Your spouse cannot see when your child exhibits bad behavior — ever! How can you open their eyes? I’ve got an idea. Watch:
Read the transcript.
Your spouse cannot see when your child exhibits bad behavior — ever! How can you open their eyes? I’ve got an idea. Watch:
Read the transcript.
People get jealousy and envy mixed up a lot. Let me give you a thumbnail sketch of each:
Envy is the emotion you get when you want something that someone else has. It’s a two-person thing: there’s you and the person you’re envious of. You could want beauty, wealth, socioeconomic status…whatever. Envy is wishing and wanting.
A good example of envy can be seen in Snow White. The evil queen envies how pretty and sweet her stepdaughter is and does the whole “mirror, mirror on the wall, who is the fairest of them all?” routine. The film also portrays one of two types of envy. There is malicious envy (i.e. Snow White’s evil stepmother), and then there’s sort of everyday benign envy. When you are maliciously envious, you become vicious and try to hurt other people by trying to take things away from them. If you are feeling just benign envy, you are looking at other people and thinking, “Wow, I wish I had that,” or “I wish I could do that.” It’s more motivating than destructive.
Jealousy, on the other hand, is a three-person thing. It’s the emotion you get when you fear that someone or something is going to be taken away from you by someone else.
Jealousy was the main theme of the movie, Gladiator. Caesar’s son was very angry with Russell Crowe’s character because his dad admired this soldier guy more. So the son killed his dad, took over his position, killed the wife and kid of Russell Crowe’s character, and put him in “gladiator hell” because Daddy – just like in the “Cain and Abel” story – loved one of them more.
Envy and jealousy affect everyone’s life. I think, statistically speaking, we’re envious infinitely more than we are jealous. However, what really matters is what we do when we feel jealousy or envy: How do we experience it? How do we cope with it?
I have always rejoiced when someone who I perceive as having earned something has success. I have a tough time not resenting people who get things they haven’t earned. That, personally, is my struggle. But it’s not in my nature to do something evil to them because of it. I don’t wish to give into “the dark side.”
Here’s what you can do the next time you are feeling jealous or envious. Let’s say that one of your coworkers gets a promotion and you don’t feel like they deserve it. Or maybe you’re jealous that your spouse gets to be the breadwinner and you have to parent, or vice versa. Well, you can either say, “Oh gee, I wish I had ‘x’,” and spend your time being miserable, or you can be motivated by it. You have to choose between misery and motivation.
Ultimately, you have to put your I.Q. over your emotions. I talk about that dichotomy on my program on a daily basis. Emotions are irrational and powerful, and they can only be combated with your brain. You have to realize that although you may be 100 percent correct about something being unfair, there is not a damned thing you can do about it. You can tear yourself up or tear them down, but either way, you won’t be acting like the kind of person someone else would envy. Instead, use it as motivation to turn yourself into the kind of person everybody envies.
No matter if it is envy or jealousy you’re consumed by, it’s going to be difficult for you to enjoy others’ success if you continue to dwell on it. And furthermore, nobody’s going to envy you if you’re a bitter, frustrated, ugly, angry person.
I think you have to be on a valium drip to be happy all the time. For the sake of full discloser, I’ll tell you that I’m certainly not happy every second of the day. However, your motive should be trying to be happy.
Being in a good mood or having a peppy personality is not a disposition you are born with or without. You have options and choices, which I’ve proved many times on my radio program. I’ve had so many callers who were initially negative, but by the end of our discussion, they were laughing. What happened?
Their mood changed.
Your level of happiness is a learned skill. A lot of you come from a background where your family was warm, happy, cheerful, and supportive, so you’ve learned those skills. However, some of you haven’t. Some of you are just too lazy to learn them, or you have been given too many perks for being mopey. For me, I grew up in a house where everybody was always annoyed. My parents didn’t walk around being cheerful and pleasant. So, I didn’t learn those skills. Nevertheless, I sure learned how dangerous the world could be by just watching them arguing and complaining. It was horrible.
So, what are some of these skills?
