Archive for May 2013

Resilience and the Five Dimensions of Life

mooreIt’s been interesting listening to the news media marvel at the resilience of the Okies in Moore, Oklahoma in the wake of the devastation that hit the small town. Crises have a way of bringing us to back to reality and forcing us to deal with priorities in a way nothing else does. If you put the news interviews in the context of the five dimensions of life my posts have described, you begin to see how these dimensions manifest themselves in a balance that provides resilience in the face of adversity and despite devastating circumstances gives an individual the power to take charge of life and move on.

Resilience and the five dimensions

The five dimensions – physical, family, spiritual, emotional, social – clearly play a part in the resilience of the individuals interviewed in the tornadoes that touched the lives of the Moore, Oklahoma disaster. The physical dimension from a health and security perspective. Those most fit weathered the storm best. And from a security perspective, schools and individuals knew what to do. For the most part, the residents took the right action in the face of a devastating storm and only 24 lives were lost in what could have been the most horrific loss the nation faced from a tornado. Physical endurance and a sense of security builds resilience.

life domainsFamilies’ first thoughts were for other family members and parents, grandparents, extended family members headed to the places they knew their loved ones might have been to rescue them. They took each other in, search debris fields for pictures, mementos, and other salvageable items and just to know each was safe. Thoughts were focused on life and safety. Material things disappeared from their vocabulary after the storm. No one talked much about the loss of property or things, they talked about life. Everything else could be replaced. Family builds resilience.

We saw many talk about prayer during the storm. Reaching deep into themselves and outward for a higher power as they realized there was nothing they could do to help themselves in the face of nature’s wrath. And when the storm was over, churches became the central receiving and distribution centers for shelter and aid. Why? Because as a community, the church stood as a symbol of aid and assistance before the tornado helping people in small ways. It was a place of faith in good times and bad before the tornado struck. It was a natural place to turn in disaster because it was a familiar place to many of the citizen before the disaster. This is the “Bible Belt” of the nation. Faith builds resilience.

We observed the emotional dimension as people showed raw emotion in the aftermath. Sorrow from the loss of friends and loved ones. Joy in finding loved ones alive. Relief, resolve, thanksgiving, awe, discouragement, anxiety, anger, denial, grief. We saw the gamut of emotions. We saw them expressed openly by the citizens of Moore. We saw loved ones and friends accepting their emotions without question recognizing that it’s okay to feel and express emotion in times of crisis. Through it all, the one emotion that kept coming back time and again was joy. Loved ones found alive and okay. Everything gone, but still alive. Joy despite the circumstances. Priorities reordered because of the events of the day. Proper ordering of priorities and proper expression of emotion builds resilience.

The social dimension came alive. Close friends gave solace and helped in tangible ways. Friends and acquaintances opened homes and gave unsparingly to aid victims. Tribes poured out generously because of kindred spirits recognizing the pain each victim felt and in some ways empathizing with their loss and need. People helping people. A strong social network builds resilience.

These five dimensions work together to make us strong. They help us face the crises that come our way. Pull any of the five out and we weaken in our resolve to face the circumstance we are in. Can we make it without any of them? Maybe, but not as well. The combination of the five and their interaction and integration make the news interviews in Moore not so surprising. It is a community in the middle of the nation’s “Bible Belt.” They have a strong spiritual culture. The faith of the individual and the community shapes the other dimensions of life and brings into perspective what is truly important in life. It’s not the things that surround us. It’s the lives we live and the people around us. Everything else can be rebuilt or replaced. Only the people and our relationships with them really count. Faith builds resilience.

Need help with understanding or balancing the five dimensions of your life? Contact me for a free session.

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Storms of Life

moore, storms of lifeThe devastation in Moore, OK that happened in just minutes reminds us of our vulnerability and how precious life is. The storm prompted me to write this blog about the storms of life that come to each of us. No one is exempt. We all face events in life that tend to try to rip us apart. They feel like a tornado tearing through our lives. The way we respond to them and the way we work through them in large part reflect the roots we have nurtured in the five dimensions our lives – physical, family, spiritual, emotional, and social.

How the five dimensions help in the storms of life

We’ll start with the physical dimension. It’s long been shown that the better physical shape we are in, the better we are able to handle the stress that comes our way. Being physically fit doesn’t mean being a jock, but it does mean eating right, getting enough sleep, and staying active. Doing these things makes a huge difference in how you feel and how you handle the stresses and storms of life as they come along. Just taking a short walk to clear you head in the middle of a crisis can make the difference between being overwhelmed in the circumstances and allowing yourself to see the priorities clearly to make wiser decisions.life domains

The family dimension might be the cause of the storm or might help you lessen the storms of life. The help from family depends on your relationships with the family. When you have health family relationships, the strength that comes from family helps weather the storms of life in remarkable ways. When relationships are poor, they can add to the fierceness of the storm.

The social dimension acts much like the family dimension. Close friends can aid you in many ways. They provide sound advice many times or just listen to let you work out the issues you already have answers for but need to verbalize in confidence. They provide safe havens when relationships are solid. This small network of intimate friends is important for all of us as we work through difficult times in life. They can serve as our life-preserver to keep us from drowning during those most difficult days.

