Self Discovery

The Empowerment of Accountability

by Carolyn Babcock, Ph.D.

(Photo credit:  David Richardson accessed via Google images, 6.26.11)

I have been thinking a lot about the people in my life, primarily my daughter and son-in-law who – everyday – assume the monumental responsibilities associated with owning their own business, and providing physical, emotional and intellectual care for their 15 year-old son, who has cerebral palsy.  Both of these challenges require a commitment that is relentless and riddled with obstacles.  BUT, the rewards are the fuel that propels them onward.

These rewards are made possible through the simple act of being accountable for their own thoughts and actions.  To put it another way, they do not play the “victim” card when it comes to the circumstances in both their personal and professional lives.  On the rare occasion when a deadline has not been met or a client conveys dissatisfaction, they do not point the finger at others, and other things, and say, “It’s not our fault.”  Maybe the unmet deadline or unhappy client occurred because of technical problems or an oversight, but they go about identifying the problem and fixing it, rather than becoming defensive about the circumstances.  Because, no matter what the reasons behind their immediate dilemma, the bottom line is, it is up to them to turn things around.  They would rather use their time to create a solution rather than lament about the problem.  This accountability, or the assumption of responsibility for one’s actions, also applies to their business successes.  When their clients are delighted with the completion of a project, it is the result of my daughter and son-in-law’s efforts, not outside forces.

In addition, they do not play the “victim” card when it comes to their son.  Everyday encompasses both the routine and unexpected.  After visiting them (they live in another state), I always return home and tell my friends and colleagues that my daughter and son-in-law live a “different life from you and me.”  The things we take for granted, such as jumping in the car to run to Home Depot, requires an hour’s worth of preparation when they take their son.  Again, they could sit back and say, “Life’s not fair” and sulk about the circumstances.  Rather, they ensure that their son is included in everything – whether choosing the movie to watch that night or going on vacation (which means finding locales and places to stay that have accommodations for wheelchairs).  The rewards come in their son’s progress.  At 15, he is slowly learning to walk, can name all the U.S. Presidents since Hoover, and is working on learning President Franklin Roosevelt’s “Day that will live in infamy” speech.  Their assuming responsibility for their son’s most minute needs also gives them the opportunity to assume responsibility for their son’s most minute successes.

People who either do not understand the connection between their actions and subsequent outcomes, or refuse to accept the connection astound me.  Two family members come immediately to mind.  The first periodically goes through long stretches of time where he does not call me because, as he says, I “challenge him.”  He is the perpetual victim who has drowned his life in alcohol.  He complains that he does not have money to do anything.  When I remind him that he has chosen this life, he recoils.  The same is true for the other family member.  She went for a long period of time of withdrawal from me for the same reason.  She didn’t like being “challenged.”  Although she is not an alcoholic, she is in a continual state of depression over the circumstances of her life (e.g. She quit her job without creating a financial plan to sustain her.).   Both of these family members could have created positive changes in their lives, but for some reason found the act of being accountable threatening.  Neither of them understood the power behind being the “captain of your own ship” and mapping your course.

These are two sides of the same coin of accountability.  Understanding the connection between your actions and the results in your life lifts you up and moves you forward.  The other side, that of denial of responsibility, leaves you stuck in an emotional and physical quagmire.  This means that the simple act of being asked, “Why are things the way they are?” can be a productive impetus to resolving problems, or a question that becomes offensive.  The former leaves you empowered, the latter leaves you powerless.

So, where are you in this scenario?  Chances are, you are somewhere in between.  You know your talents and probably accept your ability to use those talents for different levels of success.  For instance, if cars are your passion, you may use your talent to keep the family’s car out of the repair shop, or perhaps, you have rebuilt a classic car.  However, you may not have yet made the connection between other abilities and other actions.

Maybe you have thought about returning to school but have not done so because you don’t think you belong, or you think it’s too big of a challenge?  Maybe you have always wanted to, but are afraid?  If you accept the responsibility for your future – including all of the challenges that may be thrown at you – you will have empowered yourself to take control of your life.

Figuring It Out (Success Stories Series)

(Reprinted from:  Ilisagvik College “Student Spotlight,” March 2011)

Ray Kasak is a soft-spoken young man from Nuiqsut, the son of Rhoda Mullen and Jerry Sikvayugak. He is pursuing an Associate of Arts (AA) degree at Ilisagvik College [Barrow, Alaska] after dropping out of school in 10th grade and taking a series of jobs with no real future.  It did not take long for Ray to realize that he did not have much of a future if he did not go back to school and get his GED and pursue some postsecondary education.  Ray said, “I got tired of going from job to job. I wanted to have a career in something I liked doing. Maybe I’ll be a teacher. Maybe I’ll go on and get a four-year degree?  Right now, I’m excited to be getting my AA degree.”

