Seven Spheres of Life: Relationships

At the restaurant yesterday, I asked for a Mango drink. Mango nectar and water. It was delicious.

As I sipped it, I began thinking about some of my favorite people. They qualify as delicious also. Without them my life would be less.

Naturally, I also thought briefly of some other relationships I have had. Bitter. Distasteful. Spit-it-out bad.

Relationships.

We have many kinds of realtionships.
Co-workers
Family
Recreation team members
Church friends
Drinking buddies
Club members

And there are acquaintances – people you know casually, but don’t spend social time with.

How can I look at a relationship to determine if it is Mango delicious, or Spit-it-out harmful?

Do you remember anyone teaching you how to make friends? I don’t. Mr Rogers may have for lots of people. I grew up without TV.

I did learn the Biblical injunction: if you want friends you must be friendly.

In my mid-twenties I got divorced. Suddenly the social group that I had considered ‘friends’ were unfriendly. I don’t remember getting unfriendly. But, I was no longer included in the invites.

I worked for the church, I socialized with church members. It would be pretty accurate to say that I had no close friends outside of work and church.

No, don’t feel sad for me.

I learned a lot. I matured a lot.

Looking back at the experiences surrounding the divorce, I began to recognize some clues that should have warned me about the unhealthy relationships that wove around in my life.

Let’s focus on the positive qualities of a healthy relationship. By understanding healthy relationships, unhealthy ones will become obvious.

Maslow wrote about human needs and developed what is known as “Maslow’s hierarchy of needs” an ordered list of five things that humans must have. Click here to study this topic.

Relationships occupy the middle position, right after Physical needs and Safety needs.

Good Relationships are the anchor points that enable us to feel good about ourselves and achieve our full potential.

Friends help us move into the Fifth Level of Maslow’s Hierarchy, where we are empowered to reach our full potential.

But it’s an obvious point that some relationships make us have negative feelings about ourselves and drag us away from “self-actualization” or, reaching for the stars.

How do I go about measuring a relationship to see if it is diminishing me or elevating me?

A real evaluation will involve writing.

Just thinking about it probably won’t accomplish the goal.

Start by making a list of your friends and acquaintances – a written list.

Then look at and think about each individual and your relationship with him or her. Take notes.

There are some simple, straight-forward ways to get a true picture of a relationship.

How do I feel about myself and my goals for myself after spending time with _____? (Fill in the blank with a name.) Be honest with yourself. Just get the feeling.

Feelings can be more accurate than logic.

A person may be connected to many parts of your work or personal life. But the relationship may be bad for you.

Don’t look at family connections right now. If you are in a committed relationship, and you are questioning whether it is healthy, evaluate your contribution to the relationship and determine what You can do to make it better.

Some times an unhealthy friendship can be turned around when you work on being the friend the other person needs.

It’s okay to change.

It’s okay to inspire others to change.

Friendships involve Giving and Taking. Both parties need to do both – Give and Take.

A person who only takes from you will drain you, and leave little for you to give yourself.

Evaluate your role. Are you balanced? Giver and Taker?

There are quizzes online that you can take to evaluate relationships. Most of them have to do with romantic relationships.

A good relationship has certain qualities:
Respect – mutual, both directions
Trust
Honesty
Acceptance – of individuality, of differences
Communication – open, as equals
Self-control – emotional and physical
Value places value on your personal goals

Think about a friend. Take one of the ingredients from the list of qualities and assign a value between Negative 5 and Positive 5 for how that person demonstrates Respect for you.

Then take the next quality and evaluate. (I have a form in the Worksheet to help with this.)

Relationship Sphere Worksheet

The hard part might be what you need to do when you realize that a relationship is damaging you.

You can try to communicate with the person and ask him or her to change. But my experiences have caused me to believe that there are people who are takers, and they don’t see a need to change.

Sometimes there really is only one choice: end the relationship. Move that person to the Acquaintance List.

I’d love to hear your comments on this post. Positive or negative. How could I make the post better?

Thank you for reading.

