A Writer’s Journey

Guest post in The Proofreader’s Parlour (UK). Read it here: “Spotlight: A Writer’s Journey (by Eva Blaskovic).”

“In the martial art of Taekwondo, one of the life skills taught is perseverance. Thirty-seven years out of 48 amounts to roughly three-quarters of my life, so I would say that qualifies…” read more

 

 

 

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The Many Worlds of Words – Celebrating the Parlour’s First Birthday and its Guest Contributors” – The Proofreader’s Parlour by Louise Harnby | Proofreader.

Posted in Dreams and Goals, Food for Thought, How-To, Inspiration, Writing and Editing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Why You Need Down Time and Brain Space

Down time and brain space, in short, allow us to think.

Some refer to it as meditation, and essentially, this is what meditation does–clears the mind so the right things can enter into it.

Meditation: continued or extended thought; reflection; contemplation (Dictionary.com).

Down time and brain space allow us to do the following things:

  • to reconnect with our true self and subconscious in order to make the right decisions by identifying true needs, desires, and goals; where we currently are with respect to those goals; where it is we’re going; and are we on the right track
  • to find the right course of action to a nagging problem
  • to be able to learn new things

Reconnecting with true self, goals, and making the right decisions

When we are over-committed, exhausted, and have no time to think, we cannot hear what our large, perceptive subconscious is telling us.

It’s too easy to fall into a groove, go through the daily motions, and lose touch with not only what we truly need and want, but also the direction in which we are moving.

Water released into a canal system will flow only where the pipes lead.

Our goals are more like a ship on a sea–fluidly adjusting the course amidst shifting winds and currents in order to achieve the desired destination. This is the state we must keep ourselves in: not rigid and defined, but free to adjust when conditions change or obstacles appear.

We must also sail on the surface of the sea, where we maintain our view into the distance, rather than be stuck in a maze of pipes where all we see is darkness and the closeness of walls holding us in.

Finding solutions to problems

When I have a day off, sometimes it’s nice to lie down for a nap, or sit outside with a coffee and do nothing. This usually doesn’t last long because my emptied, relaxed brain starts to flood with ideas–typically writing ideas, things to organize and implement, and creative solutions to nagging problems.

It was one such day, after several days on vacation at home, that I found the solution to a problem that set my goals in motion again. Had I not had this down time, the idea would never have entered my thoughts, and I could have jeopardized the very process that is leading me to my goals, lost a critical opportunity, and put years of blood and sweat already invested in this endeavour at risk.

Learning new things

Learning something requires space in the brain to allow the influx of new information and ideas. It takes time and effort that may be difficult to calculate accurately in advance, hence it involves risk. When we are over-committed and exhausted, we won’t even go there!

People will learn when they are ready, able, and primed to receive. [Tweet this.]

Let’s take the example of my desire to learn to make videos with Animoto. It was something I had no background in, so it was going to pull my brain in a new direction. I did not know how much time it would require, or how easy or hard it would be. Since I couldn’t add more to my presently overflowing plate of jobs and commitments, I put it off for months to a time when I knew I would have my carefully engineered, self-imposed down time.

It turns out I did not need to wait that long at all. It was absolutely, surprisingly easy! The thing that required the most time was transferring photos between my slow, out-dated computers!

But who was to know? Besides, having set aside extra time, I got to explore the program fully, play with it, and make plans for the near future to make a novel trailer longer than 30 seconds.

In contrast, there was the flop with my WordPress URL, the one I created by accident and can’t delete without destroying that URL forever. I’ve spent a great deal of time searching the site for options, emailing people, and just mulling over what to do.

This is the kind of risk I’m talking about. A seemingly simple task opens the door to countless other questions and a spiderweb of additional, unforeseen tasks and consequences.

We need time and space to experiment, make mistakes, and create.

We need a relaxed mind to accept wisdom from our body and subconscious.

We need clarity to discover truth and be able to implement what’s right for us.

Down time and brain space are important for all of us, no matter who we are or what our age. It is necessary to carve out time for ourselves to think, regardless of how busy our schedule, for the consequences of not having it are more expensive.

