Heads Up!

"Change Your Attitude and You Can Change Your Life!"

By Sue Stauffer

Heads Up!

"Character and Leadership Abilities"

By Sue Stauffer

Tolerance can be defined as “an ability and willingness to accept and respect different people, ideas, and practices.”  Being tolerant is a good thing. It is an essential virtue in a democratic society such as ours.  Tolerance promotes non-judgmental, open-minded, patient, permissive “live and let live” attitudes toward different people, ideas and practices. Intolerance supports  bigotry, narrow-mindedness and prejudice.

Tolerance requires respectful acceptance of racial, ethnic and physical characteristics; unpopular, or offensive beliefs, and opinions,  especially those that tend to evoke hatred, prejudice and contempt. Tolerance and intolerance can be passive or active. Passive tolerance and intolerance refers to privately held attitudes that are not reflected in words or actions while active intolerance erupts in public demonstrations that are often violent in action.

As we continue to hear about the travesties imposed by the different elements of the Muslim society here and elsewhere in the world,it is no wonder American’s are fearful of their immigration into our country and are beginning to experience different kinds of tolerance and intolerance towards all Muslims.  This is moving from indifferent acknowledgement to an increased discomfort and overall fear.  President Trump’s ban on certain countries being allowed to visit the United States or immigrate is representative of this underlying fear that is being shared by more and more Americans.  Already certain parts of our nation are being intimidated by large Muslim populations who want to impose their religion and religious rules on everyone. This action would represent a drastic change and a severe violation of our guaranteed rights under the United States constitution and Bill of Rights.  This underlying fear has fostered great mistrust of any group or agency that is in support of this ideology. It has perpetrated for many new intolerance and even anger that their “rights” are being threatened.  Undiscerning tolerance ceases to be a social virtue when it accepts, allows, or enables attitudes and actions that should be intolerable in a humane democratic society such as Shira law would dictates.

A so called “tolerant society” is being called upon to accept certain groups and individuals who preach or practice extreme levels of what our culture deems as  intolerable.  This acceptance includes  bigotry, persecution, child abuse, murder, rape, torture and other such conduct allowed and condoned by the laws and standards preached under Muslim law that allows such atrocities as the stoning of women as well as the beheading of “infidels.” “Political correctness” refers to what appears to be an extreme effort to suppress generalizations and characterizations though negative, that are nevertheless true.  Even our media protects the public under the disguise of “political correctness” when reporting atrocities of terrorists who are known to be of some extreme Muslim persuasion.  Past President Obama even refused to use the word “terrorist” when discussing some of the horrendous crimes committed by some of these radical groups.

 Now large groups of refugees of the Muslim faith, fleeing their embattled countries, seek asylum in our country.  How tolerant are we as citizens of the United States expected to be?  Should we award them sanctuary? Should we realistically fear the growing Muslim population both here and in Europe? Their birth rate is rapidly growing while the average American  birth rate is decreasing as people are waiting longer to marry and have children or are not having any children.  Remembering that the Muslims all believe that there is only one recognized god, Allah, so there is no such thing as any religious tolerance.  They also pledge “war on the infidels” or nonbelievers. Because of this strong belief, they do not assimilate very well into our culture but prefer to create communities with their own kind who will follow their religious teachings.  This is another problem that results in inability to find employment and be self-sufficient. Thus many end up on public assistance as well as join radical ideological groups at the expense of hard working Americans.

 In the next twenty years we will begin to see the census changes as predicted.  As individuals we must decide to what level we will be tolerant of the social changes that will accompany the shifts in population and the introductions of new cultural differences.  Will our government need to take a stronger position in dictating limits on immigration to protect the American population from radical terrorists and anti-American thinking to keep us safe?  That is what President Trump is trying to do by limiting immigration from certain countries until more control can be utilized to vet them in an effort to protect us. I applaud his stand and strongly support his efforts. What is happening in Europe and in London today is living proof of how dangerous our world has become.  We are no longer a completely safe nation but need to be aware of the coming changes and act accordingly if we are to protect our democracy. Perhaps, our traditional American tolerance needs some serious limitations in return for our national safety.