Choose and Decide plus Knowledge

My girlfriend had just broken up with me. I was lonely.

I fell in with a small group who seemed to be having fun.

Their nickname for me was Shnook. Yeah, I know… I shoulda known better.

But, I didn’t. My bases of knowledge and experience had not acquired what I needed to meet this situation.

PDF of this post:  Choose Decide Knowledge

Audio of this post:

As I look back at this time in my life, I realize I was socially awkward. I had been sheltered from the reality that there are people “out there” who will use the lonely, inexperienced person for sport. I guess it makes them feel superior, or somehow feeds their ego.

I was unprepared to choose well and decide for my best interests, because I was ignorant in social experience – lacking in knowledge – and because my loneliness ruled my decisions.

And it’s kind of embarrassing to admit that this happened in college. I have not Friended any of those classmates on FaceBook. Recalling this time causes me to shrivel into myself, maybe like a cucumber being soaked in brine to turn it into a pickle.

(I have no cucumber-to-pickle first hand experience. But this explains my brain response image as I write about this.)

The twin giants Decide and Choose enable us to be masters of our own destiny.

Babies have the infant stages of Decide already in their brains. Their automatic response to discomfort is – Cry. In response to certain uncomfortable stimuli, they speak in the cry language in an effort to bring relief. When their efforts bring results, a stimulus-response pattern is created.

One of the goals of growing up is that we learn of other options than temper-tantrum to negotiate the relief we want.

Which reveals the third giant in the trilogy: Knowledge.

In every situation there are multiple options (choices) available. Knowledge enables us to decide which choice to make so that we achieve the desired goal with the least amount of discomfort and delay.

A child is endowed with Choose and Decide abilities. Their choices and decisions are often faulty, though, because their foundation of Knowledge is lacking.

Be careful to build a stable foundation of knowledge for yourself and in your children and grandchildren, so that choosing and deciding do not lead to problems and failures. Learn from your own past – and others – so you can avoid problems that arise from ignorance.

Experience is often not the best source of Knowledge. It takes time to experience all the possible ways to fail in order to determine the best way to achieve success.

Read books.

Study other peoples’ stories – it’s called History.

Read the Instruction manual before attempting to assemble by trial and error.

Hire a mentor or tutor or coach.

Ask your parents and grandparents to share their stories with you. Then avoid their mistakes.

Build your base of knowledge from reputable authors and verified sources.

Don’t base your knowledge on what you find on Facebook, Twitter, or even News Organization’s websites.

Be careful – selective – with what you put into your brain.

Way back when computers were new it was common to hear the expression GIGO. Garbage In : Garbage Out.

A computer can work only with the programming that is put into it. If the program has garbage in it, the results of running the program will be Garbage Out.

Our brains have many similarities to computers. This GIGO characteristic is one similarfity.

Our ability to make best decisions and choices is completely dependent on the knowledge program that is used to make the selection. Our Knowledge Program is written by the Knowledge and Experiences we store in memory.

Choose to be the Best You Possible. Choose Your Best. Do Your Best.

Fortunately for humans, we can create new knowledge that over-writes old, bad knowledge-code. The remnants (artifacts) of the bad code remain in our brains, but we can strengthen the new experiences through repetition, so old code is defeated when it tries to rule.

“As a man thinks in his heart, so is he.” Proverbs 23:7

We think about the stuff that we feed our brains: music, games, TV, movies, books.

To change your brain, change what you’re feeding it. Stop the flow of Garbage In. That will cut off the flow of Garbage Out.

Hollywood does not have the knowledge or the answers that will make your choices and decisions better. Hollywood is entertainment. They want to make you laugh and cry and shudder in fright. But most of all they want your money and your mind.

Sports are also for entertainment. Neither Hollywood nor Sports are real life.

Control.

People and organizations will use trickery to gain control of your thoughts, your choices, your mind, your money.

You were created with the abilities of Choice, Decision, and Knowledge so that you could prepare for the Future.