Go ahead; make an appointment with yourself in your calendar. In pen!

© 2012 Eva Blaskovic. All rights reserved.

Posted in Business, Dreams and Goals, Education, Food for Thought, How-To, Inspiration, Investing In People, Parenting, Relationships, Return on Investment, Writing and Editing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Everything Is Your Fault

“So often time it happens, we all live our life in chains, and we never even know we have the key.” – The Eagles, “Already Gone”

These days, we hear all around us that we are the sole architects of our lives, that where we are is a compilation of our decisions, and that circumstances are essentially excuses.

It’s true: we are where we are because of the sum of our decisions. But it’s more complicated than that, which is often not acknowledged.

People get upset when they hear they engineered their life a certain way and that’s why they have the (unwanted) situation they do. The harsh accusations that they made the decisions, they are at fault, they planned it this way, it’s what they wanted, and so on are never in short supply.

It hurts to hear because many people say their current state is not what they wanted at all. They never intended to have the sad situation they’re in. They didn’t plan it. In fact, they deliberately fought to avoid it.

“First rule of leadership: everything is your fault.” – A Bug’s Life (Tweet this!)

Whether we like it or not, or know it or not, we are the leaders of our own lives. It is critical that we come to know this at a young age.

Where people get in trouble is when they don’t realize this. They don’t realize they have the ultimate control. They are under some influence or past programing that makes them feel they are not the sole engineers of their destiny.

I should point out that I consider responsibility and fault to mean two different things. But there are those who wield them interchangeably, which prompted me to write this article.

Some people, particularly women and more often in previous decades (particularly before the unstoppable flood of knowledge on the Internet), who have been programed, intentionally or otherwise, to give in, step aside, or do things for the sake of the greater good (or as it appears at the time). Translation: something that appears to be solely for them (i.e., their choice of education and type of career versus what is deemed practical in the eye of the beholder) is determined to be selfish and potentially poses too great a risk to the collective. Sadly, time shows us that the opposite is often true–a person’s success, when she experiences it based on choices that were right for her, brings necessary things, such as income, to the collective, typically family.

The factor that greatly aggravates this tendency to step aside and give up one’s own plans is if the person doesn’t have adequate income status and ends up at the physical and psychological mercy of others, who skew the decisions in a direction not necessarily beneficial to that person. Thus, the decisions the person makes at a given time with the information and conditions that are available are not the decisions they would have liked to make, but believe those are the only decisions they can make, or that overall it will get them and their families into a better situation.

I call this “not making decisions in a vacuum.” Decisions we make can depend on who our lives are connected to at the time and what their circumstances are, as well as our own knowledge, experience, interpretation of the situation, and the opportunities currently available. Which means that decisions about what we truly want can be easily interpreted as frivolous, selfish, or even uninformed. Worse, what we truly want can become, in and of itself, completely obscured until we can no longer identify it.

It is important to note that it is easy to derail people with the use of guilt, dismissal, or logic. Requests for proof may not be possible to meet in advance, so the idea, potentially a good one, dies. Yet it is now acknowledged that most successful people couldn’t see exactly how they were going to get to where they wanted to go. They saw only their starting point and their end point. They believed that the path would become unveiled as they went along, which is exactly what happened.

In the last ten years or so, the knowledge, advice, and quotations of successful and wealthy people have grown in visibility and prominence and, ironically, they all centre around the same themes:

  • Don’t let others define what’s right for you.
  • Trust yourself. Believe in yourself.
  • Ideas, dreams, desires, and visions combined with passion lead to goals and actions. It’s how successful people became successful.
  • You need a desire and an endpoint. A way and a means will be found along the way, but if you never begin, you will never find them.
  • Success requires some form of risk and, usually, the greater the success, the greater was the risk.
  • Mistakes and failures aren’t the end. Successful people failed many times before they succeeded. But the ultimate success made the failures well worth it.

