Danielle Navonne: a Writer, experiencing and sharing the journey of life one Word at a time.

This is not some metaphorical title that will have some deep witty meaning by the end of this post. I mean very literally that the only TV in my house, is in my closet (next to a bag of summer clothes I long to wear, and a pair of stilettos I will probably never wear again).

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Some time towards the end of 2011, I felt a very strong urge to get rid of my TV for a while. A few nights ago (and over 14 rebellious months later) I acquiesced. I’d been using TV – sometimes consciously, sometimes unconsciously – to drown out my thoughts. With the background noise always going (while washing dishes, cleaning up, getting dressed, etc.,) I never had time to hear myself…to listen to myself. And I needed to create intentional quiet space to do that.

During my 14+ months of rebellion, I did realize the importance of quiet time. I knew I needed less time in front of the TV and more time cultivating and developing some ideas, but I felt like the urge to totally unplug was a bit extreme. So I decided to create some “intentions” in an effort to “listen to” this urge. (Although I wasn’t really “listening” because I had already received instruction: get rid of the TV for a while.)danielle2

I wrote my intentions on my window.

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(My window is where I write goals when I’m really serious about sticking to them. Don’t worry…it’s dry erase, lol.) I decided that I would only get one hour of TV entertainment a day (background noise time included). I would also only watch the news once a day (I tend to overload on news, which can often shift my energy since news is so often bad).

Fast forward a year… the intentions were still on the window, and the TV was still on throughout the days and evenings, hell, mostly throughout the year. When I got home, when I washed dishes, when I woke up in the middle of night and couldn’t sleep, during my morning/nightly routines of face washing and teeth brushing…TV, TV, TV. Granted, it was often the news, but with all the (bad) news I was taking in, my (good) ideas were being drowned out. Funny thing is, I don’t even really keep up with any particular TV show (besides Scandal, which I LIVE for). So the TV was usually just on just for the sake of being on. Maybe it was just to quiet the quiet of living alone…being alone. Who knows…

I love watching shows like “The Biggest Loser” and “The Voice.” I’m a sucker for any kind of story that shows peoples’ journey to reclaiming their lives. One day, mid tear fall, while watching the Biggest Loser (I always cry at least once whenever I watch it), I realized that while I was watching these people put vulnerable action into living their best lives, I was literally sitting on my own. It wasn’t a moment of condemning myself for watching this or any other show, it was just a moment of revelation – exposing the need to live out my own version of the boldness and reclamation that draws me to these shows.

For years I have had awesome ideas about projects, events, books, blogs, you name it. I can see the finished products and the people they help. But the time needed to invest in them was hijacked by TV – more specifically, by “Friends” reruns (by and large the biggest “monopolizer” of my TV time this past year, lol).

I had a “woe is me” night recently. Questioning why things weren’t happening the way I thought they would/should. Why I had all these big ideas but no clarity on the steps to take. Then it occurred to me, I had been given a step: create a space of quiet so that you can be guided. At that moment, I came to terms with the fact that the reason I couldn’t hear all the other steps, is because my “intentions” translated into a failure to acknowledge the step I’d already been given. At this point, my soft inner voice of guidance and intuition became a pushy, exasperated yell: get rid of the damn TV, Danielle! (sorry mom).

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Although instead of this aggressive window toss, I just unplugged everything and stored it in the closet, lol

“OK!! Got it. Done!”

Less than a full 24 hours in, I tried to reason my way out of my new-found obedience. Removing my TV was bad idea. “How will I get the news!? bad ideaI need to know what’s going on in the world. I will be the real life version of the proverbial person who lives under a rock.” (Pay no mind to the ABC News app that I check regularly on my phone).

After the dust settled on the hysteria of how I’d find out news (and after I found a nice fruit basket to replace the barren TV space in front of my couch) I began reconnecting with myself in a major way – my music, my writing, and other projects that I’d just been sitting on.

