Liliane Grace, creative writing, author, keynote speaker, The Mastery Club 

Liliane Grace, creative writing, author, keynote speaker, The Mastery Club 

Managing Our Expectations as a Way of Avoiding Conflict

One of my ex-writing students is a Marketing Manager and we’re doing an exchange of services at the moment. Something I really appreciate about Ellen is the cleanness of her communication style. In one of our early conversations she deliberately addressed the subject of our expectations.

‘Conflict Resolution Skills’ is a course I taught years ago, and Ellen demonstrated them perfectly. There’s a sliding scale of events that result in conflict from initial Discomforts and Incidents through Misunderstandings and Tension to outright Conflict. In other worlds, conflict doesn’t just happen out of the clear blue sky; it starts with little baby steps…

I was grateful to Ellen for recognising where we had already taken a couple of baby steps in the direction of conflict, and quickly and clearly identifying what she understood and wanted, and asking me what I understood and wanted so that we’d be on the same page. She did all of this with her signature good humour – I could feel her smile beaming at me through the telephone line.

That initial stage of ‘Discomforts’ is described in the Conflict Resolution Skills Manual that I use (© The Conflict Resolution Network, created by Helena Cornelius and team) as ‘Perhaps nothing is said yet. Things don’t feel right. It may be difficult to identify what the problem is. Do you feel uncomfortable about a situation but not quite sure why?’

I think this course is supremely important and that we can all do with consciously and deliberately developing these skills. I know I can. (If you’d like to participate in a Conflict Resolution Course with me, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. I’d love to share this empowering and very useful material with you.) But at the very least I hope that this blog is a useful reminder to you of the importance of clean and timely communication.

As Dr Demartini says, we are careless when we put ourselves above others, careful when we put ourselves below others, and caring when we respect ourselves and others in equal measure.

Thank you again to Ellen for demonstrating those skills so beautifully and keeping our collaboration on the ‘straight and narrow’.

How Clean Are You? - Health, Values, & the Inner-Outer War

A friend of mine reckons that water is only good for washing dishes. His beverage of choice is champagne, and his life philosophy is that he’s 'here for a good time, not a long time'.

It sounds good and it’s very amusing but I suspect that when his body starts to fall apart he might have second thoughts. On the other hand, his great attitude to life is such that I’m sure it’s providing him with some pretty decent immunity. At sixty-odd, he’s fitter than many a younger man. I’m going to be interested to see which wins out, physical laws or the laws of the mind!

Water is my beverage of choice and I love it for many reasons. Its pure taste is one thing, its ability to quench thirst is another, and knowing that it’s the cleanser par excellence of both internal and external systems clinches the deal.

On the physical side of things I reckon that if I asked my friend how he’d feel about going for a week without having a shower, he’d grimace in disgust. We just wouldn’t do that, would we? But why, then, do some of us go for a whole week barely drinking any water, when that’s one of the main (and cheapest and easiest) ways of keeping our ‘innards’ clean?

The answer is probably ‘because we can’t see inside our bodies, and out of sight is out of mind’. I think the lack of sense in that response is apparent. End of health lecture.

Interestingly, we find the same dynamic regarding the world of the mind and life itself. We often search for answers outside ourselves but the truest and most pertinent ones are on the inside.

What keeps us from supplying our own answers? Perhaps because it’s easier to ask someone else and because, as different and unique and special as we might think we are, if our instincts are taking us in the opposite direction to the crowd, that can be very discomfiting, especially if the crowd is heading in the direction of some of our highest values.

I’m getting too cryptic. Here’s an example: Suppose you desire to be wealthy and successful and you know it will take work and commitment and prioritising and you’re prepared for that… but you also love hanging out with your family and friends over dinner or at the beach or at home or curling up on the couch with a good book or a movie… which set of values do you prioritise?

Does the wealth/success set begin to feel like a ‘should’? (After all, it’s logical that if we just work hard for a while eventually we’ll be able to afford all the pleasures and freedoms of life.)

Do you feel guilty when you prioritise those business/growth events over family? (After all, you’re missing your children’s growing up years when you’re away at weekend seminars, etc.)

It’s a trap for the unwary, isn’t it!