“If you don’t design your own life plan, chances are you’ll fall into someone else’s plan. And guess what they have planned for you? Not much.” – Jim Rohn (1930-2009), Author and Speaker

When a person’s sacrifice backfires and, worse, he or she is blamed for the poor way in which things worked out, that person becomes disillusioned, bitter, angry, and full of regret. The person begins to recognize that if he or she had stuck to instincts, even if things did not work out perfectly, that person, as well as the collective, would have undoubtedly fared better.

As painful as this discovery is, it is a reconnection with one’s self. Now it has been affirmed and shown that a person must trust him- or herself and go with what is right for them and not others.

A dynamic shift usually occurs at this time. There may be, or have already been, significant life changes, such as taking on a new career path, education, or the restructuring or ending of a marriage.

If a person is to be blamed, then at least let the blame fall where it is justified. At least let it be on something the person chose to do of his or her own accord, and not something he felt compelled to do because of circumstances around him.

This may seem outrageous to some of the younger people. I’m not certain to what extent this still occurs today. But it was quite common for those growing up in the 1980s, and applies to the earlier decades as well.

If those dates are too old to bother with, think again. The people who embarked on their young adult lives in the 1980s and ’90s are with us today, still in the career and/or family stages of their lives, and they are the ones effecting big changes in themselves and the things they intend to still accomplish in their lives.

They have come to terms with the fact that

“Opportunity often comes disguised in the form of misfortune, or temporary defeat” – Napoleon Hill

and taken comfort in

Though no one can go back and make a brand new start, anyone can start from now and make a brand new ending” – attributed to Carl Bard

as well as

“It is never too late to be who you might have been.” – George Eliot

So remember

“The greatest dreams are always unrealistic.” – Will Smith (Tweet this!)

© 2012 Eva Blaskovic. All rights reserved.

Posted in Business, Dreams and Goals, Food for Thought, Inspiration, Investing In People, Relationships | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

How to Add “Click to Tweet” to Your WordPress Blog Quickly and Easily

Do you have a WordPress blog and a Twitter account? Adding Click to Tweet to your blog posts makes it easy for your readers to tweet quotes and other portions of your text directly from your blog article with a single click, right from where they are reading.

In addition, when your readers share portions of your article on Twitter, it helps to drive more traffic to your blog when their Twitter followers read the tweet. Thus, you need to include the source of the tweet, which is you.

Three things to include

  1. your text
  2. the link to your site
  3. your identity (@twittername)

7 easy steps

I have condensed the procedure into 7 critical but quick and easy steps.

  1. In your WordPress blog article, highlight the quote you want people to tweet. Copy and paste it into the empty white box on the Click to Tweet site (www.clicktotweet.com), which you have opened in a new browser tab.
  2. Next, copy and paste your blog article’s URL (permalink) under your text in Click to Tweet. Alternatively, if you have bitly* (www.bitly.com), get your shortened URL and paste that into the Click to Tweet box under your text.
  3. Add “via @yourtwittername”  or just “@yourtwittername,” if you lack space, to your quote.
  4. Leave a few character spaces for retweets. (The character counter below counts down the characters you have used. The maximum is 140, including your site link.)
  5. Click “Generate Link!”
  6. Copy the link shown in the “Here’s your URL” box in Click to Tweet and paste it into your site. You do this by first highlighting a message you have put into your article, such as “Click to Tweet” and selecting the link button at the top. Then paste the link generated by Click to Tweet into the message.
  7. Update the changes you made in your WordPress blog. Go to the blog site and test the link. A Twitter box should appear with the option to tweet your message.

* The advantage of bitly is it shortens your link on Twitter, leaving more room for your text. If you do not have bitly and would like to get it, you can sign up easily through your Twitter or Facebook account.

The above steps highlight the procedure, and are directed at people who are somewhat familiar with social media tools.

If you would like additional information about how to use Click to Tweet, click here for a YouTube instruction video.

Examples of blogs that use Click to Tweet

BEYOND THE PRECIPICE | Eva’s Sirius Blog – where it says “Tweet.”

Sherie Venner | Relationship and Breakthrough Coach – the quote below the 7th Warning Sign, where it says “Tweet This!”

© Copyright (c) 2012 Eva Blaskovic

WARNING: This article is protected by law of copyright. It has been provided for free.  The article, or portions thereof, are not to be sold by anyone for any reason.

