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Got Decisions? 6 Tips to Harness Their Power

Got Decisions? 6 Tips to Harness Their Power

If you want to direct your life, you have to take control of the consistent actions you take. It’s not what you do once in a while that shapes your life. It’s what you do consistently. So we need to find out what comes prior to our actions. What influences the actions we take, and therefore, the life we live?

What’s the answer?

The power of decision.

Everything that’s happened in your life, both the good and the bad, has started with a decision. These moments of decision shape your life. The decisions you’re making every day of your life will determine how you feel today and who you are tomorrow.

We all have decisions that we can look back on and either be thrilled that we made, or wonder “What was I thinking?” There are decisions you could have made differently that would have made your life completely different than it is today. You could have changed careers, or failed to change careers. You could have moved, gotten married, had kids, or purchased a home. Maybe you decided to start a business or start exercising. Maybe you decided to start or stop drinking or smoking. Think about how your decisions have impacted your life.

Success comes from long term focus. Picture the challenges in your personal life. Whether it’s overeating, drinking, smoking, drugs, or spending problems – they come from a short term focus. Success doesn’t just happen. The life experience we call success comes from the small, daily decisions in which you choose to hold yourself to a higher standard and take control instead of having the environment take control of you.

1. Realize how powerful decisions are

Decisions are a tool available to you that can change your entire life. Deciding and taking action creates the momentum necessary to produce drastic changes to your life in the shortest amount of time.

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Your life is merely the result of what you’ve done differently than other people that are in the same situation. Your actions have produced different results than your friends, neighbors, and loved ones, but why? Because the actions you take are the starting points needed to move you in a clear direction.

The minute you make a decision, you’ve set your life in a new direction. You literally have the power to change in an instant if you decide to. The next time you’re feeling anxious or overwhelmed, decide to change it. Don’t just sit there and take it. For you to really make a decision, action must follow.

2. Commit to your decisions

What’s the difference in being curious about something and being committed to it? How many times do we hear people say “I’d like to have a new car,” or “I’d like to make more money,” or “I’d like follow my dreams?” Merely stating goals you’d like to do accomplish isn’t the same as committing to them. Just being interested in something while taking no action is not how progress happens. To achieve you must commit.

You may think “I think I could change, but I don’t know how.” That is fear talking. The fear that you don’t know exactly how to make it happen. The fear that you haven’t researched every possible outcome and planned for every possible scenario. If you listen to this fear you’ll never end up deciding on anything. You’ll never start. What most people don’t realize is that you don’t need to plan out every possible detail to change your life. The reality is that you will find a way.

Here’s a streamlined formula:

1. Decide what you want
2. Take action
3. Notice what’s working or not
4. Change your strategy until you achieve what you want

If you follow these steps you’ll create the momentum necessary to achieve what you want. As soon as you’re completely committed, you will find a way.

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Deciding is often much more difficult than committing. Get clear on what you want and decide. Don’t waste too much time analyzing and deliberating. If you’re clear on your values, you’ll be able to decide quickly and change your mind very rarely, if at all. Compare that to people that are usually unsuccessful; they take forever to make decisions and change their mind quickly. A decision is information acted upon.

You can change your life as soon as you’ve decided to fully commit to change; as soon as you stop taking no for answer; as soon as you stop accepting any other outcome.

Making a true decision is cutting off all other possibilities. Making a decision means a complete commitment to achieving a desired result, then burning the boat you sailed in on.

3. Make decisions often

Unsuccessful people make decisions based on their current situation. Successful people make decisions based on where they want to be.

Repetition is the mother of skill. So in order to make better decisions, we simply have to make more of them. Make decisions, learn from them, and keep what works. Learning to make better decisions is like any other skill you’ve learned; the more you do it, the better you get. When you get better at making decisions you’ll look forward to making them, embrace them, and will see them as a way to take your life to the next level.

The power of decisions can change your relationships, your career, your physical state, and your emotional state. It can determine whether you’re just reacting to your environment or taking control. It can determine whether you’re excited or miserable. It can determine whether you feel free or enslaved.

The more decisions you make, the better and more comfortable you get making them. Harness the power of decision by deciding on something you’ve been putting off. Often just deciding on something relieves a lot of stress. You’ll be surprised at how energized you feel.

