The 3 C’s of Personal Transformation…John Page Burton

Let’s face it, unless we are completely checked out, our lives are in a state of constant transformation. Transformation is defined as a marked change in appearance or character, usually for the better. Simply put, transformation begins at birth and continues until death. The most common areas in which people experience the greatest transformation include health, finances, career and relationships. Beliefs, rules, values, circle of influence and lifestyle can all be contributing factors in our transformation process. Many of us continue to repeat behavioral patterns that leave us feeling frustrated and stuck. Being in emotional or physical pain is usually an indication that it is time for a significant course correction. Some of our more painful behavioral patterns involve food, work and relationships. When we don’t like how we feel, who we have become, or where we are going, we are ready to enter the “transformation zone”.

Once we have stepped into the “transformation zone” we must be willing to embrace and take ownership of the 3 C’s

Choices. The overall quality of our lives is a direct result of the choices we make. It is important to make choices that are congruent with our values and beliefs. We must be willing to take personal responsibility for all of our choices. Knowing that we are solely responsible for the outcome of our choices should be a great incentive to take the time to think things through. Most of use are where we are today due to the choices we have made. This is a very profound awareness. Fulfilling life=good choices. Frustrating life=poor choices.

Change. The one certainty in life is that things will change. Health, career, finances and relationships will all change form. When our career, health or relationship no longer serves our greater good we must be willing to make a change. I was recently retained by a client who was 50 pounds overweight, hated her job and was fearful that her husband of 25 years would have an affair due to her lack of self esteem. During our initial conversation it became clear that she feared change, yet everything around her was changing due to the “poor choices” she was continuing to make. Once she was able to recognize the compounding effect her choices were having on her overall quality of life, we were able to create a turn around strategy designed to take her out of her comfort zone, allowing her to face and embrace the areas in her life where change was needed. As of this writing, she has lost 30 lbs, found a more rewarding job and has re-kindled the spark in her marriage. Better choices=rewarding life!

Challenges. We must accept that challenges are necessary for our growth. Facing our challenges and then challenging ourselves to find solutions that will enable us to rise above them are critical actions in the personal transformation process. The above mentioned client was initially resistant to change. She was an emotional eater who justified her work choice by telling herself that she was the only person who could effectively do the job she hated. She then manufactured a story of her husband’s potential infidelity that was based entirely on her own insecurity and self loathing. Once she accepted the challenge to release her weight, find a more rewarding career and initiate more intimacy with her husband she effectively put the wheels in motion for a life changing personal transformation.

Whenever we find ourselves feeling uncomfortable, it means that it is time for us to stretch and grow. Change is made possible by challenging ourselves to make better choices.

As always, I look forward to your thoughts and feedback.

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Communicating with “Bully Kids”…John Page Burton

Last week I watched as a national news story unfolded involving two 12 year old Florida girls who were arrested and charged with “stalking” another girl who subsequently died of injuries sustained from jumping off of a construction tower. The 12 year old that chose to end her life was a victim of intense bullying. The arresting officers characterized one of the “stalkers” as being “unfeeling and cold”. Labeling this dysfunctional behavior as “stalking” or “bullying” is a matter of semantics as we are seeing more deaths that are the direct result of bullying. A new tactic, “Cyber Bullying”, takes the act of bullying from the school playground to a potential world wide audience. The more heinous the bullying becomes, the greater the odds are that the act will go viral. Understandably, this type of exposure is far more than most young adults are equipped to handle and many choose to take their own lives.

Bullying has always been an integral part of the childhood experience. Most of us were either a perpetrator or the victim. Growing up as the son of a school principal, I experienced my fair share of bullying. To this day I have  a “no tolerance policy” toward bullies. In many cases “bully behavior” transcends into adulthood. I recently experienced an incident of “adult bullying” that came in the form of road rage. I am a firm believer that bullying is a learned behavior. Bullying is a fear based emotion whereby the bully adheres to the tenet “I will inflict pain on you in order to deflect the emotional pain I am feeling”. Bullies tend to align themselves with and seek approval from other wounded people. Together, they form a type of “pack” and set out to inflict emotional and physical pain on the perceived weaker members of the community . Adult bullying is not as “public” in nature but is equally destructive. It shows up in relationships, marriage, the workplace and as stated earlier, even on the open roads! As long as the bully believes they are getting the results they desire, their behavior will continue. As parents it is important to be mindful of “bullying” traits in our children and not be afraid to address the behavior when it presents itself. Remember, there is a distinct difference between “kids just being kids” and children who are using bully tactics in a cruel, insensitive or life threatening manner. We should be grooming our next generation to be compassionate people who recognize and accept the differences in others.