Ray credits Ilisagvik’s village outreach as one of the reasons he got back into school.  An Ilisagvik recruiter went to Nuiqsut and Ray found himself listening to the recruiter’s message. Now, with the support of his family, the student services division at Ilisagvik, and financial aid, Ray finds himself on the path to a brighter future. “When I first came here I was homesick,” Ray said, “but then my family really encouraged me and the people at student services really supported me and now I feel like I’m really making it here and liking it. I think by having my family be so supportive and happy that I’m here has made all the difference in not giving up when I was homesick.”

According to Jennifer Kiser, Ilisagvik’s Student Advocate, “Ray has been doing great! He is currently a federal work-study student for student services and helps with various tasks from shoveling snow to cleaning rooms. He is very kind and generous. He enjoys spending time with friends and helping others. He really enjoys working with children and wants to have a career that has to do with helping children or helping others. Overall Ray’s positive light and care for others shines through.”

Recently Ray received the highest grade on a test in his biology class.  Instructor Linda Nicholas-Figueroa said of Ray, “In the beginning Ray was shy to ask for help but after the student services set up tutoring sessions for him he became more comfortable and learned that it is ok and a good idea to get extra help when needed.  After a couple of weeks of tutoring sessions Ray felt more confident about how to organize class time along with study time and is no longer in need of tutoring sessions.  Ray is a pleasure to have in class.  He is enthusiastic, positive, outgoing, and fully participates in all classroom activities and discussions.”

In addition, the Dean of Students and Institutional Development, Pearl Brower, states that “Ray is a great student and a great addition to our dorm family here at Ilisagvik.  I commend him for the decision he made to return to school and finish his GED and then to go on to further his education.  I look forward to seeing all of the accomplishments of this young man as he continues to grow and give back to his community.”

When asked what he would say to young people in high school or who dropped out and are now wondering whether they should go back to get their degree, Ray said, “Going to college is an experience you can keep and benefit from no matter what you study. Study something you love and then you can make it a career for the rest of your life.”

Just a Cliché?

by Carolyn Babcock, Ph.D.

Recently, I asked my Facebook friends to post their favorite sayings.  I received a dozen or so, and was delighted by the spirit, courage and joy that were common threads among them.  Below are listed the submissions:

“The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” – Franklin Roosevelt

“Do What You Like, Like What You Do” – Life Is Good (TM) motto

“I don’t think there’s anything better you can do in this world than bring light wherever you go.” – Oprah Winfrey

“You can either be happy about something or unhappy about something… I choose to be happy.” – Tamela Sparks

“If you say you can or if you say you can’t; either way you are right!” – Henry Ford

“Nobody can ever take your integrity away from you. Only you can give up your integrity.” – H. Norman Schwarzkopf

“Just because no one realizes what a gold mine you are, doesn’t mean you shine any less.” – T. D. Jakes

“Never allow someone to be your priority while allowing yourself to be their option.” – Unknown author

“Yoga may not be a way of lifting life’s burdens from our shoulders, but it surely makes the path under foot for carrying them a lot smoother.” – George Cox

‎”Do it trembling if you must, but do it!” – Emmet Fox

‎”A person should set his goals as early as he can and devote all his energy and talent to getting there. With enough effort, he may achieve it. Or he may find something that is even more rewarding. But in the end, no matter what the outcome, he will know he has been alive.”

- Walt Disney

What is so amazing about the quotes is their positive energy and hopeful message.  Some of the authors are famous and some are not-so-famous.  In all cases, the words are inspiring.

This is a list you might want to save.  Put it on your refrigerator, or some other place where it is handy.  Then, on a day when you need to be particularly motivated, turn one of these “clichés” into your special mantra for the day!

Is Multi-tasking an Over-rated Virtue?

by Nadine McNeil

(reprinted from Apr 2, 2011 Elephant Journal)

Multi-tasking:  The ability to successfully do more than one thing at a time. Interestingly enough, a quick Internet search for its definition reveals that the term is directly linked to computing. Check this out, http://dictionnaire.reverso.net/anglais-cobuild/multi-tasking where:

Multi-tasking is a situation in which a computer or person does more than one thing at the same time.

This past week, we had an official holiday on Tuesday. I took this opportunity to do a bit of spring-cleaning, an exercise that I found to be physically as well as psychically liberating. Indeed, Zen moments can be found while clearing out a closet, going through the stack of ‘essential’ papers whose importance seem to wane over time, washing the dishes and tossing left-overs from the refrigerator.