  • In the mornings when I drink my coffee, it’s quiet now…and I actually interact with the thoughts and ideas that pop into my head.
  • When I get home in the evenings, it’s quiet now…and I write, or create, or read. (I actually just started reading a book that has been on my coffee table to read for the past year or so.)
  • On the weekends, I am able to enjoy this awesome view from my windowIMG_0449

I used to spend a lot of time worrying about all the bad stuff that could happen in life (thanks largely to the volume of “bad life” stuff I saw on the news). Now, I put much more of my awareness on the good in the world, the growth happening within and around me (thanks largely to the India Arie songs that are on repeat throughout my day now). These are things that were there all along, but I didn’t see them because my view was blocked by my TV.

This post is not a push for you all to get rid of your TVs, the TV thing was MY journey. We each have our own. That little thing you’ve been thinking you should do for a while. A phone call made, letter written, meeting scheduled. It may be the “step 1” in a series of steps you may otherwise never know. I don’t know how long my TV will be in my closet. I’m just going to wait until my gut tells me it’s time to put it back…

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One of my current FAVORITE India Arie songs

Get A Life!

It’s been longer than usual since my last post. During that time, the sudden and untimely deaths of a few people in my circle have encouraged a lot of conversations and thoughts about death – and more importantly, about life

…About making sure that we are not just living, but that when it’s all said and done, that we have lived a LIFE that leaves the world – our world – a little better than we found it. We go to work, pay our bills, run our errands – all things we need to do to live comfortably. But aside from those necessities, those things we “need” to do, what are we doing to make a life for ourselves?

One of the reasons I’m so transparent with many aspects of my life is because I wholeheartedly believe that I’m not living just for me, but that the life I live is also for others. While I do believe that I am meant to enjoy life, I also believe that it’s a lot bigger than me and my enjoyment. I believe that my life is fueled by my ability and willingness to help someone else.

I’ve always had a strong feeling (even as a child) that God placed me here for others. To help others, to encourage others, and to connect with others. I didn’t know exactly what it would look like, but the helping/service part was clear to me:

  • In elementary and high school, I sent encouraging greeting cards. Hoping that my thoughts and words would inspire the recipient.
  • After undergrad, I went to seminary, thinking that maybe I was supposed to be trained to help from the pulpit.
  • Now, I’m writing this blog, hoping that my written words will help someone else on their life journey.
  • And, I’m sure in a year or two, I will have added another mode of helpfulness to my list.

When Hurricane Katrina happened, I longed to go to New Orleans to help in the relief efforts. Since I spent my undergraduate years there, part of this longing was because of the friends and loved ones I was concerned about there. But the other part of that longing came from that place of helpfulness. That place in me that wanted to add meaning to my life by helping the people of New Orleans.

When the earthquake happened in Haiti, I got the same feeling, only this time, I had a few more resources to make it happen. Although I didn’t have a personal connection to the area like New Orleans, the desire to use my life to positively affect someone else’s remained. So without one connection to Haiti, I found a volunteer group, reached out to my Facebook friends for relief items to take over, and got on an airplane. (At some point, I plan to blog about my experience there.) To this day, I have maintained several of those connections, and feel connected to that part of the world in ways that I hadn’t before.

I wrote a meditation that was published in Devo’zine some years back, and it told the story of my encounter with a young woman while riding public transportation in Chicago. She was homeless and looked a little (OK, a lot) disheveled. She was basically the lady no one wanted to sit near. She ended up in the seat next to me and of course, wanted to spark conversation with me. I reluctantly engaged and it ended up being a great conversation about life, struggles, etc. As she was preparing to get off of the bus, I asked her name. This woman was in tears as she responded. She said that people always look past her and no one has ever cared enough to ask her name. That moment, that one question made a difference in her life, and thus, added meaning to mine. It wasn’t a volunteer trip to another country, but an intentional effort to connect with another person.

The purpose of this is not to tell you all the “good” stuff I’ve done (because believe you me, I can blog all day about the not-so-good things too!). The purpose is to share with you how these moments of connecting, connected my life to a purpose larger than myself.

We can easily get consumed with our own lives. I must often remind myself that life is so much bigger than just me. Bigger than the Grande, non-fat, no whip Mocha that I want; bigger than that last 7 lbs that I’m trying to lose. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not forgoing my mocha or those 7lbs, Lol. I’m just trying to stay conscious that sometimes, getting a life means not focusing so much on my own.

