Turning Straw into Gold

We can complain because rose bushes have thorns, or rejoice because thorn bushes have roses.”
- Abraham Lincoln

As a child, I loved the Brothers Grimm story about Rumpelstiltskin. I was enthralled with the idea of spinning straw into gold. At that age, I remember feeling scared and sorry for the young girl and happy that Rumpelstiltskin came to her rescue. Of course, the idea of giving her first born to Rumpelstiltskin as payment was horrid and again, I was relieved and happy when she found out his name.

We could say that it was magic, luck, or serendipity that Rumpelstiltskin came to the young woman when she was feeling helpless and hopeless. However, it was her resourcefulness that saved her in the end. She sent someone out to search for his name. Though even here there is the element of serendipity, being in the right place at the right time, the solution could only have been found due to her resolve and resourcefulness.

Though we don't have Rumpelstiltskins coming out of nowhere to rescue us, we do have the ability to turn straw into gold, metaphorically speaking, that is. Our attitude, how we approach a situation, makes all the difference. If we can imagine that we can turn the situation, whatever it is, from something not so good into something great...well, that is the essence of joy, freedom, sense of purpose, success, and contentment.

It is true that life is not fair and that seemingly bad things happen to good people. However, given that this is how life is, the issue becomes how we perceive what happens, and then, how we deal with it. No matter how much we attempt to guide our life, change happens. Some of it is desired, some undesired. Our focus, then, is how to accept the changes that are undesired gracefully, integrate them, and find creative solutions.

Many years ago, my family was having dinner at our cousins' house. The mother became quite unglued that her Sara Lee cheesecake top was broken and did not look 'presentable' to serve for dessert. I happened to be in the kitchen at the time helping clean up, saw her state, and asked if she had any fruit. She had one banana which I sliced and put over the top layer of cream cheese. Voila. A lovely looking banana cheesecake. She thought I was brilliant. Would that she were right! As a teenager, I simply thought, “Why get so upset about something so minor? Find a solution and be done with it.” My family was generally solution-oriented. Problem, focus and get creative, solution, execution. Now, it wasn't so cut and dry, but when I look back, there was not a lot of time spent moaning and groaning about what was or wasn't.

However, that didn't stop my parents from worrying...especially when my older sister didn't come home exactly at the minute she was supposed to. I watch and listened to my parents worry and I remember saying, “Hey, if something bad happened, you'd get a call.” That didn't help them. They still worried. That experience did a lot for me.

  1. When I started dating, I called my parents early to let them know I would be late. They liked that and didn't worry. Then they caught on that I was extending my time out so that changed a bit.
  2. I don't remember exactly when I realized that worrying, which my parents passed down in one of their genes, really was not helpful. In fact, it is harmful. I decided that I would problem solve and plan rather than worry. I immediately felt better and have practiced that approach since my 'awakening.' Since the gene is still a part of me, I occasionally find myself worrying. When I do, I catch myself and say, “Judi, worrying will only make you feel bad. What can you do right now to help yourself believe that you'll be able to handle whatever happens?” If it isn't that question exactly, I ask myself something like that so I focus on looking for innovative solutions rather than cycling with worry.

Remember to breathe when the 'worrying' starts. Worrying means that you're in the survive state, and breathing will help you shift to the thrive state. The thrive state is the best state to stimulate creative problem solving. Sometimes it's easier than others to shift from survive to thrive. Regardless of how difficult it is, it is well worth it.

The practice this month will focus on making a shift so that you can rejoice that the thorn bush has sweet-smelling roses.

Judith Bell, M.S., Master LHEP™

Judith Bell, M.S., Master LHEP™

Judith is the founder and president of Rewire Leadership Institute®. A master facilitator, consultant, teacher, and coach, she has created and facilitated personal growth, team development and organizational change seminars, coached executives and teams, facilitated strategic planning and high visibility meetings, and supported culture change for over four decades. Judith works with a diverse range of companies from government agencies, non-profit, Fortune Global 500, to small and mid-sized family owned businesses including such organizations as NASA, Seaflow, Total Oil, Restoration Hardware, San Antonio Water System, and Culver Company.

Superb at supporting individuals, pairs, and teams in developing the skills necessary to realize their full potential, Judith helps executives, managers, and staff gain the ability to respond flexibly and rapidly to their changing environment. Through extensive experience and research, she utilizes a number of different approaches including the FIRO theory, systems theory, cybernetics, neuroscience, cognitive, positive, and success psychology.

As one of the world’s leading experts on the FIRO theory, she trains consultants internationally. A consultant’s consultant, Judith mentors facilitators, coaches, therapists and other professionals in the integration of the FIRO theory in their work. From 1981 until 2004, she worked closely with Dr. Will Schutz, the creator of FIRO theory. Independently, Judith developed FIRO Theory Profiling, which has been lauded as the first innovation in the FIRO theory instruments aside from Dr. Schutz’ own developments. She continues to develop courses that synthesize her studies and experience and are based in FIRO theory.

Starting in her teenage years, Judith has been a pioneer in her passion for authenticity, clear communication, and positive change. She is lauded for her ability to see others’ potential and help them realize it—be they individuals, pairs, teams, or organizations. Judith’s zest for life, appreciation for others, and generosity of spirit inspires those with whom she works.

An honor’s student at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, Judith’s desire and passion to learn about authenticity motivated her to move her studies to The Institute for Creative and Artistic Development (ICAD) in Oakland, California. As the youngest student in their teacher training program, she created and graduated with an undergraduate degree that focused on authenticity through California State University, Sonoma. Continuing on her quest to study authenticity and creativity, Judith began taking courses at California State University, Hayward where she also created and graduated with a unique Master’s degree that focused on communication, transformation, and the creative arts.

Interested in systems and change, Judith began experimenting with her innovative action-oriented approach to assess and intervene with families, groups, and organizations. Through this work, she became a much sought-after instructor, training masters and doctoral students in her seminal work. As chair of a psychology program focused on Creative Arts Therapies at Antioch University, San Francisco, she developed curriculum and continued to serve as guest faculty and lecturer at universities nationwide.

In addition to leading Rewire Leadership, Judith and her husband, Daniel Ellenberg, co-founded Relationships That Work®, where she serves as Vice President. She and Daniel co-authored Lovers for Life: Creating Lasting Passion, Trust, and True Partnership, which applies the principles of Rewire Leadership Institute® to romantic relationships. Recently, they co-authored a chapter in Mastering the Art of Success: Volume 8. With Matt White, Judith recently co-authored Leading with Courage.

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