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4. Learn from your decisions

To make progress you must decide not only what results you’re committed to achieving, but also who you’re committing to becoming. If you’re familiar with my content, you’ve heard me talk about raising your standards. Your personal standards determine what type of behavior you think is acceptable for both yourself and those around you. Establishing minimum standards for what you’ll accept in your life prevents you from falling back into your old limiting ways. You must raise your standards and stick to them. No matter what hardships and tragedies arise.

When the inevitable happens and you make the wrong decision, don’t beat yourself up. Just ask yourself “What’s positive about this? What can I learn from this? How can I turn this around?” The simple gift of feeling like you failed may be exactly what you need to make better decisions in the future. Don’t focus on the short term. Find the lessons to be learned.

5. Stay committed, but stay flexible

The moment you make a true decision to lose weight, that’s it. You will. Your perception of everything changes. Food becomes fuel and exercise becomes a must. When you get off the fence and commit to a decision, you’ll feel an enormous amount of relief.

This kind of clarity is essential. Clarity gives you the power to produce what you really want in life. Most of us are stretched so thin these days that we never really make committed decisions anymore. We’ve forgotten what it feels like to make a true decision.

Often when I talk to people about their weight loss progress, they’ll describe an extremely rigid plan in which they have to follow. But if you asked these same people to design a diet plan for their friend, they’d never recommend what they’re doing. If weight loss is your goal, then the end is what you’re after, not the means. Don’t lock yourself into an unbending routine in which you feel like you’re slacking if you don’t follow it completely. Chances are you designed this routine after a well-rested weekend anyway. You’re making things much harder on yourself if you close your mind off to alternate routes.

6. Have fun making decisions

Decisions can be a source of both relentless problems and incredible happiness. Decisions can be a source of both amazing opportunity and shocking disappointment.

The greatest thing about the power of decision is that you already have the ability to use it. The power of decision isn’t only for a select few. It’s available to you as soon as you summon the courage to use it. Will today be the day you decide your finished holding yourself back? Will today be the day you decide to put your life on a path consistent with your dreams? Ask yourself “Who am I?” “What do I want out of life?” “What am I going to do?” “What will I let stop me?”

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Look forward to making decisions because at any moment you can make one that’ll change your life forever. The next book you read, website you visit, movie you watch, song your listen to, or person you stand next to at the checkout line could be the event that causes something to click. If you really want to enjoy life, you have to expect things to come together for you.

Conclusion

You may be skeptical. You may be thinking “Of course I’d like to change, but I have real problems in my life.” Of course you do, but we all have to start somewhere. What matters is where you’re determined to finish. Ask yourself “What could I do with my life if I was certain I couldn’t fail?”

One of the most beautiful and liberating truths I’ve ever realized is that we all have the power to turn our lives into an inspiring example to others. If you make the right decisions – focusing on the long term and not the environment – you can direct not only who and what is in your life, but who you become.

My challenge to you

Decide to learn a new skill, treat people different, make the call you’ve been avoiding, pursue an education, or change careers. Instead of resisting or making excuses (which is in itself a decision), do you think you could decide to take your life to the next level? Do you think you’d be happier, have more fun, or find peace? Do you think you’d build your confidence and self-esteem? You didn’t have to read this to know the answer is yes!

Featured photo credit: Noelle Buske via flickr.com

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Bob Dempsey

Psychology Major

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Last Updated on June 12, 2018

Can a Dysfunctional Family Become Functional?

Can a Dysfunctional Family Become Functional?

A dysfunctional family is more than disagreement or constant arguments. Anything from plain neglect, to abuse and even verbal and physical violence is the everyday experience of those who are part of a dysfunctional family.

You know how this looks:

  • Parents constantly comparing children.
  • Siblings in conflict because of tolerated bullying.
  • Domestic violence.
  • Adultery…
  • And many others.

For all the members, this will mean emotional pain and even trauma; which, in case it doesn’t get resolved, will have a detrimental effect on the individual’s personality and development.

Needless to say, the younger members are the most vulnerable, but that doesn’t mean the parents are out of danger, as most commonly the parents play the roles of abuser-codependent, and in some cases, both parts inflicting pain on one another.