Pew Research reports in projections for 2050:

“The religious profile of the world is rapidly changing, driven primarily by differences in fertility rates and the size of youth populations among the world’s major religions, as well as by people switching faiths. Over the next four decades, Christians will remain the largest religious group, but Islam will grow faster than any other major religion. If current trends continue, by 2050 …The number of Muslims will nearly equal the number of Christians around the world.  In Europe, Muslims will make up 10% of the overall population.   In the United States, Christians will decline from more than three-quarters of the population in 2010 to two-thirds in 2050, and Judaism will no longer be the largest non-Christian religion. Muslims will be more numerous in the U.S. than people who identify as Jewish on the basis of religion.”

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Have you ever met a person and immediately recognized that they possessed strong leadership skills? Some people just have such strong character qualities that they can’t help but stand out.  There is little doubt that our character has a profound effect on our leadership abilities but how powerful we are in shaping our own destiny depends on how we choose to apply our skills and use our abilities.   

     Our overall character may determine our fate but character is not determined by fate. It’s a common mistake to think of character as something that is fully formed and fixed very early in life. It calls to mind old maxims like “A leopard can’t change its spots” and “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks.” This perspective that our character is “etched in stone” is supported by a great deal of modern psychology emphasizing self-acceptance, “I am what I am.”  The hidden message is, “What you see is what you get so don’t expect me to change.”  This is definitely not true.  We can shape our own destiny by developing the character traits that support leadership qualities and a high level of competency such as knowledge, experience, intelligence, communication and vision.  Abilities to motivate, manage and problem solve are acquired skills that are also necessary for a good leader.  But any leader will fail if he doesn’t also embody honesty, moral courage, accountability and fairness.   There’s no doubt that our character development has a profound effect on our future. What we must remember, however, is not merely how powerful character is in influencing our destiny, but how powerful we are in shaping our own character and, therefore, our own destiny?  Character may determine our fate, but character is not determined by fate.

        The character qualities of good leadership must also involve trust.  There is a relationship between being trustworthy and trusting others.  A decision to trust another is a choice, not a moral obligation.  Being trustworthy, however, is an indispensable aspect of good character.  We should always strive to act in a manner that is worthy of trust, not because it’s wise to do so, but because it’s the right way to live and lead.

      Then, why are so many leaders oblivious to the demoralizing effect of focusing on weaknesses and shortcomings without properly acknowledging successes and accomplishments?  Do they really believe that causing resentment, fear, or insecurity will produce better results than pride, self-confidence, and enthusiasm?  They intentionally use negative tactics because they think it’s an effective way to get people to do what they’re told,  Most of this type of leader is characterized as rude, inconsiderate, or abusive and are totally unaware of how inappropriate or counterproductive their attempts to motivate are.  A far better approach is to treat everyone with respect by engaging and empowering others through inspiration and example. The best leaders bring out the best in people by making them feel good about themselves and their capabilities.  Inspiration always is much more powerful than intimidation.   Good effective leaders will lead with a positive attitude and inspire everyone to follow their direction with enthusiasm. They are able to accomplish their goals more readily and with less problems but they must be consistent and employ good communication techniques so that everyone involved is “on the same page.”  Organization is another important tool that every leader must have and always use.  In fact, even if a person lacks some of the strong character qualities; organization, attitude and consistency will greatly benefit him.  Developing one’s character is essential to finding a great degree of satisfaction in one’s life whether you become a leader or not.  It is a big stepping stone to self-confidence, happiness and fulfillment.

Heads Up!

"My Advice to the  2017 Graduates!"