The definition of bullying…”Bullying is the use of force, threat or coercion to abuse, intimidate or aggressively impose domination over others”.  Sounds quite Mafioso to me!

Let’s take a closer look at the word “bully” and begin seeking ways that parents, teachers and other people of influence can interrupt this dysfunctional behavior pattern before it becomes problematic for the children involved. *It is important to remember that bullying is an often repeated behavior that quickly becomes a habit. We must also be willing to examine the areas in our lives where we may be employing bully tactics. They can be quite subtle yet destructive. When adults employ bully tactics, we effectively teach our kids that bullying is an acceptable form of behavior.

B-Belief. Bullies believe they hold power over and have gained the respect of their victims. This is a false illusion. The bully is getting an emotional fix and the victim has nothing but contempt for the bully. Similar to other addictive behaviors, as long as the bully is able to satisfy their craving for approval and attention, their behavior will continue. This is precisely why bullies rarely “work alone”. Once we have identified bullying behavior in our children we must encourage them to re-direct their energy into a more productive activity such as sports or the performing arts. This will also allow them to continue to get the approval and attention they desire without causing emotional or physical harm to others. This is a win-win. The most effective way to learn what is driving a bullies behavior is to open a dialogue, ask questions and listen to the answers from a non-judgmental place. Remember, bullying is a fear based action.

U-Unhealed. Bullies are wounded! They are acting out on their emotional pain. Having never healed emotionally or mentally we may carry our “bully behavior” into adulthood. As a parent when we sense that something doesn’t seem right, the time to act is NOW. As parents it can be easy for us to dismiss certain behaviors as “part of growing up” or even worse, tuning out certain behavior in the hope that it will go away. The emotional pain a child is experiencing may have nothing to do with their home life but rather something that is going on outside the home. For example, they may be a victim of bullying. As parents, we must pay attention to our children’s behavior and not be afraid to ask questions. We are the parent, not the child’s best friend. Emotionally healthy children don’t bully others. Unresolved emotional pain carries into adulthood and is passed on to the next generation.

L-Love. When we don’t love ourselves it is difficult to show compassion and love for others. When we encourage our children to express unconditional love toward others we are taking the important first steps toward preventing bully behavior in our children. When we teach our children that everyone is born under different circumstances and many will experience extreme challenges, we are effectively teaching compassion. In order to share this message we must engage in an active, on going dialogue with our kids. When bullying behavior surfaces, we can calmly open a dialogue that teaches the tenets of love and compassion.

L-Limiting. Bullying is a limiting behavior. Nobody enjoys being bullied and most of us will do just about anything to stay clear of those who employ bully tactics. When we teach our children that bullying is not the way to win friends and influence people and that attempting to get our way through bully tactics will never contribute to producing any meaningful results in our lives, we are planting the seeds for an expanded, healthy, world view. Introducing and enrolling our children into empowering activities is also a great counter balance to what I commonly refer to as the “cyber socialization” of our children.

Y-Yellow. The informal definition of yellow is to be cowardly in ones nature. The bully is afraid in a manner that keeps them from doing the right thing. When we teach our children that being a bully is not a courageous act but rather an act of cowardice we are planting seeds of disapproval for this type of behavior. Starting at an early age, we must routinely share examples of what it means to be a truly courageous person and encourage our children to strive to become this. When we teach and reward courage we are effectively planting seeds of approval for this type of behavior.

In summation, it is important to recognize that posturing for position is an important part of the childhood experience. There will be children that are more popular, more athletically gifted, more academically gifted and more socially gifted than others and there will be kids who will employ bullying and intimidation tactics to secure their corner of the playground. It is our job as parents to make sure that our children have a deeper understanding of what it really means to be a bully. The only way this will happen is through awareness and communication. I don’t want to see anymore kids end their life because someone who is seeking approval chooses to disapprove of them. It makes no sense to me.

As always, I welcome your thoughts and feedback.

