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The Art of Taking Risk

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Last year I had the opportunity to speak with an amazing organization called the Bravery Board. They are an organization that encourages everyone to be brave through being vulnerable. They have monthly gatherings where individuals from the community speak about their perspective on being brave. So when asked to speak, I was more than excited! I spoke about taking risk in life.

You can listen to the entire podcast here.

What are your thoughts about vulnerability and taking risk?

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You're Right

I was working with a lady in therapy recently.  She came in wanting to work on building her self-esteem.  She complained that she was never taken serious at work and her kids walked all over her.  When asked when her low self-esteem began she couldn’t pinpoint an exact time. She said it is something that she always struggled with.  As she began sharing more of her story it was clear that she had some self-defeating beliefs that she picked up from early childhood that needed to be challenged if she was to ever build her self-esteem.

So many people have self-defeating beliefs that are picked up from childhood.  This makes perfect sense too. As children we observe everyone and everything around us.  As a child, if someone was to tell me that I was good at basketball, you’d better believe that I was dreaming of playing in the NBA.  Conversely, If someone said I was worthless and was never going to amount to anything, I would have believed them. Especially someone that was important to me.  Henry Ford puts it best when he said,

"Whether you think you can, or you think you can't-- you're right."


These beliefs are easily adopted as children and once adopted they are usually mindlessly taken into adulthood as facts.  These beliefs if left unchecked can lead to low self-esteem, depression, anxiety… you name it.

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Some of the work that is done in counseling is identifying these unhelpful beliefs and challenging them with more accurate and helpful beliefs.  This is sometimes easier said than done. Some clients that I have believe that I am trying to brainwash them when I repeat over and over again that “you are good man/woman” or “You have everything it takes to be successful”.  To that I usually reply, “I am”. This is the work of challenging our beliefs. We have to keep reminding ourselves of the helpful beliefs that we want to believe. Don’t hesitate to reach out to a therapist or friend for some outside perspective.  Sometimes it is easier for others to see these beliefs.


What beliefs are unhelpful in your life?  What helpful beliefs are you reminding yourself of?  What helpful beliefs are you communicating to others like your kids, family and friends?  



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Men Getting Real About Addiction

Men do not like to admit they have a problem.  I am the worst at this! It reminds me of the episode of The Office where Michael Scott is informed that he has to fire someone in his office because of budget cuts.  Almost the entire season (mind you not episode) goes by and Michael puts off dealing with this problem.  

As men we have to get real with ourselves about our problems.  Especially addiction because the consequences are real.

A man that I was working with had come to see me because his wife said he would leave him if he didn’t get help for his drinking problem.  On our first visit, he made it very clear that he didn’t have a problem but it was his wife’s problem. He reluctantly informed me later that his driver’s license had been suspended due to multiple alcohol related offenses.  He retold stories of waking up and not remembering what happened the night before due to all night benders. Despite all this he stayed firm that he didn’t have a problem with alcohol. He needed to get real.

Another man I was working with came to me with the goal of wanting to work on his marriage as he knew it wasn’t where he wanted it to be but was unable to identify why.  We spent many sessions working on assertiveness, common communication pitfalls and explored all the other stereotypical relationship areas of growth. Yet he still reported the marriage was falling apart.  It wasn’t until he shared about the hours of porn that he viewed in secret that the real work began. Porn had become his escape for life problems. He needed to get real with himself and see how porn was robbing him and his marriage.  

There are all kinds of stories I can recall with some variation of addictive behavior involved. They refuse to get real and acknowledge that they have a problem. No one likes to admit that they have a weakness.  Weather it be alcohol, sex, gambling, porn, drugs, relationships… you name it.

Men quickly justify an addictive behavior with excuses that unknowingly keeps them stuck:  

“Everyone is doing it.”

“It’s not hurting anyone.”

Or the worst of them all, “Boys will be boys.”

As men we don’t address these issues because of shame.  Shame is saying that if I admit that I have an addictive behavior I am a bad man. That I am no man at all.