The emotional dimension provides appropriate outlets for what we are feeling during those storms of life that come our way. It’s okay to express emotions. Too often we try to check our emotions at the door and never express what we feel until we become to identify our emotions anymore. Life is filled with emotion. It’s okay to experience them all. We can keep our emotions in control, but we need to experience our emotions and not deny they are there.

Finally, the storms of life often push us to rely on our spiritual dimension. Sometimes we find there the repository of belief, trust, character, resilience, hope, faith, that will see us to the end of the crisis we are experiencing. It is in this dimension we set priorities and understand what really holds importance for us. Like those described in the opening paragraph, homes, cars and things no longer hold much value and the people we love become the sole focus of our attention.

Find someone to help during your crisis

The last advice in facing the storms of life comes from the same news coverage in Moore. As I watched the home owners move back to the slabs and debris that once was their home, I watched neighbors helping neighbors. Instead of spending all their time on their own home, they left their site and went next door to help their neighbor. They were hurting. They needed help themselves. They were devastated by loss. But instead of dwelling on their storm, they went those around them that needed help and began pitching in to help others in need.

When we take our eyes off of our own problems and look around at those in similar conditions, we find we are not alone. We can do something to help someone else. We are not helpless and we can do something. As soon as we begin to act on behalf of someone else, we begin to pull our focus away from the storm and toward safer harbors. Does it mean things are better for us? Not necessarily, but understanding we are not along, we can endure whatever we are going through.


Social Dimension

I have a theory about the social dimension as to how you should operate your social network.

The importance of the social dimension

First let me discuss the importance of the social dimension. This dimension provides support, cultural norms, a sense of belonging for you. We all need others around us. As humans, we cannot survive long in isolation. All you need to do is look at the outcome of those in solitary confinement to see what happens to the psyche over time. We need people to talk to and interact with on a consistent basis because we are relational creatures.

It’s important that we have some close friends outside our family we can share information with in confidence to unload, to discuss issues, to bounce ideas off of who will be honest and forthright with us. Sometimes family will give us what they think we want to hear to keep peace in the family knowing we have to live together long-term. Friends understand we can remain friends despite what we say to each other (sometimes).

Circles of friends

At the same time, the social dimension needs various layers of friends. No all friends are created equal. Some you can tell almost anything. Some you can tell almost nothing. Because of the variety of friends we need in our lives and the different roles they play, I’ve divided them into four different categories for convenience in describing them; intimate friends, friend, acquaintances, and the tribe.

We all need 3-7 intimate friends, closer to the lower end of that spread. These friends will tell you when you have broccoli in your teeth. They will listen to you when you have trouble and rejoice with you when you when things are going well. These friends can keep secrets. You can confide in them with your deepest, darkest secrets and they will listen to you without condemnation. These intimate friends are often closer to you than family members.

The second set in your social network we will call friends. This group may consist of 25-50 people, again usually closer to the lower figure depending on your personality and business. You know these people well. You invite them to parties, go to restaurants with them, interact with several times a year. You know their spouses and kids. You may not know everything about them, but you’re familiar with them and you’re comfortable in their company. This group provides you business recommendations and you do the same for them.circle of friends, social dimension

The third set are acquaintances. This group numbers 100-250, again based on your personality and business. you send them Christmas cards. You recognize them and know most of them by name. You may or may not know their spouses and children, but probably know their business. These are not frequent referrals like the friends, but can occasionally dip into the referral category. Quality contact once or twice a year is all that’s necessary to keep these acquaintances around.

The last group we’ll call the tribe. They know you. You many recognize some faces and may even know some of their names. They follow you on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and other social media and you may reciprocate. Contact with the tribe is deliberate and meaningful, but very different from that of the rest of your network.

The way you handle each of these circles is unique. Each social group plays a unique role in the social dimension and is important to your social health. How you maintain each group and how you communicate with each group will wait for another post. For now we begin by understanding the need to focus on our social dimension as part of what makes our life balanced. Without a solid social network, we have little to support us in times of crisis, nor can we find fulfillment in helping those around us in need. The social dimension serves both purposes, to aid us and for us to give aid.

Don’t forget to spend some time focused on your social dimension. It may not need as much emphasis as other parts of your life right now, but it is important. Don’t let it get lost.


The Family Dimension

In previous posts, I talked about the five dimension approach I talk to life coaching. In the last two posts, I talked about the physical dimension. In this one, I talk about the family dimension. Often, this is the area clients feel they neglect the most in the hustle and bustle of every day life. They allow work schedules to overwhelm them and turn around one day to see their toddlers just days away from entering high school or worse putting on their graduation cap and gown. Suddenly, they discover the need for balance in their life realizing it is too late to bring back the years they have lost with their children.