Most like to think these problems stem from deep-seated issues, and that therefore it’s pretty much impossible to deal with them.

This is only true for families not willing to do what it takes, for if only a single member is determined and knows how to do it, the whole family can do a lot of progress.

In this article, I’ll break down for you the basic steps of fixing a dysfunctional family. Although it may seem hopeless, it is possible to turn things around.

If you have ever felt in this position, or if you know somebody who is, this article is for you.

How to fix a dysfunctional family

In a few words the solution for a dysfunctional family lies in dropping the ego, focusing on the solution, switching blame for responsibility and doing the work as a unity, for the good of the whole family.

And this will accomplish things you once only saw as a dream.

Dropping the ego? Switching blame for responsibility? Doing the work? What does all this mean?

It’s simple. In a nutshell, it’s that which will allow you to turn a dysfunctional family into a functional one.

Let’s take a look at how exactly this can be done. And near the end we will also talk about what you can do in a dysfunctional family with cynical traits.

Dysfunctional families where not only problems are well-known, but also nobody seems to want a fix or openly decide to perpetuate the harmful behaviors. Such as the case of abuse and physical violence.

There is also a solution for these, it’s just not what you are expecting…

Dysfunctional… Or just average?

Most families are dysfunctional, though at varying degrees of dysfunctionality.

The milder cases, are just marked by “typical” comically-shrouded bullying or lack of interest in other members’ development or wellbeing.

You can know a family is dysfunctional if their interactions are anything different than cooperation, solidarity, care and support. But let’s get more specific…

A dysfunctional family is one in which members directly or indirectly suffer emotional and/or physical harm inflicted by other members of their family. Most commonly, perpetrated by the parents.

Even harmful actions as “passive” as neglect, which is inflicted by inaction rather than action, signifies a dysfunction within the family.

Dysfunctional families have conflicts such as:

  • Unrealistic expectations
  • Lack of interest and time spent together
  • Sexism
  • Utilitarianism
  • Lack of empathy
  • Unequal or unfair treatment
  • Disrespect towards boundaries
  • Control Issues
  • Jealousy
  • Verbal and physical abuse
  • Violence and even sexual misconduct or abuse

The link to productivity

You may think a dysfunctional family has very little or nothing to do with personal productivity, but you would be wrong in thinking this way…

If a person is not emotionally well, she will not be able to perform as desired, as the emotional harm that has been inflicted will hinder everyday performance in the way of inability to concentrate, lack of mental clarity and low levels of inspiration, motivation and discipline.

Having a functional family does exactly the opposite: It creates productive members with no emotional baggage.

How to turn it around

When you’re part of a dysfunctional family you know it. You can quickly identify in other members the behaviors and conflicts that create the dysfunction.

But just in case you’re having trouble telling functional from dysfunctional I will tell you the following:

One of the easiest ways you can recognize if you are in a dysfunctional family is to survey your won feelings.

We often overlook this, but have you stopped to ask yourself how you feel?

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As cheesy as it may sound it really sheds a lot of light on the subject.

What behaviors, actions and attitudes in your family you wish were better?

Do you think certain behaviors and actions from your family marked you in the past?

Sadly, we cannot go back to the past to correct it. But we can do a lot in the present…

Correction is possible

In order to fix a dysfunctional family, you must start by putting an end to the behaviors and actions that are affecting you.

Verbalize it.

All members of the dysfunctional family have one issue in common: They don’t put a stop to the harm.

Whenever you feel your boundaries being overstepped there is just one single word you have to remember: STOP.

This is the door to a better, more functional family, because after this, comes the fix.

But first you have to identify and make others know where exactly lies the problem.

So go ahead and fearlessly start with “Stop”, followed by your expression of dissatisfaction.

Putting it to work in real life

In real life it would be something like this:

“OK, stop! Every time you belittle me I feel you don’t care. I need attention and respect, and it is your responsibility as my family to provide them to me”

Or:

“Stop. When you compare me with my cousin it hurts, I feel like I don’t matter and that’s not ok. I ask you to stop doing it.

Or:

“Please stop. When you start yelling all respect is lost and it turns into a battle of who can do it louder. Don’t raise your voice and let’s work this out the way humans do”.

As you can see, here you start by putting a stop to the toxic behavior when it arises. And afterwards you verbalize why it’s wrong and what needs of you need to be fulfilled.