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Unconfusing the Confusion About Writing: Is There Room For Imperfection?

When writing, one has to consider the form, the purpose, and the audience.

Is it your own diary? A poem? A first person fiction piece? Or is it a formal essay, non-fiction book, or a business proposal? Your tone, voice, style of writing, and grammar will all vary depending on what the writing is.

There is room for slang and improper grammar–and sounding like you speak–in some forms of writing, although often there are conventions to writing them. There is room for creativity in poetry, personal writing, advertising, copy writing, and blogs, to name a few. Although some conventions will always apply, certain rules can be relaxed or broken for various purposes in some forms of writing.

If you’re writing first person fiction or quoting a character in dialogue, go ahead and write, “Me and my friend went camping.” And in your dialogues, you can certainly use “ain’t” or “gonna.” Go ahead. That’s how your character speaks, isn’t it? (Just please, please don’t use “your” when you mean “you’re = you are,” as in “I think your going to like this.” Those are different parts of speech and that will just never apply.)

In sales writing, you want to be more grammatical, but you want to sound like you’re speaking to your audience. So there’s a flow and sound to the writing that makes it different from a documentary.

Something else to consider is whether your written work is a fast text message or email to your friend, or a permanent fixture in the written world and on the Internet, such as an e-book. If it’s important, do your homework or hire a professional editor. Remember, the right editor works with you, not against you (Did You Know An Editor’s Job Is to Work With the Author, Not Against the Author?).

And one last point: When the spell checker is done with your work, edit! Auto-correct may misinterpret similar words, and homonyms will not be flagged. Too often, the grammar checker misinterprets what you are saying; it may consider some words you’ve used as adjectives in their noun form, for example, or prompt you to use ‘s when it’s actually wrong. Although spelling and grammar checkers help–and they certainly take a load off–they are a good start rather than a good finish. In the end, the human mind still has to interpret the recommendations (Sirius Word: Why Edit?).

So can you use casual writing, creative flair, or even bad grammar in your writing? Depending on your intent, yes. Are there conventions in writing and are they necessary? Yes–because that’s the standard that provides the greatest consistency in our understanding and interpretation of the written work, punctuation being as powerful a tool as the words themselves. (These conventions vary even among English-speaking countries.) Write with a sense of knowledge of what you’re using and why.

Consider the form, the purpose, and the audience.

P.S. Did you notice that “unconfusing” in the title is not a real word? (Case in point. Need I say more?)

You may also be interested in

Writing Tips: When to Adhere to the Rules and When to Break Them, and Why Should You Care, Anyway?

Did You Know An Editor’s Job Is to Work With the Author, Not Against the Author?

© 2012 Eva Blaskovic. All rights reserved.

Posted in Business, Education, Fiction, Food for Thought, How-To, Return on Investment, Writing and Editing | Tagged , , , | 8 Comments

What Makes An Outstanding Principal?

My article “What Makes An Outstanding Principal?” is now posted on Government of Alberta Education’s Engage With Us blog. Read it here:

Article
Bio and background

Posted in Education, Food for Thought, How-To, Inspiration, Investing In People, Relationships, Return on Investment | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

The Author Advantage

I’ve never liked controversy, so as a young writer, it took some doing to come up with enough conflict to create a story other people would find worth reading. I tended to focus on themes that dealt with man battling the elements–man against nature rather than another person–except I lacked in experience.

An author from way back

I remember deliberately going into the woods after a snowstorm, wading through hip-deep snow until my legs nearly froze, just to get the experience. I was, of course, a fan of Lost in the Barrens by Farley Mowat (and much later, The Arctic Grail: The Quest for the North West Passage and the North Pole, 1818-1909 by Pierre Burton and With Scott to the Pole re-told by Howard Marshall).

I carefully preserved the knowledge of my summer canoe lessons and our trip down the river through rapids. I even swamped the canoe deliberately to get the essence of falling into a river, and had to use my skills to get back into the boat and return to shore. At Inter-provincial Music Camp, at age 13, I taught my camp mates the canoe-over-canoe rescue. At 17, I canoed the wilderness interior of Algonquin Park (Ontario).