That is so far from reality!  I work with good men that struggle with addictions all the time. Being a man means getting real about a problem and working daily to be a better man than the day before.  I hold this perspective about addiction:

“Addiction is an attempt to meet a legitimate need in an unhealthy way.”

Are you ready to get real and see if you have an addictive behavior that you can work on? If so, here are 5 questions that may help you determine just that:
 

Do you follow through with the addictive behavior despite the consequences?

Are you holding tightly to that alcohol bottle despite your kids telling you they don’t like it when you drink?  Have you caught yourself watching porn while at work knowing that if you got caught on the work computer or your phone that you could lose your job?  Have you ever gambled money that you knew you didn’t have that could jeopardize paying your bills that month?

Are you doing this addictive behavior to avoid or suppress an emotion?

A legitimate need that many men run from with drugs, alcohol, sex and other addictive behaviors are their emotions.  Is there an issue in your relationship that you are avoiding by drinking or doing drugs? Do you avoid getting intimate with others for fear of rejection but instead turn to the always welcoming porn site?

Are you questioning if it’s a problem?

You are a smart man.  You are the expert of your own life.  If your gut is telling you that you may have a problem, stop ignoring it.  

Is it helping you be the man that you want to be?  

If this behavior doesn’t align with your values, goals or dreams it’s not good for you. If you truly want to uphold these values that are in contradiction with this behavior and you are still choosing to do it, it’s an addiction.  If you really want to accomplish these goals and dreams but this behavior is slowing your progress or stopping progress all together, it’s an addiction.

Have people told you that it’s a problem?

It takes a lot for someone that cares about you to tell you that you have a problem.  Get real and listen to the people around you.

If you answer yes to even one of these questions you have an addictive behavior that needs to be addressed.  And that is okay! Surround yourself with men that can support you and help you become the man that you want to be.  It is a great thing to identify a problem in your life because you can now work on it. The worst thing you can do is identify a problem and look the other way.  Don’t ignore this problem. Get real!

 

This blog originally appeared on the Authentic Men's Group Blog at AMG.buzz in February 2018.  

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Learned Optimism

I recently took a road trip to Tennessee to bring in the New Year with some friends in Nashville. Mind you, road trips are easily in my top five favorite things to do in life so I was already having a blast. One problem though, on the ride there it was rainy and foggy. You could say it was raining on my parade (ba dum tss). There was no ray of sunshine to be found. On one section of the drive it was visible no more than ten feet or so in front of the car. As dangerous as it was, I snapped a quick picture of the dreary Tennessee skyline (the photo that I used for this blog in fact). It was then that I realized the beauty of the drive. It looked like a hipster ad for American Eagle. After that photo the rest of the road trip became different. I began to be amazed at the pine trees. I noticed the rugged foggy mountain landscape. My perspective was changed and my problem was no longer as bothersome.  My perspective had been changed.  

This is what I get to do daily in counseling. Challenging and changing perspectives is ultimately the goal of counseling. For the person that is suffering with anxiety, challenging their perspective of their world can greatly reduce the anxiety they experience. I have yet to be able to take a memory away from someone who is suffering from trauma but I am able to help give that memory less power in their daily life by helping them change their perspective of that trauma.  

What if we began to see the problems we experience as having different perspectives? The choice to see life through an optimistic lens instead of a negative one.  At the end of the day, your perspective in a problem is the only thing that you really have control of.  I think this could dramatically change how we see problems, how we interact with others and even how we see ourselves. We will begin to see problems as potential opportunities. Angry people as hurting people. Instead of shaming ourselves for our past, we can begin to see ourselves as “works in progress”. I’m going to pull out an oldie here, but Abraham Lincoln puts it this way:

“We can complain because rose bushes have thorns, or rejoice because thorn bushes have roses.”  

I know this is easier said than done. I have to chose to be optimistic all the time. It still amazes me how long it takes me to find the optimistic perspective in a situation. I am just as stubborn as the next guy.  But this is a discipline that we can develop and gradually get better at.  It is worth developing. 

