Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Entitlements don’t come without responsibilities
Stress for Success
July 27, 2010

In the 1980s two young people we knew had baffling work expectations. One, an office worker, was upset because she didn’t get a raise when a colleague did. The other, an electrician, became indignant when his boss, the owner of the business, dropped him off at a job but didn’t stay to do the work herself.

Does their sense of entitlement seem off-base to you?

Some say today’s Millenial generation has a too-strong sense of entitlement, also. An example is college counselors who cite struggling students blaming their professors for being boring; like boring instructors cause bad grades.

Having a sense of entitlement, often representing unrealistic expectations, manifests itself in many ways. Aggressive drivers feel entitled to intimidate you out of their way. Some hurricane survivors expect an immediate government rescue. Older siblings feel entitled to greater respect from younger ones. Some poor people feel entitled to unending benefits. Some affluent people expect the best opportunities. The list goes on and on.

What do you feel entitled to? Are your expectations realistic?

A sense of entitlement carries a serious risk: the possible shirking of personal responsibility. The office worker blames the boss for not giving her a raise versus wondering, “What are my options?” in securing a raise. The students could ask the same question about getting better grades.

Instead, all are focused on how the other person is interfering with them getting what they want. As I’ve stated many times before, wanting the other person to change increases the stress of a situation because the other person is always beyond your control.

What’s within your control is figuring out your options. The students could study more, get tutoring, figure out how to pay attention even when bored.

No doubt everyone has certain rights and entitlements but for each one we must also accept their inherent responsibilities. You have the right to be respected. Your responsibility is to behave in ways that earns others’ respect; being reliable, honorable, respectful of others, etc.

In the above examples which responsibilities are being ignored?
* The office employee had the responsibility to figure out what’s rewarded in her job and what isn’t. Did her attitude inhibit her from getting the additional responsibilities that would have justified a raise? Did her very sense of entitlement grate on her boss?
* The electrician had the responsibility to know what he was hired to do and to do it; to understand his job responsibilities versus his boss’s. Plus, he needed to accept that the owner of a business can do pretty much what she wants. It’s her company.
* The students need to figure out how to learn and pass. Period.

Too frequently in our rights-oriented society we demand our entitlements with little thought to their corresponding responsibilities. This almost always leads to more anxiety if we passively wait for what we want. To increase success and lower stress, it’s important to identify and pursue the options that are within your control that can lead you toward your realistic expectations.

Jacquelyn Ferguson, M. S., is an international speaker and a Stress and Wellness Coach. Order her book, Let Your Body Win: Stress Management Plain & Simple, at http://www.letyourbodywin.com/bookstore.html. Email her to request she speak to your organization at jferg8@aol.com.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Space of time stops knee-jerk reactions
Stress for Success
July 20, 2010

Recently I’ve written about how mindfulness can help you respond to stressful situations as you want versus reacting automatically out of your unconscious, past childhood programming. It’s difficult to change these mechanical reactions because when you’re anxious your Stress Cycle is triggered speeding up your response time. The more stressed you are the faster you react. All of your best intentions of behaving more appropriately go down the drain.

To stop these unwanted reactions create a Space of Time between your stressor and your reaction to it. You can gain a millisecond of time to discipline yourself to stop your habitual, defensive behavior and replace it with a more desirable and effective response.

Mind Games can create this Space of Time. This isn’t the idea from the 1980s pop psychology where you manipulate others people’s minds but rather it’s playing a little game inside your own head to stop your undesirable reactions.

Mind Games don’t solve problems. Their sole intended purpose is to give you power to change your behavior, seldom an easy task. Here are some examples.

Mind Games work best when you personalize them to your situation. For instance, a woman was easily intimidated by her very aggressive, loud boss. In fits of pique he threw insults at her and others. She came to the belated conclusion that his rudeness said more about him than about her and decided she needed to keep his insults from sticking to her. So she imagined a protective plexiglass shield slipping into place in front of her resulting in his insulting words dripping down the glass therefore not sticking to her.

When my older stepson moved in with us I became very critical of him, which I disliked in myself. He’d do something and I automatically pounced. I tried deep breathing, looking for humor in the situation but nothing worked well. One day as I was about to criticize him, an image popped into my mind that worked as a Mind Game from that day on - most of the time anyway. I pictured my mother and father watching their dear sweet daughter being so hard on this child. That’s all I needed. It stopped me in my tracks. It created the Space of Time I needed to walk away from the situation.

Finally, a young boy was afraid of being alone in his bedroom at night. His father taught him to hum, When the Saints Come Marching In, whenever he became frightened to push away his fears, which allowed him to fall asleep sooner.

Mind Games that can work for you are limited only by your creativity. Create some image, thought, humor or just use deep breathing to stop unproductive reactions. Create a Space of Time to increase your opportunity for change.

Be patient because this, like anything, takes time. And it doesn’t always work. If Mind Games help you stop undesirable behavior even a little, it’ll be worth the effort. Perfect this skill and you’ll finally be able rid yourself of some of those embarrassing, immature reactions.

Jacquelyn Ferguson, M. S., is an international speaker and a Stress and Wellness Coach. Order her book, Let Your Body Win: Stress Management Plain & Simple, at http://www.letyourbodywin.com/bookstore.html. Email her to request she speak to your organization at jferg8@aol.com.