I hiked a leg of the Niagara Escarpment beginning in Tobermory (Georgian Bay, Ontario), experiencing extreme thirst when we ran out of water–while constantly looking at it, far below and out of reach down a rocky cliff.

I camped in a tent at Long Point Provincial Park (Lake Erie, Ontario), graveyard of ships, and weathered a storm with flooding and winds that knocked over trailers.

At home, I went out in thunderstorms to feel the hail and wind issuing from blue-black clouds. I ate wild raspberries and built forts in the woods. I found places that served as wilderness settings and deserted islands. I dreamed of surviving in the wild and building a raft. I read Huckleberry Finn (Mark Twain).

From event to fiction

As the the decades dropped away, one thing that came to the forefront was all the things that could go wrong with human relationships, either my own, a friend’s, or someone I read about. This exposure made me a better writer, which is why I tend not to pine for my youth in spite of worsening physical attributes. I think writers have an advantage over many other people: they can rework absolutely everything into a story, even the most trying times of their lives, yet adjust the events and reassign identities to such an extent that no one can actually pin the result on any one living person because, at this stage, it truly has become not only a work of fiction, but a universal human condition story with which many people can identify and whose specific events apply to no one exactly.

This not only gives writers a creative edge, but a positive outlet for negative emotions like frustration, anger, regret, grief, rejection, despair, and utter devastation. You can take a writer away from writing, for a while, but you can’t take the writing out of the writer. You can be sure that it will burn inside as long as necessary—until he gets the chance to write it down.

In essence, the harsher the experiences, the more substance in the writing. It becomes one of those can’t lose scenarios that has the power to keep an author alive through anything because it keeps him or her focused, disciplined, and purposeful when they would otherwise throw in the towel.

The power to inspire others

But as much as the author has the power to save himself, so he may have the power to affect and inspire his audience. And that is the greatest reward of all, because human conflict, controversy, and hardship–as we all know–are alive and well.

Posted in Dreams and Goals, Fiction, Food for Thought, Inspiration, Relationships, Writing and Editing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Did You Know An Editor’s Job Is to Work With the Author, Not Against the Author?

An editor’s true job is to work with the author, not against the author of the writing. It’s not about what to change. It’s about what to keep intact. The author’s voice and meaning are paramount. The editor’s job is to help the writer convey the message in the best way possible, in proper English convention, to the audience for which it was designed and with the purpose for which it was intended.

The author-editor connection is a relationship. This is why you pay for the editor’s time. The editor has years of knowledge and experience, and tailors them to you and your needs, which means getting to know you and your work, and taking time to go through it. Choose your editor with care and build a relationship. You need to “be on the same page,” so to speak—see things in a similar way. The editor should be communicating with you and asking you to clarify any ambiguities. This is critical. If something is written in an ambiguous manner and can be interpreted in more than one way, the editor should not guess, but instead check with the author about what he or she truly meant.

This may be especially important if English is a non-native language for the writer. If the editor is somewhat familiar with the writer’s native language, or one with grammatical similarity, this can be an advantage for interpreting the meaning in the writing, especially when it is awkwardly phrased, as is sometimes the case when people translate from another language into English or are not familiar with some of the tricky English syntax.

Creative people who have wonderful ideas but are self-proclaimed poor spellers or grammarians, have inadequate writing skills, or who have not been adequately taught in the school system can benefit from the years of honed skills and knowledge of a professional editor. Polishing the writing adds credibility and professionalism to the work.

Have you ever noticed that spelling and grammar checkers prompt you to do the wrong thing, or don’t catch your errors? That’s because they don’t understand what you’re trying to say. You may not necessarily be the one in error. They’re generic programs. That’s why they’re quick and free (such as online), or built into word processors. They help, but they are a good start rather than a good finish. They are one-size-fits-all and therefore have limitations. In the end, a knowledgeable human brain has to make the final decision. If you aren’t sure, check with someone who knows. A spelling and grammar checker will also do little to help your flow, style, organization, and delivery to the intended audience.