I encourage you to take a moment today, tomorrow, this week to look past yourself and add meaning to your life by connecting with others. It may be through an organized volunteer group or just some one-on-one time with a young person who needs some guidance.

When you connect your life to something outside of yourself, the impact of your life grows. And so does your feeling of connectedness and purpose in the world.

“If you wait until you can do everything for everybody, instead of doing something for somebody, you’ll end up doing nothing for nobody” (-Anonymous).

*As I was working on this post, the song below stayed in my head…

(…Well really it’s the day after Mother’s Day, but whatever! Lol.)

My late grandmother and I, 1999

I lost my grandmother in December of 2003. She used to always say that you should “give people their flowers while they’re living.” Here are a dozen “flowers” for my mom. A Dozen Lessons I’ve learned through her example:

1.) Never look like what you’ve been through.

Growing up, I occassionally watched my mom have bad days and then go out into the world like nothing was wrong. I never understood why she would act so chipper on days when things weren’t going right. I now realize that she was making a choice not to let her pain dictate who she is. Just because you’ve had a bad day, doesn’t mean you have to look like a bad day.

2.) Never stop learning.

Since she’s been retired, my mother has taken guitar lessons, horseback riding lessons, and has taken up doll-making (among other things). No matter how old you are, how long you’ve been on the job or in the marriage – things don’t get mundane because of how long you’ve been there; they get mundane because you’ve exhausted the learning and the possibilities.

3.) Life is not always as complicated as we make it.

I have a very regimented routine for my face:

  • Step 1: cleanser (applied with cotton pad);
  • Step 2: toner (applied with cotton ball);
  • Step 3: moisturizer (which must contain SPF).
  • *Alternate weekly between facemasks and facial scrubs.
  • *Add in occasional steaming.

My mom’s routine?

  • A bar of soap and water. Period.

And her skin is more flawless than mine has ever been! While her simple soap and water routine never seems to do justice to my skin (of course I’ve tried it! Lol), it taught me sometimes simple can be better. Everything is not as complicated as we make it.

4.) Treat others the way you want to be treated.

Whether you own the building or you’re mopping the building floor, my mother consistently treats and speaks to people the way she wants to be treated and spoken to. Seeing this growing up taught me a valuable lesson in valuing people.

5.) You can enjoy and experience life on a budget.

As I got older and realized we weren’t the “ballers” I thought we were, lol, I wondered how my mom managed to create so many memories of zoo/museum outings, piano lessons, fun restaurants, family trips, etc. It’s because she took advantage of museum/zoo “free days.” It’s because she knew how to make large group trips with other close families seem like fun extended family getaways, instead of the more-people-to-chip-in-so-this-can-be-cheaper trips that they sometimes were. Despite financial limitations, my mom was resourceful and made sure that we experienced culture and life.

6.) Have a relationship with God.

My relationship with God gives me life, hope, and love. Although my relationship with God is my own, and may look quite different than my mom’s, that life-giving relationship exists because of her example.

7.) Sing like no one’s listening.

Randomly, throughout the week, my mother will sing. Not to me, not to my siblings, she will just sing – to herself, but loud enough to be heard. When I was younger, I thought it was weird, lol. As I get older (and find myself randomly singing around the house as well), I realize that this practice is kind of therapeutic. There is something healthy and spirit-lifting about having a song in your heart.

(Here’s one of the songs I remember my mom singing all the time. And it’s one of the ones I find myself singing now…)

8.) Never go out without lipstick, or whatever gives you that extra boost.

I’m not a big makeup person (although I’m slowly getting better thanks to Courtney ;-)), so for me it’s earrings. You will never catch me outside of my house without earrings! Lol. Whatever that thing is that makes you feel a little bit more confident/more beautiful, don’t leave home without it. You’ll feel better and walk taller.

9.) Never let anyone run you out of your home.

When I was nine years old, I was attacked by a man while walking to a neighbor’s house. By the grace of God his plans to rape me were interrupted just in time. But of course after that incident, I was afraid beyond consolation. Because of my fear, I begged my mother to let me live with my grandparents; she wouldn’t let me. In her eyes, home – with my parents – was where I belonged. Now whether or not she should have acquiesced is a matter of opinion. What I do know is that from that experience, I learned never to allow anyone (or any fear) to run you out of the place you are meant to be.

