5 Principles…

th-7Stephen Covey writes a great deal about the principles on which the seven habits are based.  Here are the five principles which most effect my life daily.

The principle of service, of giving oneself to others, of helping to facilitate other people in their endeavours.

I seem to do this all day long, everyday!  I work in a residential home for adults with profound, multiple learning disabilities.  I provide full support with every aspect of their lives from personal care to helping them to live as independently as possible.  I have even helped some achieve their goals and their dreams.  Service is my job and one that I love.  I count myself very lucky.

In my personal life I take the majority of responsibility for the children.  Service is yet again the order of the day!  I don’t mind this anymore, it seems to have become easier as the children have got older and I have found ways of coping.  I love the time I spend with my children and I don’t feel the loss of identity that I once felt.  I’m beginning to get some of ‘me’ back.

I need to practise this principle more with my partner, I know deep down that he is a good person and I believe that this person will come back to me one day.  In the meantime I will do my up most to support him.

The Principle of staying positive and optimistic, radiating positive energy, and avoiding the four emotional cancers (criticizing, complaining, comparing and competing).

Well, staying positive and optimistic can be a battle when times are bad, but I try to remember that there is nothing I can do to change his drinking.  He needs to do this himself.  So, I just carry on with my life and try to help the kids understand.  (I would like to make it clear here that there have been very few incidences where he has been drinking around the kids.)  He now knows that when he is drinking, I will just stay out of the way.  I have managed to carve out a little life for myself, I started writing, learnt a new craft skill and started doing the things I loved as a child like drawing and singing.  This has helped so much and I am much happier for it.

During the day to day grind when I was unhappy and depressed I did a lot of the four emotional cancers.  I criticized the way he looked after our children, (sometimes rightly so, like when their outing with daddy was to the pub), but a lot of the time it was just nit picking because of my resentment towards him. This is probably partly responsible for why he helps so little now.  He felt like he could do no right.

I complained from the moment I got up in the morning till the moment I went to sleep.  I didn’t realise how negative I had become.  I compared our relationship to others, and wondered why we couldn’t be like a ‘normal’ couple.  I now know there is no such thing.  Everyone has their own problems.

I still have negative days, but I tend to just bite my tongue now.  Then I guess bottling up my feelings will do no good either.

The Principle of integrity – The quality of being honest and having strong moral principles.

I try not to speak about others when they are not present, but I admit this is quite difficult as I work in a female dominated environment.  There is a lot of gossiping and bitching and it’s easy to get sucked in.  I try to avoid these conversations and walk away and get on with my work.  If I am part of the conversation, I try to make sure that I don’t say anything that I wouldn’t say to the person’s face.

In these types of situations I try to remember that we never know what other people are going through.  My colleagues really have very little clue of the extent of the problems in my family, I hide it well.  I’m actually one of the few staff who doesn’t take their issues into work, I would never want to – it’s the one place I can get away from it all.

The Principle of patience – The capacity to accept or tolerate delay, problems, or suffering without becoming annoyed or anxious.

I am very patient in my work life.  A lot of the adults I support have challenging behaviour and mental health issues.  I can be in some pretty dangerous situations, sometimes on a daily basis.  I cope with this well.  I am good at it.  So, why do I find it so hard to apply at home?

I am much better with the children now, when I was very stressed out I would lose patience quickly and feel like I couldn’t cope but I manage this well now.  I have had to set up my life so that I no longer depend on daddy, e.g. I have back-up childcare, informed my manager so he’s aware.  The minute I put these things into place my life became easier.  It is just sad that it has come to that.

With my partner things need to change.  Staying out of the way helps but it does not address the problem.

The Principle of balance – Identifying our roles and spending appropriate times in each one.

All good with work and children here but definitely need to spend more time on our relationship.  I also need to look at developing friendships as I am feeling isolated at times.

It’s just knowing where to start…

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How Do You Do?

th-5Today’s Blogging 101 task got me thinking about the way I interact with those around me.  I am generally quite a quiet person when I first meet people, quite shy I suppose.  I never really know what to say and rarely initiate a conversation.  I’m absolutely useless at ‘small talk’ – yes, I am that person you have conversations with and there are lots of awkward silences!

It definitely takes me a while to get to know people.  I’m in my thirties but I only have a few close friends – and even those I don’t see very often.  I find it difficult to develop friendships.  When I first started my job nine years ago I was a very quiet member of the team, or so people thought.  Reflecting back on it I realise that I was watching people, how they worked and how they connected with each other – it’s something I have a talent for – reading people.

Over the years I became a trusted member of the team and worked my way up through the ranks – even past people who were there long before me.  I feel this is mainly due to the fact that having been so quiet and watchful my basic character shone through, rather than the falseness that personality can sometimes bring, e.g. fitting in, joining in the gossip etc.

I often wish I could of remained the watchful, quiet one who only showed true character but as my confidence grew and my personality began to develop, bad habits crept in.  Now I’m struggling to become the better person again.  For me character is important, personality tends to manifest from what we think other people want us to be, or even what we think we should be like to please others.