This is what you have to remember:

1-Stop.

2-Why it’s wrong?

3-What you need.

And this will also work well in case you need to do it for another family member.

It’s a family thing

A dysfunctional family cannot be fixed by one member alone.

Yes, a single member can initiate progress and be the leader of the change. But in order to completely become functional all members must contribute to the solution.

In other words, you will need cooperation…

So don’t be afraid of asking for it!

Approach your family member and ask to be listened.

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We sometimes feel our needs are “not that important” or we simply believe they won’t listen. But thinking like this would be like being defeated at an unfought battle.

You will be amazed by how much people listen when you voice your needs, especially if it implies showing yourself open, vulnerable and in need.

It’s not a free-for-all battle

In order to get your family to cooperate, first you must fix your individual relationships with every member of the family. Remember: Relationships are always between two people, and two people only.

No matter how complex, the quality of a multi-member relationship (like a family) will always depend on the quality of the individual relationships.

Once you have straightened the relationship with every member of the dysfunctional family you will be able to better communicate with other members and help in the betterment of their individual relationship.

And this is where we will talk about the fix itself. The one I mentioned in the introduction…

The method

1. Drop the ego

Wherever there is conflict there is ego.

You cannot fix a relationship where there is ego, because the ego will want to win. Always. Yours and the other person.

Ego craves control and satisfaction, and in many cases, to establish dominance.

What does this have to do with a dysfunctional family? Everything. Ego will interfere with every plan you have to fix it.

It will make people suborn and defensive. And it will also make them drop responsibility. This is why, the first step is to drop the ego.

After you make sure you are not going to allow your ego to interfere you must work to make the other person do the same. How? By speaking from the heart…

Tell the other person how important all this is to you.

Tell the other person that it’s not a matter of arguing, but just working things out together.

Point out how it is not possible for you to do it alone.

And ask for sincere attention without any desire of opposition, because what you are doing is by no means in the hopes of harming the other person, but just to better the relationship and stop the damage being dealt to you.

You will have to point out the mistakes you need corrected, that’s for sure. And that leads me to the next point…

2. Not blame, but responsibility

When talking about others’ mistakes we often use an accusatory tone. And that’s natural, it’s what things should be like if ego was not present.

But since we are all creatures of ego, this immediately brings the shields up. And then unsheathes the swords…

When we blame others they automatically enter a defensive state, and this only leads to a failed negotiation.

What you need to do is to shift from blame to responsibility. And even that will have to be done carefully!

Instead of telling them off or demanding change or complaining, calmly point what the problem with their behavior is.

As much as this feels contradictory, also make them feel understood. You know how difficult it is to accept a mistake, so just make them feel it’s no big fuzz… which does not mean it’s ok, but it takes tension off.

You will do something like this:

“Hello dad. Can I talk with you for a minute? I really need to tell you something.

I have been feeling pretty sad lately and I know this is something you do care about.

You see, whenever I talk about my accomplishments you mention something else that makes my achievement pale in comparison.

I know you don’t do this intentionally and I know you might have not realized this until now, but I want to let you know this really brings me down.

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It would mean a lot to me if you could stop doing it, and it would help better our relationship, because this has already forced me to distance myself from you. And I don’t want that, I want a good, healthy relationship with you”

What happened here?

We started off with making it something important, something that needs both time and attention. Then we openly show ourselves vulnerable, just as we are.

We also mention why he should listen, and shove our feelings there again, because they are important.

We describe the issue with no attachment and with no hostile intention. It’s just a description.

And then we take the blame off. Just before we assign responsibility without actually saying it.

You are not blaming him directly, but you are pointing out the inevitable fact that his actions are causing a dysfunctionality. He is now responsible for changing.

This is what “switching blame for responsibility” means. What comes next? Doing the work!

3. Doing the work

What would any of this mean if, in the end, nothing changes? Exactly, nothing!

This is why you must follow up with every change that needs to be done.

Do so in a manner that is not hostile. Bring it up in a casual manner, and emphasizing how you both reached an agreement and how that is important to the family.

If the person doesn’t follow up don’t hesitate to bring it up again, and tell them you feel disappointed that your honest try at it was not listened.

