Critical Thinking Enhances Receiving

Written by Joanne Deck. Posted in Blog, Learning To Receive

Critical thinking skills are now being taught at every grade level, so they must be important.  But can they actually help us become better receivers?  Consider a definition of critical thinking from the Foundation for Critical Thinking: Critical thinking is self-guided, self-disciplined thinking which attempts to reason at the highest level of quality in a fair-minded way.   People who think critically consistently attempt to live rationally, reasonably, empathically. 

Get multiple perspectives

Get multiple perspectives

Did you notice that the word “attempt” is in both sentences?  Critical thinking isn’t easy, and it’s virtually impossible to do all the time.  However, it’s worth the effort because several aspects of critical thinking relate to our ability to receive.  Critical thinking requires that we not take things at face value, that we avoid jumping to conclusions or making assumptions. Receiving often requires this too.  Frequently what appears to be unfortunate ends up being a blessing in disguise.  Remember the character Bulldog on Frasier?  Something would trigger his anger and he’d go off in a tirade only to find he misunderstood, and he’d sheepishly say, “Never mind.”  With sound critical thinking we come to experience the truth that “all things [really do] work together for good.”

 When we think critically we dig deeper and consider the situation from multiple perspectives.  I remember a former manager of mine who used to remind us not to impose our values on others.  How helpful that admonishment has been over the years!  When I stay open to someone else’s view, I receive so much more than I had with just my own.  Critical thinkers also don’t abandon their emotions, but they’re not ruled by them either.  I recall an incident that illustrates both these points.

I was the Director of Human Resources for a non-profit hospital at the time.  When the VP of Development suggested that we ask our employees to contribute to the hospital, I was adamantly opposed.  Being really good at her job, she decided that educating me would be more effective than attempting to go around me.  I was open to meeting with her and she completely reversed my view.  Both of us kept our emotions in check, which led to better decisions and a positive outcome for all involved. 

Join me next week for more ways critical thinking can bless you.

Take Nothing for Granted

Written by Joanne Deck. Posted in Blog, Learning To Receive

Most of us realize that gratitude is one of the best ways to enhance our ability to receive.  We would do well to remember that the opposite of being grateful for something is to take it for granted, and being the opposite of gratitude, taking things for granted has a comparably negative effect on receiving.

Sure, I appreciate my loved ones, home, employment, and other things close to me that I treasure, as I imagine you do.  However, it was the passing of Helen Blanchard on May 11 that got me thinking about what people and things I take for granted.  Who is Helen Blanchard?  She was the first female Toastmaster, who had to join under the pseudonym of “Homer” Blanchard in the early 1970s because women were not allowed membership.  Thanks to Helen and her male club president who pushed the envelope, I now enjoy the benefit of Toastmaster membership.

How about women such as Margaret Sanger and Katharine McCormick who fifty years ago fought for women’s right to have access to the pill?  Although it was available, many doctors tried to keep it from their patients.  And ladies, as you cast your ballot in the last election, did you stop to give silent thanks for the countless women (and men) around the world who labored for over 40 years for women’s right to vote?  Finally, next week we celebrate Memorial Day and hopefully pause to appreciate the men and women who have served for our freedom.  As I think about it, there are so many things I value every single day that I fail to actively give thanks for.Graves_at_Arlington_on_Memorial_Day

In addition to all these public figures, there are the people in my life and yours who extended themselves and improved our lives in the process: the teacher who took the time to explain, the boss who gave you a chance, the stranger who returned your lost wallet, the aunt who really listened to you, and classmate who stood up for you. 

Is it possible to take nothing for granted?  Probably not, but we can do better.  Next time you take a medication, silently recognize not only the researchers but those who participated in the studies to test its efficacy.  Let’s remember the sacrifice of our farmers, our elected officials who serve, and the over 64 million people who volunteered in one capacity or another in our country last year.  Maybe one of them was you.  If so, I thank you!

Helping Others

Written by Joanne Deck. Posted in Blog, Learning To Receive

“Help given to others is a better predictor of health and well-being than are indicators of…received social support.” This research conclusion reported in the Berkeley Wellness Letter June 2013 caught my attention for a couple of reasons.

First, it reinforces the need to receive others’ offers of help.  It won’t just allow them feel good; it could literally extend their lives, according to the research.  People who experienced stressful events had a lower chance of dying for the next five years if they had provided help to others.  It was the providing support to others rather than the support they received during their hardship that made the difference.

