Archive for February 6th, 2011

February 6, 2011

Day 2 of 5: Insight requires action if you desire growth and change

by Rod Smith

Have a plan BEFORE you need it.....

Insight #2: You are a leader. Yes. And, the most important person you lead is yourself. If you run a multinational corporation, a family business, or the kitchen in your own home, your ability to self-lead will spill into, and influence all your relationships and everything over which you have influence, no matter how grand or humble that may be.

Sound, thoughtful, clear, self-leadership is pivotal to improving your level of functioning in all of your relationships and circles of influence.

When anxiety increases (over whatever: the economy, decreasing enrollment, lack of patient or customer care, the kids never put the milk away) lower functioning leaders (anxious leaders) tend to become authoritarian. They blame others, require scapegoats, and become less self-aware, more other-focused. They micro-manage, write new rules, en-FORCE, while believing that doing so will provide relief.

Action / challenge: Create a private, personal plan that is separate (apart) from your prevailing roles, issues, and anxieties. In other words, don’t allow your roles, successes, or failures to determine your identity. Write, draw, make notes, about manner in which you will self-lead, so that blindsiding problems and pressures will be less likely to shape you and dictate your behavior when anxieties inevitably intensify.

February 6, 2011

Perhaps the most encouraging letter I’ve ever received…..

by Rod Smith


I was thinking of you today at lunch. I happened to have snagged a C.S. Lewis book on my way out the door to catch the train to work, and I was reading it at my favorite Indian place. I’d snatched the book just for train-reading, but I’ve noticed with Lewis that after you’ve put him on the shelf for awhile, when you pick him back up he blows your mind all over again. And, I suppose, somehow, you and C.S. Lewis and Anthony Hopkins are all jumbled up and associated with each other in the movie-theater in my head.

The trinity of associations probably grows out of the fact that Anthony Hopkins played C.S. Lewis in ‘The Shadowlands.’ And then you sort of look like Anthony Hopkins, or at least I’ve always thought so. There is, too, the British accent and cadence that thrums in my head when I read the words on the page. But then there is also a deeper connection between you and C.S. Lewis, insofar as you both have played similar, particular and transformative roles. C.S. Lewis having done so passively and abstractly, and you having played a more active, concrete, and engaged role. At any rate, when I came back to the office, I looked you up. I read some things you’ve written recently. I looked at pictures of you and your boys. The boys are quite handsome these days, and they appear happy in the photographs, which made me happy in turn.

The letter I’m always meaning to write you, Rod, has grown and grown in my mind as time has passed, until by now it’s an epistle of such out-sized proportions I don’t think I could ever commit it to paper, or put the majority of it into words in any sequence that would make sense, even if I was just talking to myself.

So instead, I thought, I’ll just write Rod a little note. To tell you that I think of you often, and that things that you once said to me–some of these ideas and principles that you tried to explain to me so long ago– have continued to save me in times of trouble, loosen my anxiety in tight spots, strengthen me when strength has been needed. So, I guess: thank you. A thousand times. The way I’ve lived my life Rod, if you could speed it up it up and stream it together into a single image, has been like a man pulling the trigger to blow his brains out and instead of dying his life is saved.

And, indeed, you did get through to me, Rod. Though it took awhile.

A decade and change, if I’m doing my accounting correctly. By which time, of course, we’d fallen out of touch.

Also, I’ve had occasion to think of you some of these late nights at the office. Recently, it’s become a kind of professional necessity for me to immerse myself in and commit to memory the recent history of Africa. And that gets me thinking about you, too. Both you and your boys.

I just wanted to touch base and let you know that I’m thinking about you, old man. That I love you, that in the body of Christ you are close to me always, feeding me, reanimating me, and reminding me to get my shit together. I love you, Rod.

February 6, 2011

Day 1 of 5: Insights and challenges

by Rod Smith

Attraction is only enduringly poss

This is #1 of 5

Insight into your life and relationships is a prerequisite to growth or desired change.

Many people are very insightful yet appear to short-change themselves by refusing to act upon it.

Insight alone can be pleasurable (as if “understanding myself” is enough) or painful (if it leads to feelings of pessimism) but insight without appropriate action is useless if change or growth is desired.

This week I will offer you five core insights (from family systems theory) and challenge you (and challenge myself) to action based upon the insight.

Here’s the first:

When anxiety runs high, persons tend is to fight (become combative), flee (escape, or change the topic), or freeze (become immobile or useless). When faced with increased levels of anxiety, a primal protection mechanism engages and we can become inhumane (reactive, aggressive, diseased).

Thinking takes time.... reacting doesn't

Action / Challenge: Stand up to the primitive urge to fight, flee, or freeze, by deliberately engaging your “human” brain (your thinking, creative, brain) as opposed to obeying your reptilian brain (the reactive, non-thinking part of your brain) or by having a pity-party (allowing your emotions to over-rule).

Identify what’s occurring. Speak about it. Establish necessary distance. Get perspective before you react to the anxious internal or external environment and inflict unnecessary relational damage.