Living A NOW O’CLOCK Mindset…John Page Burton

Life is not a dress rehearsal, this is it, one trip through. The purpose of a dress rehearsal is to work out the kinks in a performance. If something in a script or musical arrangement isn’t flowing properly, the director or composer simply requests “do overs” until it is right. If it still isn’t flowing properly, it can be written out completely and replaced with something that works much better. I can’t speak for you, but there have been numerous times in my life that I would have enjoyed tapping into my data base of hindsight and “done something over”.

In real life we don’t get an opportunity for “do overs”. We do however, have an opportunity to change or modify our future behavior based on the intelligence we have gained through our past experiences. This process is often referred to as “the school of hard knocks”. It is currently NOW O’ CLOCK and none of us know the date and time when we will experience our final curtain call. How do we intend to make the most of today? How do we choose to be in relationship with others? Are we living in the present or somewhere in the past or future? Here are a few considerations for living in a NOW O’ CLOCK  mindset.

Be present. Many of us spend so much time “doing” that we never get around to “BEING”. As my friend Crystal Horton so eloquently stated in a recent blog post…”we get so caught up in the details of the moment, that we miss the essence of that same moment”. How many of us get so caught up in making sure that everything is perfect at “the party” that we end up missing out on the opportunity to interact with our guests? The “party” metaphor provides a good example of how many of us have chosen to play the game of life. When we live in a NOW O’ CLOCK mindset we recognize the value of creating the time and space that permits us to interact on an emotional level with those we love and care about.

Bucket list. “When I retire I am going to take a trip around the world”. “Someday I am going to take up fly fishing”. “After I get all of the kids through college I am going to buy a 67′ Corvette and cruise the open roads”. Tomorrow may never come, NOW is the time to accomplish the things we desire to do. For many of us it isn’t about the money, it is about giving ourselves permission to reward ourselves as we move through life. Establishing and going after our “bucket list” activities while we are healthy enough to enjoy them, is a great way to honor ourselves and our efforts.

Expand the mind. “An expanded mind never returns to it’s original size”. Upon graduation from high school or college many of us left our learning habits behind. I am a firm believer that a person’s quality of life is greatly enhanced by their thirst for knowledge. Learning keeps our mind sharp and it opens doors of communication and friendship with other like minded people. Mastermind groups, book clubs, travel clubs and industry associations are great resources for expanding our mind. NOW is the time to keep learning and growing!

Taking risks. Playing it safe will never allow us to create a legacy. “He played it safe and never failed” is not what I desire to be written on my tombstone. “He played hard, took risks and made a difference” is what I desire mine to read. I am not an advocate of reckless behavior but I am a firm believer in the personal power that comes from leaving our comfort zone. When we live in a NOW O’ CLOCK mindset we are empowered to go after our goals and dreams in a focused, committed manner because we recognize that time is of the essence.

Prioritize. Many of us have such a long “to do” list that we never get anything done. Here is a helpful tip. Each day, make a list of the top 3-5 things that you must accomplish in your business or career and don’t add anything else until these tasks have been completed. Make another list of the top 3-5 things that you need to accomplish in your personal life. Again, don’t add anything else until these tasks have been completed. Some of us are so concerned with meeting everyone else’s needs that we fail to meet our own. Many of us have spent far too much of our hard earned money helping “wayward” friends and family members and as a consequence we fell short on meeting our financial obligations. We must learn to put OUR obligations first and quit apologizing! I truly believe that givers gain, however, we must remember to pay ourselves first.

When we live in a NOW O’ CLOCK mindset we are aware that every day counts and that it is our responsibility to make the most of it! We are not putting off until tomorrow (or next year) what we can accomplish NOW. Our time is valuable, our interactions with friends and family are precious, we are eager to soak up as much knowledge as possible and we have a burning desire to take full advantage of all of the amazing sights and opportunities our creator has provided for us to experience. There truly is no time quite like the NOW.

As always, I look forward to your thoughts and feedback.

Making Peace With Our Departed Parents…John Page Burton

I clearly remember chasing her down the street, the snow stinging my eyes, tears freezing my cheeks, my heart pounding out of my chest all while listening to her desperate screams.  For many years I was haunted by the image of my mother, scantly clad in her nightgown, running from her demons though a snowstorm at 2am. I wanted nothing more than to stop her, bring her in out of the cold and somehow make her terrible nightmare end. It wasn’t a dream, I was ten years old and this was reality. I vividly remember watching a neighbor peek out her bedroom window, a blank look on her face, she was clearly disturbed by what she was seeing but was unwilling to help me. The next day when I saw this neighbor, we exchanged pleasantries but not a word about that event (or others like it) was ever spoken. Two years later my mother was admitted to a psychiatric hospital and I was admitted to a private school in the mid west. At age 12 my childhood as I knew it, had come to an abrupt end.

