I watched a good movie this weekend called “The Painted Veil”. This is a story set in the 1920′s and is about a British doctor who is a bacteria research specialist and his wife. Shortly after they marry he takes her off to China to treat a cholera epidemic. Part of the story is the drama of finding a way to fight the disease. The real story, from my perspective is about the relationship struggle and growth process. In the beginning, the doctor falls in love with her, asks her to marry him and move away before they really know each other. She agrees to marry him to escape her parents. While in China she is lost and bored and has an affair. The doctor is hurt and the relationship is severely strained. What turns things around is a growing respect they both find for each other working together to fight the Cholera epidemic. Respect eventually grows into real and deep love for one another.
This got me thinking about love relationships and I have observed over the years that you can have respect for a person without being in love, but you can’t sustain love without respect. If you lose respect, or worse yet allow yourself to fall into contempt towards your partner, your relationship is in serious trouble. It will not be long before you find ways to disengage or engage in criticism and conflict.
People lose respect for their partners for many reasons, as we all have faults and failures. However, one common factor is perspective. Yes, the grievance may very well be real, and not everything can be overcome. Many times, however, what happens is an insidious change of perspective. You stop noticing the things you used to appreciate about each other and focus on the things that are wrong with your partner. You become judgmental and critical and find certain things about your partner unacceptable
A tag line from the movie states “sometimes the greatest journey is the distance between two people”. To close the distance requires several shifts of perspective, including a shift into forgiveness, acceptance of who your partner is, and a shift to focusing on what you like and admire. If you are able to make these shifts you can regain respect for your partner and respect in turn can and will deepen your love.
The theme of a couple of coaching sessions today was control, or the desire and need for control. When things do not go as planned, we find ourselves in crisis, or there are just too many stressful things going on, our natural inclination is to try harder to regain a sense of control. Many times, however, we are in situations in which we cannot control how they go or what the outcome will be. The more we try to gain control in these situations, the more anxious and desperate we feel.
One of my clients had the insight to see that he was in these difficult situations because of choices he had made earlier. Another client was chastising herself for allowing herself to put too much trust in another person and now was feeling scared and out of control. These insight are useful going forward but don’t really help with the present circumstances. The situation is being contaminated by emotions connected with past issues and default responses.
What is needed is a way to shift energy, get centered, and then deal with the situation for what it is. Here are some suggestions that you will find helpful if you also are feeling scared and desperate for control. First, recognize that you cannot control the outcome of your situation or what other people do, think, or feel, so let go of trying. Second, focus on what you can control and influence in the situation and within yourself. Third, separate emotions connected with past experience from current reality. When you do these things you will be able to approach your dilemma from a more adult and rational perspective and make better choices. Decide what’s the one next thing you can and need to do and then take concrete action. As you do you will feel better and move forward, even if it’s bit by bit.
One of the ingredients of sustainable success is developing the right habits of thought, such as learning to focus on what’s really important rather than on what is wrong or annoying or frustrating. Michael Masterson, author and multi-millionaire defines wealth as accumulated value which you can use to acquire the things you want, whenever you want. Here is Michael’s secret for wealth-oriented thinking:
Meanwhile, as I said, you can put this secret – the most important secret I ever learned about wealth – into action today by recognizing that every situation you get yourself into will be an opportunity to waste or accumulate value.
Promise yourself, right now, that you will do this: You will begin to acquire a consciousness of automatic wealth.
Start by making this personal commitment to yourself:
* From now on, I will employ my conscious mind to see every situation I am in as an opportunity.
* From now on, I will look closely at every situation to discover what sort of value I can take from it.
* From now on, I will leave each experience with something more than I brought into it – more money or more knowledge or more skill or more trust or more respect.
I like the concept of wealth as accumulated value because it encompasses much more than money alone. This defininition of wealth includes things like knowlege, skills, healthy relationships, spiritual insight and wisdom, and much more. One thing I would add to Michael’s recommendations is to seek to add value to every situation you encounter. This will complete the circle and through the law of reciprocity compound the value you receive.
Leadership in a Permanent Crisis:
Ron Heifetz founder, Center for Public Leadership, Harvard Kennedy School shares his views on the challenges of leading in today’s global environment. He discusses the need for adaptability on both personal and organizational levels and ideas for distributed leadership. It is worth listening to.