Dr Demartini recommends ‘values linking’, where you identify the values you’d like to raise in your ‘hierarchy of values’ and link them to your current highest values. We do this by asking, ‘How will being successful serve my family?’ and then finding several hundred answers, until we are so aligned with the new value that it takes pride of place. Achieving that sort of result requires that we go ‘inside’, to do some gruelling inner work.

Why do we have such trouble doing the inner work? Maybe because it’s dark in there… and we can't see clearly...

We wear masks of happiness and confidence out in the world and keep our shadow parts deeply buried on the inside, so going within can be rife with danger. Once we cross the threshhold into the 'inside', we're dealing with our limited beliefs, our misperceptions, our fears, our hopes, our disowned parts...

And it’s complex in there – we have mixed feelings about things, like the old success/freedom dynamic above, where part of us wants this and part of us wants that.

I have a personal philosophy that life is about ‘and’ not ‘or’; I don’t want to be choosing between a good time and a long time – I want both! And I reckon both are possible.

What about you?

God Doesn't Throw Fish - How My Son DIDN'T Lose His License

You’ve probably heard the proverb, ‘Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach him how to fish and you feed him for a lifetime’.

It’s a good one. It makes sense at an everyday human level, but if we delve a little more deeply, it’s actually telling us how the universe works. You know that guidebook everyone says we didn’t come to earth with? Well, that proverb is your guidebook.

Re-read it like this: ‘God/Life doesn’t throw fish (= rescue you, solve your problems); God/Life provides you with the experiences that will teach you how to fish (= how to be resourceful and powerful in your own life).

Think about it. If you wanted to teach someone patience, would you put them in circumstances where everything easily and quickly went their way, or would you put them in circumstances where they were going to have to work for what they wanted, were going to have to persist and wait and thus develop patience?

The latter, right? It’s obvious, albeit annoying! We want the fish!!!! Right now, in our laps! Instead, a rod is shoved into our hands and we’re pushed out into the weather.

When we resist the rod, we literally make a rod for our backs – if you’ll excuse the mixed metaphors! But hoping/praying for a solution isn’t the answer either; the answer is to take the rod and use it – to learn how to bait the hook and balance ourselves in the boat and wait for the tug and distinguish between what is useful and what is not and be strong enough to reel in the good stuff…

Life will see to it that we receive the challenges that cause us to grow in the right direction – and grow enough to solve the problem ourselves.

A couple of years ago my son called home to let us know that he had been pulled over by the police because his P plate was missing from the rear window. It had been on, he assured us, but the windows had been open since it was a blowy summer day, and the thing had fallen off in the wind without him realising it. He had explained all this, but the young cop wasn’t interested and gave him a ticket.

Jeremy was understandably upset, especially as the demerit points put him in jeopardy of losing his license, which would affect his work, and because he hadn’t been driving irresponsibly at all; the cop was just making a petty point. But the more he thought about it, the more he saw the beauty and the order in the experience, and his insights truly generated magic.

As a teenager, Jeremy couldn’t wait to get his license and have the freedom of the roads; as a 21 year old apprentice mechanic doing a forty-five minute commute to work, he was totally over driving and spent the time feeling irritated by road rules and stop signs and red lights and other drivers and the drivel on the radio. Faced with his ticket, he suddenly realised that the universe was effectively saying, ‘You don’t want to drive? Okay, don’t’.

From that point on, he was completely non-resistant to the lesson. If he was going to lose his license, so be it. If he was going to have to move closer to work, ride a bike, so be it. He didn’t become passive – he wrote to the officer in question asking him to reconsider, but was ignored; however, having contested the charge, he was summoned to court for a hearing, and that was where the magic happened.

The Magistrate was surprised to see him there and explained that there was nothing she could do about his points, especially if he pleaded guilty to the offense, which he was doing. However both she and the Police Prosecutor were impressed by his demeanor. The Prosecutor took it upon himself to cancel the ticket, which meant no points, no fine; not only that, but the officer who had charged Jeremy would probably be ticked off and the Police would foot the court costs. We left in a daze.

This was God/Life at its best: instead of tossing Jeremy a fish (magically making the traffic flow, ensuring that he always followed all road rules, sending a reasonable cop), God/Life gave him a rod (a lesson-opportunity to step up in responsibility and see how he was the creator of his life; to recognise the cause-effect dynamic at work in that experience).

