“Passion is energy. Feel the power that comes from focusing on what excites you.”—Oprah Winfrey
“Success is the accomplishment of an aim or purpose.”—Oxford English Dictionary
Are you aged 50? What about 60? Perhaps, you’re older than 70?
No matter your age or career, passion is vital—it is the key to your success in work and life.
I am a retired university instructor and an experienced family caregiver, caring for my husband 24/7, for three years, including three months in hospice at home.
Caregiving is a challenging and very stressful job.
But I felt nothing but gratitude for my ability to care for my husband myself during his long illness.
For a while, I thought I was imbalanced because I refused to let anyone else, aside from the nursing and aid staff, tend to his personal needs.
I wanted to care for my husband myself—period.
I realize now, since his passing, that it was my “passion” (as well as love) that drove me to insist on a practically hands-off stance when it came to others caring for my husband.
Family and friends would say to me, “Aren’t you tired? Why won’t you let us help you.”
Yes, I was tired, exhausted even, and I did accept the relief offered by the family from time to time, a few hours here and there, but it was rare.
I was there, watching over and caring for my husband, 24/7.
For instance, the doctors hospitalized my husband several times. And on two occasions during his illness, he had to spend several days in a 24-hour rehabilitation physical therapy center.
But I never missed even one day spending time with him. I often stayed overnight at the hospital or the therapy center.
I couldn’t help myself.
Was I crazy?
What Is Passion?
How would you define passion?
According to Oxford English Dictionary: “Passion is a powerful emotion; an intense enthusiasm for something.”
I was passionate and focused on ensuring I met my husband’s every need in my caregiving duties.
And everything I’ve accomplished since his death has been driven by passion—my passion for helping other family caregivers succeed.
Steve Jobs said, “People with passion can change the world for the better.”
Also, to quote Jobs: “The only way to do great work is to love what you do.”
I had an “intense enthusiasm”—a passion for caring for my husband.
I have similar zeal when it comes to making a difference in the lives of other family caregivers as they experience extreme emotional turbulence.
Emotions affect health.
Thus, my idea to write a “health” book took shape.
My book, published in 2019, is titled: A Family Caregiver’s Guide: 7 Secrets to Convert Negative Triggers to Positive Emotions.
I cannot tell you how much joy and excitement I felt writing this book.
I wanted to share my experiences, revelations, and “secrets” to keep it all together day in and day out as my husband’s health deteriorated.
My book is a labor of love that I hope will change the family “caregiver’s world” for the better.
I successfully published my Family Caregiver’s Guide book in 2019.
How Do You Measure Success?
“Success” is an accomplishment of an aim or purpose and something you have to define for yourself. No one else can do it for you.
For me, writing and publishing my health book was a success.
During my 20s and 30s, I measured success by my job title and income.
How I advanced up the corporate ladder and how much money I made was my metrics—period.
As I entered my 40s and 50s, I concentrated on how well our investments for retirement were doing—and yes, we took a few money-losing risks!
I was forever in the “fear of missing out” (FOMO) mode.
In the 90s and into the 2000s, I spent thousands of dollars on various training programs to learn the next “big thing.”
Today, in my senior years, my metrics are different.
Use Your Values to Measure Success
Values are personal.
You undoubtedly could list many values, but which are most important to you?
Your values will help you find your true purpose, what you want to do with the rest of your life.
Why not take a few minutes to think deeply about this question and list perhaps ten or so values that matter most to you in life; your core values?
For example, my core values include:
Once you list your core values, ask, “Do I live in alignment with my values?”
Take a look at your life and regularly affirm and check in with your values.
For instance, I listed “family” as my number one core value.
How did I manifest this in my life?
If you’ve read the introduction to this article, you will see that caring for my husband during his illness was always number one in my consciousness.
My passion, my enthusiasm in ensuring my loved one’s comfort, was always top-of-mind.
The warmth and love I felt during those last moments before my husband died, I now cherish in my heart.
I also listed “well-being” as one of my core values.
In my Family Caregiver’s book, I define well-being on p. 151: “The state of being comfortable, healthy, or happy.”—Oxford English Dictionary
What contributes to my well-being?
- Being optimistic
- Feeling completely involved and engaged in what I do
- Accepting myself for the way I am
- Having a purpose and mission in life
- Feeling that what I do is worthwhile
And I feel happy most of the time.
Another core value I listed: “faith.”
To live in alignment with this value, I have a ritual wherein I pray and meditate each morning.
If you are not showing up as authentic or slipping up and do something totally outside of your values, recommit!
“Living” your values is a powerful way to lead a purposeful and intentional life.
Remember that values are ongoing, whereas you can achieve goals and can, at some point, check off as completed.
And your values can change over time.
But you will discover that your “passions” lead to success in whatever purpose you have going forward when you are committed and enthusiastic.
My core values propelled me to want to write my health book for the benefit of family caregivers.
But I want to do more.
Thus, I also plan to create a program for “working” family caregivers to learn how to use tips, strategies, and tools to transform how they feel about their dual role as caregiver and employee and maintain a high level of performance in the workplace.
You Are Never Too Old to Learn
If you are at an advanced age, you may feel that you’re incapable of learning anything new or pursuing a passion, for instance, for uplifting others in some way, for health and fitness projects, for a new career.
You’ve seen it all. You’ve heard it all. You’ve done it all.
The book, Inside the Brain states:
“What the brain can do depends on whether or not the brain is used.
“Just as exercise keeps people vigorous into their seventies and eighties, researchers are demonstrating that mental workouts can do the same for the aging brain.
“A downhill slide into mental befuddlement was little more than a self-fulfilling prophecy, usually the result of brain disuse.”
