5 “NEEDS” That Stifle Our Personal & Professional Growth…John Page Burton

We all have needs. We need air, water and food to survive. Most of us have a need to feel safe, secure, loved and cared for.  I believe we can all agree that these are healthy needs. Unfortunately, not all of our needs are healthy. Many are destructive and can significantly stifle our personal and professional growth? Let’s take a closer look at 5 unhealthy needs and what we can do to create a shift.

1. The Need To Be Right. This need causes people to become argumentative, confrontational, condescending and vindictive. This need is Ego driven. The need to be right can be very polarizing in our personal and professional relationships. A person needing to be right struggles to consider any point of view that differs from than their own. Growth occurs when we become open and accepting of NEW and DIFFERENT beliefs, opinions and perspectives. It’s not as important to be right as it is to be respectful in our communication with others.

2. The Need For Constant Approval. This person expects to be acknowledged for everything they do. This juvenile, insecurity driven need is emotionally draining to spouses, friends, family members and co-workers. If you don’t acknowledge and shower them with praise they often become angry and resentful. Growth occurs when we learn to be humble. Our ACTIONS will always speak much louder than our words. We must learn to accept unsolicited praise, say thank you and move on. Nobody likes being around a person who “gloats” or demands acknowledgement.

3. The Need To Be Noticed. A person driven by this need is heavily influenced by appearances and is always in search of a new audience. They tend to base their self worth on material possessions and will go to great lengths to “flaunt their stuff”.  Characteristically, they are loud, boisterous communicators. They will do anything to grab the spotlight and they love to be seen as the “star of the show”. When they feel ignored, many will throw “adult temper tantrums” in a last ditch effort to satisfy their craving for attention. Growth occurs when we realize that substance is much sexier than stuff. People who crave notoriety tend to be seen as “show offs and braggarts”. People who exhibit humility and gratitude are generally seen as intelligent, trustworthy, responsible people.

4. The Need For Control. This need is fueled by insecurity and fear. Control is an avoidance strategy. At a subconscious level, the controller is simply avoiding their own self doubt and fear by focusing their energy on “fixing” and “manipulating” the people around them. Controllers are disappointed, frustrated and angry most of the time because rarely if ever do the people around them live up to their rigid expectations. “Control freaks” have a deep seated fear of being out of control and will do everything they can to control their environment. Growth occurs when we release our death grip on control, face our fears, embrace and accept failure, learn to delegate, appreciate that most people don’t desire to be “fixed” and commence on a dedicated journey toward self acceptance.

5. The Need To Be Needed. In my book Wisdom Through Failure, I refer to this need as “Helpful Harry Syndrome”. Helpful Harry routinely prioritizes the needs of others before his own. At first glance this seems to be a noble trait but in reality it is an avoidance strategy. Eventually, Helpful Harry becomes an angry giver as he comes to realize that many of his needs are not being met. The need to be needed does not encourage self sufficiency. In other words, “Helpful Harry’s” are teaching their children, spouses and employees to rely on others first. Growth occurs when we establish the habit of meeting our own needs before we focus on meeting the needs of others. With that being said, it is important to prioritize the needs of small children, those with disabilities and of course the elderly. We must encourage our adult children, spouses and employees to become problem solvers and doers. Admittedly, many may consider this a “self centered” approach, however, in the long term it will pay big dividends.

The beauty of personal growth is that ALL of us are a work in progress. It is VERY safe to say that none of us will ever achieve total mastery. We are human! Our goal is to recognize a familiar program when it begins to run and make an immediate shift toward our truth. With each shift we lay the foundation for our NEW REALITY.  As a wise man once said…SHIFT HAPPENS!

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

YES & NO…John Page Burton

Two of the most profound words in the English language are YES & NO. Every time we use either of these words we effectively cancel out the other word. Both words also constitute a complete sentence. Most of us have heard the saying “let your yes mean yes and your no mean no”. In other words, YES means “I’m ALL in, lets do this thing” and NO means “I’m not in at all and we’re not doing this thing”. Many of us struggle with the words YES & NO and may not realize just how big an impact these two words have on the overall quality of our lives. Let me explain…

How many times have we instinctively known that something felt WRONG and yet rather than say NO we moved forward anyway? This conflict routinely shows up in the dating world. Conversely, how many times have we failed to say YES when we knew something felt RIGHT? For example, I have a friend who recently turned down a job transfer to San Diego because he didn’t “feel comfortable” leaving his friends and family behind. He recently admitted that he had begrudgingly said NO and in hindsight “should have gone with his gut and said YES”. I certainly know that over the years I have had my fair share of conflict with these two little words. This conflict may surface in our role as parents. We instinctively know that an answer should be NO but because we desire to be our child’s “friend” we say YES. This conflict often arises in the workplace. For example, we have made family plans for the weekend but at the last minute our boss asks us if “we would be willing” to come in on Saturday. We know that our answer should be a resounding NO but our fear of retribution causes us to proclaim a very weak YES. Everytime we say YES when we really mean to say NO or we say NO when we really want to say YES we are significantly diminishing our personal power. Remember, YES & NO establish our decision!

YES & NO are boundary words. The words YES & NO teach people how to treat us. Case in point…Our boss knows that we don’t desire to come in to work on a Saturday, especially on short notice. When we weakly say “sure, no problem”, we have effectively given our boss permission to disregard our time in the future. However, when we say “I wish you had given me more advanced notice, I have already made plans that I can’t change” we have established a very important boundary. In the future, our boss is more apt to give us advance notice if they even ask us at all. Here’s the key…More than likely our boss will ask the person who never say’s NO. As a parent, our child may not enjoy hearing the word NO but our decision to establish reasonable boundaries and stand firm will teach them a valuable life lesson.

Whenever we are presented with the opportunity to say YES or NO it is wise to seek our deepest truth. Our answer will make a big difference in the quality of our lives as well as how we feel about ourselves.

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

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.