It was his own thought that had called in the experience, and when he acknowledged that, there was no longer any need for him to have the rest of the experience. Since he didn’t resist it, since he surrendered to the lesson, it transformed right in front of him. The fish turned into a prince. (Sorry, another mixed metaphor. Fish, frogs… you get my point…)

All those hard experiences and lessons and challenges are God/Life teaching us how to fish, or how to create a rich and fulfilling life where we are able to sustain ourselves and be masters instead of victims. When we perceive the opportunity in the lesson, we are able to transform it into something that will enrich the rest of our lives.

Happy fishing!

Kids and Money and Keeping Our Word

‘Riches, my boy, don’t consist in having things but in not having to do something you don’t want to do, and don’t you forget it. Riches is being able to thumb your nose.’ - Brat Farrar by Josephine Tey

I was at a business networking event recently when I found myself chatting with Jay, an Indian businessman who shared with me the following story: 

Jay's son had discovered that his friend received 50c for doing the dishes. After telling his mother, she asked, ‘Do you want 50c too?’ 

‘Yes, okay!’ their son replied. This was easy!

‘All right,’ she replied. 'But after this, breakfast will cost you $2, lunch will cost you $2, and dinner will cost you $2. Do you still want to earn 50c for doing the dishes?’

He was now not so excited about it. She concluded by telling him, 'You can do things for love or money. Choose…’

Apparently their son never asked for money for household tasks again. 

It’s an interesting story, and one that raises all sorts of complex and values-bound issues: Do we ask our children to contribute without return because they are part of the family and are benefiting from the family wealth without earning any of it? Or, since doing chores is the most they can contribute while young, is it therefore only fair to share some of that wealth with them in cash – an acknowledgement of their form of contribution? 

My husband and I struggled with this issue for many years when our children were little, sometimes creating elaborate reward and payment arrangements, sometimes not giving pocket money at all. Our bottom line was that our children always save 10% of whatever they earned or received, and they did become pretty good savers. But we oscillated back and forth as we considered different aspects of this ‘love or money' issue.

There are many traps for the unwary when raising children, especially in the realm of money, and one of them was described to me recently. It brought back lots of memories of times I had said or done ‘the wrong thing’ and we had all suffered as a consequence.

A young boy challenged his parents at basketball with the following: ‘Will you give me $200 if I get this ball in the hoop?’

No doubt he was joking (albeit hopefully) but his parents said yes. Why they said yes, I don’t know, since he was already a basketball player and had a reasonable chance of scoring. 

He aimed… and the ball went though the hoop… and he claimed his $200. And that was when it grew sticky.

Uncomfortable about losing $200 so easily, his father said, ‘Double or nothing!’ and their son shot again… and missed.

Now what might be the natural outcomes of this situation? 

-> A son who no longer believes there is any point trying since there is no reward for effort… 

-> A son who no longer trusts his parents… 

-> A son who no longer respects his parents' word…

Respect is an interesting issue. We want our kids to respect us but we can’t demand that respect; we must command it. Or at least, we can demand it, we can jump up and down and get hot under the collar, but it won’t be a respect worth having. The respect that we command is the one to go after, and the chief way of achieving that sort of respect is by living honourably.

Living honourably can be difficult, especially when we are dealing with cranky kids and one hundred things at once and we’re not on our game, but it's wise to create an internal alarm that goes off whenever we are not living honourably. Dad being flippant about that $200 wasn’t a great start; not keeping his word was a fairly disastrous development. 

I know because I’ve met the son. I’ve witnessed his lack of respect for elders, his lack of effort in applying himself to anything, and his lack of interest in life. He is capable of many wonderful things and his parents are undoubtedly well-meaning. Ultimately, this experience will be one of the challenges on his path, an opportunity to question and reflect and create his own set of values and honourable behaviours… or not.

'Riches, dear reader, don’t consist in having a flawless life but in finding the gift in every experience we are presented with. Make sure you remember it! Riches is being appreciative of everything.' - Liliane Grace

 

I'd love to read your thoughts about kids and money and the issue of respect when parenting.

‘You are so like your mother / father!’

How do you feel when somebody makes that comment? Do you squirm or smile? Do you feel as if you’ve been criticised or as if you’ve received a compliment?