By

Sue Stauffer


I worked as a counselor for teenagers who were having difficulties with school, family, and peers as well as drugs and alcohol for fifteen years.  My offices were on two high school campuses and with an open door policy, any student could come into my offices and have someone to talk to.  Everything was confidential so the students felt safe sharing openly with me or my staff.  I loved working with young people and I think that my staff and I made a difference in many of their lives.  We taught them new ways to cope with their problems mostly by helping them make necessary adjustments to improve their lives and relationships.  We encouraged them and gave them support while they met the challenges that were facing them mostly from holding bad attitudes and negative thoughts.  I discovered that the key to change attitudes, is to change the underlying driver of attitudes, beliefs about themselves and how the world around them works.  I am convinced that whether the desired change is for more positive behavior or less negative conduct, we have to start by identifying and describing what the desired outcomes are and then convince them to form two critical beliefs:  1) “I can do it” and 2) “It’s worth it.”

The “I can do it” aspect of the formula focuses on creating a new confidence coupled with making extra effort.    If someone really believes that they can accomplish the desired change and reach an established goal, then success is probable, if not inevitable. Without a firm conviction that the goal is achievable, the motivation needed for ongoing effort will be impossible to muster. 

The “It’s worth it” element is the other critical piece of motivation. With our teenagers, we tried to instill the belief that acting out behaviors could be controlled if the student sincerely wanted to make life changes.  This would take confidence as well as self-control as teens are governed largely by the attitudes of their peers as well as impulses.  It involved a process of learning to examine choices and possible consequences resulting from chosen behaviors.  Our best bets were to instill in the students the belief that they have the choice to control negative impulses and peer pressures by trusting in their own intuition and taking charge of each situation.  We always encouraged self-confidence and belief that whatever work it takes to develop self-control and self-responsibility is well worth the effort. This would dramatically improve their lives in all aspects at school, home, and even with peers in most circumstances.   We also supported the “I can do it” conviction by giving examples of others who have done it.   We tried to teach impulse control strategies (like counting to 10 before reacting), and then examined and discussed the results.  When the strategy worked, there was always praise and encouragement. It is the recognition that good things result from having control of yourself and not reacting in a negative way that leads to the development of a better relationships and increased opportunities for a happier outcome and a more fulfilling life overall.

These basic techniques work and they can be employed by employers, teachers, parents and basically anyone who wishes to improve their lives and relationships.  Still, we have to be realistic. Instilling these beliefs and changing entrenched attitudes and habits is not easy. It takes persistent ongoing reinforcement of the basic belief: “You can do it and it’s worth it!”

All my babies are now gone.  I can’t believe it! Where did the years go?  It seems like yesterday my daughters were young children playing with friends, taking riding lessons, ballet classes, piano lessons, worrying about school and growing up to adulthood.   I have great satisfaction in my two daughters as mothers who have given me four wonderful grandchildren. My grandchildren are really adults now. (In fact all are taller than I am so I guess I am now the shortest member of my immediate family.  That is something I never thought would happen as I always saw myself as “taller than average.) I guess as this Mother’s Day comes around, I am the mother and grandmother of people who read the same books as I do, have opinions that differ from mine, sometimes tell stories that make we wonder where I was or what I was thinking on an occasion and tell jokes that make me laugh until tears run down my cheeks.  I no longer have children or grandchildren who need help dressing, feeding themselves, or need transportation to and from activities and school.  They are all independent as they should be.   Today, the well -worn books I read to my children and then my grandchildren: “Goodnight Moon” and “Where the Wild Things Are” still sit on the book shelf in the bedroom but rest unopened. I suspect if I opened their dusty pages, memories would rise from the dust as reminders of special times together for both generations.

