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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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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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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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