The Future is coming – faster than you can imagine. You are reading this part of the sentence in what is the future to when you started reading.

The Future involves God. Only He knows the Future. Only He can take our present – our Right-Now – and make it ready for Eternity.

Decide to learn more about the God Who holds Eternity in His hands.

Read the Instruction manual He has provided – The Holy Bible.

Find a mentor and a community support group – church.

Contact me if you need help with these steps. Eldon @ EldonRoberts.com

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Be Ready Before

In my garden are planted green beans and cucumbers and tomatoes. This is not the first year I have grown a garden. Nor is it the first time I have planted those three vegetables.

It would be safe to say those three are my favorite summer treats, fresh-picked from my garden plants.

Be Ready Before : PDF of this post

Audio of this post:

Tomatoes have some interesting characteristics. If left to themselves, they like to play in the dirt. The branches are not sturdy enough to hold themselves upright. As they grow longer and larger, they droop until they are lying on the ground.

On the ground they are tempting food for bugs, slugs, diseases, and rot. On the ground is not the best place for a tomato to raise its young.

Tomatoes are suckers for suckers. If left to themselves, a sucker branch will grow vigorously from each branch-pit. These suckers suck nutrients from the main stem, eventually weakening the whole plant.

Suckers will masquerade as worthy arms of the mother plant, but they secretly use up the plant energy, and the tomatoes are all smaller and weaker when they mature.

I know what the life-cycle of the tomato plant will be before I put it in my garden. I know about the weakness in the limbs. I know about the disadvantages of the suckers. Before the problems show up, I know they will come.

What to do?

Take care of the problem before it shows up.

All garden stores have tomato cages. I bought some a few years ago. One is put in place as soon as I plant the baby.

Also, I pinch off each sucker before it gets even noticeable to the untrained eye. With my thumb and finger as close to the stem as possible, my thumbnail removes the offending growth.

Neither problem has showed up yet.

But, the solutions are already applied.

If I carelessly wait until the problems are obvious, branches will get broken as I try to pull and push them into the confines of the cage. Suckers will have already weakened the mother plant and the fruit will be stunted.

Prepare for the realization of the promise before the gift is evident.

I purchased a single 4.5 inch pot of cucumber plants. Yes, plants. The chosen one had four plants growing closely together in the center of the pot.

In past years I have carefully separated such clusters aand planted each one at the proper distance from its neighbor.

This year I left them as they were and planted the quads in one nest of dirt.

As soon as they were nestled into their new home, I fenced them in using a tomato cage. Four plants, four legs on the cage. The only problem was that the cuke vines will grow longer than the cage is tall.

Eventually, the plants will need additional support. So, this morning I cut several long bamboo stalks and placed them around the outside of the cage.

The plants are only now reaching to the lowest rung of the cage. No vertical growth problem exists.

The solution is in place before the problem exists.

I have done the same with the green bean plants. An 8-foot tee-pee is ready for the growth that will happen.

In each of these situations, the promise is present: growth beyond what is currently seen.

Life is mirrored in the garden experiences.

We can easily compare habits to the planting of seeds and their growth into automatic responses in life.

Habits are planted in our lives through repetition of actions and responses to life events.

If you don’t want them to grow and mature into problems, remove them while they are young.

If it is a desirable habit, shelter it and provide a safe place for it to mature and produce good fruit.

We need habits.

Habits control our lives.

Bad habits, habits that hinder or hurt us, should be weeded out of our lives.

Yes, bad habits can be changed. Can be removed. Can be replaced with good habits.

And we can place protections around ourselves to promote healthy growth. I recently wrote about Core Values. Personal Core Values work as fences or cages allowing us to grow, but within the boundaries of the values system in place in our lives.

In your personal and professional life as you work toward goals and achievements, put in place the performance and behaviors that are promised in what you are planting.

Core Values

Excellence, consistency, patience, leadership, teamwork, joy, integrity, innovation.

These characteristics, these values, are the supports that will keep your work from problems, will keep you flourishing and producing quality work-products (fruit).