Raising children and grandchildren is truly a multiple choice exercise.  Now all the parenting books that I once pondered are no longer necessary. The articles on sibling rivalry; sleeping through the night; early childhood education; and potty training are all past history but I still say “thank you” Dr. Spock for helping me through some of the stages and fazes of child rearing days.  As a parent you learn advice from magazines, books, other mother-s and grandmothers and well-meaning relatives but you finally realize that parenting is really an operation of trial and error.  No one really know the answers but everyone has an opinion or a solution.  One child responds to positive reinforcement while the other can be managed only with a stern voice and frequent “time outs” to get his attention. Eventually as a mother you have to learn to trust yourself and follow your instincts and good judgment. Every part of raising children is humbling and that goes for grandchildren too.  When my grandkids came along, I had forgotten much of what having babies or toddlers was about.  It was almost a completely new experience as many things had changed in the years between my babies and my grandbabies.  The temper tantrums, the sibling battles, the messes, the talking back, and the demanding of time and attention where all back again but disguised and altered my ability to cope much better in the role of grandmother. My patience had improved and I was no longer the primary caretaker.  Childhood survival is over and everyone has graduated to adulthood with no tell-tale signs of parental inflicted damage as we all move into new roles. My daughters are “empty nesters”; my grandchildren are “young single adults” hopefully searching for mates to move into the next phase of their lives and I am a “senior citizen” with a grown family awaiting my next challenge of “great grandmother” if I am so fortunate.

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ColumnsFromStauffer.com

 It is June and this means it is graduation season. Many college, high-school and middle-school students will be moving on to the next stage of their lives. Some will be sad to say goodbye to their school, classmates and, maybe, even a teacher or professor but others are eager to move on to the next phase of their life.   But whether you are graduating or not, it’s likely that success and happiness are high among your goals.  However, it is important to remember that happiness is not determined by what you have or even what happens to you; it’s a function of how you think about your life.

If I were to give a graduation speech this is what I would share with the graduates:

“I believe that it is important to have goals so that you can have some direction in what you want to achieve.  If you don’t have any goals at this time, borrow the goals from the person next to you or even the suggestions made by your graduation speaker. They’re probably as good as any, and besides, true success isn’t always getting what you think you want but learning to want what you get.

Perhaps the most important thing you can do is to prepare yourself to deal with unavoidable ups and downs and unexpected twists and turns that are almost certain to scuttle your best-laid plans. No matter what happens, it is most important that you take control of your life by taking control of your attitudes. Remember, pain and disappointment are inevitable, but tough times are temporary.  If you believe in yourself then no negative emotion or circumstance can withstand your will to be happy.  Happiness is always a choice that each person makes not something that just happens…it is always a choice!  If you listen to both your heart and head; pursue your passions with confidence;  don’t confuse feelings with facts, fun with happiness or pleasure with satisfaction; live within your means and don’t sacrifice a million tomorrows for a few todays, you will be guiding your life in a good and sound direction. Be especially careful of choices that can jeopardize your health, reputation, or important relationships. Safeguard your integrity. You never know when you’ll need it. People may not always remember what you may say to them, but they will always remember how you made them feel. 

If you set realistic goals and set out on a steady path to achieve them in an orderly manner, you will be moving toward a successful and happy life.  It is fun to dream big, but reality is what really gives us purpose and helps us to achieve success.  Never forget that confidence, hard work, and dedication to the task at hand are the building blocks for success and achievement. There is nothing that you can’t do if you really set your mind to it but always be mindful of the other people who touch your life as they must be part of your overall plan for happiness and success.  Giving to others is just as important as what you accomplish for yourself so be generous in both thought and deed.  To quote an old phase, “No man is an island!” People may not always remember what you may say to them, but they will always remember how you made them feel.  Life is filled with all kinds of people so learn from them as everyone has some contribution to make to your knowledge and understanding of the world in which you live.  Always be open and receptive as you never stop learning or growing “Finally, don’t settle for a little life. Fill it with purpose and meaning and people worthy of your love and respect.” Seize every day and move forward!

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Heads Up!

By Sue Stauffer

“Mother’s Day Remembrances”

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Heads Up!

By Sue Stauffer

“Tolerance and Intolerance in Today’s World!”