10.) You don’t have to spend a lot of money to show people you love them.

When I was away at school, my mom mailed me a post-it note, paper clipped to a few heart-shaped stickers. These stickers were nothing fancy, and looked like the kind that you get free in the mail when organizations solicit you for donations. If she paid for them, I’m pretty sure it wasn’t more than $1. Her note read: “9-6-2000. Hi- These may bring a smile to your beautiful face. Love you, Mom.” 12 years later, these cheap stickers and post-it note are still on my desk. Never under estimate the “little things.”

11.) Do what you think is right.

As much as I love my mom, I’m quite clear on the fact that she’s not perfect (sorry mom!😉 ). I’ll even admit that I don’t agree with every decision she’s ever made. But my respect for her lies largely in the fact that I wholeheartedly believe that even in the times when I didn’t agree with her, she did what she believed was the right thing to do at the time.

12.) Teach by example.

Of these lessons from my mother that I just shared, not one of them was ever spoken to me. Most of what I learned from my mother, I learned from watching her. Remember: People pay way more attention to what you do than to what you say.

Thanks for being a great example, Ma!🙂

Be Your Own GPS

I recently had a conversation with an old friend who was appalled to learn that I couldn’t really read a road map. I mean, when I go on vacations, and need to navigate a few sightseeing streets on foot, I can figure it out. But taking a road trip and depending on a map to get me there? “Fahgetaboutit!”

My argument: “I can mapquest directions or call a friend with a GPS on their phone if I get lost. Reading a road map is antiquated (and, in my opinion complicated). I have no interest.”

His argument: “What if the way you mapquest has a detour? What if you lose the directions you printed? What if you can’t reach a friend with a smartphone? You need access to more than one way to get where you’re going.”

———-

A few days later, one of my BFFs and I were talking about how, as we get older, life seems to be largely about learning to navigate the unexpected detours. It made me think about that John Lennon quote:

Life is what happens when you’re busy making plans.”

You know “life,” right? It can often mask itself as a divorce, an unexpected illness, a layoff, a pregnancy right in the middle of law school, or a $3,000 home repair needed right when your child’s tuition is due.

In undergrad, this BFF and I used to talk about how our lives would be by the time we were 30 (since at 19 years old, 30 seems like the age when you should have it all figured out! Ha!). According to 19-year-old me, as I type these words, I’m supposed to have a husband, two children, and a published book under my belt. At that time, I thought that was the only route to a fulfilling life.

Talk about a “detour!” Lol! I am husband-less, I struggled to take care of a cat a few years ago, and my book is still in piecemeal form scattered across various journals, notebooks and Word document files on my computer. Lol.

This route to a fulfilling life looks nothing like I thought it would when I was 19! Lol. But my destination remains clear, and I must still figure out how to get to that destination – “detours” and all.

Instead of pining over not having a husband, I have learned to appreciate the travel, freedom and adventure in single life. Instead of wondering when the babies will come, I’m enjoying the fact that I can be selfish without guilt! Lol. Instead of beating myself up about not having published a book yet, I’m reorganizing my life so that there’s intentional writing time built into it.

As I mature, I learn more and more that life is not about planning so much as it is about learning how to adjust (and readjust) your plans. (Not an easy lesson for a woman who thinks everything should be planned.)

During the conversation with my BFF, I thought back to that map-reading conversation and I realized that even if just on an figurative level, my map-supporting friend was right: it is important to have the tools and skills to recalculate when we get thrown off course.

This is why so many people have a GPS system nowadays. By knowing 1) where you are, and 2) where you’re going, a GPS can figure and refigure about a million ways to get you to any given destination. It will start with the simplest/most efficient route, but even when you miss your stop or make a wrong turn, the GPS will recalculate and still find a way to get you there.

I first experienced this years ago in the car with my brother. We were on an expressway somewhere outside of Los Angeles, and he accidentally passed his exit ramp. Just when my nerves got bad because the extremist in me concluded that we’d now be lost forever, lol, his GPS said, “recalculating.” A few seconds later, it gave us a new route. It took a little longer than the first route, but it got us to our destination.

