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The Ripple Effect

Ripple Effect – “the continuing and spreading results of an event or action”

Emotions like anger, blame, and self-centered rationalization all have something big in common. They destroy balance and quite often can lead to depressed feelings. They feed each other because they all stimulate feelings that lead the same place. Being angry all the time tends to encourage blaming everyone else around you. Rationalizing why nothing is your fault reinforces your anger at everyone.

I can remember plenty of times I fell into this pattern years ago, before I got my anger under control. When employees didn't understand tasks I'd given them, or didn't complete them to my satisfaction, I'd give out hard criticism as feedback. I told myself at the time that if they couldn't take my criticism they were too weak to be on my team.

That kind of thinking made it impossible for me to acknowledge whether my instructions had been unclear, or whether there was any validity to their way of thinking. There was one way that made sense: my way.

If they couldn't grasp my vision, I reacted with frustration rather than curiosity.

Sometimes when those I worked with got upset with the way I spoke to them, I reasoned that it was their problem. After all, if they hadn't made the mistake I would never have had to criticize them.

Mixing high expectations with a refusal to admit where I shared blame fed my anger, because people were constantly letting me down. As a result, I couldn't grow as a person until I changed my thinking.

So how does that relate to depressed feelings?

Being angry inevitably ruins everything.  Opportunities fizzle, communication becomes strained, and feeling like others are letting you down creates a victim-like mentality. Everything that goes wrong is something happening to you rather than a natural consequence of decisions.

Things start to feel passive.

You start asking questions like, "Why is this happening to me?" The world seems cruel and unfair. Everyone you know must be trying to take advantage.

Before long that affects your faith as well. "Why is God making me go through this?"
In that mind set, it's easy to feel like God is forgetting about you. Maybe even punishing you unfairly. Anything you've done wrong can't be worse than the next guy, right?

When you feel isolated from those around you, as well as God, it's natural to feel lost and frustrated. You're almost like a passenger on a tram, going wherever it takes you. That can quickly turn into hopelessness. Feeling hopeless and overwhelmed tends to invite procrastination, which then starts the cycle all over.

How do I avoid the Ripple Effect?

Accountability and self-awareness are the tickets out of that negative head space. When things aren't going the way you'd hoped, ask yourself what actions and decisions led it to where you find yourself.

Where could you have been more proactive? Where could you have been clearer? Are you making the most of your resources, whether they're tools or team members?

You'd be surprised what a difference taking a step back like that makes. Simply asking self-aware questions strengthens your understanding of everyone around you (and how you fit into the world). As you begin to anticipate other people's motivations, you can simpler and more efficient your planning and decisions become. There will be less frustration in all your interactions, and when challenges arise you'll be able to deal with them in a healthy way.

Where you can see you've made mistakes, own them. Others respect that, and it helps you to grow. When you've upset someone, try to see the situation through their eyes. Sometimes what you said or did will have been justified. But often you'll see the role you played in the situation and understand their feelings.

To reach this level of being we all need to begin with acceptance and accountability. We can only control our own behavior and reactions to things in life, after all. But if we're conscious of what we're putting out there, we suffer far less misunderstanding.
Life Lesson:  A very small pebble thrown into a lake will cause a ripple far greater than the size of the pebble.  Your words, your thoughts, and your actions affect you and those around you.

Understanding others is central to finding balance in life. The deeper you understand what other people want, hope for, or need, the less mysterious decisions become. You'll be able to help those around you succeed, whether they're coworkers, employees, or friends and family. That improves work efficiency, but also leads to deeper relationships with your spouse and children.

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