A decline in mental performance does occur in later years.
But according to researchers, the active brain resists deterioration: “Research shows that 70 or 80 years of learning is to the brain what a thimbleful of water is to a large drum or water—it hardly even makes a mark.”
No matter your age, you can and must continue learning.
Have a passion for learning.
Have a passion for engaging in projects that excite you!
Thus far in this article, you have learned:
- What passion is
- How to use your values to measure success
- How to know you are never too old to learn (the science proves it!)
Coming up next:
- How to find your true passion using a passion test.
- How to make a vision board to get you started in your true love.
- How to set professional and personal goals using the SMART method.
The Passion Test
In my Family Caregiver’s Guide book, pp. 182-184, I quote Jack Canfield’s (author of the Chicken Soup for the Soul series) idea to use a process developed by Janet and Chris Attwood in 2008, called the “Passion Test,” to find your life purpose.
Jack Canfield refers to this test as the “world’s number one tool for finding your passion.”
Here’s how the process works:
You start by filling in the blank fifteen times for the following statement:
“When my life is ideal, I am _______.” The word(s) you choose to fill in the blank must be a verb (s).
My statements might look like this:
- My life is ideal when I write blogs and articles to educate, inform, and entertain family caregivers.
- My life is ideal when I teach people how to control their negative feelings and replace them with love’s strongest positive emotion.
- My life is ideal when I train caregiving wives in self-care, physically, emotionally, and spiritually.
- My life is ideal when I learn something new that I can use to help others in boosting their well-being.
- My life is ideal when I participate in an after-caregiving support group and find new ways to serve.
And so forth.
Once you’ve created 15 statements, you identify the top 5 choices.
To do this, you compare comments #1 and #2 to determine which is most important. Take the winner of that comparison and decide whether it’s more or less critical than statement #3.
Then, take the winner of that comparison, decide whether it’s more or less critical than statement #4, and so on.
Do this until you’ve identified the passion that is most meaningful to you.
Repeat the process with the remaining fourteen statements to identify your second choice.
Then, repeat the process until you’ve pinpointed your top five passions in life.
Next, create markers for each of your top five passions so that you can look at your life and easily see whether you are living that passion.
My life goal would be: “Through my books, blogs, articles, and courses, I’m helping family caregivers respond to the daily stresses of life with patience and compassion as opposed to having feelings of anger, frustration, and other negative emotions.”
A similar exercise would be to conduct a “Joy review” when you think about the times you’ve felt the greatest joy in your life.
Make a list of these times and look at the patterns.
Some believe that joy is a part of your internal guidance system, which tells you when you are on the right course.
Why not discover your life purpose or your passion from completing a joy review?
How to Make a Vision Board
As I discuss in my Caregiver’s Guide book, the Law of Attraction instituted the vision board, and as with most things of this nature, there is controversy as to whether a vision board works.
Be assured Olympic athletes have been using vision boards for decades to improve performance.
However, psychologist Nell Farber M.D, Ph.D., in his article, “Throw Away Your Vision Board,” disagrees about the usefulness of a vision board:
“Fantasizing about your perfect world and your perfect life may make you feel better in the short term but will limit your ability to transform your dreams into reality. Convert your vision boards to action boards.” (Farber, 2012).
The vision board is simply a tool that helps you focus not just on the things you want but also on how you feel; to inspire and motivate you to reach your goals.
There aren’t any rules to making a vision board, but here are a few ideas:
- Get any board, whether it be a cork, poster, or pin.
- Get markers, stickers, and pins.
- Paste or pin images from magazines or photos of things you want, or places you want to go, etc.
- Paste or pin quotes, sayings, or notes from friends to help inspire or motivate you.
- Set aside one or two hours of stress-free time to work on your board.
You can find many ideas to create a vision board on Pinterest and other places on the Web.
How to Set SMART Goals
I base the following section on my book: A Family Caregiver’s Guide: 7 Secrets to Convert Negative Triggers to Positive Emotions (2019).
“Hitch your wagon to a star,” advises an old saying. Goals of a higher purpose give meaning to our lives.
A goal is an aim or desired result. Goals keep us from drifting, floundering, or stagnating.
People are goal-oriented. Setting goals aids and strengthens our purpose, and striving to reach them helps people in their day-to-day living.
A life without goals is pointless and goes nowhere. Therefore, be sure to have worthwhile goals to guide your use of time and energy.
However, goals alone have little meaning. They have real sense only when actions accompany them.
Goals Are Time-Savers
Have you noticed the number of people who squander years of their lives “hanging out” or engaging in leisurely pursuits? What is lacking in the lives of these people?
It is knowing what you want to do and planning to meet the goals you have set help you make better use of your time.
Thus far in this article, you have learned how passion leads to success and have been encouraged to continue learning, as you are “never too old to learn.”
I hope you’ve completed the “passion test,” and done some soul searching, and decided on your next step in life; your purpose.
Whatever your next step, I hope you have a passion and excitement as you move forward.
The “classic” way to set goals is the SMART plan, designed to make goals happen and hold you accountable.
The SMART acronym first appeared in the November 1981 issue of Management Review: “There’s a SMART way to write management goals and objectives.”
Written by George Doran, Arthur Miller, and James Cunningham, here’s how it works:
S= Be specific. Clearly define what it is you want to achieve.
For example: “I want to coach caregivers of people with dementia.”
M= Measurable. How can you measure your success? How will you know you’ve accomplished this goal? When you’ve completed training and earned your coaching certificate? Or when you have your first client?
You may want to have objectives along the way, specific achievements to help you reach your goal. Objectives are measurable and have a timeline.
For example: “I will research the cost and length of three different coaching programs by March 20, 2022.”