The value in a GPS is not simply that it knows how to get you somewhere. Its value lies in the fact that it knows endless ways to get you somewhere – regardless of where you find yourself.

So it is with our value to ourselves. We are most valuable to ourselves, our goals, and our purpose when we are able to re-adjust, re-chart and re-calculate forward – even when we’ve been detoured.

Too many times I’ve seen people mistake detours for dead ends. Detours are not the end of our journey; detours always provide alternate routes. We can’t just set up shop at the detour! It’s not meant to be the end of the journey. We must figure out another way to get there.

  • Are you stuck at a place that was merely a detour?
  • Have you lost sight of what your end destination is really supposed to be?

Take some time this week to “recalculate.” And if you’re not there already, figure out a new route to get where you’re really purposed to be.

As for me? I’m off to call my map-supporting friend to tell him that he was right. I guess the next step is to let him teach me how to read a road map…

Do It Afraid

Exhibit A: Years ago, I placed an “intruder” call to 9-1-1, after hearing a loud thump in my house. The noisemaker ended up being a sack of potatoes that had fallen from the counter to the floor. (True story, lol.)

Exhibit B: More recently, I called my mother because I needed help getting rid of a huge bug on my closet floor. After 45 minutes of strategizing a plan for getting rid of the critter, I realized that it was merely a piece of a plastic. (Embarrassingly, also a true story, lol.)

If you know me personally, you know that I can be a scaredy cat. If you don’t know me personally, I present to you Exhibits A & B: I can be a scaredy cat. Lol. Now that we’re all equally informed, let’s fast forward to my decision to jump out of a plane 13,500 feet in the air…

I had recently turned 30 and had decided that I needed to do something big. I had also been trying to overcome a few fears, and being the extremist that I am, I decided that the only way to conquer fear was to do the scariest thing out there: skydive. (I know there are a lot of other things between total fear and jumping out of an airplane, but I have a hard time with gray areas, lol).

The weeks and days leading up to the skydiving date, I still hadn’t fully decided whether or not I would do it. On the actual day of the jump, I told my skydiving group to leave without me. I wasn’t feeling well, nor was I sure that I was ready to do it. But after they got on the road, I remembered all the conversations I’d been having with myself about fear, and something told me to just do it afraid.

So I called the group, told them I was 30 minutes behind them (it was about a 90-minute drive), and I hopped in my car. It wasn’t so much about the skydiving at this point, but about what it represented for me. See, every time I’m afraid of something, I usually just don’t do it. I walk the other way and never face it. So to not even go to the skydiving site was repeating the same behavior I‘d been trying to conquer.

Once at the site (and after a 90-minute talk with Jesus in my car, lol), I’d resolved not to think about it anymore, but to just go forward with it. To do it afraid. But once that plane started going up and I realized my only way out was to jump, I froze.

When the doors opened, I heard my skydiving instructor, Bill, give the cue that we’d gone over in the pre-jump safety course: “One, two, three.” I didn’t move, nor did I plan to. After his 2nd count, I decided to move. Not to jump, but to grab the overhead bars inside the plane. That way I’d be sure that my body did not exit the plane. I told Bill (very seriously) that I’d prefer to just ride back down with the pilot. Luckily (and maybe unluckily), before we went up, I told Bill that I wanted to overcome the fear, so he politely ignored my suggestion.

I kept hearing, “do it afraid.”

And I realized in that moment that not only was I holding up my own progress, but there were 4 ladies behind me, waiting their turn. A lot of times our fear not only paralyzes us, it causes us to paralyze others.

So I decided to let go of the pole. I have to admit that I wasn’t brave enough to actually jump; I was only brave enough to let go of the pole. My letting go was my indication to Bill that if he nudged me, I’d go.

Sometimes that’s all it takes: letting go. Once you let go of the fear, you may find that God and the universe will gently nudge you into the next steps.

When people see my skydiving pictures, they call me brave and courageous. I’ve never considered myself the brave type. I cover my eyes during scary movies, and I sleep with a nightlight if I hear one too many noises in my building. But I’m starting to realize that I am indeed brave and courageous. Not because I’m any less scared, but because I’m slowly stepping out and doing the things that freak me out.