First, you can only have one thought at a time. I had a caller who was beaten by his dad all the time while he was growing up. He had come to associate physicality with something bad. On the air, I had him close his eyes and go right back into one of those experiences where his dad was beating him. You could hear his breathing change. But then I asked him to think about his wife sitting next to him and imagine her touching his face softly. He started tearing up. We did this back and forth three times to prove that he could put his head anywhere he wanted to.
He learned that he needed to have only one thought in his mind at one time, and that’s true for all of us. You decide what your thought is going to be. If you start thinking about all the horrible things that might happen, then they may happen. However, if you put your thoughts toward how you are going to handle something, you can immobilize your fear.
Another essential part of being happy is to think positively. The negative stuff gets replaced when you see the outcome positively. And it’s also very important for you to sometimes take your brain out of an action and allow your body to do what it knows it needs to do. For example, when you’re having sex with your spouse, your body knows what it needs to do. That’s why I tell people to fantasize and go wherever they want to go. Just disengage your brain.
In order to be happy, you also need to be motivated about something. This is where being a maniac comes into play (I think the happiest people are maniacs, and I don’t mean it in a psychiatric sense). You have to be a maniac on a mission. What is it you want to make happen? When you dive into something with a lot of energy, optimism, and commitment, your life will be happier. People without a purpose are not happy people. Wishy-washy people are never happy and they are not successful. You have to be able to take risks and make decisions. If you take a risk and you fail, then you take another risk. If you take a risk and it was a mistake, then you repair it and do it again. You have to have strong ambitions about something (and I’m not talking about making a lot of money – that usually doesn’t work).
You also need to have the gumption to make changes from where you are now. A lot of people like to stay in their comfort zones or in their familiar surroundings. A lack of familiarity makes them uncomfortable, and a lot of times people try to stay comfortable even if it’s bad, stupid, or destructive. But just because you’re familiar with something, it doesn’t mean you’re going to get anywhere with it.
Lastly, you have to be tenacious. Life requires persistence. The people who are ultimately successful at being happy are the ones who can delay happiness. For example, people who shack up do it because they want the gratification of having a relationship without the work of building one. They think, “I want my gratification now. I don’t want to work slowly in a respectful, modest way and take my time. I want sex now. I want to feel like I’m intimate and committed now.” However, that’s when everything blows up. Kids who grab the marshmallow are not the happiest – the ones who earn it are.
If you want to be loved, you have to earn it. Jumping in bed instantly, shacking up, and being ridiculous doesn’t earn love. If you want to be loved, you’re going to have to take the time to build love, awe, and respect. People who are impulsive and refuse to delay gratification just can’t keep plugging. That’s why their relationships and their businesses don’t work out because it takes years sometimes with no gratification whatsoever to build something that can sustain itself. If you look at orthodox versions of various religions, it’s no surprise to see practices like couples not holding hands until after they’re married. They delay physical gratification to learn about each other and become more mature. They earn their relationships, and THEN they get the cherry on top.
“Is my kid being unduly hard on themselves?”
I hear this question a lot. I get calls from parents saying, “My kid is a perfectionist. When they lose a game, don’t get chosen for something, or somebody doesn’t like them, they go bonkers.”
Adolescence is tough enough; you’re not a baby, you’re not an adult…you’re just sort of in a swing state. And what makes the adolescent swing state painful is when young folks are inclined to be very hard on themselves after some frustration or disappointment. You’ve probably heard this at home: “I’ll never learn! I’m stupid! I can’t do anything right! No one likes me! I don’t have any friends! I’m such a loser! I hate myself! I wish I were dead!”
Doing poorly or not doing as well as they wanted triggers a belief that they deserve the self-inflicted bad treatment. And a lot of people take this feeling all the way through adulthood. They feel obligated to come down on themselves.
Where do they learn this?
Oh I don’t know, let me think…
…From their parents! Not always, but generally. They either learn it from a parent who’s blatantly role modeling that behavior, or just from a very critical parent. And then these young people spend most of their time hating themselves for any perceived failure, big or small. “The parental rule of ‘judge and punish’ carries on.” They beat themselves up out of habit, not because they want to motivate themselves, do better, or change.