Work to develop the solutions – the safeguards – before the problems show up.

When you truly believe you will receive it, you act as if you already have it.

Happy Gardening!

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What Values are in the Why?

Every decision that has ever been made, began with a Why.

Every action that has ever been taken, began with a Why.

PDF: What Values are in the Why

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Sometimes we are unaware of the Why.
Sometimes we misunderstand the motivating Why.
Sometimes we deny the real Why.

Yet, there is always a Why.

To be more clear, there are always Whys. Seldom is there a single Why.

Whys can be either simple or complex.

Example of a Simple Why:

I shave in the evening. Why? I want my wife to snuggle with me. It’s gonna be dark, she won’t see my face. By morning my beard will have sprouted again. What’s the use? Snuggle is more likely when I have a clean-shaved face.

Example of a Complex Why:

I’m writing this article/post. Why? I have made a decision to operate a blog. I can’t have a blog unless I write posts.

After reading and studying, and trying different frequencies of writing, I chose a once-weekly schedule – Tuesday mornings.

In order to have time for research, reviewing, editing, finding or creating a photo companion that fits the post, uploading to my website, check of appearance, SEO, scheduling for publication – even Thursday is late.

I’m home-alone on Thursday mornings. Perfect writing opportunity.

If I run into obstacles, I still have the week-end. If I wait until Monday, whatever I have will have to be used.

I’ve made a public commitment to my readers, my family, myself, my former students, my Facebook Friends – myself.

I know, I already listed me. But a personal promise is weightier than some others. True to myself is BIG.

This endeavor is my opportunity to pass on to another generation, to another audience, to my legacy – what I have learned, how I have learned, from what I have learned – my life speaking from the podium of a technological classroom, pulpit, stage, radio broadcast.

What if – unknown to me – somewhere, someone is in desperate need of the ideas, instruction, promises – hope that I create with my life and my efforts. I may never know. But I can dream. I can create. I can offer my 70 years of partnering with life. Listening, watching, experiencing, continuing to run the race, falling, stumbling, standing up again, gaining knowledge and understanding and wisdom. Elder Wisdom.

If it is not shared, if it is hoarded, if it remains silent, it is gone when I am gone.

Why used to be straight-forward.

“That’s the way the Roberts men do.”
“That’s the way it’s always been done.”
“Because I said so.”
“So you can eat supper.”

And the thing gets done.

Hoe 5 acres of corn.
Harvest 5 acres of cucumbers for the pickle factory.
Walk 3 miles to school.

Because it had to be done.

Tired? Of course!
Hungry? You bet!
Did that matter? No!

Sometimes it was about what not to do.
“Don’t touch my radio!”
I didn’t. Why? Because Dad said not to.

Some decisions are made because it is the most practical option.
Some Whys satisfy an emotional need.
Some Whys gratify an ambition.
Some Whys are directly connected to a talent or skill that you have developed.

There are good Whys:
Charity, Compassion, Love, Citizenship, to make something better for yourself or someone else, to earn money to meet personal and family needs…

There are bad Whys:
Greed, Selfishness, Revenge, Hate…

Good Whys produce good emotional results.

Whys always come from a value system deep inside a person.

Those values have settled in over the years of growing up and getting educated. Home, school, church, and government combine to promote certain values within society.

Justice, Liberty, the Rule of Law. Those are values at the very core of American society.

Core Values operate best when they are known, when they are spelled out.

But, even when they are not knowingly part of decision-making, they still are present and involved.

There are many websites and services that will assist you to discover your Core Values.

Core Values Link 1 Here.            Core Values Link 2 Here.

Know your Core Values and use them to simplify decision-making.

You probably will have 4 or 5 in your list.

Make a poster of the list and put one in your home and where you work.
You will eventually have them memorized just from frequency of use.

When you have a decision to make, check your Core Values and evaluate the options. Stay true to your values.

After your Core Value list is completed, list your whys for a particular decision or option.
Attach one or more of your Core Values to each Why. Keep a written Journal of this process.