Attitude, lack of attention to detail, and lack of willingness to learn are rarely confined to one area in life. Just as your clothes and personal grooming are judged by others, the way you write reflects how you think. Your writing is the visible tip of an iceberg; what lies beneath is a compilation of your knowledge and care, or lack thereof. People know it’s there. People assess you by it. If you are a business coach and can’t distinguish homonyms, how can I trust that you distinguish things when you’re coaching me to success—or even understand what I mean in the first place? If you are a mechanic who sends me e-mails with careless errors, and the sign that advertises your car repair shop has misspellings or usage errors, can I trust you not to miss anything when you fix my car?

True, this may be somewhat simplistic. Messy, dishevelled writers can come up with the most beautifully written, well organized, and meticulous work (because they’re so busy with the writing they neglect their appearance and desk, for example), and conceptual people may have problems with the left-brain aspect of good writing but still provide valuable ideas and services. However, when someone doesn’t know you, they have little to go on other than your physical appearance or your “on the page” or online appearance. They make assessments about you based on that. We may not like it, but it’s reality. It’s image. And when you want to be assessed favourably, considered valuable, or taken seriously by others, every good coach, business person, or editor will tell you to mind your image.

There’s always a chance others won’t notice or will let it pass. But there is a significant number of people who do notice, even if they don’t say so. It’s not worth the risk of having those people quietly turn away, possibly the very people you wanted to attract, before you ever knew you had lost them!

In addition

  1. You can get away with carelessness or lack of knowledge in some places, but not in others–never in print, advertising, graphics with messages (inspirational photos, etc.), or anything with a permanent record.  Ditto with communications where it matters, such as resumes, business letters, and website content, where your image is crucial.
    Tip: Anything you value, or you want others to value–your self-published book, a billboard sign, a business website, a thesis–hire an editor! That means you have to pay, just like you have to pay for any other service in this world.
  2. Bad grammar is fine to use when it is a deliberate choice, not a default due to lack of knowledge. Unlike in formal writing, there are places for bad grammar, slang, and casual speech, such as in personal writing and dialogue in stories. Even so, there are rules and conventions for doing bad grammar properly. Changing word meanings or parts of speech, such as your/you’re or dog’s/dogs is never an option.
  3. At the very least, proofread your own writing before posting or sending. No first draft is perfect. This way, at least you correct the things you know. If you try your best and are willing to learn, people will be more tolerant than if you simply don’t care or believe it’s not important.
  4. Written language is a model to others learning to spell and write. We need to be conscious of English language conventions and preserve them. Conventions in spelling, grammar, and punctuation help us to say what we need to clearly and accurately. Punctuation is as integral to the message as the words themselves. If we disrupt these conventions and lose our ability to distinguish and differentiate–or, worse, it won’t be us, it will be the next generation who doesn’t have our prior knowledge–we are impoverishing our language, devolving it, and losing our ability to communicate. Communication through words is already imperfect. We should not make the situation worse, but instead try to improve accuracy.
  5. Languages do evolve, but it is important to note that is not the same thing as accepting the possession “your” for the contraction of subject and verb “you’re.”
  6. By all means, do have your material looked at by friends and family, but keep in mind that this is not the same as, nor should it be a substitute for, professional editing. In addition, editing by English teachers takes on a different form than editing for business and books. Although teachers and professors of English may know their grammar and other aspects (depending on their focus of study), they are trained differently than professional editors.

You may also be interested in

Writing Tips: When to Adhere to the Rules and When to Break Them, and Why Should You Care, Anyway?

Unconfusing the Confusion About Writing: Is There Room for Imperfection?

The New Fad of “Your”

© 2012-2014 Eva Blaskovic. All rights reserved.

Posted in Uncategorized | 18 Comments

What Really Lies Behind Choice?

Apparently, everything we do or don’t do is our choice. Who has heard, “If it’s important enough to you, you will find a way,” “If you really want to do it, then you’ll do it,” or “You always have a choice”?

Unless this is intended for support and inspiration, these are easy words, cop-out words, accusative words by people who’ve had the luxury of applying choice early in their lives and have no concept of where those they judge are coming from.