Family Dimension: Multiple relationshipsfamily dimension

My approach to the family dimension looks at two branches of this area that may seem a little different from others. The first area will be familiar to you, I’m sure. It deals with the relationships in the family. I try to explore with you what kind of relationships you want and what kind of relationships you have. Relationships is purposely plural because their are many in every family. Parents influence us, whether alive or passed on. Whether we come from a great, loving environment or a broken home. Whether we have been abused or witnessed abuse at the hands of one or both parents. These have impacts on us in many ways.

Next we look at the relationship with your spouse. Is it what you want? Can it be better? Did you expect him or her to change? If so, that’s an unrealistic expectation in marriage. What about you? Did you change? Probably not. So what’s different from when you first met and how do you bring that spark back? What kind of relationship are you looking for and how do you get there from where you are? Is this a first, second, third, … marriage? If multiple marriages, is it your spouse that causes the issues? Why are you attracted the same kind of person?

How about relationships with children or stepchildren? How do you handle the stress that comes from conflicting schedules? What are your parenting issues? Having raised a boy and a girl who are now out on their own with spouses and with three grand kids, I’ve learned a few successes and a few mistakes along the way. What are you looking for and how do you get from where you are to where you want to be?

How about relationships with your siblings? Are you close? Do you want to be? How about with their spouses and children? How do you begin to have the relationship you envision with them? Is it possible? What if it doesn’t happen? Can you handle being rejected or isolated from your siblings if their beliefs are unlike yours? How if your beliefs and values are important to you?

What about your extended family relationships? These can get convoluted in our society where more than fifty percent of the population live in broken homes. Multiple sets of grandparents, aunts and uncles kids have never seen, maybe even unknown brother and sisters from multiple marriages. Family relationships can get very complicated, very quickly.

Relationships in families can be difficult, but are some of the most important parts of life. A life coach can help you priorities and create the relationships you want.

Family Dimension: Financesfamily dimension, money

The second part of the family dimension that I talk about in my approach is family spending habits. While I discuss job and career and earning as part of security under the physical dimension, real financial security comes from spending less than you make. Those decisions should always come through family discussion and consensus. More divorces happen over money than any other single issue, so it’s important to discuss spending early and often in every healthy marriage. Until the family learns to spend less than the family makes, finances will continue to drive a wedge between partners. There are things you can do to reduce spending and get finances under control. Once money is no longer a wedge, relationships can grow.


Physical Dimension Means Secure, Too

Physical Security and Health

When I talk to my clients about the physical dimension of life and life balance, I talk about three things. First, the security that comes from good health. I mentioned the three components Americans don’t do well in my last post, Physical Dimension of Life Balance, nutrition, sleep, and activity. When we maintain our health, we feel more secure about ourselves and our future. Illness pulls us into depressed states and makes it much more difficult to feel secure about other aspect of life.

Physical Security and Job, Career, or Purpose

physical security_career best adviceThe second aspect of security I share with clients centers around career, job, finance, knowing you have some kind of wealth to fall back on as you face increased responsibilities, grow older, and come closer to the end of life. At twenty, losing everything you own is not such a big deal. My first moves were in the back of my car. Most of you can remember those days. In my mid-thirties, it was a very different story. I had a wife and two kids to consider. It was okay if I was destitute, but I could never allow them to be destitute. I needed an income, a place for them to feel safe, clothes and food for them. I wanted more for them than just necessities. In my forties, it was about college bills, getting my kids into the right schools, establish their own skills and career patterns so they could succeed themselves (and move out of the house!). Now in my late fifties, it’s a question of whether I can build the right retirement portfolio before I quit working or reach a point when I can no longer work. And when I hit the magic age when I cannot work, I’m sure the security questions will revolve around what home will my kids put us in and is there enough money to pay for it.

Physical security in this second meaning, then, ties closely to two other dimensions, family and spiritual. Let me explain. It ties to family because financial security is never about how much you earn, but rather about how much you spend and that involves family spending habits and expectations. The problem with most families in financial trouble is not how much they make, but how much they spend. When you spend more than you make, you never catch up. That’s the problem with the current administration’s “get out of debt” concept. You can never spend your way out of debt!

Physical security ties to the spiritual dimension because it’s in that dimension that you find purpose for your life. When you know why you are here, you can do more than just find a job that puts food on the table. The reason 65% of workers are unhappy in their jobs is because they never match purpose with career and job. They pick up the paper or search the internet, apply for something they think they can do, get a job and get stuck. They never figure out their purpose in life and never pursue a career in which they will truly be happy.

Security is important. A job can make you feel secure, but it cannot make you happy. A career can make you feel more secure than a job, but again, you may not be happy in your career if it doesn’t make your purpose in life. By matching your purpose, career, and job. You will enjoy what you do, make money doing it, and feel secure in it because you know you are made for that purpose.

Physical Security and Safety

A third part of physical security is safety. I mention it briefly because if safety is an issue, it must be dealt with swiftly and is really out of the purview of life coaches. If you do not feel physically safe where you are, do something about it…now. Whether it involves police, social workers, psychologists, psychiatrists, carpenters or construction workers, marital counselors, or some other specialty to intervene, take care of the safety issues in your life immediately. You cannot continue to live in what you perceive is an unsafe environment.