For the moment let’s not get distracted by the ‘facts’ regarding how upstanding and admirable or how despicable and revolting your parents actually are; instead, pay attention to your response to being tagged with the same brush.

I’ve had a very intense relationship with my mother over the years. She’s been my greatest inspiration and my greatest disappointment. Her character traits have caused me more upset than almost anyone else, and simultaneously, more opportunity for growth. I have criticised her for her choices, her behaviour, her treatment of her own mother, her treatment of my sister, her relationship with her grandchildren… and I’ve observed the degree to which she has become that which she has condemned, fulfilling a timeless universal law. I’ve experienced deep sadness and grief over her apparent losses and failures; aside from feeling her own disappointment, they meant she was crashing from the pedestal I had placed her on. I’ve also experienced superiority and arrogance about those same choices and behaviours because I would never behave that way!

Here's another question: how do you feel when you catch yourself saying or doing something that one of your parents do or did, especially something that you swore you would never do? Does it generates a warm, fuzzy feeling or an uncomfortable, disturbed feeling?

I’ve noticed that there are broadly two groups of people: those who are proud to be like their parents and those who are horrified, but when we delve a little more deeply, we find that both responses usually betray a ‘one-eyed-ness’; those who are proud are blinding themselves to the traits they don’t admire, and those who are horrified are blinding themselves to the traits they might admire.

Aside from that, when we consider the age-old teaching ‘I Am That’, we realise that we embody all of our parents’ traits, whether we aspire to do so or not. This has little to do with the fact that they are our parents; we embody those traits because we are each a mini-Universe; we contain not only all of the chemical elements of the cosmos but also every single human trait. We embody those traits in either expressed or repressed form, and here’s where our parents come in. They are the ones whose behaviour, when we were children, influenced us to form the beliefs and emotional reactions that would determine which human traits we would express and which we would repress.

Whatever our parents modelled for us, we modelled on – we created templates for behaviour based on how they interacted with us and with their world. We either welcomed their example or we resisted and resented it, whether consciously or unconsciously. If we resisted and resented it, we very likely committed ourselves to becoming just like them. As the old adage says, ‘What you resist, persists’; we are destined to do whatever we condemn until we love and appreciate that behaviour or experience.

Nowadays when I’m accused of being like my mother, I remind myself to allow and own that trait, to find how it serves me and to defuse the charge I have on expressing it. As ever, I’m deeply grateful to Dr John Demartini for his Demartini Method that teaches one how to ‘equilibrate’ such charges.

Actually, I don’t need too many reminders of how like my mother I am; I have even mimicked some of her physical ailments, which of course means that I have taken on her model of the world and her beliefs in that area, since the mind and body reflect each other. It’s not just ‘genes’ that determine our physical tendencies; it’s adopting a parent’s view of the world and lifestyle that determines which ills we adopt because our attitudes literally switch our genes on and off. (Research the growing field of Epigenetics to find out more about that!)

You know what? I’m grateful that our world’s laws are so clear and ‘unviolable’ and reliable that we know where we stand. Imagine how horrific it would be to live in a world governed by chaos and randomness, where we didn’t know at any moment what would be the outcome of a particular action? At least, in this world, we know that every effect has a cause; that nothing happens out of the clear blue sky. We call in our experiences – they come into our world because they are resonating with us because of the thoughts and emotions we are entertaining. Nothing can come into our world without us calling it in and literally co-creating it. We can’t be the victims of anything at all.

If we’ve been privileged to study universal laws, we know that there is a Hidden Order at work, a principle known as the Law of Conservation, which tells us that nothing is ever missing, it’s always present although we might not be recognising its current form. And if what we resist persists, then that clearly points to a purpose to life, which is to love and appreciate and honour each of our many experiences so that they can flow into and out of our lives in a useful, harmonious way.

So yes, you are your mother and your father; you are every person you love and every person you hate. You are the cosmos with its stars and galaxies – you contain these vast spaces and all those chemical elements, and you are the tiniest microcosm as well – each tiny particle of your being is a busy mini-universe. As (I believe) the Oracle of Delphi said, 'Know who you are, be who you are, love who you are.'

 

If you enjoyed reading my thoughts on this topic, consider reading my 'personal development novels' for the whole family, The Mastery Club and The Hidden Order, or buying a copy of my collected articles, Living With Grace