Doing Life Together

board-978179_1920Why is change so hard? We have great intentions and want to improve our lives. We start out very motivated, but then seem to fail to do the very things we want to do. Why is this? Consider these 7 reasons.

For one thing, change is uncertain and often makes us uncomfortable even when it is in a positive direction. We tend to keep doing the familiar even when it doesn’t work for us. We are creatures of habit. We like the known and familiar.

If you are stressed and need to make changes, it is harder to do. When we are in overload mode, we don’t have the energy or the desire to tackle yet one more new thing. Thus, beginning change in a stressful life season is not a set up for success.

Another reason we often fail making changes is because it is either not that important or we don’t have the confidence to change. Let’s say I want to lose weight. Losing weight might be important, but my confidence to be able to do it might be low. If so, failure is likely. Change has to be both important and you must have confidence (usually means a good plan).

If we are honest, the status quo might give us reasons not to change. We may be getting a benefit from keeping things the same. For example, when I asked a wife why she doesn’t leave her disrespectful husband, she says, “He pays the bills and I live in a great house. Yes, I don’t like the way he treats me, but I also don’t want to give up the positives I get from being married to him.”

Sometimes change fails because our goals are too high or too unrealistic. For example, if you have a goal to lose 50 pounds and it is 20% of your weight, that goal may be too high. Better to start with the goal of losing 5 pounds, then another 5, then another. That mindset will breed confidence and success. And if you make too many changes too quickly, you can get what has been called, decision fatigue. Too many decisions to make all at once. You get exhausted and give up.

One of the most cited reasons for failing at change is lacking a plan. You might have a good idea that some part of your life needs to change, but have no plan in place to accomplish the goal. Recently, this rang true when a friend said, “I want to be a more positive person.” I then asked, “What is your plan to make that happen?” “I don’t really have one, just hope I can do it.”

And finally, the old adage that it takes 21 days to change a habit doesn’t ring true. In many cases, it takes hundreds of days to change a habit. In part, because the brain has to rewired and new patterns have to be practiced over and over to really stick. Quick change doesn’t usually stick. Practicing a new habit takes commitment and perseverance.



anger-19063_1920We all know one or two people who are passive aggressive. You know, those people who seem to comply or act appropriately to your face, but are negative and passively resist whatever it is you want them to do. They make excuses for not getting with you and can sabotage your success through manipulation. They display a type of covert aggression which makes relationships difficult and uncomfortable. They won’t deal with their anger directly.

In order to deal with a passive aggressive person, you need to recognize the tactics being used. Once you identify those tactics, you can begin to respond differently.

One tactic is a feigned forgetfulness. “Oh I don’t remember you telling me that,” or “I would have done what you asked had I known it.” It’s a type of playing dumb even though you know they know exactly what was expected. Related to this is the move to evade the topic and simply not give you a straight answer. They work on getting the focus off of them and on to another topic. This evasion maneuver diverts attention. Nothing gets addressed directly as a result.

Sometimes a passive aggressive person flat out lies. They take credit for things they didn’t do or pretend they were somehow involved. I worked with someone like this. He was always criticizing other people but would take credit for everyone’s success behind their back. He made it look like he was saving the day, when in truth, he was taking credit for the work other people had done. And when he would do it, he would pour on the charm, another characteristic of passive aggressive people. They use charm to get their way, but when you disagree, watch out. They become angry but don’t deal with their anger directly. They use intimidation to put you on the defensive.

Somehow, they become the victim, blaming others for their problems or lack of productivity. This is done by making rationalization and excuses for why they could not get the job done or perform as requested. And they play on your guilt. You suddenly think, “Wow, how did this move from their issue to me trying to comfort them?” The hope is you will feel bad and not bring up the problem.

When you recognize these patterns of behavior, you can begin to address them directly. It won’t be easy, but the goal is to block the behavior, especially if the person doesn’t want to change or see the problem. You will need to set boundaries on their behavior and deal in facts, not emotions.

If passive aggressive behavior happens at work, document your concerns with the facts. Ask for a yes or no answer to questions. Stay calm and simple say what needs to happen and the consequences if it is not done. Most important, tell the person that when there is a conflict, you expect them to come directly to you to discuss it. Stick to that message and call the person out when that does not happen. Anger isn’t wrong but it needs to be addressed directly, not behind someone’s back.

picket-fences-349713_1920“It’s a beautiful day in the neighborhood. A beautiful day for a neighbor. Would you be mine. Could you be mine?” Raise your hand if you share this sentiment with Mister Rogers. Do you feel this way about your neighbors?

How many of us even know our neighbors? It’s easy to stay isolated in your home due to busyness, fear and concerns about safety. When you do get to know the neighbors, some can be quite challenging to love. Yet, one of the greatest commandments is to love our neighbors. So, what can you do to be more neighborly?