What situation are you going through this week that could us a perspective change? 

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Are You Killing Your Relationships?

Think about your last relationship that ended. What would you say is the thing that killed that relationship? Communication? Sex? Mutual Relationships? None of these are the main killers of relationships; they are merely the symptoms of the real problem. The real, masked killer—rarely identified—are unmet expectations. Think about it. Every person goes into a relationship with expectations. You may be thinking, “I just won't have expectations than!” But expectations are not the problem. Healthy expectations are actually encouraged. In an earlier blog, Dating With Purpose, I wrote about non-negotiable qualities, or expectations,  in a relationship. If you have yet to read the blog and make your list of non-negotiable qualities, I suggest trying that. Now the problem with expectations in a relationship is a lack of observation. One of my favorite bloggers, Derek Harvey, introduced me to this problem and uses this simple formula to illustrate the problem.

EXPECTATION - OBSERVATION = FRUSTRATION
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To have a healthy relationship, you have to observe your expectations; you do this in two ways. First, you have to know what your expectations are before you go into a relationship. Whether or not you have identified these expectations, you will feel the frustration of any unmet expectations. When you identify these expectations, you can choose more fulfilling relationships and end bad relationships quicker, avoiding the pain of a long-term relationship breakup. Next, you have to communicate these expectations to your partner.  Author Robert Glover, in his book No More Mr. Nice Guy, calls these uncommunicated expectations “covert contracts.” These are contracts that we make in our minds, but our partners know nothing about. When they don’t fulfill their part of the contract, of which they are unaware, we get upset. It seems crazy, but this happens far too often.

So in conclusion, uncommunicated expectations will kill your relationship. I will continue to develop this idea in future blogs. Let me know what you think. 

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The Nice Guy Syndrome

One of my passions is seeing men thrive in their personal life and relationships. I believe it is rewarding to see a man be confident and intentional in getting what he wants out of life. Unfortunately, while growing up and in my adult life, I have seen very few men live this out. Most of what I have seen is what Dr. Robert Glover introduced to me as Nice Guys. You can probably identify a Nice Guy from the name. A Nice Guy is the one who is not living up to his full potential but plays it safe, instead. He will do everything for everyone else, but he rarely takes care of himself or his own priorities. He hides his flaws and mistakes as if they don't want anyone to know he is actually human. This comical—but very sad—way of thinking is a very common approach to life that many men fall into. I, myself, am a recovering Nice Guy.  

The Nice Guy syndrome encompasses three main “covert contracts” that he believes will lead to happiness in his life. Covert contracts are contracts that a Nice Guy makes with other people—especially intimate relationships—despite the other person having no knowledge of this agreement. These contracts are usually at an unconscious level for the Nice Guy, as well. Such covert contracts are:

  1. If I am a "good guy", everyone will love and like me.  
  2. If I meet others’ needs without them having to ask, they will, in turn, meet my needs without me having to ask.  
  3. If I do everything right, I will have a problem-free life.  

When these covert contracts are not fulfilled by others, the Nice Guy usually becomes confused, hurt, and resentful. The Nice Guy then goes from being this "perfect", passive man to being passive-aggressive or straight-up aggressive to others. After the destruction, he will go back to being passive and trying even harder at his flawed way of thinking to get what he wants out of life, but to no avail. Dr. Robert Glover's statement is so true when he writes:

"By trying to please everyone, Nice Guys often end up pleasing no one—including themselves."

I will continue expounding the Nice Guy syndrome and how to overcome this way of living for men. What are your thoughts? Have you come across a Nice Guy, or are you one yourself?  

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Dating With Purpose

Relationships are one of the most discussed areas in counseling. Whether it be someone desiring to better their relationship or someone who is single and wants to start that new adventure. To choose the right relationship that will have the highest probability of success, you need to first identify what kind of relationship you actually want to be in. As anyone who has been in a relationship that has ended knows, a person can easily find themselves in an unhealthy relationship if they are not purposeful in choosing that relationship.  