A= Attainable. What action steps will you take to reach your goal? In your SMART plan, you should list every step. In the example we’re discussing here, researching the costs and lengths of coach training programs would be one step. In your plan, you will want to explicitly list as many steps as possible to help you reach your goal.
R= Realistic or Relevant. Be realistic about your ambitions. Know what you’re willing and able to do. For instance, if the coaching program you’ve chosen will take twelve months and three thousand dollars, ask yourself if this is something you are willing to do. Do you want to devote this much time and money to pursue this new career (passion)?
“Relevant” means to ensure that the steps in your plan are appropriate when it comes to reaching your goal. Some say the “R” means “Rewarding.” I like the term “Realistic” as it provides the chance to pause and consider your decision.
T= Time-Bound or Timeframe. A specific target date will give you a sense of urgency that will motivate you to complete your goal.
When, for instance, do you want to begin living your life purpose to coach caregivers of people with dementia?
“By March 1, 2023, I will have earned my certification, and by June 15, 2023, I will have found my first client.”
You will, of course, have several steps (objectives) you will need to achieve along the way to your target date of March 1, 2023, to qualify to coach.
Remember that your life purpose doesn’t have to satisfy every need.
You’ll have other goals as well.
No matter what your goals are, you want to make them SMART.
The critical points in this article:
- Passion is a powerful emotion, an intense enthusiasm for something.
- Measure success based on your values, as your values will help you identify your true purpose in life.
- You’re never too old to learn.
- How to take a passion test.
- How to make a vision board
- How to set SMART goals.
Now go out there and do great things in the world, even if you’re 80+!
It is your passion that will help you to succeed.
It’s not too late!
“Follow your passion, be prepared to work hard and sacrifice, and, above all, don’t let anyone limit your dreams.”—Donovan Bailey
Farber, Nell (2012). Throw Away Your Vision Board. Psychology Today.
Kotulak, Ronald. Inside the Brain: Revolutionary Discoveries of How the Mind Works (1997). Andrews McMeel Publishing.
Chillis, Rosa (2019). A Family Caregiver’s Guide: 7 Secrets to Convert Negative Triggers to Positive Emotions. Wellness Ink Publishing.
“The key is not to prioritize what’s on your schedule, but to schedule your priorities.”—Stephen Covey
In this age of technology, your employer, workmates, or clients might expect you to be available 24-7, making it difficult to achieve what is known as work-life balance or symmetry.
Symmetry is a reasonable separation and prioritizing between your job and other aspects of life, such as family and pleasure.
Well, it’s a new year, and I’m going to try very hard to better myself and be a better wife, mother, and supervisor this year. Throughout my career, with its demands and juggling family responsibilities, I have lost myself. I want myself back.
“So, in 2021, I plan to be proactive about my health and my happiness. Don’t get me wrong—I love my family and my job, but I must care for myself, too.
“I’ve finally realized that if I care for myself first, then I’ll be a better wife and mother and won’t sacrifice excellence on the job.”
What You Should Know
Technology can blur the line between job and family life. As a result, each off-hours call, email, or text you receive can lead to what seems like a fire that needs immediate attention!
The simple life of coming home after work and spending time with family or simply relaxing with a refreshing drink and a good book gets put on the back burner.
To create symmetry or evenness in your life, you need to take the initiative. If you do not create a plan, your career will likely intrude on your marriage, time with the kids, or relaxing and recharging after a long day.
Too Little Is as Bad as Too Much
When work ethic was held in high regard, many viewed play as a waste of time. But things have changed. Now the pursuit of pleasure is, for many, the primary purpose in life.
However, work and play should balance each other.
Your career perhaps gives you meaning and purpose in life.
Good play, including self-care, refreshes and energizes the tired worker, a welcome change that re-creates enthusiasm for more work.
Too much work over too long a time exhausts the body and depresses the spirit.
And if you overdo vacations, you no longer feel refreshed but bored.
For the most significant benefit to you and your family and your self-care and well-being, determine the right kinds and the right amounts of entertainment and pleasure.
8 Tips to Create Symmetry with Many Responsibilities
- Control your time. There are many time management strategies. The to-do list is the most common, but what good will it do if you have 30 tasks on it. You must prioritize those tasks into four categories:
- Urgent and important
- Important but not urgent
- Urgent but not important
- Neither urgent nor important
Give yourself enough time to get things done. Don’t overschedule yourself.
Determine if you are a “lark” that works better during the early part of the day or an “owl” that can complete tasks better at night.
- Learn to say no. Decline or delegate some of your work. Share your concerns about your workload with your employer or others who might help with possible solutions. When you quit accepting tasks out of guilt or a false sense of obligation, you’ll have more time for activities that are meaningful to you. Don’t do it if you don’t take time for your personal life or “me” time, including your family and health. Otherwise, you won’t have a career or business to go back to because you’ll be in hospital or dead!
- Unplug. Could you occasionally turn off your devices so that you are not distracted by the demands of work? Or could you take advantage of the technology and invest in equipment that supports you. Get a comfortable chair, an ergonomic keyboard, a support stand for your laptop, etc.
- Let go of perfection. Over time, perfectionists may be more likely to experience chronic headaches, chronic fatigue, insomnia, heartburn chronically elevated stress levels have been linked to increased diabetes and heart disease as well. No question, perfectionism can affect an individual’s physical health.
- Detach from work. During the Covid 19 Pandemic, working from home has become the norm. When you work from home, you feel like you’re always on the job, leading to chronic stress. If possible, when you finish working each day, detach and transition to home life by changing your outfit, taking a drive or walk, or doing an activity with your kids.
