Steal These Strategies Now
Okay, my youngest sons have each graduated and are off to the races. Alex, my quiet artist, doesn’t show his stuff, or even talk much, but he went for a technical degree…see an example of his work here, if you missed it on my Facebook page:
Along with the traditional money gift, I struggled with what I might offer my sons by way of advice that they might actually find helpful. Virtually anything I say won’t make a lot of sense to them now, and for good reason. The world of possibility is shiny and new for them, and absolutely unique – theirs to figure out. That’s how it should be.
So rather than waste too much time reaching for generic wisdom inside my own head, it makes sense for me to steal the wise words of Dr. Phil. You should too if you haven't already. Whatever you make of the guy, he frankly makes sense as he expresses his ideas about the “Ten Life Laws.”
Good luck, beloved sons. Here’s a link to the Laws and Dr P’s commentary: https://drphil.com/articles/article/44
Boys, the Mom annotated version is below...I had to personalize this for my beloved children. It will take a lifetime of practice to get skilled at everything that follows, but if you work a little every day and reflect, you really will be off and running into the bold and beautiful future you dream about.
Life Law #1: You either get it or you don't.
Strategy: Become one of those who gets it.
Some people, and I’ve met them from all walks in life, seem to live in a bubble. They keep doing the same things, expecting different results. Think carefully about the notion of “cause and effect,” and pay attention to what pushes your buttons – and theirs, whoever “they” are.
Life Law #2: You create your own experience.
Strategy: Acknowledge and accept accountability for your life. Understand your role in creating results.
“We create the world, not the other way around.” (Sophie Scholl). And as Ghandi said, be the change you wish, or need to see. Keep at it. If you ever get confused on this point, call your mother. She is loaded with great helpful quotes gleaned from spiritual, wisdom, classical, and popular literature. For all else she forgets, she never lets go of any potentially life-transforming thoughts or ideas that come her way. The people who said whatever she remembers so well and for so long comprise her secret internal advisory board. She tries to allow them live through her, despite any lapses you and she are well aware of.
Life Law #3: People do what works.
Strategy: Identify the payoffs that drive your behavior and that of others.
Dr. P is a bloody genius at throwing the “payoff” challenge to chronic complainers. (“What are YOU getting out of the situation as it stands? Huh?”) All behavior, good and bad, is getting somebody somewhere. If you find yourself, or someone else, repeatedly behaving in ways that lead to good results, make note of/continue/copy the behaviors.
Conversely, any behaviors that repeatedly result in poor outcomes or hurt feelings are working for someone in some unhealthy way. Try very hard not to engage in those unhealthy behaviors yourself. And if you have someone in your life, like a boss, exhibiting behaviors that seem off or ineffective, examine them. Ask yourself what that person seems to really be driving at. Even situations that hurt you personally, lots of times, aren’t about you at all.
Insight is one of the great life gifts; work on gaining as much as you can, using Dr. Phil’s strategy, above.
Life Law #4: You cannot change what you do not acknowledge.
Strategy: Get real with yourself about life and everybody in it. Be truthful about what isn't working in your life. Stop making excuses and start making results.
Be aware, and “don’t try, do.” I think that was Yoda. If you need help, ask for it. There is wisdom and plenty of resources all around you. On page 212 of Hard Poetry: A Family of Children, a book I wrote ultimately for YOU, there is a family story that’s a metaphor for all of this mystery (you can do a search on the copy on Amazon.com if you don’t have the book handy). There are people who will help you at all points of the journey forward if and when you need help "making results.”
Life Law #5: Life rewards action.
Strategy: Make careful decisions and then pull the trigger. Learn that the world couldn't care less about thoughts without actions.
In the management survey courses I teach undergrads, I speak of how they will inevitably run into the problem of people not-doing. I ask them various versions of a question that's always on my final exams, too: “Once you, and perhaps your team, have designed a strategy and developed a plan, what needs to happen next, that all too often, doesn’t, and leads to failure? Answer: Implementation.