Helping 315x210Another point that struck a chord with me was the type of help offered: providing transportation, running errands, doing shopping, preparing meals, and performing housework.  These are common tasks for caregivers, things most of us do daily for ourselves and our loved ones.  As Baby Boomers, the largest generation yet, age, the need for caregivers will increase.  It’s encouraging to learn that the stressful role of caregiver affords concrete health benefits.  Finally, John Swartzberg, M.D. notes that although the health benefits of giving affect people of all ages, those of retirement age seem to reap the greatest rewards.  What a terrific win-win opportunity for those contemplating retirement!

So in conclusion, while it’s not better to give than to receive, giving is still an effective way to set yourself up to receive, especially if receiving is not your intention.  We give because we want to help others and because it enhances self-esteem and mood and gives us a greater sense of purpose.  As result, we may have a few more years to enjoy these outcomes.

When Others Receive

Written by Joanne Deck. Posted in Blog, Learning To Receive

We are so blessed!

Is it hard to see others receive when you’ve been striving to receive and it just hasn’t happened?  Valentine’s Day may be a joyous day for many, but for singles who long for a relationship, it can be a painful reminder of how alone they are.  If you find yourself feeling discouraged and maybe envious when others receive what you desire, take heart.  This is a perfect opportunity to shift your thinking and use the experience to get you moving toward your goal.

A few years ago I attended a group dinner with some people I know but don’t see often.  Two of the couples were experiencing serious financial challenges. One couple owns a business. They’d lost a couple of major accounts and told us that evening that they had had enough.  By the end of the year they planned to close their business and relocate out of state.  The other couple had lost their cherished home when the housing market crashed and he lost his six-figure job.  Shortly afterward the wife had gotten laid off after 15 years of employment with her company.  Unlike the first couple, they were still struggling to assess their options and had no plans in place.  I had my own professional and financial issues at the time, so these were sobering conversations to hear, especially since both couples had previously been very successful for many years.

Last month, I attended another dinner with these same folks.  It turns out that the first couple never did relocate.  They hung on and diversified their business. The original revenue stream continues on a smaller scale, and they have now developed a very profitable related line of business.  The second couple has also turned the corner.  He found a well-paying position in his field in town (his previous consulting job took him across the country most of the time), and she began working full time for an employer she had worked for during the summer.  As a full time employee, she even has health insurance for her husband and her, saving them hundreds of dollars each month.  They are still renting, but look forward to buying a home again within a year.

While I have not yet achieved that level of success with my goals, I found this evening very uplifting.  If this can happen for not one, but both couples, why shouldn’t it happen for me (and you)?  I received two lessons from their experience.  The first is to be patient and not give up. These couples did what my grandparents’ generation did during the Great Depression.  They rode it out.  The second insight is that we don’t have to be happy campers through it all in order to be blessed in the end.  I know that both couples dealt with depression, discouragement, anger, frustration, and shame as they isolated themselves from family and friends.  Yet like the mythical phoenix, they have risen!

Celebrate every success you hear about.  See their good fortune as contagious.  Success is in the air!  Thank God for their answered prayer and for yours, on the way.

Receiving or Taking?

Written by Joanne Deck. Posted in Blog, Learning To Receive


Last week I attended the funeral of a very beloved man named Bob who clearly knew how to give.  The chapel was filled for his service and those that spoke on his behalf consistently commented on his generosity and giving spirit.  One speaker made a point to say that Bob was not “a taker.”  This statement, clearly accurate about Bob, got me thinking about the difference between receiving and taking.

My brother-in-law is a joyful receiver!

I think one of the reasons so many people resist receiving is because they confuse it with taking.  In reality, these are very different actions.  To receive, there first must be a giver. To receive, something has to be offered to you.  It’s the opposite with taking, however.  Taking implies the thing has not been offered, so if it is to be acquired, the would-be receiver must act to get it.  With receiving, the process is initiated by the giver.  With taking, it’s the taker that performs the primary action, and the suggestion is that the thing taken belongs to someone else.

In truth, “taking” is a more complex term than I realized.  An online search revealed 41 definitions for “take” ranging from the innocuous “take a photo” to “take someone” as in to cheat.  Among the 41, there are a few relevant meanings where the taker is not the initiator.   The first is to “claim or assume something” as in to “take the blame.”  Another is to “accept something” as valid and true, such as to “take criticism.”  Finally we have to “bear something” as in “take abuse.”  None of these uses fits my description of taking above.  They are examples of where we can accept something (criticism or blame, for instance), but we don’t have to receive it. We can acknowledge what the other person is saying, but we don’t have to believe that it’s true; we choose to let it go.

