Thursday, 15 December 2011

The Power of Three

Isn’t it strange how ‘life’ seems to bring us events in 3’s? How often are we in danger of a couple of things going ‘wrong’ and then we almost expect a third? We then anticipate the prediction which so often happens and we are then in danger of letting everything else drag us down!

I could have felt like that on Monday. Last week I was driving along in my trusted blue Fiat Punto - we have travelled 86,000 miles together in the last 4 years! Apart from a puncture on the M6 after a PSA meeting in Birmingham it has never let me down. Oh – and another time the exhaust fell off in a dodgy area of Manchester I was in, following a diversion! The rest of the time it has served me well. I cannot complain. My Punto has been there with me in times of great joy and in other emotions! It has heard me sing along at the top of my voice to happy songs and equally supported me through the tears.

Sometimes I feel I have been disloyal to my Punto as I have given it another personality! Many moons ago at a PSA meeting I heard a great speech by Martin Flett who described how the power of visualisation had helped win him medals for weight-lifting. He described in detail how when he was laying on the bench to push up heavy weights, just at the point he felt he could go no further, he pictured his late father helping him – wow! That picture gave him the extra power to go on to succeed. Around that time I had wanted an Audi A4 cabriolet. At that PSA meeting I mentioned this to another speaker who suggested that I should go for a test drive – she said I should feel, hear, etc. my dream car to strengthen the image and motivation to have one.

So I went for a test drive. I didn’t like it! However, the canny salesman suggested I ‘sat’ in the Audi TT roadster. It was bright red. Cream leather interior. Bose sound system. It was a sunny day. I drove it round the block. I have never had lust for metal and leather before – but I did then! The image has stayed with me ever since. So often I have sat at traffic lights and imagined that my Punto was actually that red Audi TT!

Perhaps this is why then this week it has taken revenge on me?! In the middle of a city centre last week – crash! The back box of the exhaust gave up. Maybe it was feeling inadequate?!

Then on Monday I was en route across the M62 for a meeting and training with Joanne Bingley Memorial Foundation. The windscreen wipers ‘died’ on me! A pair of helpful traffic officers helped me at a service station but shook their heads in a knowing ‘oooh – Punto. You’ll need the whole lot replacing’. I came off the M62 and found a garage in Heywood where the chap also shook his head and repeated ‘oooh – Punto. You’ll need the whole lot replacing’.

With an air of resignation I asked him how much and how soon he could do it.

‘It won’t be cheap and I might be able to do it by late afternoon’.

My immediate instinct was mature and sensible – I wanted to cry! I had been looking forward to the JMBF meeting and Powerpoint training given by Mandy from Altum-V. Instead I was facing a big bill and a wasted day.

My recent coaching training came into play instead. I asked the man what needed to be done in order to get my car back on the road as quickly as possible. With a few more sharp intakes of breath he suggested he could get ‘the lads’ to fit it between jobs. Success! By late morning job was done and I was back on the road. Thank you

Whilst I waited I had a coffee and sausage sandwich (comfort food!) in Morrison’s café. It was there I began to type this as I reflected on how easy it is to slip into negativity and allow a number of ‘bad’ things to let us spiral into a sea of dismay.

I could have wallowed in ‘it’s not fair’ and catalogued a whole list of happenings and situations that would ‘prove’ my life is a mess; I am overwhelmed; nothing goes my way, etc. etc. I could have snapped at the girl serving me at the counter. Instead I smiled at her and joined the banter she and a colleague were having. They were attempting to guess her middle name. Three letters. Began with ‘J’. I got it immediately – JOY!

So I sat munching my sausage sandwich and reflected on the many joys in my life.
  • I was grateful that my windscreen wipers had given up on me in daylight, at a time of day that they could be fixed – so often I have travelled late at night on wet and windy motorways – it could have been so much worse. I was warm and safe. For some people a new exhaust and a ‘big job’ on their car would ruin their Christmas – luckily for me I shall get by.
  • I am LOVING my new cottage. It has been very emotional leaving behind the home Clive and I had built together and remains painful on my return trips, as there are still things to be done there. Yet being back within the immediate reach of my family is wonderful. Magic moments so far have been Dom calling straight from school and me being able to give him an afternoon snack. Small thing but huge for me as this is a Mum’s pleasure that I have not been in a position to do for over three years.
  • My toddler niece Sophie now shouts ‘Laine’s house’ when we park outside. Watching Peppa Pig with her as she sits at the little tray table that Dom used to use brings such joy.
  • Being able to merely ‘drop in’ and have a drink with my parents is fantastic. I can tell that their worries have lessened about me knowing I am back in the area.
  • The warm ‘welcome back’ from my Cheshire friends has touched me as much as the messages of support from those I had made in Yorkshire.
  • I now look forward to spending Christmas and New Year in my new home. Of course it hurts that Clive is no longer around but I know he would be pleased with my decision as he gave his blessing for the idea weeks before he died. I have bought a little bin for my bathroom – it’s not pink as it would clash with the tiles – which had been my initial independent intention without a man to ‘tell me’ what I should choose! It is exciting to have my one home for the first time ever.