Make goals with timelines, and stick to the plan as if it were a map out of mediocrity. Failure is impossible then, because at every step, you WILL learn. And that’s the essence of life experience whether or not you get exactly what you wanted.
Life Law #6: There is no reality, only perception.
Strategy: Identify the filters through which you view the world. Acknowledge your history without being controlled by it.
I - and every reflective person I know - am still working on this one. Get used to asking yourself lots of questions as you face the complexities of life. Why do I think this way? Is it fair? Am I am sure I am right? Whose words, phrases, and half-baked ideas are invading my brain like so many worms and pretending to be mine? If I am absolutely right…does it matter in light of what needs to get done in this situation?
Sometimes the best way to really see a person or situation is to back off of it for awhile. We dig our own little ruts in life, not realizing. I forgot who said this one, but I like it, so remember: " A rut is a grave with both ends kicked out." Stay alert to feelings of inner deadness, of the dying of something vital that is part of you.
You get bonus points if you can understand the relationship between this Law and Law #2.
Life Law #7: Life is managed; it is not cured.
Strategy: Learn to take charge of your life and hold on. This is a long ride, and you are the driver every single day.
Nothing to add; he speaks the truth.
Life Law #8: We teach people how to treat us.
Strategy: Own, rather than complain about, how people treat you. Learn to renegotiate your relationships to have what you want.
We can always see ever more clearly, and adjust our behavior, if we are awake and aware enough to see our role in the play as it unfolds before us. Be as objective as you can in your self-examination. Don't ever be afraid to ask for help here. Some people you will come to know in life will care about and know you well enough to kindly hold up a mirror for you to see yourself better. As if by miracle, this can transform your every relationship.
Be kind and respectful. Be fair. Do unto others as you would have done to you – perhaps the best and most useful directive of all time. Hard to follow…but try, really try. As you seek partners in life, look for a willingness to engage in conversation, listen, and negotiate intelligently. You do the same.
Life Law #9: There is power in forgiveness.
Strategy: Open your eyes to what anger and resentment are doing to you. Take your power back from those who have hurt you.
The feelings of others = very important. Maybe even more significant a factor in the unfortunate situation than you feel like admitting. Truly, sometimes people do bad things to you because “they know not what they do.” They are too self-absorbed to assess the impact of their actions on others.
However, the integrity of your own daily emotional state = priceless. Let go of as much as you are able, whether or not anyone who has wronged you is able to own up to the above.
Life Law #10: You have to name it before you can claim it.
Strategy: Get clear about what you want and take your turn.
The world is full of folks who feel life was unfair to them. They didn’t get what they wanted; instead, they got a world of hurt, pain, and disappointment. But many can never clearly, and in detail, define what it was that they so deeply desired.
You really need to be clear about that, even though what exactly you are wanting is bound to change through time. That’s okay. But failing to be clear about what you want next, and what steps you can take toward it, will, I promise, lead to disappointment. Throwing a lot of darts around without anything to aim for is a loser’s game.
Even if what you want currently is as sad and vague as "I just need to get through the next three weeks," such a goal is worthy of a plan to achieve that. With every step forward, the way becomes clearer.
Life is inherently unfair and as the Psalmist has said, “rain falls upon the just and unjust.” In another verse: “Where there is no vision, the people perish.” Define your dream, your desires, and hold them close. They are yours and are, in and of themselves, worthy of your careful and persistent attention.
In the funny way life works, and for all its intrinsic unfairness, it also sometimes falls remarkably into place. Is it a matter of effort? Of will? Of sheer dogged persistence? Dumb undeserved luck?
Yes, yes, yes, and sometimes yes. Occasionally something wonderful just happens, as if life has taken something laying dormant inside of you and fashioned it into something great that you didn’t even know how to ask for, much less accomplish. It's a mystery but it happens. I hope it happens many times for you, Kalen and Alex.
May the Force be with you.