Being helpful and setting boundaries

March 23, 2009 | filed under consider this, moment of truth | 7 Comments 

i can do it!

It wasn’t until I was 16 that someone called me “Captain Correction.” My sister whole-heartedly agreed and my awareness of this tendency has come and gone since. My desire to correct, or inform, isn’t bred out of a sense of superiority; it stems from a genuine desire to be helpful and useful (read: in ways that I want or choose to be useful).

Last night, a girl who lives down the hall from me asked me for some matches and invited me over for some of her birthday cake. I should’ve said “no” because I’m not supposed to be eating sugar and I need to keep my word to myself (more on that later), but I opted to be polite and went over to sing ‘happy birthday’ and ate cake. I would’ve preferred to have gotten the cake and left, but stayed and talked to her and her friend.

In the course of our conversation, she mentioned that she’s trying out a new workout regimen. It went a little something like this:

Her: “Last week, I started this new workout and I really like it.”

Me: “Ok. What are you doing?”

“Well, I work out every day for two hours.” (As she eats a slice of cake that’s technically a large fraction.)

“Two hours? That’s not sustainable.”

“For me it is. I just go at night.”

“Well, what do you do?”

“I lift weights and do cardio.”

“Do you work the same muscle groups everyday?”

“Yeah.”

“Hmmm…that’s really not a good idea. You should alternate days. Why do you lift weights?”

“Because I like it.”

“No. You lift weights because you want to build muscle. You can’t build muscle if you don’t give your muscles time to repair.”

“Thanks, Leandra, but I really don’t want your opinion on this.”

“I’m just saying…if you scrape your knee, when you wake up, you’ll have a scab, but that doesn’t mean it’s healed. The same thing goes for your muscles. I’m not saying stop working out. I’d never tell you that. I’m just saying alternate days when you work certain muscle groups.”

She smiles, says “okay,” and abruptly changes the subject.

Initially, I was slightly offended with her “I don’t want your opinion” comment because she needs the advice and I could be an excellent resource for her. However, that’s her decision not mine. At the same time, I couldn’t help but to respect her for saying it. I’m SO going to jack it!

Last night was eye-opening for me in a few different ways.

1.) When someone declines your assistance (or your message, product, etc.), they’re not rejecting you; they’re rejecting it! Don’t take it personally.

2.) Even if you know what’s best for someone, they have to learn on their own. Just as someone knew what was best for you at some point in life and you rebuffed their advice. Everyone’s got to put in their own sweat equity into their lives, learn their own hard lessons. Don’t impede on the process.

A few weeks ago, I read this article from this life coach on how coaching has improved their life. One of the things they noticed was that they’ve become a better listener and–this is key–they wait for the opening in which they can ask if it’s alright to offer a suggestion. I hadn’t thought of that before…asking if I can help before doing so. Hmmm… I will take that into consideration in the future.

3.) In order for people to respect your boundaries, you need to put them in place and stand by them. It was awesome that she said she didn’t want my advice, but not so awesome how she pushed her cake on me after I said I wasn’t eating sugar. The difference between us was that I conceded and she didn’t. Noted.

Sticking by what you’ve laid out for you doesn’t make you rude. You’re not causing offense, but others may take offense when they don’t keep #1 in mind.

4.) There’s all this talk about keeping your word, but rarely is it self-directed. Keeping your word to yourself is of immense importance. Whether you’re conscious of it or not, you’re self-respect is tied to your ability to keep your word to yourself. I’m not eating sugar. You can offer. I won’t accept. That’s my word. I’ll be declining sugar and doing other things I said I would for myself…because my opinion of me matters more than yours.

Find the good, people. Be inspired. And be good to yourself.



Sweat Equity

March 19, 2009 | filed under consider this, moment of truth, pay attention | 5 Comments 

mistakes are an important part of life.

Last week, my colleague and I took a handful of students down to San Juan, Texas to work with Proyecto Azteca, a nonprofit organization that helps low-income families living in rural colonia communities along the Texas/Mexico border get adequate housing. Similar to Habitat For Humanity‘s model, the families have to help in the construction of their homes. It’s called sweat equity. The idea is that if the families want the houses, they will put in some work in order to have them and that they’ll take more pride in the house once it’s constructed because they helped build it. This pride will translate into them taking care of the house and paying off the low-interest loan (in some cases, no-interest loan).

At the same time last week, I was mulling over my life and some of the mistakes I’ve made. Now, really, calling them mistakes is just one way to look at them. I could call them lessons because I’ve learned a great deal from my mistakes but I found myself wishing that I didn’t have to learn certain things the hard way.

After a few minutes of my pity party, something occurred to me. You have to put your own sweat equity into your life. Some lessons will have to be learned the hard way so you really get it. It’s your job to grow, expand, progress…shape yourself into the person you want to be. It’s definitely not easy, but it is certainly worth it. So-called mistakes help us to clarify who we’re being, what we’re doing and how we want to be in the future. Mistakes are tools. We should use them, not lament over them.

Choose to see whatever you’ve been regretting as a guidepost to who you’d like to become and change accordingly.