a sense of dispiritedness, that leaves us feeling remorseful and incomplete. The presence of a strong network of support is an essential aspect of the fulfillment of any dream, and no one has ever been successful in fulfilling their dreams without it.

If we wait until we are clear about our vision before we create or join a community of mutually-supportive partners, it will be too late. The time to begin to build this kind of a network is always NOW. And the key word in making that happen is “mutual”. It’s not just about getting support, and neither is it just about giving support. It’s about exchanging support; being reciprocal partners in a process that involves a mutual commitment to each other’s greatest good. It’s about being  committed to each other’s success and well-being in ways that are manifested in our words, our actions, and our willingness to make our partners in that commitment a high priority.

Practicing this kind of generosity of spirit will not only promote the creation of this network of shared support, but it will help to shape our own character in ways that predispose us towards success regardless of our chosen intention. This practice may be the single most important factor in the process of meeting the challenges that are always inherent in the road to success, in whatever area of life we’ve defined it.

Like Tony, we can do things that my seem beyond our reach if we have people who believe in us, cheer us on, remind us that we can do it and are there for us in  meaningful and sometimes very practical ways.  By being the kind of person that we wish to have on our own team, we will attract into our lives kindred spirits. While it’s possible, or even likely that not everyone who is the beneficiary of our generosity of spirit will reciprocate, many will. Those who are most highly motivated and appreciative of this kind of relationship  will stand out in the crowd and be easily recognizable. And it’s important to remember that it’s not so much about the quantity of players that we have on our team, but rather about the quality of engagement that we have with each other. Two solid friends are much more valuable than two dozen half-hearted ones.        

While you may meet some new friends in the process of building your support community, many of the people who are qualified to be a part of it are already in your life. Think about who they might be, and then take the first step to let them know how much you value your connection with them and how much you want to deepen it, not just for your sake but because you want it to be at least as meaningful and valuable for them as well. Let them know what you have that you want to give them and why, and what it is that you see about them that makes you want to have more of them in your life, and why.  And then see how they respond.

What have you got to lose?

Getting Grit

By Linda & Charlie Bloom

amesjumpThis is the second installment of our two part series on “Grit”, defined by Webster as “indomitable spirit; resourceful courage and daring in the face of difficulty.”

In case you’re wondering about what in the world would be sufficiently challenging to require such great strength of will and intention, the answer, which probably won’t surprise you, is “Relationships”. Specifically, primary relationships and committed partnerships. If you don’t have to ask “Why?”, then you’ve probably had enough experience in that territory to know the answer to that question. Intimate relationships tend to test, challenge, and stretch us in ways that nothing else in life can. In addition to grit, they also require compassion, understanding, perseverance, a good sense of humor, responsibility, and a couple of dozen other character strengths to optimize their potential. To assist you in accepting the challenge of bringing greater grit into your life, we’re offering eight guidelines that you might want to think about, or better yet, embody! 
  1. Hang in there.
    The temptation to quit can be particularly strong when the going gets tough in relationships, and when we set our sights high, there are always going to be times when our commitment is tested. When he was asked what the secret of life was, the philosopher and spiritual teacher Ken Keyes said, “Just don’t quit”. Wise words.
  2. Manage your attitude.
    Viktor Frankl, author of Man’s Search for Meaning, stated that “The one thing that cannot be taken from a man [or woman] is the power to determine his attitude in any given situation.” We all possess the power to choose the perspective from which we view things in our life. We can look through lenses of pessimism or optimism, hopefulness or despair, purposefulness or purposelessness, gratitude or grievance, possibility or resignation, goals or obstacles. It really is a choice.
  3. Strive for excellence rather than perfection.
    Perfection requires adherence to what is usually an arbitrary and external criterion and in most cases impossible to attain. Excellence has to do with the trust that we have given the best that we have to our chosen project. Perfection is about adhering to a program or set of expectations that we have internalized from someone else. Excellence is about acting with with impeccability.
  4. Recognize competing commitments.
    For every intention we have there are always counter or competing commitments. The desire to be free competes with our desire for connection. The desire to lose weight competes with our desire to experience the pleasure and other benefits we receive from indulging our appetite. The desire for a great relationship competes with our desire to be in control, to maximize freedom, be right or dozens of other desires. The first step in this process has to do with honestly identifying the competition and then coming to terms with the situation in a way that honors both sides of the equation.
  5. Cultivate a taste for playing the edge
    Many of us have done our best to try to minimize and even eliminate risk in our lives. While indiscriminate risk-taking can be hazardous to your health and well-being, the cultivation of grit requires the willingness to engage in practices that may be outside of our comfort zone or that are unfamiliar. Conscious and responsible risk-taking is an essential aspect this process. The tried and true practices that got us to this point in our lives are not likely to get us any further. Playing the edge is an acquired taste and if done skillfully mean the difference between success and failure.
  6. Create a support community.
    None of the people featured in Malcolm Gladwell’s book, Outliers got to where they are on their own. They each cultivated communities of support along the way. The presence of support is one of the things that enables us to be more willing to take risks as it provides us with a sense that even when we experience loss or failure in the process our commitment continues because it is shared with others.  Feeling “the wind beneath our wings”, also allows us to more fully trust that we can recover from the inevitable pitfalls along the way because we are not alone.
  7. Read stories and biographies of people who inspire you.
    You’ll not only learn how they did it but you’ll see that they all had their personal challenges and obstacles to contend with.
  8. Keep your primary focus on your goal or objective rather than the barriers that get in the way.
    Obstacles inevitably arise in the taking on of any project worth its salt. Don’t take them personally or interpret them as evidence that your vision isn’t realizable. Remind yourself of other times in your life that you felt discouraged or believed that you were incapable of achieving your goal only to discover that you were wrong! Remember the words of Goethe who reminds us that:

“The moment that one definitely commits oneself then Providence moves too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would never have otherwise have occurred. Whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it!

Purchase this book now! Purchase this book now!

Linda & Charlie Bloom are authors of 101 Things I Wish I Knew When I Got Married & Secrets of Great Marriages.
Check them out!

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