So, a lot of the time kids learn self-critical behavior from having a parent or two parents who they could never please, who thought criticism was the best motivation, or who felt that expressing dissatisfaction was motivating. But parents are not always the culprits. Some kids get it in their heads that they just have to align themselves with an unreasonable set of expectations. Maybe it’s from sibling rivalry stuff, something happening at school, or just moon spots…who knows. In any case, parents really need to help them.
Here are a handful of triggers that cause kids to get down on themselves, and how you can motivate them to go in another direction:
* Losing a game or contest. In a kid’s head, they think, “I have to win or I’m a loser.” Oh my gosh! Nobody wins all the time. How could they? Also, by following that logic, if you win and someone else loses, that means they’re a loser. And of course, that’s not true. Probably the most important thing you can teach your kids is that winning and losing are exactly the same. Rudyard Kipling said that, except much more eloquently in the poem If. You should approach winning and losing the same way – calmly.
It took me years to learn this while playing pool. If I made a great shot, I’d be bouncing around the room. But if I missed a shot, I’d start muttering things to myself like, “I’ve been practicing this for three hours, and I’m still terrible,” “I’ll never learn this,” and “I suck at this game.” I couldn’t tolerate missing. And I know exactly where that reaction came from. It was parental. I didn’t make it up myself. I can really understand when people get into that mode because I personally had trouble getting out of it. However, now when I make a good shot, I just say, “That felt good, let’s try to create that feeling again.” And if I miss a shot, I think, “I didn’t go through my whole routine, or I adjusted my aim while I was taking the shot. Hopefully I’ll get another shot at this, and I’ll do better.”
You have to teach your kids that it’s best to expect you’re going to win some and lose some, just like the person on the other side of the game.
* Making a mistake. A kid thinks, “I have to get things right or something’s wrong with me.” Show your kids the problem with this mindset by role modeling the correct attitude. If you make a mistake while doing something, stop and say, “Aha! I think I know what I did wrong.” They’ll see you analyzing the error and remedying it for next time rather than going on an incomprehensible tirade about how mad you are at yourself.
* Failing to perform well. Many kids believe they have to be a success to avoid shame. However, in life, you can control your effort, but you can’t control the outcome. The result is not entirely up to you. For instance, things are handicapped or there are politics involved. Or people cheat, even on the highest levels, which can be seriously demoralizing because cheating seems to pay off when people get away with it.
So, you have to teach kids that everything in life is not on an even playing ground, and if they fail to do well, it’s not completely their fault. They can’t always control the outcome because there are too many other factors that have absolutely nothing to do with them.
* Getting in trouble. A kid thinks, “Since I did this wrong, I’m a bad person.” If you have a propensity for doing bad things, then yes, you probably are a bad person. However, kids do stupid things, they test limits, and they don’t think things through – their brains just aren’t ready to do that. They do dumb things but it’s not the same thing as being a bad kid, unless they do it continuously. So, it’s best to teach your kids that if they do something wrong, they should take responsibility, pay their dues, and then forgive themselves. Instruct them to move on and not repeat it.
* Getting criticized. A kid thinks, “Oh my gosh, everybody has to think well of me or I’m inadequate, inferior, or horrible.” That’s the point where you can remind them just like they’re not going to be a fan of everyone they know, certain people will not like them. And it’ll be for reasons that may have very little to do with them. It could be because they look like somebody from the other person’s past who upset him or her. The other person could be jealous of what they have, who they are, and what they’re like. It has nothing to do with your kid being a bad person.
* Being left out. This is one of the tougher ones. At some point your child will probably say something like this: “I wasn’t invited to the party,” or “I wasn’t asked to be on the team.” Tell them that just like we don’t want to be with every group, every group doesn’t necessarily want to be with us. Or as Groucho Marx put it, “I refuse to join a club that would have me as a member.”
Do you know how many people have called my show over the last 3 1/2 decades to tell me they could do the right thing in their lives if they only had self-esteem?
People use low self-esteem as an excuse all the time:
“What made you do this thing instead of another?”
“How come you stayed with a guy who pummeled you?”