  1. Be friendly. Smile, engage your neighbors when you are outside and get to know them. Introduce yourself if you have never met them and find something of interest to talk about. You may have to initiate. Not all of your neighbors may be friendly back, but give it a try. You could find someone who could be a friend, supportive and helpful.
  2. Be a good neighbor by checking your noise level. Make sure you aren’t disturbing those around you with loud parties, music or dogs barking. As a rule, loud music and conversations should wind down or be taken indoors after 9:00p.m. And snow blowers, power tools and lawn mowers can wait until 8:00 am on weekends to start up. Basically be considerate of those around you.
  3. If you have a pet, control your pet. Don’t allow it to bark incessantly, wander into other peoples’ yards and do their business on other peoples’ property. When we moved into our house, there was a note in the mailbox telling us to clean up after our pet if we had one. Obviously, the previous owners had caused problems in this area.
  4. If you live in a neighborhood with common spaces, respect them. Don’t trash hallways or stairs. People can become quite upset when common spaces become trash cans and aren’t kept up. Also, follow smoking rules.
  5. Think about parking and respect the spaces assigned. Use common sense. One of our former neighbors used to park his car in front of our house everyday and it bothered me. He had plenty of room in front of his house. When people came to visit, his car was in the way. There was no reason for this.
  6. If you have a problem, talk it out in a calm and problem-solving way.  If there is an issue, go the neighbor and discuss the problem. I realize this is not easy. It is made more difficult when you bring up a problem in a negative way. If you are angry and blaming, your neighbor will become defensive. And if you have no relationship with your neighbors, dealing with conflict is more difficult. This is one reason to get to know them. Problems are worked out best when people have a relationship. Building up hidden resentment does neither of you any good.
  7. Find common ground from which to build a relationship–lawn and gardening, sports, faith, hobbies and interests. Work on a neighborhood safety committee or organize one. The more you can get to know a person, the more you will be able to address issues when they come up or find a friend who can help you out when needed.

To love your neighbors means you have to get to know them. So don’t isolate with your small group of  friends. Get out in your neighborhoods and practice the Gospel of loving others. Most people could benefit from a little more love in their lives. And while some neighbors can be difficult and will never be your best friends, practice civility, forgives and love.


time-for-a-change-3842467_1920Happy 2019! Do you have high hopes for change? We are only a few days in and some of you are already upset that you have fallen short of a New Year’s resolution. Others are thinking, it’s time to make this year different. But if change is on your mind, you need to be aware of something important that will determine your success.

Change is a process for most of us. It happens when we are motivated internally. Oh yes, we can know in our heads that change is needed. We can have good intentions. We can feel pressure from those around us. But our success only comes if we are in the right stage of change. Consider these stages and determine where you honestly are in the change process. This stages were developed by Prochaska and DiClemente in 1983 and are very accurate in predicting how well people will change because they get at your motivation. Without motivation, it is hard to make changes and stick to them.

Determine where you might be with a New Year’s resolution you made. Are you really ready both mentally and behaviorally? If you aren’t ready for ACTION, you could fail and need to look at what is blocking you from being successful.

1) Precontemplation-This is the first stage of change. You may not be ready to even tackle something others think you need to do. You have not given it much thought. It’s barely on your radar. And when you are completely honest, you think, “This is not that big of a problem. For example, you may need to stop smoking but think, “Hey my dad smoked and lived to be 80. I don’t think it is a big deal.” If you don’t see a behavior as a problem, don’t put it on your change list. Instead, begin to explore why others think you should change. Are there reasons to make changes and are you in denial?

2) Contemplation–This is where most New Year resolutions fail. You know something in your life needs to be different. For example, you need to drop those 20 pounds and you are thinking about it. But you are not completely convinced down deep. You can see positive reason to change, but then also see a number of reasons not to make a change. Make a list of pros and cons. For example, I like to eat and don’t want to deprive myself of food (PRO). But I feel bad when I can’t fit into my clothes (CON). Part of the work is to have the PROs outweigh the CONs. Again, you have to be honest. People don’t easily give up bad habits because they like some of the benefits of those habits.

3) Preparation–Once you feel the PROs outweighs the CONs, it is time to stop thinking and start acting. This means you’ve got to be intentional and develop ways to make changes that are small, behavioral and attainable. And this means thinking about the barriers to change and how you can overcome them. One patient I worked with really wanted to stop drinking, but she lived behind a liquor store. She decided if she was going to be successful at her goal, she would need to move. Seeing that liquor store everyday out her window was too tempting. Now, you may not need to do something as dramatic as moving, but figure out what blocks your change efforts and make preparations to overcome those obstacles.

5) Maintenance/Relapse–This is probably the most difficult part of change. Think about this applied to weight loss. Most of us know what to do to lose weight, but keeping it off means preventing relapse and understanding WHY we do what we do. Otherwise, we revert to old behavior. We tend to do what is comfortable, not always the best for us. So if you’ve dropped a few pounds, start thinking about what it will take to keep those pounds off. Will you need to address emotional eating? Will you need to go to a gym or find an exercise partner? Will you need to modify food portions? etc. Maintenance means keeping the change going despite the difficulties. If you relapse, look at the barriers to change again. What is getting in your way that you didn’t anticipate? Fix those obstacles and try again.

If you are not at the ACTION phase, a New Year’s resolution will feel like one more failed attempt that had good intentions behind it. If have already failed, regroup, review what is involved in change and ask yourself, “Am I ready to commit to the process?” Are there still too many PROs and CONs for me to change? If you find yourself in Contemplation, you have more work to do to move yourself forward. Go back and wrestle with your motivation until you see more benefit to change than staying where you are.