“Courage is not the absence of fear. That idea is the biggest BS in the world. Fear is impossible to eradicate. If you were completely fearless, you’d be dead. People who are courageous are scared to the core—they just make themselves go forward anyway; they make themselves take some kind of action. Taking action, even though you’re afraid, is how you become courageous—because courage, like fear, is a habit. The more you do it, the more you do it, and this habit—of stepping up, of taking action—more than anything else, will move you in a different direction.” (Tony Robbins)

Many children are afraid on their first day of school, but their parents don’t let them stay home. They make them go. Only once the child faces the fear, and goes to school afraid does s/he see that it’s not so scary.

When new parents are afraid of becoming new parents, they don’t get to leave the baby in until they’re ready. After 9 months, ready or not, new parents are forced to do it afraid. It’s not until they’re in it that they realize that it’s not so scary. (Or maybe it is, I don’t know, I don’t have children, but you get my point. Lol.)

So whether it’s learning to swim, or starting a business, please stop waiting for the fear to leave you. That may never happen. Oftentimes you have to simply do it afraid.

I was forced to make a pretty tough decision this week.

One hour I was 100% convinced that Option A was the right decision. The next hour I was equally convinced that Option B was the way to go. I went back and forth weighing the pros and cons of both options, trying to predict what the future would look like with each choice.

After that didn’t yield the clear answer I was hoping for, I spent the next few days doing the following:

  • I called my sister. I trust her decision-making, so I wanted her to decide for me. (Of course, since she’s such a good decision-maker, she decided not to make my decision for me. A good practice on her part, but sucked for me! Lol).
  • I called a girlfriend; she took the same approach as my sister.
  • I turned to my faithful friend, Google. I figured I’d find a discussion board or article about the topic, and let that guide my decision.
  • I prayed for God to show me the right decision.
  • I consulted my bookshelf, looking for a book that may provide some insight on the topic. No luck.

As hours – and then days – passed, I was having the same seesaw scene in my head. I realized that the fear of making the wrong decision had stopped me from moving forward with a decision at all. I was stuck.

In my frustration that all of the above efforts didn’t bring me any closer to a decision, I remembered a powerful statement about decision-making. I don’t remember it verbatim, but the gist was: the key to making a decision is making a decision. It sounds simple, but as my example above shows, we often get so stuck in the choosing process – the fork in the road – that we never actually choose and move forward.

Of course I get the importance of making the right life decisions (my back and forth process above shows that, lol), but I also understand 2 things:

  1. living life is about learning (from successes and failures), and
  2. living life is about living – about moving forward.

The above two philosophies support the theory that at some point in the decision-making process, deciding is key.

According to Wikipedia’s “Decision Making” page, to help us get to the point of decision, we often use some of the following techniques:

  • Pros and Cons: Listing the advantages and disadvantages of each option
  • Satisficing: Examining alternatives only until an acceptable one is found
  • Acquiescing to a person in authority/just following orders
  • Flipism: Flipping a coin (or some other random/coincidence method)
  • Prayer, tarot cards, astrology, meditation, or other forms of divination
  • Seeking advice from others
  • Opportunity cost: calculating the opportunity cost of each option

There are a lot of theories and schools of thought on the decision-making process. And in doing some very basic research on the topic, every single theory I found always included an action step. They all suggested that no matter the method, at some point, we must get to the point of making the decision.

There are a lot of things that keep us from actually deciding. For me, it’s perfectionism. I’d rather not do anything than to do something imperfectly. For others it may be fear, outside opinions, lack of confidence, not enough information, too much information, etc. Regardless of the barricade, at some point, a decision must be made (if we want to move forward).

I am a praying person, and while I recognize that this is not everyone’s practice, I’m often praying for God’s direction. Sometimes, I hear it loud and clear. But since I believe that God has given me free will, I have come to understand that He is not in the business of living my life for me. While I’m waiting for Him to tell me exactly what to do, He’s waiting for me to use the wisdom and resources that He’s given me to do something. And, it is His promise, to be there to walk with me as (and after) I choose. Simply put, while I’m waiting on Him to move, He’s often waiting on me to move.