“How come you quit X, Y or Z?”
But that answer is wrong, wrong, wrong! It’s backwards – it’s making bad decisions that creates low self-esteem, not the other way around.
Healthy self-esteem is like a tennis racket: if you hit the ball too close to the edge, it’s bad, but if you make contact with the sweet spot, it’s perfect. High self-esteem is “a sweet spot between an unhealthy level of narcissism and harmful self-criticism.” It’s right in the middle. However, you don’t need self-esteem to change your actions, habits, or temptations.
A lot of you have very bad habits, like eating at 10 o’clock at night, not cleaning your teeth, speaking before your think, and succumbing to temptations like cookies, cigarettes, and booze. But you absolutely do NOT need self-esteem to change any of them. What you need is a thing that gets put down, dissed, and discounted all the time: good old-fashioned willpower.
And where does willpower come from? You have to pick a motivator. Your motivators are the values and goals in life that are important to you. Once you have them lined up, you can change a habit no matter how much self-esteem you have. Whether it’s dying from continuing to smoke or drink, losing weight, wanting to be a good role model, or being religious, whatever you decide is your motivator has to come out of your head, not out of the universe. It’s something you decide. Just ask people who have quit smoking or drinking, and they will tell you it was willpower, not self-esteem that made them quit. Certainly when they were drunk and had to smoke 135 cigarettes every five minutes, self-esteem wasn’t an issue.
So, it’s all about willpower. It’s not a big deal if you don’t have self-esteem. It is not correlated to success, willpower is. People with willpower have self-control and self-discipline, which helps them build better relationships, take initiative, and sustain their efforts over time. And when you use willpower to accomplish something, you can say to yourself, “I did that!” When you can impress yourself by achieving a goal and cheer yourself on, you begin a virtuous cycle instead of a vicious one. Because if you successfully change a habit, then you give yourself more self-esteem, and it just keeps on going in a circle.
Here are some steps to activate your willpower:
I’m going to tell you a story about motivating employees and what’s inside the mind of an employee who is motivated, regardless of the job.
I was in college and had always worked so hard I think I just sort of emotionally burned myself out. I’d study, study, study – exam… study, study, study – exam… study, study… you get the idea. I was at the State University of New York at Stonybrook where most of the people didn’t do study, study, study – exams. They did smoke pot, smoke pot, smoke pot – protest… stuff like that. Maybe that broke up the monotony for them; and maybe I should’ve participated, but I did not.
So I was kind of burned out and looking for something to do for the summer and I applied for a job to teach at a school for handicapped kids, but it was also a place where they rehabbed adults. Part of my training was to work alongside the people who were in there. I was placed with a guy in his early 40s who had been an athlete, but was paralyzed from the waist down after a car accident and he was in a wheelchair.
My assignment for the whole week was to sit with him, work with him and do what he had to do. And you know what he had to do? Little transistor thingies had to be bent on each end so they could be soldered on to something. So, we bent wires. There I was, capable, energetic, educated, sitting there bending little wires on to resistors with this very nice guy bored out of my gourd, annoyed, and feeling like I was wasting my time.
I’m a type-A personality – I’m a racehorse; I’m not a plow horse, so this was just awful. Of course, by now you’ve realized I was totally thinking about myself only. Totally. At one point, in my stupidity, I said out loud, “This is so boring!” And then the second it came out of my mouth, I realized this is what this guy had to do and I had just dissed the hell out of it. What was wrong with me? I was so embarrassed. And I immediately said, “I’m so sorry.”
He was so nice about it and so patient. He taught me a huge lesson I’ve used my whole life. He said, “That’s one way of looking at it.” And then he started to talk about all the things that he had done in his life, like being a type-A personality athlete, a racehorse (not a plow horse), and then he got zapped and had to find some kind of labor he could do. And I felt sick… absolutely sick to my gut. You know how immediately you feel nauseated? That’s where I was.