However, at one point in this therapeutic process mindfulness returned and I caught myself trying to drink the smoothie that I’d made several minutes earlier, sorting out a drawer that held a kaleidoscope of odds and ends – paper clips, shirt buttons, business calling cards, pens, pencils, spools of thread and ah, my red lipstick that I thought I’d lost AND surfing the internet for some information. Oh, one more thing: the anti-aging facial mask that should have been washed off after 15 minutes had now been on for so long that my face had tightened to such an extent, I felt like a mummified statue!

In this instant of my own neurosis, I was bent over in laughter. How many things did I truly think I could manage to do successfully with my energy scattered all over the place like this?!

For at least a decade, one’s ability to do several things at once, under the term ‘multi-tasking’ has been a staple on job advertisements, especially for those in administrative and managerial type occupations…

It is the nature of the mind to wander – this is clear. However in our modern world, we’ve seduced ourselves into believing that efficiency is measured by one’s ability to engage the mind, body and spirit into a virtually schizoid state in a desperate attempt to be efficient multi-taskers!

In the long run, multi-tasking can and does put the human being under a tremendous amount of unnecessary stress, without possibly even realizing it.

Here are a few classic examples that I’ve witnessed in myself this week: on three different occasions with kitchen mittens on all prepared to remove a casserole from the oven, I’ve found myself standing in front of the refrigerator wandering “what did I come here for?”

Leaving my office to walk to someone else’s and halfway down the corridor, having no recollection of where I’m headed. When I re-traced my steps recollection returned, otherwise I may have begun to seriously question my sanity. Yesterday’s latest episode – reaching for the telephone to call someone and then as my hand connected with the receiver, recognizing that somewhere in that mili-second of time, my brain had disconnected and forgotten who I’d intended to call.

Concerned that I may be losing it or having an early onset of Alzheimer’s, I timidly shared with a colleague my concern at the fact that lately, I seem to be re-naming folk:  Cynthia to Christine, Marie Clare to Marie Louse, David Bowden to Richard Dowden are just a few examples. In turn, he re-counted and shared with me his typical day:

He’s drafting e-mail and the phone rings. In the midst of this, his assistant comes in with an important document for him to sign.  Responsibly he must read what he affixes his signature to so he begins that process. Suddenly, someone sticks his/her head into his door asking, “you have a few minutes?” Priding himself on being a manager with an open door policy, “sure” he responds.  Ten minutes later, he’s left with a pile of unfinished business – he needs to return the call of the person he had to cut off in order to sign the document for which he’s only scanned the information and can barely remember it, in fact, he’s confused it with the e-mail he was drafting and whoever stuck their head in the door has gone away with clarity while he’s left in a muddle of confusion, nowhere further in fact perhaps having even fallen behind than he was 20 minutes prior.

Multi-tasking is beginning to look pretty over-rated to me. I’m certain that the growing appeal of [relaxation practices such as] yoga for many of us is the fact that it potentially serves as the one moment in our day where we’re not literally racing from pillar to post … [W]e grant ourselves permission to pause so that we’re able to re-collect our entire selves and re-emerge into the frenetic world indeed feeling more ‘together’ than perhaps at the start of our practice.

Conclusion:  … Give ourselves the permission to slow ourselves down so that we’re able to bring attention and focus to our activities.  Truly, very little in our lives is so pressing that we cannot allow ourselves a few moments of slow, deep, energizing, re-vitalizing breaths.  After all, we are living human beings and not non-living computers!

I’m off to make my smoothie before the phone starts ringing.

Going It Alone

by Carolyn Babcock, Ph.D.

It is pretty tough to get through hard times all by yourself – be they financial, emotional, spiritual or physical.   If your goals are not understood by others (or even worse, pose a threat), you can begin to sense a distance beginning to form between you and some of your friends, or even members of your family.  So you start rethinking those goals.  The demons of doubt visit you and your self-confidence can begin to erode away.  When do you stay true to your dreams, and when do you back away?

It is a dilemma indeed, and one that can be thrust upon you and catch you by surprise.  You assume that everyone will be rooting for you.  Unfortunately, it does not always work out that way.  If you have decided to train for a marathon, friends and family may be split about supporting you.  Some may be cheering you on with every milestone.  Others may question your decision from the time you buy your first pair of running shoes.  Or, maybe you are from a family that tends toward obesity, and you make the decision to maintain a normal weight.  Some family members may marvel at your success and ask your advice.  Others may begin to single out the traits of yours which they find disagreeable, and belittle you for those traits (when they are really threatened by your weight management).

