You Don’t Have to Live Your Script

Some of us, even before we are born, are handed challenges we will face for the rest of our lives. It may be a physical defect, a lower mental capacity, or a personality disorder. We are judged the minute we are seen, and the reactions of those we come in contact with determines the view we take of ourselves.

As if that is not bad enough, often people are born into families of damaged goods. Let’s face it, only on TV in the 50’s and 60’s were people born into perfect families. Father knew best and Mother wasn’t too bad at it herself.  But such is not the case. So even if we are born with ten perfect little fingers and ten perfect little toes, it may not take long for those imperfect parental units to etch some of their imperfections into our souls.

So we may have been born the apple of our parents’ eyes, managed  our way through childhood with minimal scarring, and then wham, puberty hits, and any quirks we have now come into full bloom. Hormones run rampant and we think we can develop love interests. Some may add a person to their lives to fulfill a need, real or imagined, and that creates a dependency structure.

The journey through this life is rarely easy, and the path is not laid out before you. You are expected to blaze your own trail, and there are roots and stones and holes along the way where you will likely trip and fall. There are all sorts of animals and people darting in and out, a few  stopping to sniff at you to see if you are dead yet. Some of the people are true friends and some only appear as friends until they get what they want from you.

All of our experiences add up to the script we are now living, and the director is the voice we have developed in our head. Many of us have done well along the journey even finding a soulmate we can share the path with. While the trail can be difficult, we have found that it is well worth the effort.  We don’t cling to the past. When we fall, we get back up again and continue the journey. Sometimes we ignore the voice inside our head because it lives in the box of our comfort zone.

You can be fantastic. You can do well. But for many, it means not living out the script you were given. If you think your parents gave you a bum wrap, stop blaming them and get on with living out your life. And if you are a parent, stop trying to write the script for your children and let them be free to be who they are. That, by the way, looks a whole lot different than letting your children run the house and do whatever they want.

          May the road rise to meet you
          May the wind be always at your back
          May the sun shine warm upon your face
          May the rain fall soft upon your fields
          And until we meet again
          May God hold you in the palm of His hand
                        — Irish Blessing

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The person you want your child to be …

I can think back on times when I exhibited really bad behavior, horrible moments of regret. Moments that I knew my children were watching me and I knew my behavior was sending the wrong message, but I couldn’t seem to stop myself.

It’s not so easy to think back on moments when I have really been at my best. It’s not that I haven’t had any, but my memory in those times is of the reaction of others around me … the smiles on their faces. I can remember taking great pride in other’s accomplishments more easily than my own, especially in the accomplishments of my kids.

It’s difficult when the amygdala is hijacked, and you find yourself in a fight or flight or freeze situation that you have already reacted to even before your brain could be engaged, to remember “hey, the kids are watching.”  Yet it is in those times that we leave the biggest impression. As Rudyard Kipling put it, “if you can keep your head when all about you are losing theirs …” you’re pretty darn amazing. 

So maybe I set some bad examples along the way, but I hope and pray that I set some good ones as well … like picking for your life mate a person who exhibits extraordinary good values and integrity.  Not always an easy find. My boys are still looking for a “girl just like the girl that married dear old Dad”.  I am very glad that I did not have to try to raise my boys by myself. I am proud to have always showed my devotion to their mom (even though she makes that easy).

So I can only hope that in this mix of good examples and bad examples that I demonstrated for our children, that they follow more of the good than the bad. These days I try to keep in the forefront of my mind that my kids, my wife, my coworkers, my boss, my clients, the world is watching and learning from my example. I want to leave the world a better place than it was when I came into it.

The focus is on you

Ever thought about being a star … all that fame, paparazzi chasing you everywhere?  Would it be nice to be the center of attention?  Or maybe you are just the opposite.  Keep the camera off of me, I’m too uncomfortable when people are looking at me.

Here’s the breaking news. You are on stage, every time you are with someone, but most especially in front of your kids. Do you want to see what a child’s home life is like?  Go sit in their preschool classroom for a couple of hours. Have a child that is out of control?  Have a home that is out of control?

Remember when you were on your best behavior whenever you were with your spouse before you married them?  Do you wish sometimes you could have the person you were dating instead of the one you married, even though they are the same person?  Why do we treat complete strangers better than the people we love the most?

When I come home, I want to be able to turn off Person Wonderful and just let my hair down and be me. Sounds wonderful. My suggestion, live by yourself. If there is another person in that house – parent, child, spouse, roommate, whoever – you have a responsibility to be on your best behavior with them and in front of them – always. Because you are always setting the example. Even leaving to go off by yourself is sending a message. Talking on the phone?  They are hearing every word you are saying.

So when can you just be yourself?  Here’s a clue. Be a fully integrated human being. That means someone with integrity. Be trustworthy.  Be loyal. Be helpful. Be friendly. Be courteous. Be kind. Be obedient (yes, I said obedient. Look it up.) Be cheerful. Be thrifty. Be brave (you know, like in the movie). Be clean. Be reverant. Then you can be yourself all the time. 

Can this family be fixed?

Done with work and especially done with that guy or woman in the office that just doesn’t get it. If she really understood this business, she would never ask the things she asks.  Don’t know why you have to put up with her.  Just glad you can go home now, or maybe not. 

You want to pull into the driveway, but the kids’ toys are in the way. You walk into the house and there’s a bag on the table. What did he buy today?  He’s always spending money you don’t have. Maybe this has been going on so long, it’s all playing through your head even before you get home, so you go by the bar just to have one to take the edge off. So you sit in the bar stewing and fretting over your lot in life. This isn’t the way you envisioned it. 

You think about that person you married. If they would just be more understanding, more sensitive to how hard you work, all the things you do. Why don’t they see things the way you see them?  After all, what other way is there?  If they were just more kind, less crabby,  more loving, everything would be so much better.

Have you reached the end of your rope?  Are you done with that spouse?  Is it time to move on?  You’ll never be the person you want to be because of them … or can this family be fixed?  What would it take to make some real changes here?  Is it worth the effort?

The easy and the hard answer is yes, changes can be made. Hard because when you believe things will improve only if the other person changes, that perception is the problem. You have to start with the corner of the world where you have the most influence, and that is yourself.

Pull out that copy of Stephen Covey’s Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. When the seven habits become ingrained into your life, you will see change.

        1.  Be Proactive. Don’t be reactive.
        2.  Begin with the end in mind. Have a plan.
        3.  Put first things first. Prioritize your actions.
        4.  Seek first to understand … then to be understood.
        5.  Think win / win.
        6.  Synergize.  1 + 1 = more than 2.
        7.  Sharpen the saw. As the Boy Scouts say, keep yourself physically fit, mentally awake, and morally straight.

                           I’m starting with the man in the mirror.
                           I’m asking him to change his ways.
                           And no message could have been any clearer,
                           If you wanna make the world a better place,
                           Take a look at yourself, and then make a change.

                                      — Siedah Garrett and Glen Ballard
                                           recorded by Michael Jackson