And he said, “Let me explain something to you. This is, on its own, a very boring task. However, the ‘suits’ in the front office project how many of these can be prepared, how many different sizes, in what amount of time per day.” He went on, “I found out their projections, and then I figured a way to surpass them.” I looked at him in amazement. What a brilliant guy. Because there are two ways to look at it:
1. This is an incredibly boring thing for a human being to do; a machine ought to be doing this.
2. A machine can’t get motivated. A machine can’t motivate itself; it’s limited by physics and human beings aren’t.
So I looked at him and I went, “Really? Okay. So, how many of these, those and the other things do they think we can do today?” He got out a piece of paper, “This is the quota.” I said, “All right. If we’re working together, how can we make this go faster?” And the two of us sat there and figured out how to almost double the productivity. And we were laughing and having a grand ol’ time and I was never bored again. At the end of the week, when I had to leave him, we gave each other big hugs.
Motivation comes from within. That doesn’t mean the environment you’re in doesn’t matter. It does. There’s some research in Science magazine where they found that during the day there are sort of bio-rhythms at work – for example, between 6 and 9 in the morning we are very happy, but this happiness drops throughout the day until mid-afternoon (siesta time – part of the world is very smart), and then it picks up in late afternoon and peaks again in the evening.
The truth is, if you work in an environment which consists of poor pay, lousy benefits, lousy work conditions, demeaning policies and rules, and bad relationships with coworkers, you’re probably not going to operate at peak performance, yet some people do anyway because they don’t allow the environment to dictate their motivation.
Think about that guy in the wheelchair, an athlete who will never be an athlete again – the environment was okay, nothing much to speak of, but his motivation, commitment and engagement came from within. He felt like he was part of something important and he challenged himself with plans and goals. Challenges increase motivation.
As it turns out, people are not motivated by money as much as everybody thinks. I mean, money is good but it doesn’t motivate people to do better. Sometimes people can get bonuses and raises, but then sit on their haunches, not feeling obligated to put out. So there isn’t necessarily an association. People making modest salaries can be extremely highly motivated because they have pride.
Motivation cannot be imposed. When people call my show and say, “I’m fat, I want to get thin. I want to get fit. Where do I get my motivation?” I tell them it comes from inside. It’s not a mysterious force that comes from somewhere else; it’s a direct result of how you manage yourself. Unfortunately in a lot of families, kids get to go to Disneyland if they finish a project or are paid money for every ‘A’ they get on their report card. This trains kids to not look inside and feel pride in their accomplishments and obligations. Instead of teaching kids to dig down deep for that motivation, they are being taught it should come from the outside, so people procrastinate. They don’t feel like they have to. They have an attitude of, “What’s in it for me?”
To motivate yourself, you have to look for new opportunities, look for new responsibilities, look for new challenges and read about people you admire. When I was a kid growing up, we read books about people who excelled at something and what followed their journey to excellence. Learn from achievers in sports, in arts, business, or the workplace. Learn from their bad qualities too.
Basically it’s a matter of what’s inside you. If you think or say: “I don’t know how to find motivation,” just look in the mirror. It’s there…somewhere.
I’ve written many books having to do with relationships, but each focused on different aspects of relationships. The most important ones, I think, were The Proper Care and Feeding of Husbands and The Proper Care and Feeding of Marriage because I pointed out the real element that makes a marriage work is when each person gets up in the morning and thinks about what they can do to make the other person happy and happy they’re married to you. In fact, that was so important, I put it on the back cover. No surprise to me to see this show up in other forms.
In December, in the New York Times, they talked about the University of Virginia’s National Marriage Project. It studied the role of generosity. Not in the sense of being generous with money or a lot of gifts, but about that moment where you think, “What can I do to make them happy at this moment, much less if they’re married to me?”
So generosity is about going above and beyond the ordinary expectations with small, little things, small acts of service — making an extra effort, such as being affectionate, bringing somebody coffee in the morning, or rubbing their feet.
It turns out men and women with the highest scores on generosity as a scale were far more likely to report they were very happy in their marriages.
