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The One Thing that Separates Loved Ones From Strangers

 

A few years ago I frequently took the GO train to downtown Toronto for work. It was mostly a pleasant ride. However, this one lady would push everyone in her frenzy to disembark every time the train pulled into Union Station. Mostly I stayed out of it but one day, she pushed me. I decided to call her out on it. Right there, on the platform, she started screaming out threats about pushing me down the stairs. A security guard caught my eye and came over. We explained the situation to him with several other passengers confirming that this lady had been very aggressive for the past few weeks. The security guard let her go with a warning. That lady was a total stranger. My only concern in this situation was to speak out against her aggression and do what I thought was “right” in defending myself. I did not care at all about whether our relationship would suffer as a result of my speaking out.

In contrast, when I moved to a new country, I saw a lot of things that were not “right”. Living with five other people, conflict was both healthy and inevitable. The difference was that I actually cared about my relationship with these people. So I had to force myself to look past huge hurdles like emotional extremes, power imbalances and a starkly different worldview and find a way to get along with them. I learned an important lesson – from siblings to parents to spouses to kids, our closest relationships are the trickiest to handle.

Strangers VS Loved Ones

When it comes to our closest relationships, unresolved conflicts can lead to an ongoing skirmishes and resentment. When this everyday stress becomes pervasive, it not only damages your relationship and self-esteem but also robs you of a potentially powerful support system (your loved ones). Conflict with people you care about is very different form conflict with people who are transient in your life like the cashier at your local drugstore or the rude lady pushing you on your commute to work.

Conflict with loved ones is trickier to handle because we usually DO care about our relationship enough to want to make it last. It is also likely that your affection for your loved one(s) compels you to keep their best interests in mind. So mutual trust and affection are essential to establishing and maintaining healthy long term relationships. However, in times of conflict, mutual understanding is the first facet of your relationship to be dismissed.

Impact of Different Conflict Management Styles

In a conflict situation with a loved one, your relationship will take the brunt of the damage especially if one of both of you are constantly minimizing the other person’s feelings. We have all fallen into patterns of aggression, lack of sensitivity or lack of courtesy in a domestic argument at one point or another. Unconsciously or even on purpose, we all tend to do it. However, not many of us are aware that these toxic patterns of interaction set up a dangerous power play dynamic – the effects of which can linger for a long time after the conflict has been resolved.

While displays of insensitivity, aggression and power struggles are damaging to your relationships with loved ones, avoidance of conflict is also equally, if not more damaging to your relationship. Always striving to smooth things over and please the other person inevitably breeds resentment if you are always bending over backwards for your loved one. Ironically, the family member you are trying to accommodate is simultaneously being conditioned to be selfish and insensitive to your preferences because you are always putting their needs ahead of yours. When this happens, the trust in your relationship is damaged as well as your own personal sense of self-worth. Rather than engaging in patterns of aggression or accommodation, an honest, respectful (both to yourself and to the other person) and non-manipulative approach can strengthen your relationship even in times of conflict.

However, in order to reach a respectful, honest and non-manipulative relationship dynamic, both parties need to do certain internal work first. Experts of often talk about open communication, negotiation and compromise but in order to act on these peace-keeping values, you need to create the emotional and mental space for them first. Here are some Do’s and Don’ts of overcoming conflict with your loved ones:

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Opportunity, Will-Power and the Key to Happiness

What would you do if you could wipe your life’s slate clean and start over?

What if every year, every month, everyday – even every moment, you were given a new gift to begin anew and avail yourself of the opportunity life presents to you?

While doing research for the first post of 2015 for Liftree, I came across a man who stopped me clean in my tracks with his philosophy. As I watched a TED talk on gratefulness by Brother David Steindl-Rast, something inside my tortured brain settled into place. Brought my negative thoughts to a screeching halt.

“Well, what if I could choose all these opportunities instead of hanging on to the failures?”  I asked myself.

