(Distinctions are subtleties of language that, when gotten, cause a shift in a belief, behavior, value or attitude.)

Most of us have grown up in a world where we feel we have to defend our actions, our reasons, even our beliefs. There always seems to be someone who is ready to judge us and our behavior, so it’s easy to slip into a defensive posture. Defending can take on many forms — arguing, whining, belligerence and silence. At the root of defending is a strong sense of separateness, a sense of “them versus me.”

A stronger way to approach life is to become very clear about who you are, what your values are and what you want for your life. In other words, define yourself.

When you spend your time and energy defining yourself (to yourself and others) rather than defending yourself, you free up a tremendous amount of energy which you can use to create the outcomes you want. The cost of defending is high.

So how do you make this shift? First, when you work on strengthening your personal foundation, you lessen the fear that someone will find out you’re not perfect. You’re not, anyhow, and with a strong personal foundation you don’t care that someone knows!

Second, develop a strong compassion for others and their imperfections; judging others takes a lot of energy.

And finally, be very direct in communicating what you want. The people who want to play will be attracted to your plan and the others won’t.

Spend your time defining rather than defending. It’s easy, healthy and effective.

Copyright 1996 Steve Straus. All rights reserved.