Not every person grows up with having a choice. If a person does have a choice, there’s still the catch that he or she may not know it. This sounds absurd, perhaps, except that there are so many people out there struggling with this.

In Canada, children are encouraged to make choices, for the most part, but there are many who grow up believing they must do what they are told by the authority, be it parent, teacher, or state. People are easily paralyzed by fear, consequence, degradation, or not having the right to make choices in early life. Making choices also takes practice.

People who have grown up in periods of historical crises (including those who were very young during The Great Depression), in other countries where social, marital, and parental norms are different, or have simply been programed to always do for the good of the collective will typically be challenged by the process of following their own instincts, careers, and dreams.

We know this because of the thousands of articles, seminars, and self-help workshops being offered to break such programing, to teach people to feel empowered so they may become capable of making the choices that are right for them and not for someone else.

Our society is full of these messages supporting personal empowerment and choice. Note that people have to be convinced, and the messages have to be continually reinforced. However, someone growing up today immersed in these ideas may find it difficult to understand how choice, real or perceived, can ever be a problem for anyone.

What would the world have been like to an isolated young person with no Internet and no such messages, pummelled only by the ideas and demands of those immediately around him? This is a scenario worth exploring because with what’s available today, to say that someone has choice is easy. But in the case of the person mentioned above, it takes time and information to extricate oneself from such powerful influences.

The fact that we are free, autonomous individuals seems intuitive, yet reality shows that many of us have to be taught that we have a choice. Of course, the sooner in life this is achieved, the better.

The great thing about life is that over time we tend to sort things out, realize things, learn where to go for the right messages, and make changes. We find the voice that is ours and finally speak.

The tragedy is when this process takes up most of our lives.

The triumph is that we’ve figured out we have a choice.

And we begin to apply our choices. We begin to find a way to do the things most important to us.

Tip:

Choice, for many of us, is meshed with–hence influenced by–relationships, perceived success, expectations, and obligations.

Isolate your choice. Clip the threads that bind it. Free it of influence until it becomes a singular entity.

Posted in Dreams and Goals, Food for Thought, How-To, Inspiration, Investing In People, Relationships | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Don’t Erase People: Understand the Power You Wield When You Decide to Appreciate or Dismiss

I was recently asked to write an article for an education blog. My topic was what makes a principal outstanding. When I interviewed people, one of the qualities that came up repeatedly was the positive effect created by a principal appreciating staff for what they do and who they are. When a principal, or any leader of an organization or group, be it education, business, government, non-profit, or a family, models appreciation by appreciating members, the members appreciate each other and the dynamics of the organization shift positively.

The power of appreciation

The thing about appreciation is it’s powerful—more powerful than we realize or like to admit. With appreciation, we can extract more than the sum of an individual’s parts, and sometimes these results have farther-reaching consequences than one would expect. Not only do people reciprocate and pass on the appreciative behaviour, they also kick into high gear and put out a lot more, in some cases more than they originally thought they were capable of. This leads to higher productivity and positive dynamics that inevitably lead to a more pleasant, higher functioning organization. Since appreciated staff are willing to do more, take fewer sick days, and have the capacity to treat others in a positive manner because they are not themselves stressed, overwhelmed, or fearful, their greater effort amidst a positive atmosphere leads to greater achievement and results on a personal as well as a collective level. Everyone wins.

The power of one person

The same applies to one-on-one relationships, including the personal kind. As Dr. John Gray (PhD, Psychologist) so eloquently states in the movie The Secret, “Every man knows that when his wife is appreciating him for the little things he does, what does he want to do? He wants to do more! It’s always about appreciation.”

When a person appreciates us, we feel good and want to do more. We get a positive infusion of energy, especially if that person is someone we respect, admire, and/or love. People we hold in high regard (good friends, spouses), who are in a position of authority (parents, teachers, coaches, supervisors), and who we’ve spent a great deal of time with (hence investment of ourselves and our time) are particularly capable of affecting us with their opinions and appreciation—or lack thereof.