- Exercise and breathe. Did you know that people who don’t exercise regularly age faster compared to those who do? Devote a set amount of time each day to a form of exercise that you enjoy: walking, jogging, cycling, swimming, aerobics, and so forth. Make exercise a must-do, not a should-do, as it can invigorate you after an exhausting day at work. And remember to breathe. Just a few minutes of deep breathing will help you fight back against stress.
- Meditate. Meditating renews your spirit. It gives you a sense of calm, peace, and balance that can benefit your emotional well-being and your overall health. Meditating is critical to self-care. One reference work stated, “When you spend some of your valuable time and energy on yourself, you are, in essence, filling your personal resource bank. Constantly giving means you’ve got to be sure something is going back in as well, or you’ll risk becoming emotionally short-changed, if not bankrupt.”
- Enjoy a sound sleep. After a hard and perhaps grueling day on the job, nothing feels better than sweet and restful sleep. Sleep is essential to one’s physical, social, and mental well-being. If you work behind a desk or a computer all day, this can be mentally and emotionally exhausting and lead to that “always tired” feeling.
To have good health, you must get sufficient rest. It has been said that “sleep is to a man what winding up is to a clock.” Sleep restores energy to the body, brain, and the rest of the nervous system.
Sleep also gives us a break from the many tensions of the day. In sleep, we rest our bodies and get rest from such burdens as loneliness and poor health. Proper sleep is vital!
So, there you have it.
Eight sure ways to Create Healthy Work-Life Symmetry.
Work-life symmetry is an ongoing issue that will require continual reevaluation.
Use the ideas in this article to see where in your life you, along with your family, can create work-life symmetry for the benefit of everyone.
King Solomon was inspired to write: “There is time for everything, a season for every activity under the heavens.” He mentioned planting, building, weeping, laughing, dancing, and other activities. (Eccl. 3:1-8)
Two fundamental aspects of life are work and rest.
Your concern should not be rejecting entertainment or play but rather determining the right (healthy) amounts.
You want to create, to your best ability, symmetry.
By Mayo Clinic Staff. Work-Life Balance: Tips to Reclaim Control (2020)
Lee, Deborah Jian. 6 Tips for Better Work-Life Balance (2014)
Work-Life Balance Mental Health America
Harvard Business Review. Work Life Balance Is a Cycle, Not an Achievement (2021)
Chillis, Rosa. A Family Caregiver’s Guide: 7 Secrets to Convert Negative Triggers to Positive Emotions (2019)
“Better three hours too soon than a minute too late.”—William Shakespeare
“If only I had more time!” I’m sure you’ve said this often. In a sense, time is a universal leveler because the powerful and wealthy have no more of it than do the poor and needy.
Furthermore, neither the rich nor the poor can accumulate time.
Time is the great equalizer and our greatest asset because once it’s gone, it’s gone.
And you can’t get it back.
You must learn to master your time and not be its slave.
We must “invest” our time wisely.
As Benjamin Franklin said: “Time is money.”
In this article, I will share four strategies that have helped many people to invest their time wisely—to make the time count.
Strategy 1: Be Organized
Plan your day. Imagine that your day has just begun. You have a seemingly endless number of tasks before you. The thought of all these duties may cause you to dread the day. Where should you begin? By planning your day. Start by writing what is known as a To-Do list. Check off each item as completed. (Your smartphone is an easy way to create to-do lists and planning notes.)
Think ahead. Make the best use of your time by eliminating nonessential tasks, which do no more than consuming time and energy. Set priorities by numbering each item on your to-do list according to importance. Then to the extent possible, handle each activity in that order. (Again, you can put your smartphone to good use here.) Of course, there will be times when you may choose not to handle a matter in strict priority order. Your objective is to stay in control so that what you accomplish each day is by choice rather than by chance. Thinking ahead is an excellent way to increase your productivity.
Simplify your life. Learn to say no to things that are unimportant or that do little more than consuming time. Communicating no, helps you to establish healthy boundaries and enables others to have clarity about what to expect. To say no also means you know your value and respect yourself enough to stand up for your beliefs. Too many activities and appointments can add needless stress and can rob you of joy.
Strategy 2: Avoid Time Stealers
Procrastination. To procrastinate means to delay or postpone action. Procrastination is a thief of both time and productivity; you waste time that you could be investing in something meaningful. While not laziness, some refer to procrastination as a “fierce enemy.”
When you learn how to overcome procrastination, you will accomplish more in life. It is true that when you have to make critical decisions, researching and gathering relevant information and deliberating before moving forward is essential. However, do not allow procrastination to make you indecisive and paralyze you.
“While we waste our time hesitating and postponing, life is slipping away.”—Seneca
Perfectionism. No one is perfect. However, perfectionism has been linked to some eating disorders, such as anorexia and bulimia, but not, as suggested in some articles, to psychiatric problems such as depression, alcoholism, anxiety disorders, or phobias. (Source: WebMD.com)
Set high goals and enjoy the process of achieving them. But don’t beat yourself up and wallow in negative feelings when you don’t meet high expectations. Perfectionism means “refusal to accept any standard short of perfection.”—Oxford English Dictionary
Instead, learn to relax. Don’t despair. Consider that “almost perfect” is still a job well done. So, while high standards are commendable, concentrate on what is essential. Know when it is time to stop and move on to the next important task.
Strategy 3: Create Balance and Be Realistic
Balance work and recreation. Workaholics often deprive themselves of the joys of life. They have no time or energy left. Balance is needed.
- Disconnect for a few hours each day/night by turning off your phone and computer to give your brain a rest.
- Spend the extra time interacting with family and friends.
- Pay attention to your health and be more productive and happier when you get enough sleep.