My parents divorced my freshman year of college. Throughout my college years and well into my thirties, I routinely attempted to re-connect with my mother but our visits were always dominated by her “hate speak” directed toward my father. I patiently listened for hours knowing full well that if I defended him or attempted to change the subject I would be asked to leave. Over time, my cravings for her companionship diminished due in large part to the profound realization that she had no real interest in my life. Eventually, she made a decision to remove me from her life entirely and we officially disconnected. Over the years, I would call her on her birthday or on Mothers Day only to hear her say, “you must have the wrong number, I don’t have a son”. I learned of her death two years after her passing, I was 49 years old. Her obituary (written by a “caretaker”) didn’t mention that she ever had a son but ironically a sentence was dedicated to the time she spent with my deceased father. “The wheels on the bus go round and round”…

For many years, I blamed my father for the disintegration of our little threesome. (I was an only child) Years later, by way of many heartfelt conversations I came to better understand my father and why he had chosen to remain in bed that snowy night and why he felt that sending me away was in the best interests of everyone involved. We were finally able to understand each other and offer forgiveness. During the final years of my fathers life, we became very good friends and I was by his side when he passed away in my home. During one of our final conversations he stated that “he wished we could have become much closer.” I smiled and thought, me to.

Today, I can appreciate my mothers journey as well as the dynamics of her mental health. I have a much greater understanding of what my mother brought from childhood into adulthood and just how confusing and painful it must have been to live inside her head. I understand the exhaustion and frustration my father felt as he watched his wife and my mother spiral into her own “hell on earth” experience. I have forgiven myself for the anger I carried with me for many years because of what I felt was my failure to protect my mom from her demons and keep her safe. As an adult it is easier for me to recognize that being only a few years removed from believing in Santa Clause, there was no way I could make sense of her illness let alone “fix” my “broken” mother. Today, I am at peace with both of my departed parents.

Many of us are still carrying around the same feelings of guilt, shame and failure that I felt. Some of us are still being controlled from the “grave” by parents we have not made our peace with. For many of us “the departed” still wield considerable power over us in the form of guilt. We lament the way things “should have been” and how we “let them down” etc. If this sounds familiar to you, it is time to make peace with the departed and move on. Here are 3 considerations that may be helpful in the peace making process.

*WE did the best we could under the circumstances. Most of us would do many things differently if given a second chance. Life is not a dress rehearsal, this is it. We don’t get a “do over” and therefore it is in our best interest to learn from our experiences and move forward. I work with a client who experienced a horrific childhood. Both of his parents betrayed him in a very cruel and unjust manner. He has carried around an anger that in the past has turned into an often destructive rage. My approach in working with him has centered around the fact that it was NOT his fault, he simply found himself in the cross hairs of extreme dysfunction. He can’t change what happened to him but he can change his relationship to it. In our work together, we focus on how he can take everything that has happened to him and make sure that it never happens to his children. He has powerful references on how NOT to treat children which will help to ensure that his children will receive everything emotionally (and more) that he failed to receive as a child. He is now beginning to turn his anger into love and in the process he is healing many of his childhood wounds. Children are dependent on adults to blaze a stable trail and sadly parental dysfunction can cause a tremendous amount of collateral damage.

*THEY did the best they could under the circumstances. Our parents did the best they could with what insight they had at the time. I am not making excuses for bad, abusive or violent behavior but the reality remains that this is how our parents functioned. If we have not made peace with our parents, chances are we are still carrying around a great deal of psychological baggage. Once we have forgiven ourselves it is time to free our parents. It was our parents job to help us not to harm us. We relied on them to “get their shit together” and they failed. When they pointed the finger at us and told us that it “was our fault” they were acting the way they were it was a lie they told us out of FEAR. Our parents often FEARED facing their own demons and so they took it out on those of us who were in the closest proximity. Abuse and dysfunction are learned behaviors that are often passed down from one generation to the next. WE can END this cycle of dysfunction by not repeating our parents behavior.. Through forgiveness we can begin making peace with our departed parents.