The New Year is a time for partying, fun and rejuvenation. It is also a time for beginning anew. For planning out the year to come. Every year, like every moment is an opportunity you get to move yourself towards the things that you are so desperately hoping, wishing, praying for. What will you move towards in 2015?

I know you’re reflecting, reminiscing and introspecting as 2015 dawns. You’re thinking about 2014, the moments that made you feel alive, the moments where you thought you had failed. I know you’re also thinking about what you’re going to do in 2015 and how it will be different.

We know we are. 2014 was a big year for Liftree. After months of beta-testing, we got the website live, finalized branding and learned so many technical things, our heads were bursting. We took the scariest step of all – telling people about what we do. We told everyone we knew – friends, family, co-workers, relatives, even people we talked to only once in a while. Afraid to sound like shameless internet marketers, we pushed to make our content personal, relevant and useful. And the support we got in return was truly overwhelming. It motivated us to keep working hard. We set goals and took up ambitious projects. Made a few many mistakes. It’s been a journey filled with lessons, revelations and a labor of love.

The biggest lesson though, was that by making our failures spectacular and public, we stepped out from the shadow of fear and insecurity and embraced the unknown, embraced the judgement we imagined, embraced the embarrassing moments. Most surprising of all, the sky didn’t crack and fall over. Guess the world doesn’t hinge on our successes and failures after all. In the grand scheme of things, our personal successes and failures are small and inconsequential –  a fact that is both humbling and emboldening.

Speaking of inconsequential mistakes…

Think of something that you left undone in the past year. Something that you never got to finish properly, to execute the way you wanted, or to do differently. The New Year, and in fact, every new moment in your life is a chance at a do over. Consider this story:

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[quote align=”center” color=”#999999″]Remember to put your Glass Down [/quote]

The beauty of life is that whether you’re 9 or 90, it is never too late to put the glass down. It is never too late to make the most of the opportunity that every consecutive moment presents you with. This “gift within a gift” – the gift of opportunity inherent in every moment we live –  is a powerful catalyst for changing your life.

It is our Choices…

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So how do you use these *apparently* abundant opportunities. How do you enjoy yourself to the fullest even in the difficult and frustrating moments. By choosing. Every given moment, every new turn of the page in the book of our life is a choice. And the choices we make, with actions, our words, but most of all with our thoughts, make up the bulk of our life and who we are. So choose in the new year. Make choices that reflect where you want to go. Make audacious choices. Make unexpected choices. Most importantly, Make authentic choices that reflect who you are.

Simple-Life-Manifesto

So when you talk about mistakes, even if its just  a dialogue in your head, don’t just talk about the problems, talk about where yo are and where you want to be going. Talk about the resources you have and how they help you cope with your obstacles. Psychologists describe stress as the result of a perception that your coping resources are far less than the obstacles that you face.

Imagine if you had the ability everyday to take stock, of your resources vs stress and make a proactive plan to conquer them. I was reading Scott Duffy’s “Launch” the other day, and it struck me while reading that so many of the geniuses mentioned in his book were incredibly resourceful individuals. Let us take a moment to distinguish between ‘having resources’ and ‘being resourceful’. Successful people don’t always begin their journey equipped with the resources they need . Truly resourceful people have the remarkable ability to overcome overwhelming obstacles by getting creative in the way they use the limited resources they begin with.

So when you make mistakes, when you face severe limitations, don’t sweep them under the rug. Get creative with them. We beat ourselves over the head with our iPads constantly last year every time we missed a scheduled Liftree post. Then, we realized that other people were facing the same thing too. Take a look at the following excerpt from a blog post by Tim Urban of Wait But Why:

[quote align=”center” color=”#999999″]“So I figured the least I could do is be transparent about what’s happening on my end while the readers who care most are checking the site each week, not knowing what to expect. I also wanted to make entirely clear that my posting habits are never me just casually skipping the deadline because I don’t care about my promises.”[/quote]

If people like Tim Urban with a huge readership stumble from time to time, what chance do we have on a little website like Liftree, organically-manned by the two of us? The energy we spent beating ourselves up into a shrivelled, purple ball of guilt, we could have channelled into moving forward and rectifying our mistakes, enjoying the learning process and achieving our goals. We decided to get creative too.