- Get out in nature; go for a walk.
- Laugh. Play. Have fun!
Set realistic goals. People are goal-oriented. A life without goals is pointless and goes nowhere. Therefore, be sure to have worthwhile goals to guide your use of time and energy. However, goals alone have little meaning. They have real sense only when actions accompany them.
Goals are time-savers. Have you noticed the number of people who squander their lives “hanging out?” Or engaging in leisurely pursuits. What is lacking in the lives of these people? Worthwhile goals.
Knowing what you want to do and planning to meet the goals you have set will help you make better use of your time.
Speaking of goals, Psychology Today noted that, “One attitude that is important for adult happiness is a certainty that life has meaning and direction that one is progressing toward life goals.”
Strategy 4: Be Guided by Your Values
Consider your values. Your values enable you to gauge what is good, meaningful, and worthwhile. Good values help you set priorities in life and make the best use of your time by the hour and day by day. What is important to you?
Many people make love their principal value. We cannot be delighted and emotionally secure without love, especially within the family. Many people disregard that fact and give priority to gaining wealth or a career.
Often these pursuits result in unhappiness.
How much of your time is it worth?
Before you buy something, psychologist Charles Spezzano suggests converting monetary value into the time it would take you to earn that amount of money and then see if it’s still worth it.
What is important to you?
Be sure to set aside time to nurture yourself spiritually and emotionally.
The four strategies in this article will help you invest your time far more wisely than perhaps you’re doing today.
No other investment will give you the wisdom to make the most, not just of each day but your life as a whole.
“Time is what we want most, but what we use worst.”—William Penn
“Constant kindness can accomplish much. As the sun makes ice melt, kindness causes misunderstandings, mistrust, and hostility to evaporate.”—Albert Schweitzer
“Rant alert! As if caring for your loved ones through terminal illness or behavior issues isn’t bad enough—or even navigating systems that promise to offer help but broken, at best. But what gets me is when your f*****g siblings can’t find any f*****g compassion or consideration to give you a f*****g chance to get back up on your feet after being knocked down time and time again for years—whether it be emotionally, physically, financially, or mentally.
“My mum moved into residential care two weeks ago, and she loves it. Why? Because she has company and is well cared for. I fully supported her decision. But my brothers? Oh no! One stopped talking to me. The other doesn’t understand why I haven’t found a job and moved out of the family home, and he wants me to pay for my mum’s residential care.
“Times like these are when I’m convinced that I’m adopted. I’m so f*****g angry! I have had to put my dreams on hold constantly, and I now finally get a chance to rebuild my business with some great products and services but with no f*****g support from my family at all!”
Barbara and her family have failed to communicate adequately.
Interestingly, during the same week, she posted her entry in the online support group, another caregiver member of the group posted these words:
“I HATE my siblings. That is all.”
This member received twenty-nine responses to her, with many sharing her sentiments and saying, “Me too!”
What is going on?
Why is there so much hatred among family members?
Where a good relationship exists, the caregiver, patient, and family laugh together even when they make mistakes.
Conversely, where there is friction, situations sometimes erupt and reveal communication gaps.
Barbara, for example, felt misunderstood and unheard by her brothers when siblings should be part of a robust, supportive circle tied together by a strong familial bond.
Instead, they only have feelings of bitterness, anger, and resentment toward each other.
What You Can Do About Family Conflict
You must first understand the reasons behind a conflict before taking steps to resolve it.
One family therapist explains an important reason why brothers and sisters are so often in conflict:
“Each family has a certain number of resources, some emotional and some material. When siblings fight, they’re usually competing for these resources, which include everything from paternal love to money and clothes.”
In Barbara’s situation, some of the conflicts seem to be about money, as one of her brothers believed that she should pay for their mother’s residential care.
Other issues in Barbara’s family involve feelings of resentment—at least from Barbara’s perspective. One brother wants Barbara to move out of the family home and be on her own, which could also be about money.
But the only way Barbara and her brothers can get to the core of their disputes is to talk openly to each other face-to-face.
Such a meeting involves interpersonal communication skills, where the siblings can exchange information, feelings, and meaning through verbal and nonverbal communication, ideally in person or a conference call.
But I believe the most critical communication skill is effective and active listening, which builds trust. Through it, you can make and bring opposing ideas closer together.
Conflicts or clashes often occur due to family stress and other negative emotions, such as worry, anger, grief, guilt, and so forth.
These negative emotions not only affect your health but family dynamics as well.
Barbara might have been experiencing all sorts of inner emotional turmoil, which caused her to express herself so vehemently in her online post.
Indeed, she must resolve the issues with her brothers, or she will need professional mental help.
In the field of psychotherapy, there exist four methods of conflict resolution.
You may have learned these in college or the workplace. They include:
- Competition. This method refers to a power struggle involving who gets the upper hand. The result is, “I win, and you lose.”
- Accommodation. You concede to resolve issues with this style. The result is, “I lose, and you win.”
- Compromise. Many believe this is the best way to resolve conflict, resulting in “I lose, and you lose.”
- Cooperation. Referred to as a “win-win” situation, both parties cooperate for the best outcome in both their favor.
Conflict Can Happen in Any Relationship
Regardless of the type of relationship, there are four common causes of severe disagreements or disputes:
- Lack of shared understanding.
- Poor communication skills.
- Unclear or unfair expectations.
- Power plays and manipulations.
Use These Seven Simple Steps to Improve Your Family Communication
Step 1: Prepare to listen with understanding.
In Barbara’s case, she should calmly approach her brothers and ask to meet with them face-to-face, if possible. She can plan to avoid being defensive. She might say to them in a friendly tone of voice, “Let’s talk.”