While I don’t advise that we act in haste, I do advise that we act. We will never know every single “right” thing to do in life. Life is composed of the decisions we make, and the corresponding results. And if we make the “wrong” decision, we trust that there is a lesson, a chance to alter our decision, and/or the option to make a better decision next time.

Yes, you must count the cost, use wisdom, weigh the odds, be objective, know your options, have clear expectations, and be prepared for consequences. But sometimes you’ll never know the right decision until you decide. And often times, there is no right or wrong decision at all, there is simply a decision that is best (or not best) for us.

They say that hindsight is always 20/20; “hindsight” literally means looking back. We can’t look back on something that we’re still sitting in. So make a decision and move forward. We don’t know what will happen in life until we live it.

Remember: “even if you are on the right track, you will get run over if you just sit there.” (-Will Rogers)

I’ll leave you with this song, from one of my all-time favorite artists. It came to mind this week and was very helpful as I was trying to decide which road to choose:

“We teach people how to treat us; be careful of the lessons you give.”

This was my Facebook status a few days ago, and it seemed to resonate with many of my Facebook friends. I actually grew to learn this lesson some years back, and was very recently reminded of its truth.

Although I’m not a huge Dr. Phil fan, (sorry,😐 Lol), I wholeheartedly agree with his admonition on this subject:

You either teach people to treat you with dignity and respect, or you don’t. This means you are partly responsible for the [repeated] mistreatment that you get at the hands of someone else. You shape others’ behavior when you teach them what they can get away with and what they cannot.”

My lack of understanding this concept when I was younger, resulted in me accepting what should have been pretty unacceptable behavior from people. As I grew older and began to look at the mistreatment I’d received (in romantic relationships, friendships, work relationships, etc.,), I was able to identify ways in which I taught people that I would accept unacceptable behavior.

I can recall an old boyfriend who repeatedly disrespected our relationship. But because I wanted to forgive and give him (and our relationship) another chance, I agreed to stay, with virtually no consequences to his actions. And like clockwork, every few months, this same disrespectful behavior happened again. At the time, I couldn’t understand it: “Shouldn’t he be so grateful to me that I forgave him with no consequences, that he would never do that disrespectful thing to me again?” Quite the contrary, it’s because there were no consequences that he was taught that it was acceptable behavior.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I believe that forgiveness is a very necessary part of our emotional health. But, in my opinion, forgiving it, and taking it are two totally different things. If we are disrespected, mistreated, put in harm’s way, or disregarded, we must choose how to respond to that mistreatment. And whatever choice we make, sets the precedent and teaches that person what they can and cannot do to us.

I’ve also faced this situation with friends. Friends who were emotionally draining, financially draining, or disrespectful of my time/space. At times I would think, “why does she always dump her problems on me, but is never there when I need an ear?” Or, “why am I always the one she comes to when she needs money?” I realized later that the reason was simple: because I taught her that she could.

Inherent in my compliance, was acceptance. Whether I complied by always being there, always loaning the money, or saying nothing at all, I was teaching that I accepted this kind of treatment. And until I changed my acceptance level, I kept getting the same thing.

People do to you exactly what you allow.

Let’s look at this in a very simple and practical setting: You work a 9-to-5 job, and your friend doesn’t. She calls you almost everyday – during the middle of your workday – to talk about absolutely nothing. You’re frustrated but you keep answering the phone. Well, as long you keep answering, you’re teaching her that, “even though I have a 9-to-5, it’s OK for you to call me in the middle of the day to talk about nothing.” If you stop answering between 9am and 5pm, eventually she’s going to learn not to randomly call you during that time. (And if you’re wondering, yes, I have actually tried this one! It works. Lol😉 )

According to my bff, Dr Phil, if the people in your life treat you in an undesirable way, you have to figure out what you are doing to reinforce, elicit or allow that treatment. For example, when people are aggressive, bossy or controlling toward you — and they still get their way — you have essentially rewarded them for unacceptable behavior.

Take some time to think about how people in your life are treating you. What standards are you accepting right now? If anyone is treating you poorly, pay attention to what message you’re giving them about that behavior.

Commit to teaching people how to treat you, and make sure the lessons are clear.

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