So after a Monday morning which put challenges in my way I continued on my journey. I put on my favourite Rascal Flatts CD and this tracked played…

Yes my road has been broken, as it does for many of us. Yet it has lead me to where I currently am – finding joy in life again.

Some people chose to spend their days hanging onto the past and living bitter lives, blaming others for where they are. I received a newsletter from Dr. Alan Zimmerman, who I heard speak when I attended a National Speakers Association convention in New York. His theme this week was about 3 ways to make a positive relationship.

1. Bring a bright spirit to every encounter.

That doesn't mean you have to be friends with everybody at work. You don't even have to like some of your coworkers or relatives. But you ... and only you ... can decide what kind of demeanor you bring to your meetings or get-togethers.

When I was speaking to the Alaska Association of Municipal Clerks, one member of the audience, Julie Cozzi, the Borough Clerk for Haines, Alaska, said it beautifully. She said, "Everyone brings joy to a room ... some when they enter, some when they leave."

Julie learned how to bring a bright spirit to every encounter. And in a similar manner, you can do the same thing. In fact, in these high-stress times, we desperately need people who bring a bright spirit to every encounter.

But ... you must choose to do it NOW ... no matter what is happening in your life or work. Unfortunately, as one person pointed out, most people choose to do it later ... when everything is going well ... when they're feeling better.

No! You've got to bring a bright spirit NOW ... not as one person said, "We convince ourselves that life will be better after we get married, have a baby, then another. Then we are frustrated that the kids aren't old enough and we'll be more content when they are. After that we're frustrated that we have teenagers to deal with. We will certainly be happy when they are out of that stage. We tell ourselves that our life will be complete when our spouse gets his or her act together, when we get a nicer car, are able to go on a nice vacation, when we retire."

"The truth is, there's no better time to be happy than right NOW. If not now, when? Your life will always be filled with challenges. It's best to admit this to yourself and decide to he happy anyway."

"So stop waiting until you finish school, until you go back to school, until you lose ten pounds, until you gain ten pounds, until you have kids, until your kids leave the house, until you start work, until you retire, until you get married, until you get divorced, until Friday night, until Sunday morning, until you get a new car or home, until your car or home is paid off, until spring, until summer, until fall, until winter, until you are off welfare, until the first or fifteenth, until your song comes on, until you've had a drink, until you've sobered up, until you die to decide that there is no better time than right NOW to be happy. Happiness is a journey, not a destination."

How do you do all that when times are tough? The author concluded by saying, "Work like you don't need the money, love like you you've never been hurt, and dance like no one's watching."

And then, to be a positive force in your personal and professional relationships,

2. Be more of a giver than a taker.

Many countries are on the verge of economic collapse ... many organizations are barely hanging on ... many teams are not working well ... and many relationships are falling apart ... because too many of the people in those countries, organizations, teams, and relationships are takers instead of givers. They're focused on taking on what they can get for themselves, no matter who they take it from. But that always has been and always will be a recipe for disaster.

That's why it was somewhat controversial when William Barclay preached, "Give without remembering and receive without forgetting."

It's also a practice that Joan Miller, a Navy investigator and one of my audience members, follows with such warmth and compassion. She's a giver instead of a taker, despite her heavy load of challenges.

As she told me, she lost her dear husband unexpectedly when he was taken by a stroke on her birthday. Then her Mother died a short time later of kidney failure. In between all of that, she had 4 surgeries herself. Fortunately, Joan had 10 givers in her life ... some coworkers and some relatives who kept calling her, who checked on her, who cared for her at home, bathing her, and applying antibiotic ointments.