When approaching her brothers, Barbara should recall what she has learned about nonverbal communication skills and remember that it is not only what she says but, also how she presents her case.
Step 2: Engage in active listening.
If Barbara’s brothers agree to a meeting, she must engage in active listening. She will acknowledge whatever her brothers say by nodding or making statements such as, “I see,” or “I get it.” However, this is not to be confused with obeying or acquiescing. She should ask sincere questions and express herself with mildness and respect for better results.
Step 3. State your position tactfully.
In this step, you should avoid blame, shame, or guilt to present your case, as doing so would be ineffective. Using such a tactic could backfire in Barbara’s case, and her brothers might instead become defensive and argumentative. Use statements that start with “I.”
Step 4. Give the benefit of the doubt.
Open your discussion by expecting the best results. Barbara, for instance, could assume right away that her brothers will be sympathetic to her point of view, putting her into a more positive frame of mind instead of expecting the worse and thus feeling tense or nervous. Repeating the phrase, “I’m sure they’ll understand how I feel,” may help.
Step 5. Be hard on the problem.
Focus on the issue at hand but do not attack the people. Avoid generalizing by using statements such as, “You always do this” or “You never do that.”
Step 6. Resist casting blame.
The only time casting blame is adequate is when you’re blaming yourself, which will denote humility. Make statements such as, “I messed up; I apologize.” Blaming others will only cause resentment and will reinforce their position.
Step 7. Negotiate with confidence.
Convince yourself that you are not afraid to confront the issues. Explain that people have different needs, wants, and aspirations. If you have a problem with your family and it’s causing you distress, it’s time to speak up. Nearly everything is negotiable. Aim for a win-win solution. It may not be easy, but it is well worth the effort.
In addition to the above seven steps, showing empathy can be beneficial, as some refer to this quality as “The Bedrock of Conversation.”
According to Dr. Bernard Guerney of Pennsylvania State University:
“Empathy is the capacity to appreciate the other person’s feelings and point of view—whether you agree with him or not. Empathy is the foundation upon which we build everything else.”
Thus, to resolve conflict and preserve the relationship, we must be willing to talk about the problem without making the other person defensive or angry.
Most people confuse empathy—the appreciation and respect for the other person’s point of view—with the agreement with the other person’s position.
That is not the case.
According to Dr. Guerney, empathy allows you to put yourself mentally in the other person’s shoes so that you can feel and think as they do. And you will find that doing so will result in understanding, appreciation, and respect, even if you disagree with their point of view.
Empathy shows you care.
Empathy serves to foster better communication people want and need.
- Communication is the exchange of thoughts and feelings.
- Miscommunication is a failure to communicate adequately.
- As with all conflict, family conflict occurs due to a lack of shared understanding, poor communication skills, unclear or unfair expectations, and power plays and manipulations.
As a caregiver, I implore you to follow the seven practical yet simple steps in this article and watch communication within your family improve.
With the stress, overwhelm, and struggles you are undoubtedly experiencing in caring for your loved one, you (all of us) need family!
We must try to get along.
Make your caregiving days less stressful and more loving, joyful, and peaceful through effective communication with family.
Source for this article:
A Family Caregiver’s Guide: 7 Secrets to Convert Negative Triggers to Positive Emotions, published 2019.
Find it on Amazon here: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B07T8KSC34
“Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony.”—Mahatma Gandhi
Are you happy?
Oxford English Dictionary defines happiness as: “feeling or showing pleasure; fortunate and convenient.”
In line with this definition, other sources say happiness is an “emotional state characterized by feelings of joy, satisfaction, contentment, and fulfillment.”
If you accept the above descriptions, what principles or qualities of life would you say characterize the way to find such happiness?
What rules do happy people live by?
How do happy people behave?
Unlocking the Code
Many people experience a measure of happiness when they reach a specific goal or obtain a new item, such as a car, a house, or another thing they desire.
But how long does that surge of happiness last? Often, it is only temporary.
The six qualities that promote lasting happiness include:
- Physical health and resilience
- Contentment and generosity
- Purpose in life
Let’s now consider each of these specific measures of happiness one at a time:
Physical Health and Resilience
Tammy’s husband had had three strokes within three months. She had to drive him from the hospital to a nursing home for rehab each time it happened.
Tammy had no assistance from relatives and was under extreme stress. And stress makes you sick!
According to Dr. Jay Winner, as reported on WebMD.com, the most significant health problems induced by stress include:
- Heart disease
- Depression and anxiety
- Gastrointestinal problems
- Alzheimer’s disease
- Accelerated aging
- Premature death
What could Tammy do?
Control her negative emotions.
Your mind and body are closely linked.
So, Tammy should avoid undue anxiety, unbridled anger, and other harmful emotions and focus on positive things.
Yes, you can choose how to feel.
To keep her health from deteriorating, Tammy should also, if at all possible, find a few minutes each day to exercise. Get out for a walk. Work in the garden, if she has one. Or find an exercise she can enjoy on YouTube.
Tammy has no choice but to care for her husband, but she must find ways to cope; build resilience.
Three suggested ways to help Tammy manage her difficult situation and become more resilient are; meditation, mindfulness, and prayer.
Also, getting plenty of sleep and eating healthy meals required for good health is a must!
Contentment and Generosity
Many believe that we measure happiness by wealth and assets.
There are always cycles in the traditional financial markets.
For Instance, Bitcoin (a cryptocurrency), has lost so much of its value in the last 2-3 months that folks have heart attacks!
Perhaps these markets will recover—who knows?
But if our desires do not exceed our means, we’re spared needless anxiety and stress.
Mental health experts link striving for money to unhappiness because it leads to worry and loss of sleep.