*Grace. Most of us are very good at beating ourselves up. We are our own biggest critics when we should be our own biggest fans! God has given each of us a plethora of life circumstances to learn and grow from. I will not pretend to understand why some people are presented with horrific life circumstances while others seemingly “skate through”. God has a plan. I will never know what my mom’s final thoughts were as her life came to an end. Like my father, did she also wish that we had been closer? Did she finally make peace with her demons and seek forgiveness? Grace allows us to experience peace in spite of not knowing or understanding the answers to these types of questions. Our parents played a very important role in shaping who we are today. The majority of our beliefs and perspectives are a direct result of their influence. Grace allows us to re-frame our beliefs and perspectives in a manner that doesn’t make our parents right or wrong. We understand that they did the best they could with what insight they had at the time and we are finally willing to let go of the anger and resentment that has kept us in emotional chains.

If you are still being controlled from “the grave” my hope is that you will find these insights helpful so that both you and the departed can truly R.I.P.

As always I look forward to your thoughts and feedback.

I Believe Jesus Would Embrace My Addiction…John Page Burton

We live in a society in which the vast majority of us are addicted to something that fails to support our long term well being. I like to refer to these as unhealthy addictions. Some of the most common unhealthy addictions include, work, drugs, alcohol, sex, exercise, food and gambling. All of these unhealthy addictions (including exercise) hold the potential to dramatically effect our quality of life as well as that of our family and friends. My heart aches every time I hear of a friend or family member who is suffering due to the controlling nature of an unhealthy addiction. Our friends over at Websters define an addiction as “the continued repetition of a behavior despite adverse consequences”. The “habit” forming component of an addiction is characterized by the immediate gratification we feel when we are getting our “fix”. “Just one more spin and I am certain to hit triple seven’s” is the common mindset of an addict. Physiological dependence is characterized by the addicts desperate need for more of something in order to satisfy increased tolerance levels. Using our gambling analogy, physiological dependence explains why a person can begin playing penny slots and eventually work their way up to $5 slots with little regard for how much money they may be losing. These same dependencies occur in sex addicts, drug addicts, food addicts as well as the “workaholic”. Understanding societies propensity to become easily addicted to things, I have come up with an idea. Let’s all join together and get society hooked on a brand new set of addictions, ones that are actually good for us and that present NO adverse consequences.

THE PLAN…

Our goal (as a brand new addict) is to first develop a high tolerance for each of these new addictions which will then cause us to constantly need a “fix” and thus we will have successfully established a healthy new habit. The next step is to groom our children to get “hooked” therefore ensuring that the next generation will also be comprised of healthy addicts. I am proposing that we all take the plunge and get hooked on 5 addictions right away. They are benevolence, love, gratitude, compassion and faith.

LET’S DO THIS THING…

Benevolence. Benevolence is good will. Benevolence is an act of kindness without expecting something in return. Volunteering to teach someone to read, taking meals to elderly shut in’s, volunteering at a humane society, paying for someones groceries or anonymously making charitable donations are all excellent ways to get our “fix”.

Love. Love is an excellent “drug” of choice. Over time, love eventually softens even the hardest heart. We expend far less energy sharing love than we do expressing judgement and hate. Love is our most natural emotion. Love brings comfort to those who are lost, sick or in deep despair. Unashamedly expressing our love with everyone we meet is guaranteed to fill our veins with some “really good stuff”.

Gratitude. Not only does expressing gratitude send a powerful message to the universe but it also provides us with the “fix” of always getting more than we expected or needed. When we are grateful for ALL of our experiences the universe gladly accommodates our addiction. Gratitude, if expressed consistently is habit forming and tends to leave us on a continual “high”.

Compassion. “But for the grace of God, there go I” is a quote I committed to memory many years ago. My interpretation of this quote is that I am to never turn my back on a brother or sister who is less fortunate than I. Showing compassion for others often requires building up a tolerance level that we never knew we possessed. When we are addicted to compassion we view the world from a more “psychedelic” perspective.

Faith. Of all of the addictions available to mankind, FAITH is the most hardcore. Once we become addicted to FAITH there is NO turning back. A FAITH addict can never be rehabilitated, interventions are out of the question and FAITH addicts graduate to become “dealers” who share samples everywhere they go. FAITH is the ultimate “adrenaline rush”, one that is not for the faint of heart.

Faced with so much uncertainty and turmoil in today’s world, I often find myself asking the life grounding question…What would Jesus call me to do? I believe he would want all of us to embrace these 5 addictions and create a whole bunch of brand new addicts.

As always, I appreciate your thoughts and feedback.