In 2015, we decided to post less frequently (about 4 per month), more longer (2000 words per post) and absolutely high quality, well-researched content.

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Picture this:

What if you were able to experience every mistake as an opportunity. What if all your failures seized to be failures and became stepping stones instead what if you could reach out take whatever it is that you wanted and it is yours for the taking. When you except the opportunity that is inherent in every moment and every situation that you live you will be able to do just that.

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A thousand reasons to seek failure…

A friend of mine from college used to be a heavy smoker. Every time we had to enter the underground subway, she would stop for a smoke outside the entrance. She would NEED a smoke even if logically she knew she would be getting the next one in a little under 15 minutes. Shed tried to quit multiple times slowly reducing her cigarettes per day. For years, she desperately tried to kick the smoking habit. Over and over. Every time she failed, her hopes were dashed. She beat herself up incessantly. She’s the last person I thought would ever quit.

One summer, I caught up with her at a reunion. She told me she’d been clean for a year. Not only had she not smoked for a year, she’d done it cold turkey. Shocked, stunned and bewildered, I asked her how that was even possible. She just shrugged and said I’d reached my tipping point. Every one of us has a tipping point. Every time you do something, an action, a skill, take up a project, pursue a dream or ditch a bad habit – your will gets stronger. Every failure paves the way for success and there’s a simple reason why. By the time we succeed, we’ve effectively figured out all the ways which don’t work, so that over time, we are able to follow the perfect sequence of events to our success, sometimes without even realizing because we’ve gotten so used to putting in the effort and expecting failure.

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Opportunity and will-power

People think will power is what makes great leaders, thinkers, achievers. That’s partially true. However, I want you to critically examine the concept of will power. Most of us see will power as something hard-headed people possess, holding it strong like a medieval fortress against the stress, hassles and burdens of everyday life. If only life was that uncomplicated. In the three years since my life has changed 360 degrees, I had a lot of time to think, ponder and introspect. It was a sabbatical of sorts. I’ve had an abundance of opportunities to exercise will power, experiment with it and practice it. I’ve tried using it in the traditional sense. I’ve tried screaming like a barbarian every time someone impinged on my free will. I’ve tried persevering with my words and actions in a bull headed way, without a care for negotiation. I’ve tried holding strong against the barrage of everyday life. I’ve tried the oppositee end of the spectrum too – completely giving in, letting others guide the agenda of my days. I’ve even tried surrendering to the will of my two year old, to see if that improves my life and allows me to live it more consciously. None of it did. I read books, listened to talks, had intense conversations with friends, family and my spouse of what lifestyle design, free-will, personal independence and human interactions.

Over and over, I encountered anecdotal, quantitative and experiential evidence to show that having the  ‘will’ to see something through is quite unlike the Boston marathon or a <name medieval> siege. It is like a series of sprints along the continuum of life. Through the days, months and years of activities that shape our lives.

They say that will power decreases towards the end of the day. Many of us grew up with the notion that you have to fight tooth and nail to maintain an iron will throughout the day, and your life in order to succeed. I urge you to look at an alternate explanation. A kinder, gentler and definitely more doable one:

Exercising will power is like refuelling, repairing and making skilled adjustments at a pit stop in a NASCAR race. That is the sane way, the ONLY way to do it. If try to make it on mental steam alone, if you try to run the car on “will power” – no matter how much mental steel you possess, you aren’t going to be winning any race.

How to own 2015

This year, resolve to work WITH yourself. With your limitations, your shortcomings, your psychic baggage. You have been given this moment, this gift, this opportunity but there’s a catch. You only have the resources you are provided. How will you innovate this year? How will you make the most of the life that you have RIGHT NOW? Forget the “what if”, the “if only”, the “after I”. Start now with what you have. Choose now to make the most of the opportunity given you in every moment of this year.

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You have 31,558,150 opportunities this year.

How are you using the opportunity you are in right now?