Many people experience grief and frustration when money or investments depreciate or fail.
If this is your situation, why not adopt the attitude that you will be content with if you have food and clothing for yourself and your family.
An attitude of contentment will protect you against envy and the desire to exceed your means—less anxiety and stress.
Generosity also brings happiness.
One definition for generous: “freely giving more than necessary or expected.”
The word “generous” has many synonyms: kindness, humanity, benevolence, unselfishness, openhandedness, and on and on.
And if you’re familiar with the Christian Bible, you have undoubtedly read: “There is more happiness in giving than there is in receiving.” (Acts 20:35).
Generous people put people before things and value good relationships with others above material riches.
Generous people are happy people.
“It’s enough to indulge and to be selfish but true happiness is really when you start giving back.”—Adrian Grenier
Purpose in Life
Humans are unique in many ways.
We have extraordinary brains, though not the most giant brains in the world.
We can think symbolically and reason.
We write, we paint, we create, and humans can control fire!
And only humans think about life’s big questions: Why are we here? What is the purpose of life?
William McDougall, a professor of psychology, wrote: “To keep alive and mentally healthy, we need something to live for.”
Another professor of psychology, Carol Ryff, agrees: “People whose lives have purpose show widespread health benefits—they have reduced risk for cognitive [mental] impairment … reduced risk for cardiovascular disease, better recovery from stroke … and, relatedly they live longer.”
There are health benefits to having a purpose.:
- Fewer strokes and heart attacks
- Better sleep
- Lower risk of dementia and disabilities
Not sure about your purpose?
Start with a self-assessment. There are many formulas on the Web that can help you discover your life’s purpose.
Be clear about your life purpose. You were born with an inner guidance that tells you when you’re on or off course by the amount of joy you are experiencing.
To forgive means to “stop feeling angry or resentful towards (someone) for an offense or mistake.”—Oxford English Dictionary
Forgiveness means pardoning an offender and letting go of anger, resentment, and thoughts of revenge; it does not mean condoning a wrong, minimizing, or pretending it did not happen.
For instance, Rhonda and her brother Darin had agreed to care equally for their seriously ill 78-year-old mother.
Unfortunately, this is not what happened.
Rhonda said, “I’m so frustrated. I do everything for my mother, and my brother does nothing! For example, my brother said he mowed the lawn and called pest control so they could get ready to sell the house.
“Pest control sent me a picture of the yard. My brother had not mowed the lawn! My brother is unreliable and irresponsible! Yet, he is my mother’s pride and joy. She dotes on him and criticizes me!
“How can I cope!?”
To say that Rhonda resents her brother is putting it mildly. She could also be jealous of him. She seems to feel that her brother gets the love, and she gets the grind of caring for their mother’s needs.
Rhonda must work to overcome and control such feelings. She must work to remain kind and considerate—no matter what.
The value of unity and peace in one’s family is worth whatever it may cost.
By being willing to forgive, for instance, makes us more loving and lovable.
Forgiveness reflects an understanding that we all err in word and deed.
According to Mayo Clinic, forgiveness leads to:
- Healthier relationships, including feelings of empathy, understanding, and compassion for others
- Improved mental and spiritual well-being
- Less anxiety, stress, and hostility
- Fewer symptoms of depression
- Improved heart health
- Improved self-esteem
And forgive yourself.
Self-forgiveness is critical to your mental health but can be challenging to achieve.
No one is perfect; you will make mistakes.
If you hurt someone, take responsibility and be quick to apologize.
Learn from your errors, and so you are less likely to repeat them.
Be patient with yourself.
Here are a few self-forgiveness affirmations I found on the Web:
- I acknowledge my faults and forgive myself completely
- I release the heavy burden of shame, guilt, self-hatred, and self-judgment
- I let go of all urges to criticize myself
- Self-hatred does not serve me
You must learn to forgive yourself.
“Hope is a match in a dark tunnel, a moment of light, just enough to reveal the path ahead and ultimately the way out.”—Dr. Judith Rich
On October 27, 2020, I wrote a blog article that I posted to my website entitled, “A Story of Hope and Optimism: What It Means for You.”
In the article, I quoted Charles Richard Snyder, the psychologist who developed the hope theory: “A rainbow is a prism that sends shards of multicolored light in various directions. It lifts our spirits and makes us think of what is possible. Hope is the same—a personal rainbow of the mind.”
However, hope and optimism are not the same things.
Optimism means “most likely to lead to a favorable outcome.”—Oxford English Dictionary
An example would be: “My workday started stressfully, but I believe it could only get better.”
The book Hope in the Age of Anxiety states: “Hope is an essential element of our spiritual lifeblood. And it is the best medicine for overcoming feelings of helplessness, alienation, and fear.”
The opposite of hope is fear: “An unpleasant emotion caused by the threat of danger, pain, or harm.”—Oxford English Dictionary
Our need for hope is reflected in everyday life.
What we hope for:
- An end of poverty and hunger; ample food for all
- An end to violence against women and children
- An end to warfare
- A more open, inclusive, and fair world for all people
- Clean water for all
Undoubtedly, you can think of other needs for which to hope.
“Hope is the dream of the waking man.”—Aristotle
“One word frees us of all weight and pain in life—that word is love.”—Sophocles
Definition of love: noun, “A strong feeling of affection”; verb, “Loves, loving, loved.”—Oxford English Dictionary
Humans crave love, and therefore love is essential to mental health and happiness.
One Bible writer described love this way:
“Love is patient and kind. It bears all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails.”—1 Corinthians 13:4-8
When self-sacrificing love exists between family members, they all greatly benefit.