I realise my quietness with new people comes across wrong, some people find me insensitive or abrupt because I rush in to say something because I’m nervous.  I seem to find it difficult to show empathy, maybe because I need to get to know people better but also because I work with adults with profound multiple learning disabilities with all sorts of difficulties so others ‘problems’ don’t always seem so important to me.

There are pros and cons to each way of being.  I wish I had the ability to be both confident and principally centred.  I’m not there yet, but this is what my journey is all about.

A Strange New World…

thThe time in my life when I had to challenge my paradigms and assumptions the most was when I visited Thailand and Vietnam with my partner.  My partner previously lived and worked in Thailand and Vietnam for four years so he sees it as a second home and probably would of stayed out there if we had not got together when we did.

I wasn’t complete in the dark concerning these countries, obviously my partner had told me many stories of his travels and I had read up about it before we went. All I can say is nothing really prepared me for the things I was about to see.

I knew that the sex industry was very full on and ‘in your face’ in many places but what completely astounded me was the attitudes of these workers and those around them.  Being a sex worker is so completely ‘normal’ in Thailand, it’s a strange ambience to be surrounded by.  The women that I met who work in this industry are just some of the nicest I have ever met, I couldn’t believe how positive and happy they were.  I’m not sure I could be so strong if my life had been mapped out in such a way and my future choices so limited.  I remember speaking to one family who had told me how thrilled they were when they found out their son was gay, explaining that this would mean he would bring more money into the family in the future.  It is hard to hear mothers talking about their children in this way.

Whilst in Vietnam I was very shocked at how young the children who sold flowers and other little souvenirs on the street at night were.  Some were not more than four or five years old.  These little girls were so happy and oblivious to the attention they were receiving from grown men who were openly groping them while their mother’s looked on.  I wanted to do something about it but was told that it would be unwise.  In the end I managed to get the little girl away from the man by buying a few things from her.  I then gave her mother some money to let the little girl sit with us for the evening, feeling uneasy that she would only be safe for one evening and that there were many more more like her out there.  Her mother saw my concern and explained that her daughter was being prepared for a future that was predetermined.  My own daughter is five years old, I can’t imagine what this would be like.

There is also an incredible amount of mistreatment of animals.  I saw a cat grabbed off the street and strangled in front of my eyes.  Elephants being mistreated if they didn’t perform tricks in Bangkok for the amusement of tourists.  Although I am told that many people keep dogs as pets now and the mistreatment is reducing due to the fact it doesn’t bode well with tourists.  I also visited a tiger sanctuary where the animals were looked after by Buddhist monks which was a lovely place to be.

What shocked me the most was my partners complete acceptance of this place and the things that go on, stuff which he would never of accepted in the UK.  Perhaps this was due to the amount of alcohol he used to consume then (a lot, before we had children).  He just said to me that it was ‘just the way it is’ out there. This doesn’t sit well with me. My values are the same wherever I am in the world. Some things are just inherently wrong.  But, what can we do to help?

Reading this post back to myself it sounds so negative.  Thailand and Vietnam are beautiful countries with some of the loveliest people I have ever met.  There are people and places I wouldn’t of missed for the world as well as things I’d rather forget.  These are just my experiences, other people’s will be completely different.  I am grateful I went there before I had children, I’m not sure I could visit there again now.

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Life Through a Lens…

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“…we must look at the lens through which we see the world, as well as at the world we see, and that the lens itself shapes how we interpret the world.” (Covey)

Whenever I read this quote It always makes me think of all the times that I have made assumptions  or jumped to conclusions.  I probably do this on a daily basis in some small way.  For example, making dinner half hour later than planned because Daddy is never home on time!  These small assumptions Don’t do too much damage unless consistently assumed, for example, Daddy just comes home half hour later than planned now because he knows dinner won’t be ready!

It’s when we make a big assumption that people can get hurt.  I work with a lady who is always making silly errors and saying the wrong thing.  She doesn’t think before she speaks and she is seen by many as a bit of an embarrassment.  I have known this lady many years and the truth is that she has a heart of gold.  Most of the errors she makes are because she is so scared of being blamed when anything goes wrong.  Unfortunately over the years she has become a bit of a scapegoat.  I’m not perfect I have even jumped to conclusions about her, I run finances where I work and if there are ever errors, I admit, I have made wrong assumptions.  It frightens me when there is such negativity in a staff team that it is very easy to get sucked into it in order to fit in.

This scenario made me uneasy in myself and I started noting my reactions when interacting with her and those around her. I decided to be the better person and stop making judgements because you never truly know someone else’s situation. I started acting with integrity and speaking up for her when she wasn’t present.  If she did make mistakes or say the wrong thing I would take her aside and explain things to her in a calm way.  I’m pleased to say that others soon followed suit.  It is so important to remember that by leading by example we can make such a difference even in the most negative situations.

As Stephen Covey so eloquently puts it…

“Our paradigms correct or incorrect are the sources of our attitudes and behaviours, and ultimately our relationships with others.”

All quotes are taken from ‘7 Habits of Highly Effective People’ by Stephen Covey.