You need to make a list of qualities you want in a person before you date them and resolve to not get in a relationship with them unless they fulfill all of those qualities. I call these the Non-Negotiable Qualities of a relationship. Some examples are: they have to have a job, they have to be a Christian, or they have to be an "Apple" person rather than a "PC". If the man or woman in your life does not have these qualities, you are saying that you will not become romantically involved with them. Next, make a list of Preferable Qualities, such as having long hair, liking coffee, or being a morning person. These are qualities that would make the relationship better, but they wouldn't be a deal breaker for you.

Take some time to make a brief list before you continuing reading.

Now, the next step—and easily the toughest, now that you have your own list—is to evaluate yourself based on the qualities that you have listed. If you want to be with a person who has a job and is financially smart, are you? If you want to be with someone who is a Christian, are you? Andy Stanley writes in The New Rules for Love, Sex, and Dating:

“Become the person the person you’re looking for is looking for."

How powerful and motivating is that?! For the people who are single, this is something that you can do to better prepare yourself to attract the person that you want. For people who are in a relationship, this gives perspective on the qualities of your partner that may frustrate you the most and may motivate you to work on yourself.

I add to and refine my list after a relationship ends. This is when I analyze what I liked about the person I was with and what I want I want to avoid in my next relationship. Continue working on your list, and strive to become the person the person you're looking for is looking for. Let me know how this is motivating you in your personal growth.

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How to Worry Less

Over the last two years, I have set out to grow intellectually by reading all of the classic novels most people read going through school. Sadly, during my early education as well as the many different schools that I attended, I was never assigned some of the classics. Since I set this goal, I have read some of the major works, such as Treasure Island, The Grapes of Wrath, East of Eden, Cannery Row, Animal Farm, and The Catcher in the Rye. One of my favorites was Harper Lee’s To Kill A Mockingbird. Scout, the young female character, is living in a time of racial tension with her father Atticus being led by his convictions for equality. Atticus is walking the fine line between upholding his convictions and raising his two children. When Scout comes to her father frustrated, Atticus simply replies:

"It's not time to worry yet."
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Atticus's response is so simple, yet profound. It reminds me of the so-easily-forgotten aspect of managing worry: control. I work with people all the time who are creating unnecessary worry by trying to control things that are out of their control, such as trying to change the behaviors of their boyfriend, trying to make the person that they hurt from their past forgive them, or trying to change their teenage son's self-destructive path. The key word being "try". These are all things that are out of our control. On the other hand, some of our worry exists because we find ourselves not doing anything about the cause of our worry, such as worrying about getting a raise at work yet never talking to the boss about a pay raise or knowing the current relationship we are in is destructive but not making any changes or ending that relationship. Simply put:

"Worry is created when we try to control things out of our control or when we are not doing everything we can with the control we do have."

This is easier said than done; I can attest to this. Yet the practice of not controlling things that are out of your control and taking action on things you can control will have life-changing results. Let me know how you are doing with making these changes for your personal growth. 

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Rethinking Reid

The idea for this blog comes out of my own personal journey for growth. It is a pretty popular idea these days. Most people want to be the best possible version of themselves. This is personal to me because I am working in the psychology field. I challenge people all the time to change unhealthy behaviors, be that an addiction, relationship, fear, etc. It's only a matter of time before you feel the personal conviction to grow yourself and that is exactly what I am doing.

A friend, mentor and boss has been one of the biggest resources for me on my journey to personal growth. He looks at personal growth in 5 key areas; Social, Physical, Intellectual, Emotional, & Spiritual (SPIES).  He even has a tag line for the acronym SPIES. Brian Frizzell says:

"If someone was spying in on your life they would see these five areas of health"

This site will be a place of resources to help you in growing in these five areas of health. My only promise is that they will be short and to the point. If they are long and complex I probably plagiarized them, which my professors frowned upon. Feel free to check in and go along this journey with me.    

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