Now, you’ve got a lot of things going on in your mind, heart, body and day so it’s not always easy to be generous to your spouse. One particular researcher suggested successful couples say or do at least 5 positive things for every negative interaction with their partner, so they make it 5 to 1…5 to 1. That’s really important. It’s important with your kids too. If you’re going to give them holy hell about things all the time, you really have to balance it with generosity. Children who see parents who are more engaged in this generosity tend to be more generous too (no kidding), which bodes well for their future relationships and their relationship with their parents. So, make small acts of service and an extra effort to be affectionate.
The top 3 predictors of a happy marriage among parents (because having kids is a big stress):
1. Sexual intimacy
And they put sex first because the portion of 18 to 46 year-olds with below-average sexual satisfaction who are “very happy” in their marriages is about 6.5%.
In one particular study, couples who reported a high amount of generosity in their relationships were 5 times more likely to say the marriage was “very happy”. However, the generosity was not as important as sex. In this study, married men and women who reported above-average sexual satisfaction in their relationship were 10 to 13 times more likely to describe their marriage as “very happy”. My assumption though, is this goes in a bit of a circle – i.e., the people who are more generous with each other probably are more turned on to each other because they’re so generous with each other and it keeps going in a circle.
Something to consider: 5 to 1 – 5 positive things you say or do for each negative thing you say or do. Try it — you might like it. You wonder why your marriage is not happy? The fix is actually simple. It’s the motivation to do those 5 positive things that seems to be the biggest problem.
There are many people living with physical disabilities who lead truly inspiring lives. Some you may know in your own personal lives. I want to share some stories with you and hope they will inspire and challenge you to live your best life.
Probably one of the world’s best-known high achievers with a disability is Stephen Hawking. He’s an internationally renowned physicist/mathematician, who, at 35, was Cambridge’s first professor of gravitational physics. He has written a best-selling book (which was later made into a film) called “A Brief History of Time: From the Big Bang to Black Holes.” He’s in a wheelchair and can hardly move any part of his body. He has a mechanism to help him talk, but it sounds like something from a science fiction movie. His body is seriously disabled, but his mind is not. So, he’s committed it to using it at math.
Franklin Delano Roosevelt , the 32nd President of the United States, contracted polio in 1921, and was paralyzed from the waist down. Refusing to accept his paralysis, he tried different therapies and methods to try to walk, and did master walking short distances using iron braces and a cane. Men were men in that era, and he wanted to look strong as President. He established a foundation to help others with polio and directed the March of Dimes program which eventually funded an effective vaccine.
My favorite and absolute heroine, however, is Helen Keller. She was an American author, political activist and lecturer… She was also blind, deaf, and mute. That sort of cuts out a lot of input when you’re blind AND deaf. She was the first blind and deaf person to be awarded a Bachelor of Arts degree. The list goes on and on.
So, what is it that makes a Helen Keller or a Stephen Hawking? Or an Albert Einstein for that matter (he had a learning disability)? How do they do it, and why do they do it?
I had a caller recently from a man who was 120 pounds overweight. He had aches and pains, and couldn’t find motivation, or didn’t want motivation. It’s not like you can “find” motivation – either you’re motivated or you’re not. I believe those who “can’t” in actuality just “won’t.” But how do you overcome tough, difficult and demoralizing challenges? How do you just not simmer in self-pity or negativity?
Well, the first way is to motivate yourself. Motivate yourself any way you want, but just do it.
Next, calm down and take it slowly. When you’re facing serious problems and troubles in life, you can’t panic your way through something. You can’t think through a panic. You need to find a way to do that. Most people avoid challenges because failure is too embarrassing or uncomfortable, but when you don’t even face a challenge, that’s the biggest failure. Trying something and not being able to do it well or not at all is not considered failure in my book. It’s the beginning of success. Failing can be frustrating and embarrassing, but so what?
Third, simplify the problem. Break it down into parts. Do one thing at a time: what went wrong, what are your options, and what could happen with each option? Simplify each step. One of the reasons people have trouble tackling tough problems is because they tend to make them complicated. Keep it simple.
Finally, you need inner strength, because you have to do the best you can to maintain confidence and a positive outlook, because that’s going to ebb and flow. Some people get freaked out when that happens, but that’s normal!
Last, but not least, is to learn how to live with a little bit of failure. That’s how we learn. That’s the only way to get better.