A young woman named Melissa, whose mother was critically ill and house bond, shared:
“Just Mom and me today hanging at home. I cooked dinner for us, and we’re going to watch the Colorado Rockies on TV.
“I was invited to quite a few things with friends, and I was a little bitter, but I’m making the best of it. My sisters couldn’t be bothered to visit. I would do anything for my mom, and I know she won’t be here forever.
“Taking care of Mom makes me happy.”
Yes, love promotes happiness because:
- It helps us to show sincere concern for the welfare and benefit of others
- It can grow stronger over time
- It gives strength and resilience to families and friendships
Choose to act the love.
And find Happiness
In this article, you have discovered the Happiness Code.
When troubles and misery come your way (and they will), you now know the rules and principles that, if followed, will for sure lift you up.
- Take care of your physical health and strengthen your resilience.
- Learn contentment and be generous
- Find your purpose in life
- Practice forgiveness
- Have hope—always
- Act the love
These six practices are the way of happiness.
“Try to make at least one person happy every day. If you cannot do a kind deed, speak a kind word. If you cannot speak a kind word, think a kind thought. Count up, if you can, the treasure of happiness that you would dispense in a week, in a year, in a lifetime!”—Lawrence G. Lovasik
“I’m alone, but I’m not lonely. I like who I am. I like who I’m becoming.”—Deena Kastor
Today, because of the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic, the digital mental health market is exploding.
Stress and anxiety have accelerated demand for virtual behavioral health services.
According to the European Connected Health Alliance, more than 380,000 health apps are available through Apple and Android operating systems, and around 20,000 of them address mental health.
But what about emotional health?
Emotional Health Vs. Mental Health
In researching this topic, I did not find apps specifically to help with emotional health.
I believe this is because mental health and emotional health are two terms often used interchangeably.
But while deeply intertwined, mental health and emotional health are not the same things.
Emotional health has to do with your thoughts and feelings—and get the best of you.
On the other hand, mental health impacts our ability to process information and what’s going on around us.
For instance, our emotional health enables us to express our dissatisfaction if a situation makes us upset or angry. But our mental health affects how we understand what’s going on and process the problem.
In other words, I was thinking vs. expressing.
Some say that mental health is hardware, meaning how well our mind processes and understands information and experiences; our ability to carefully reason through decisions and remain focused and steady.
Whereas emotional health is the software, meaning our ability to manage and express emotions that arise and deal with life’s challenges.
Emotional Health Matters
When we cope with life relationships, we must balance our thoughts and emotions.
Though caring for our mental health (being productive at work, setting goals, contributing to society, etc.) is essential, too, our emotional awareness and health (behaviors, feelings, and thoughts).
Thus, if you are struggling with life’s stresses and an ability to adapt to life’s changes and handle difficult times—unable to manage the ups and downs of day-to-day life—you are not emotionally healthy.
And you need to take action now!
Here are eight helpful tips to improve your emotional health:
Tip #1. Practice daily self-care
- Drink cold water (8 glasses a day)
- Exercise (walk 15 minutes outside, if possible)
- Eat healthy meals
- Practice gratitude
- Manage stress (practice yoga)
Tip #2. Talk about your feelings
- Feel good about who you are
- Be positive
- Tell someone if you feel anxious
- Write positive affirmations down and repeat them to yourself
- Ask for help; accept support
- Say “no” when you need to
Tip #3. Have a sense of purpose
Having a driving force or something to inspire you keeps you going:
- Commit more time to your children
- Take up a hobby
- Get a new job
Tip #4. Get quality sleep
To have good health, it has been said that “sleep is to a man what winding up is to a clock.” In sleep, you:
- Get a break from the many tensions of the day
- Get rest from such burdens as loneliness and poor health
- Relieve feelings of guilt, depression, anxiety, or worry
Tip #5. Learn to manage your time to reduce stress
Time management means the conscious control of time spent on specific activities. The benefits: more productivity and less stress.
Check out the Harvard Business Review for tips on ways to improve your time management and feel like you’ve accomplished what’s needed.
Tip #6. Connect with others
Scientists are finding that social connections will help you live longer because of the effects on emotional and physical health. Ideas:
- Deepen relationships (with the kids, friends, family)
- Take a class
- Accept invitations
- Join at least three groups (online or in-person)
Tip #7. Be Mindful
“Mindfulness is the awareness that emerges through paying attention on purpose, in the present moment, and nonjudgmentally, to things as they are.”—Zindel Segal
- Slow down
- Breathe deeply
- Focus on the moment
- Spend time in nature
- Keep a daily journal
- Forgive yourself, repeatedly
Tip #8. See a therapist
If you aren’t able to deal with your feelings adequately, and your loved ones aren’t helping you to do so, then, by all means, see a therapist. They can help you identify areas of your emotional health where you want to improve and help you come up with a plan.
Seeking professional help is a way to practice proper self-care.
Emotional health is equally important to physical health.
In this article, you have discovered eight tips to put you on the path to improved emotional health.
If you feel like you don’t have control of your thoughts and emotions, then
make self-care a priority.
Start by caring for your core needs: explore ways to reduce stress, get adequate sleep, connect with others, meditate, stay positive, call a friend.
Believe it or not, you can choose how to feel.
Emotional and physical health are two sides of the same coin. There is a strong connection between the mind and body.
Emotional instability will affect your work and your family.
Please, do not take your emotional health for granted.
But if you’re struggling to keep it together and need help, then it’s time to contact a therapist, which is the most self-loving choice you can make.
“When our emotional health is in a bad state, so is our level of self-esteem. We have to slow down and deal with what is troubling us, so that we can enjoy the simple joy of being happy and at peace with ourselves.”—Jess C. Scott