It may even be a subject in itself, and therefore the need for another conversation.

“When you go back to old habits it shows that you didn’t really care about what I said. But back in real life you just reinforce how much contempt you show towards me and my feelings.

I talk with you because I care. Because although it would be easier for me to just distance myself from you I rather do my part in nurturing this relationship.

But there is just so much I can do, if you refuse to do your part I can do nothing else.”

You need very clear and positive communication in order to make this work.

Love is all you need

You must remember that in order for a dysfunctional family to become functional, all the work needs to stem from love.

That is the single one requirement for all this to work: Love.

And what happens if it simply is not there?

What happens if, nobody is willing to do what it takes?

What happens if a member of the family refuses to change and is happy with the harm he or she is dealing?

There is only one thing you can do:

To break away.

Let’s be honest, people, especially adults, are very difficult to change.

There is a Jewish proverb that I love, which sums it up like this:

“We spend the rest of our lives trying to unlearn what we learned before we were 7”

If you find it very hard to change the very traits that make your family dysfunctional or if it’s simply impossible, you still have a card up your sleeve…

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Although nobody likes to beak away from family members, we must remember we have a responsibility with ourselves as individuals, before any relationship with anyone.

You have the responsibility of making yourself happy and free. Because you matter as an individual, regardless of any relationships you have, be it family, friendship or romantic.

Putting distance

So in case you are dealing with a family member who is simply unwilling to change take both physical and emotional distance.

What do I mean?

Learn, first, to take their damage in a detached manner.

Don’t let it hurt you further. Instead take a deep breath and distance yourself emotionally.

Don’t be attached to feelings such as “Why doesn’t she love me?” or “What did I do to deserve this?” or “If he wasn’t like that my life would be perfect”.

Simply refuse to keep participating in the emotional downward spiral and accept, even if it’s painful” that there is nothing you can do. Accept that even without that relationship you are whole, you are worthy of love and respect.

They are their responsibility and you are yours. So decide what is best for you.

Realize it only comes down to two possibilities:

I keep the relationship and therefore accept the abuse. Or…

I choose my peace of mind.

And don’t let your mind fool you. We often think that since we all are imperfect, we must take the good and the bad behaviors of people. And we are especially forgiving towards our family…

Well, guess what? We are also responsible adults who are aware and must own to their acts. Never excuse abuse or violence or transgression towards you or anybody else.

Choose your happiness and if possible, also distance yourself physically, as it will increase your peace of mind tenfold.

How to prevent it

There are two key concepts you must bear in mind in order to prevent the dysfunctionality of a family:

  • To be completely aware of one’s own mistakes and not allow them to impact others and…
  • To make sure our SO’s are also on the same channel before creating a family (i.e. having children)

Dysfunctional families are the product of irresponsible paternity, for the decades-long unresolved emotional conflict ends up surfacing in the family inevitably, and it will for sure harm those who least deserve it: Innocent children.

You may notice we went from talking about family, to talking about individual relationships, to talking about you. We went from “them” to “us” to “me”.

Why? Because in the end you have the power to fix a dysfunctional family. To correct the mistakes you have in yours and to prevent dysfunctionalities if you don’t have a family but plan to create one.

Priorities and clear thought

You may be part of a dysfunctional family, but that does not mean you are powerless or that you have to suffer the consequences.

You learned today how it’s all a matter of priorities and thinking clearly.

You learned that, if love exists, everything is possible. You learned that even when there is no love and no fix for your dysfunctional family, there are still things you can do. It’s a matter of choosing your peace, because you deserve it.

Everything will be better if you apply this knowledge. If you talk to that problematic family member. If you help them see the harm they are doing. If you make sure they do change and treat you the way you need to be treated…

If you choose yourself over that toxic family member. If you refuse to justify the harm that others can do to yourself. If you realize the most important relationship you have is with yourself.

And lastly, that you also have to be aware of your actions and be open to criticism. Because we might be unknowingly harming others. And that would be us creating a dysfunctionality. Don’t allow it to happen.

Dysfunctional families are not impossible to fix. It just takes love, cooperation and responsibility.

But if you tried and those elements are not present, just choose yourself instead.

Featured photo credit: Photo by Juliane Liebermann on Unsplash via unsplash.com

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