What if you decided to return to college?  This decision could impact your circle of friends and family even more than running a marathon, maintaining weight or quitting smoking.  A goal of returning to school requires a different type of commitment.  It requires you to go outside your comfort zone.  In the process, you begin to change as you achieve goals along the way (e.g. completed courses) and absorb new knowledge and hone your critical thinking skills.  Your friends and family may think you “talk differently.”  I know of one person who, upon completing his educational goals was chided by a family member for “trying to be an intellectual.”

So what do you do?  First, “follow your gut.”  If you want to pursue a lifelong dream, you should do it.  Second, it is your life.  Only you live with you 24 hours a day.  Only you are inside your head wondering about the future and, perhaps, wishing you had made different decisions in the past.  Think of it this way, you can never regret achieving a goal, but you may regret not trying.  And, what if some friends and family members do distance themselves?  Remember, their problem with your goals is not your problem.  Often non-supportive friends and family are being non-supportive for other underlying reasons.

Finally, you should seek out those people who do encourage you.  It is easy to focus on those who do not understand your dreams, especially if they are your siblings, your best friend, or even your parents.  Align yourself with positive people.  Hopefully, in time, the ones who have stayed away will see how happy and accomplished you are, and will start coming back into your life.

Actively Participating

(reprinted from “Daily OM” posted on March 11, 2011)

Showing up for your life means actively participating in our own life rather than hiding and going through the motions.

The way we walk into a room says a lot about the way we live our lives. When we walk into a room curious about what’s happening, willing to engage, and perceiving ourselves as an active participant with something to offer, then we have really shown up to the party. When we walk into a room with our eyes down, or nervously smiling, we are holding ourselves back for one reason or another. We may be hurting inside and in need of healing, or we may lack the confidence required to really be present in the room. Still, just noticing that we’re not really showing up, and having a vision of what it will look and feel like when we do, can give us the inspiration we need to recover ourselves.

Even if we are suffering, we can show up to that experience ready to fully engage in it and learn what it has to offer. When we show up for our life, we are actively participating in being a happy person, achieving our goals, and generally living the life our soul really wants. If we need healing, we begin the process of seeking out those who can help us heal. If we need experience, we find the places and opportunities that can give us the experience we need in order to do the work we want to do in the world. Whatever we need, we look for it, and when we find it, we engage in the process of letting ourselves have it. When we do this kind of work, we become lively, confident, and passionate individuals.

There is almost nothing better in the world than the feeling of showing up for our own lives. When we can do this, we become people that are more alive and who have the ability to make things happen in our lives and the lives of the people around us. We walk through the world with the knowledge that we have a lot to offer and the desire to share it.

A Letter to Yourself

by Carolyn Babcock, Ph.D.

There have been several references in this blog to the “Day Zero Project,” an interactive site that helps you create 101 goals to be accomplished in 1001 days (dayzero.com).  One of the suggested activities is to write a letter to yourself to be opened in 10 years.  What would you put in that letter?

There are many different approaches you could take and questions you could pose.  You could think about where you want to be in 10 years – 2021.  Or, consider what you hope to have accomplished?  Or, describe what things move and inspire you today?  Or, explain how you feel about your life today?

We take snapshots of our lives.  These photos capture one second in time.  A letter to yourself is open-ended in time.  You can reflect on moments and eras  – your lifetime, past, present and/or future.

Unlike a journal, which keeps your thoughts and feelings up-to-date, a letter to yourself is a singular event with the idea of its being opened in a decade.  You get a chance to talk to you!  What will the person in the future know that you do not know now?  In 10 years, what will you have forgotten so that the letter will need to serve as a memory trigger?  How will your feelings have changed?  What goals will you have accomplished?

If you have decided to return to school – for whatever degree or program – in 10 years you not only will be done, but you will be underway using that degree!  Whatever changes you have decided to make now, in 10 years those changes will have been incorporated into you – and, instead of those changes being a part of your future, in 10 years they will be part of your present.

It’s exciting to think about writing the letter.  What will you say?

Choosing an Image

by Carolyn Babcock, Ph.D.

Sometimes we see ourselves the way we appear in other people’s eyes.  They are mirrors reflecting back an image that they see.  This can be quite beneficial to us in that such a reflection can shake us out of our own denial about an addiction or other serious emotional and physical problems.

However, the image others reflect can also be one that they perceive because they are in denial.  They cannot accept that your hopes, dreams, intelligence and perseverance are different from theirs.  Perhaps they want you to remain where you are because your presence validates what they believe is true about themselves.