When Joan's next birthday came, she decided to be a giver as well. She wrote, "I woke up on my birthday with a strong need to express my thanks to the many women who showered me with their love and compassion over the last year. I sent living plants to these 10 women with the following message: I'm counting my blessings on this birthday, and you're a Top 10! Thanks for being there."

Joan continued, "It seemed like the florist bill cost a fortune. But guess what? It paid back 10-fold. All the loving messages, e-mails, phone calls, and hugs from those women were priceless. One of the most rewarding feedback messages was from my niece Barbara, a single parent of a 10-year old boy. Naturally she thought it was amazing to think I was giving gifts to others on my birthday, and her niece added, 'I haven't had flowers or a plant delivered to me in years. I absolutely love it. And I'll take such good care of it and think of you at the same time.'"

Joan finished her note to me by asking a question. "Now I ask you, how could I have possibly received a better gift on my birthday than all those loving messages and bits of feedback? I've learned that the kindnesses we give to others are the very things that bring lasting memories to ourselves and others."

I believe that when you and I and everybody else learn that same lesson, our workplaces and our relationships will be so much better. Be more of a giver than a taker.

And finally, in your quest to become a positive force in your personal and professional relationships,

3. Plant good seeds.

You're going to have some problems and frustrations in every relationship you have now or ever will have. That's a given. And those challenges may tempt you to give up on a person or a relationship, and they may tempt you to retaliate or get even.

At times like those, you need to remember what one Anonymous author wrote: "As we grow up, we learn that even the one person that wasn't supposed to
ever let you down probably will. You will have your heart broken probably more than once and it's harder every time. You'll break hearts too, so remember how it felt when yours was broken. You'll fight with your best friend. You'll blame a new love for things an old one did. You'll cry because time is passing too fast, and you'll eventually lose someone you love. So take too many pictures, laugh too much, and love like you've never been hurt because every sixty seconds you spend upset is a minute of happiness you'll never get back."

The point is simple but important: you've got to do the right thing ... the good thing ... in your relationships ... whether or not you feel like it. After all, you are responsible for what you do in your relationships. How the other person responds to what you do is another issue and is not your reasonability.

It's like planting seeds. If you're a farmer, you are responsible for planting good seed, but the growth of that seed is somewhat beyond your control. Nonetheless, if you're a smart farmer you keep on planting good seed ... because chances are ... you'll eventually reap a good harvest. It's the law of sowing and reaping that works just as well in a farmer's field as it does in your relationships.

During this holiday season, or any season for that matter, take heed of this ageless advice:
If you plant honesty, you will reap trust.
If you plant goodness, you will reap friends.
If you plant humility, you will reap greatness.
If you plant perseverance, you will reap victory.
If you plant consideration, you will reap harmony.
If you plant hard work, you will reap success.
If you plant forgiveness, you will reap reconciliation.
If you plant openness, you will reap intimacy.
If you plant patience, you will reap improvements.
If you plant faith, you will reap miracles.

If you plant dishonesty, you will reap distrust.
If you plant selfishness, you will reap loneliness.
If you plant pride, you will reap destruction.
If you plant envy, you will reap trouble.
If you plant laziness, you will reap stagnation.
If you plant bitterness, you will reap isolation.
If you plant greed, you will reap loss.
If you plant gossip, you will reap enemies.
If you plant worries, you will reap wrinkles.
If you plant sin, you will reap guilt.

So think twice about the kinds of seeds you're planting with your customers, your coworkers, your friends, and family members. It will determine the results you reap tomorrow. The seeds you're planting will make your life and your business better or worse.

To become a positive force, just remember relationship building is a lot like gardening. As Lynwood L. Giacomini says, "Like a gardener, I believe that what goes down must come up." And I say, what goes out must come back.


Write down 10 good seeds you will plant this week in your customers, your coworkers, your friends, and family members. And each time you plant one of those seeds, check it off the list.

Make every day your payoff day!

(2011 Reprinted with permission from Dr. Alan Zimmerman, a full-time professional speaker who specializes in attitude, motivation, and leadership programs that pay off. For more information on his programs ... or to receive your own free subscription to the 'Tuesday Tip' ... go to or call 800-621-7881.)

So Dr Zimmerman also uses the Power of Three!

I changed my negative thinking about ‘things come in threes’ to counting my joys in life, making myself and others feel better in the process.

What three things can you do to make the world a better place for yourself and others today?

Elaine x

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