Thankfully it really isn’t difficult to distinguish receiving from taking.  We know when something is being offered to us.  When we receive, both we and the giver are blessed, and that’s a good thing.

Giving Others the Chance to Give

Written by Joanne Deck. Posted in Blog, Learning To Receive

I often write and speak about the many reasons why it’s good to receive.  One of the most important is that when we receive, we simultaneously give.  Yes, that’s right.  What we give is the opportunity for the giver to give. This is not a trivial point, because giving is filled with rewards, and when we won’t receive, no giving can take place.

Uncle Bob lending a hand.


I’ve interviewed many professional caregivers over the past few months.  One of the questions I like to ask them is to describe for me a difficult client.  Often they tell me it’s the person who resists their care.  Unfortunately it’s not uncommon for seniors to refuse to accept the fact that they need help.  This failure to receive is demoralizing for the caregiver. It also impacts the senior’s family members, usually their adult children, who are left with both concern over their welfare and the task of keeping their parents safe.

Our failure to receive graciously often affects others.  I recall a date I had years ago.  My date and I were at a club with several of his friends.  When the server brought the check, my date and one of his friends argued over who would pay the tab, both of them insisting on footing the bill.  Generally, offering to pay is a kind act, but this went to extremes, with neither one willing to allow the other to give.  Those of us at the table became quite uncomfortable, and the unfortunate server was caught in the middle, prevented from moving on to serve others and puzzled who should receive the bill.  Sadly neither man realized that allowing the other one to give would have been an act of generosity.

If you’re reading my column, I know you know how good it feels to give!  Share that experience with others by learning to receive with grace and ease.  We’ll all be blessed as a result.

Life as a Revolving Restaurant

Written by Joanne Deck. Posted in Blog, Learning To Receive

Roger and I love to go to the Compass Room at the Hyatt Regency Downtown at night.  It’s fun to see the city all lit up and notice what has changed since the last time we were there.  It occurred to me recently that life is a lot like a revolving restaurant.

When we first sit down, we focus on the view and spend a few minutes gazing at the sights.  As we place our orders and our attention drifts away from the window, we’re oblivious that we’re moving.  After a while, we look up and realize that we’re facing another direction.  We have a completely different perspective on the city without any effort on our part.

Isn’t life just like this?  When we’re young we have a way of viewing the world and our lives.  As we grow up and get more engaged in life, we don’t notice the tiny but continuous changes we’re making.  It takes milestone events such as graduations, births, deaths, and big birthdays to get our attention and notice the shift in our perspective.  If we think about it, we realize that we see things differently than we did 20 years earlier. We appreciate things we never did when we were younger, and now we understand what our parents or other elders were trying to tell us.  When I was 19 and my father was almost 50, I remember him telling me he still felt 19. Back then I didn’t really understand how that could be, but I totally get it now.

Our ability to receive with grace and ease is not just affected by our willingness and consciousness.  There are some things we just won’t be capable of receiving until our perspective shifts from life experiences.  This insight has helped me be more compassionate with myself when I recognize how long it’s taken me to learn certain lessons.  It also is enabling me to let go and worry less about the younger people in my life, be they relatives, students, co-workers, or friends.  Just as the restaurant revolves without our effort, our lives progress, giving us a fresh outlook and new receptivity every time we stop to pay attention.

The Power of Your Thought

Written by Joanne Deck. Posted in Blog, Learning To Receive

I’ve always enjoyed the stories where the author presents alternative endings and allows the reader to choose their favorite.  Today I offer one to you. A bright, enthusiastic young woman wanted to get an advanced degree.  She consulted experts in the field and her academic advisor, selected several schools that had programs meeting her goals, and applied to each.

Ending #1 – Despite her best efforts, she was not accepted by any of the schools.  Whatever it was that she needed to do or be, she didn’t achieve it, so she failed.  Feeling like a failure, she became stuck in negative emotions such as discouragement, disappointment, and low self esteem.

Ending #2 – Despite her best efforts, she was not accepted by any of the schools.  She had done a really good job on her applications and interviews, but in each case someone else did just a little bit better and was selected over her.  Tough break.  Feeling like a victim, she doubted the advice she was given and became angry, frustrated, and sad.