If you are married or have a family, include them in this process.

Knowing your Core Values is still important – maybe more so than in times past.

When you make a decision based on Core Values and someone (like a child) asks Why? You have a concrete answer – your Core Value.

My Core Values are:

Worship – I answer to a Higher Power for the use of my talents and opportunities.
Excellence – Do it to the best of my ability or don’t do it at all.
Integrity – Live the principles I profess. Do what I say I will do.
Respect – Treat others as I wish to be treated. Value life. Be compassionate.
Teamwork – Be an active member of the team; recognize the team’s accomplishments.
Innovation – Find and use new ways, new ideas, new knowledge.
Joy – Life is good, embrace it; focus on the good, the beautiful.
Service – Do for others who need help.

I applied my Core Values in the decisions I made in the Complex Why narrative above. If you are unsure how each provides guidance in my examples, send me a Comment or email.

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Too Busy to Care?

I think I am beginning to understand why bloggers write about writing… It’s what consumes us. We are obsessed with the opportunity to write from the innermost sanctuary of our being. In the modern parlance, It’s what wrecks us.

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Too Busy to Care[/stextbox]

And we dream of the day when we will have hundreds, nay, thousands of readers who look eagerly at their Inboxes on Publication Day, anticipating the soul-stirring missive that we have birthed.

But pouring my heart into an article without an audience to read it – stinks.

So, every now and then when I first sit down to write, I think about the number of readers I have. Followers. And I get somewhat discouraged.

I should have more. Someone else has 10,000, so why can’t I get 1,000?

In the length of time it takes for these thoughts to bounce around in my head, my computer is powered up, I’m logged on, and the writing app is staring at me from the screen, waiting.

Then, my fingers feel the keys, and my thoughts re-direct to the ideas that are waiting to be developed.

I begin writing.

Creativity grabs my brain and my fingers respond.

I forget – or, at least, ignore – the size of my audience.

Austin Kleon says in Steal Like An Artist, “the trick is to be too busy to care.” So, I busy myself doing my creative thing. I write. Because I cannot not write.

I focus only on the flow of ideas emanating from the creativity temple that lies deep within my soul.

But, at times, I find that I do care. What do I do about that? Where can I put my caring so that it has little to no impact on my work?

I looked to my teaching career for a possible connection to help.

Teaching tends to be a thankless job.

Writing is similarly thankless, especially when just starting out.

But, teachers sometimes receive Thank-You Notes from former students and parents. When I get them from current students, I assume there is some ulterior motivation lurking behind the gratitude. Yet, those notes have found a home in my Feel Better Box. That’s where I keep notes of praise.

Every morning begins with a pep-talk. On the way to work, and first thing when I get into my classroom. On a rare occasion when my internal pep-talk lacks sincerity and my focus swerves into the Pity Path, I read a note or two from my Feel Good Box.

Teaching is a solitary existence within a whirlwind of chaos.

Writing is also solitary.

But writing is more like a picnic.

Existing as a human, and surviving to become an independent thinker, has filled my picnic basket with ideas, experiences, thoughts, connections, truths – a smorgasbord replete with delicacies waiting for the breath of life as they are assembled on a once-blank page.

Somewhere there is a someone who will read my words and resonate with them. “A word fitly spoken” will bring understanding, solace, harmony into a troubled or cloudy or dissonant mind.

And if my words shared result in one person helped, my mission is a success. I don’t have to know who or why – or even if.

My writing is offered on the chance that it will find life beyond my use of it. I spread out my picnic blanket and adorn it with the delicacies from my basket. It’s still a picnic even if few enjoy the spread.

So, I will continue to write about my ideas, my understandings – my life and lessons learned.

The process of reflecting and writing continues to help me become a better version of me.

In the beginning there are just the words.

Readers breathe life into them.

Perhaps my smorgasbord will have an effect on a few reader-picnickers also.

I dream that my words find life in you, too. Because I do care.

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What wrecks you? On what do you spend time knowing that it will result in a better you?eldon

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