For instance, if you have ever quit smoking, lost weight, become vegetarian, or gone back to school, you know that people often start treating you differently or try to sabotage your success by being non-supportive.  They might say things like “Oh, you’ve tried to give up smoking so many times before, why do you think this time is different?”  Or, “What do you need to go back to school for?  Isn’t working with us good enough?”  They might even call you names like “Joe College” or “Jenny Craig.”

In light of this peer pressure and its corresponding need to be feel a part of something, it is easy to concede to that reflected (and distorted) image.  It may be a path of least resistance to maintain the status quo by remaining who you have always been.  Change brings uncertainty.  If you change, the people around you may be reluctant to embrace your new goals and dreams because they do not know how these goals will affect you as a person, as their friend, or maybe even as their spouse.

And, perhaps even you are uncertain as to the change that will become a part of you.  How will you feel now that you are no longer a part of the “smoking circle” that goes outside during break?  Or, the one who gets the salad at lunch instead of the hamburger?  Or, passing up going to a movie with friends or family because you have schoolwork to do?  The fact that you have rearranged your priorities is a demonstration of a new way of thinking.  And, when you begin to think differently, you act differently, and those differences become a part of you.

So, if there are goals you want to reach, and a transformation you want to make, you may have to make a decision.  Which image will you choose to see:  the image others reflect, or the image you want to become?

A New Level of Mastery: Coming Full Circle

(Source:  ”Daily OM” posted on 1.14.11)

The reappearance of a pattern is often a sign that we have come full circle and we are close to a new level of mastery.

Life is a circular journey through our issues and processes, and this is why things that are technically new often seem very familiar. It is also why, whenever we work to release a habit, change a pattern, or overcome a fear, we often encounter that issue one last time, even after we thought we had conquered it. Often, when this happens, we feel defeated or frustrated that after all our hard work we are still dealing with the same problem. However, the reappearance of a pattern, habit, or fear, is often a sign that we have come full circle, and that if we can maintain our resolve through one last test, we will achieve a new level of mastery in our lives.

When we come full circle, there is often the feeling that we have arrived in a familiar place, but that we ourselves are somehow different. We know that we can handle challenges that seemed insurmountable when we began our journey, and there is the feeling that we might be ready to take on a new problem, or some new aspect of the old problem. We feel empowered and courageous to have taken on the challenge of stopping a pattern, releasing a habit, or overcoming a fear, and to have succeeded. At times like these, we deserve a moment of rest and self-congratulation before we move on to the next challenge.

Coming full circle is like stepping into a clearing where, for a moment, we can see where we came from and where we are standing at the same time. Remembering that we will be tested again is important, but it’s also important to pause and take a look at the ground we’ve covered, honoring our courage, our persistence, and our achievement. Then we can begin the next leg of our circular journey with a fuller understanding of where we are coming from.

The “Day Zero Project”

Written December 13th, 2010
Categories: Self Discovery
1 Comment »

by Carolyn Babcock, Ph.D.

We are coming up on yet another new year.  As per tradition, this means that we will make promises to ourselves to undertake projects that will create a “new” us.  Whether it is to quit smoking, lose weight, travel, keep a journal … well, you know the routine.

For 2011, how about taking a different perspective on the obligations of our “New Year’s Resolutions?”  Seek out www.dayzeroproject.com and here is what you will find.

Through the help of this web site, you will create a list of 101 “Things to Do” over the next 1000 days (approximately 2 years and 9 months).  These goals on the list can be as grand as traveling to exotic lands, as simple as walking in the rain, or as ambitious as achieving a monetary goal.  While the prospect of creating this list may seem daunting, the site does provide ideas to nudge you along.  You can go to their “Idea Finder” or see what the top 101 choices are.  It is amazing how, once you get into the rhythm of the project, the ideas start to pour from you.  The “Idea Finder” helped me add almost 40 to the list!

When you are done (or even well under way) you can rearrange the order, move an item or items from “To Do” to “Someday.”  The list is yours to toy with and to use as a lovely reason to daydream.  As I read the list of the “Top 101,” I was fascinated by the common choices.  Participants chose a wide range of goals:  #1 is “Donate blood” and #101 is “Ride a horse.”  And, in keeping with the theme of this blog site, #91 was “Graduate College.”

However, it is the #2 choice that is really intriguing:  “Write a letter to myself to open in 10 years.”  Imagine all that you can accomplish in 10 years!!   You can get a Bachelor’s degree in less than half that time.  You can be well underway with another career.  If you save 10% of your income each year, by the end of 10 years, you will have accumulated one FULL year’s salary.

So, over the next couple of weeks before the beginning of 2011, take a few moments to consider your top 101 things.  Have fun – and dare to dream!