Ending #3 – Despite her best efforts, she was not accepted by any of the schools.  The Universe had something better for her that she didn’t yet know about.  Feeling panicky at first, she remembered that God adores her and that all things work together for good for those who trust.  She recognized her fear as just a sensation and did her best to remain open and see what good would unfold for her.

What ending would you choose?  Haven’t we all seen each of these endings play out?  Another question to ask ourselves is which scenario is true?  I realized this week that having earned a degree in math, I spent years immersed in the thought that there is always one right answer.  However quantum physicists have shown that the expectations of the observer affect the outcome.  When researchers had scientists view identical specimens under a microscope, each one saw what they expected to see – and they were not the same!

The truth is that our power lies in our ability to choose the thoughts we hold.  We make the ending true simply by choosing it.  No wonder Marianne Williamson said we are powerful beyond measure!

Taking the “Hits”

Written by Joanne Deck. Posted in Blog, Learning To Receive

Last time I looked at the characteristics of wide receivers, people who receive for a living.  Wide receivers are players on a football team that the quarterback throws the ball to.  The best wide receivers are quick, agile, able to concentrate and shut out distractions, and ready and able to take a hit.

Quarterbacks depend on wide receivers for their success.  If the ball is not caught, the play is incomplete and the quarterback has failed.  Worse yet, if the ball is caught by the opposing team (intercepted), the quarterback has actually hurt his team.  So a strong connection and effective communication between the quarterback and the wide receiver is essential.  The quarterback relies on the wide receiver doing everything he can within the rules of the game to receive what the quarterback gives, the pass.  Can you imagine a football game with a wide receiver that resisted receiving?

Another key component to being a competent wide receiver is the willingness and ability to take a hit.  Wide receivers are the focus of the opposing team’s players.  They do all they can to prevent him from receiving, and when he does, they tackle him to the ground.  Can you imagine your competition at work literally taking you down after you made a sale or delivered a service?  Yet that is exactly what the wide receiver endures, over and over.

Should you expect to take any hits as you receive?  Quite possibly, unfortunately.  It’s not uncommon for lottery winners to find they have strained or even severed relationships with greedy family members or jealous co-workers.  Even after sharing their good fortune, some continue to get hit with requests, pleas, and expectations from other people, sometimes even strangers.  As a human resources director, I often counseled newly promoted supervisors about how to handle “hits” they got from envious co-workers who did not get the job or those who simply resented them for receiving a promotion.  Likewise at work, people and teams that get attention, compliments or praise for a job well done can receive unjustified criticism from others who feel overlooked or frustrated.

I encourage you to keep the wide receiver in mind should you find yourself receiving uncalled-for hits when you receive.  Remember, it’s just part of the process.  The wide receiver endures the hits because he has prepared for them and expects them.  He isn’t insulted or discouraged by the hits, and neither should you be.  Jealously and resentment stem from scarcity thinking, and your willingness to receive is one of the best gifts you can give to heal humanity of its lack and limitation consciousness.

Lessons from Professional Receivers

Written by Joanne Deck. Posted in Blog, Learning To Receive

“There is good for me and I ought to have it.” Emma Curtis Hopkins

Want to become a better receiver?  Let’s learn from people who do it for a living – wide receivers!  A wide receiver in American and Canadian football is the pass-catching specialist. Wide receivers are among the fastest and most agile players in the game, and they are frequently featured in the game highlights.  Just what is it that makes a good wide receiver and what can we learn from them about receiving?

According to football coaches, speed is the number one quality of top wide receivers.  They need to be able to get up to speed immediately and to change direction without losing speed, as well.  However, if speed is not the wide receiver’s greatest asset, this can be offset by “precise pattern execution, complete focus on the ball when it is thrown his way, and the ability to get away from defensive players or find the holes between zone coverages” (

That means successful wide receivers are able to concentrate during each step of the play and ultimately shut all else out as they focus on the ball coming toward them.  Then they must be ready to “take a hit” after catching the ball.  Finally, they must be in strong enough condition to do this over and over during the game.

Doesn’t sound very easy, does it?  Of all the characteristics and skills described above to be a good receiver, agility and concentration are most applicable to receiving in general.  Recognizing that what you are seeking may appear differently than you expected requires agility in your thinking.  It also may show up sooner than you think or when you least expect it, such as meeting the love of your life in the produce department of the supermarket.  Staying focused on what your ultimate goal is, in spite of distractions, delays, and obstacles, is certainly a form of concentration. 

There is one more critical skill to look at – the ability to “take a hit.”  Join me next week for more on that.