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Choosing Thoughts, Feelings, Friends, Change.

Invest is those you love


Generations are different, issues are different, but some principles persist. I wish I had known these principles earlier in my life

1. You can choose what you think and what you feel.

Maybe this statement is a no-brainer, but it took me a long time to learn this choice. I was an administrator for a program that treated addiction and mental health issues. I was not a clinical expert, but I knew how to run systems. I sat in on group educational sessions and therapist case-conferencing, when appropriate.

I learned that Dialectical-Behavioral-Therapy taught addicts and others how to regulate emotions and how to choose what they thought. It was a flash of insight for me — I was fairly well along in my career, but emotionally I was an adolescent. I realized I didn’t know how to choose what I thought or felt.

DBT should be taught to everyone. DBT emphasizes mindfulness and other practical techniques for regulating emotions and managing thoughts. Books are written about DBT, but one can research the principles easily. It might be appropriate to speak to a therapist for assistance if seriously looking at a particular change.

2. Change is Incremental.

I was of the generation that marched for civil rights and against the war in Viet Nam. A new generation is marching.

I recognize, as Ruth Bader Ginsburg taught, that one shouldn’t get ahead of the tone of the country or the political will of the people. In fact, Ginsburg’s testimony in her confirmation hearing (The Washington Post: “Ginsburg Stresses the Value of Incremental Change”) is eye-opening reading. Then Judiciary Committee Chair Joe Biden asked whether the Court should ever move ahead of the majority and expand constitutional protection (one is prompted to add after June 2022 “or retrench constitutional protection”). I recommend the reader to other trenchant comments in the account.

Ginsburg also believed that abortion rights should have been decided on the right to equal protection instead of the right to privacy. It would have been less vulnerable to challenge.

As I developed organizations, I found incremental growth was easiest to integrate and secure. Build to last. Build step-by-step. Learn as you go. Create new pathways and opportunities.

3. Surround yourself with people you respect and admire.

These are the people you want to be like–maybe smarter, healthier, more physically active, more productive or kinder. You are influenced by the people around you. Make these choices consciously.

I don’t have many regrets, but I have a few, primarily opportunities not taken. I attended one writing group session in my New York City neighborhood facilitated by a well-known author. Although I was invited, I felt intimidated and did not return. I had an exceptional opportunity to learn from others, and I lacked courage.

4. The best career training came from my peers and colleagues.

In my first job as an executive director of a non-profit, when women were still relatively rare in senior management roles, I had a monthly lunch with two female colleagues at similar organizations. I learned how to be a manager from them. We could be honest with each other in a way we couldn’t be with staff or with board members.

A mistake I made for too long in my career was depending on myself, alone. It is egocentric and impossible. One needs a good working team of collaborators. A group with multiple talents is better than one person.

I learned that asking people “what would you do?” was far more effective than telling them what to do. Hire the best people, and give them the freedom to grow from mistakes.

That principle applies to life, not just work.

One of the best career choices I made was to join a women’s professional organization that became a touchstone for twenty-five years. I learned and grew around those breakfast tables.

5. Invest in the people you love.

Define love broadly. For years I valued my boyfriend’s attention highest (whoever that happened to be). Fifty years later, I have my family, and friends from grade school and other phases in my life. The boyfriends from my late teens and twenties are long gone. I understand love more generously and understand one commits to love, whether friends or family or partners.

This understanding doesn’t mean I’ve been a good model. I would like a few do-overs in relationship-building.

I am surprised to be connected with people from throughout my life. The internet makes that easy, now. Still, I never guessed that at (almost) age 70 I would talk to preschool friends. It’s amazing what we remember together. We delight in what we appreciate, and what appreciates over time.

Not in but With our time Love’s energy
Exhibits Love’s immediate operation;
The choice to love is open till we die.

W. H. Auden, For the Time Being

The Takeaways:

Each generation has its own struggles, and yet share commonalities of development.

Surround yourself with people you respect and admire.

Invest in the people you love.

Learn from peers and colleagues. Create or join structures to learn.

You can choose what you think and how you feel. You don’t have to be buffeted by thoughts and feelings.

Change is often incremental.

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3 Responses

  1. Kay Stratman
    | Reply

    Love this. (As I do all of your musings. Truly “common sage”.

  2. DorieRefling
    | Reply

    You are so, so wise! Thank you for this one!

  3. SingingFrogPress
    | Reply

    I’ve been loving all you recent posts. So much wisdom in this one! Thank you.

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