Like it or not, people we love or admire do affect us. Individuals who have been harmed by not only lack of appreciation but outright rejection or dismissal of their activities and work—and this applies in the home and at school as well as in the workplace—may begin to shun these particular activities or even become physically unable to perform them.

The toxicity of rejection and dismissal

While being appreciated builds us up with positive energy, lack of appreciation and, in its extreme forms, rejection and dismissal, suck the life right out of us. Being subjected to this is toxic and can even turn into a health issue. It leads to lack of focus, reduced ability and productivity, possible abandonment of the activity or activities and, sometimes, performance paralysis. In an organization, this leads to lack of cohesion and goodwill among its members. For an employee, especially if he or she feels trapped, it becomes a living hell. In personal relationships, it causes alienation and drifting apart, and often puts an end to the relationship, although sadly not soon enough in many cases.

By acknowledging, you shield with minimal effort; by denying, you kill them slowly from the inside

Understand the power you wield. You may be the fork that splits someone’s life path—influence the future road that the person will take, for better or for worse. If you don’t care for what a person did or have no appreciation for it, or if in your eyes they failed, at the very least acknowledge the person and his or her work and time commitment. This way, things are more likely to remain neutral rather than plummeting into some dark zone.

Appreciation is as potent on the positive side as lack of appreciation is on the negative. The constructive versus destructive scenarios are opposites in terms of what they precipitate. In the case of a principal, CEO, coach, parent, or any head of a team or organization, that leader’s power rests at the apex of a pyramid. What he or she models trickles down, running through the organization like nutrients carried by blood. This person has the power to affect a large number of people both directly and indirectly, which, in turn, affects the productivity, commitment, decisions, interactions, and overall health of the team, organization, or family.

Dismissing, disqualifying, or denying years of someone’s investment are akin to erasing large sections of their life

This power does not lie simply with leaders. It is in each one of us and we should be aware of it. Each of us is a unit that affects people in our lives one at a time. I’ve seen people deeply affected, losing their ability to perform a task adequately or losing faith and giving up on pursuing an endeavour, hence influencing their future life path and the success that could have followed. There is always significant impact when lack of appreciation is delivered by a person that is highly respected or even loved, which is why personal relationships can be so devastating.

It’s true; we should not let the opinions, attitudes, and evaluations of others decide how we should feel, or let them determine what we will or will not do. We should not care what others think of us, but being a social species, the reality is we do, especially when those people are either close to us or hold some power over us, or when we’ve invested years of our lives.

Trauma causes lasting harm

It is a well-known fact that traumatic events change a person, causing lasting harm. When a person’s years of work and devotion are continually dismissed; that is, when lack of appreciation is chronic, or when it ascends to outright rejection and dismissal, it has the potential to become a traumatic event. Think of that feeling you get when someone doesn’t believe you about something, so you hold out the proof in plain view, tangibly before their eyes, and they still deny the thing straight to your face. Naturally, it’s even worse when the event is abstract, held in memory only by those who agree to accept its transpiration, when there’s nothing tangible left to show. It becomes your word against theirs, your memory against theirs, which means the event is vulnerable to completely opposite forms of interpretation.

The power of you

So whether you are a leader or just a plain Jane or Joe, understand the impact of the power you wield over people who are in some way connected to you, especially when many years are at stake. Those are many years of their investment, which always amount to something.

What can you do to protect yourself from dismissive people?

  • Have confidence and believe in yourself.
  • Be aware of your qualities, capabilities, and achievements.
  • Recognize early what is happening and attempt to change either the situation or your environment without delay.
  • Understand that it has little to do with you and far more to do with them.
  • Keep a record of tangible proof of your performance, accomplishments, and results, such as awards, letters of recommendation, and positive comments about your character as well as your achievements. Look at this when your belief in yourself wavers.
  • Never let anyone prevent you from bettering yourself through education, jobs, or some other form of growth.
  • Do not fall into a trap where you believe you must pursue what they think you should versus what you know you should.
  • Do not let anyone—ever—deny you the talents you know you have and prevent you from pursuing them. Ever!


©
2012 Eva Blaskovic. All rights reserved.

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