Tag Archives: goal setting

That’s The Way The Cookie Crumbles

No you didn’t fall of the email list.  I just didn’t do a blog last week.  I decided to try my hand at decorating sugar cookies instead.  Why?  Why not?  My son was performing in a cello recital and I wanted to bring some fun food.

I watched a video and thought, Hmmm this looks easy enough.  So I gave it a try.  Wow, was my experience a lot different than the one of the woman in the video.  My entire kitchen and my body were covered in flour, icing, icing dye, utensils.  It was a major mess.  As of this writing, I still haven’t mastered the skill but I haven’t given up.  I heard Mark Cuban say the other day that he spent 10 years becoming an overnight success.  So if and when I achieve cookies designs that are magazine worthy beautiful, I’m going to tell everyone it was easy. 

Years ago I used to give a lecture with a slide show that contained a slide of a young woman sitting on the back of a lawn chair at the beach.  I used to ask the audience if they wished they could look like the perfect model featured and many said yes.  Then I let them know the model on the magazine probably wished for that as well, because the photo had been digitally enhanced to make her look the way she was portrayed.

Despite knowing this, so many of us deplete ourselves by trying to achieve the look that we feel someone else has, even if we have no idea how authentic their success is or isn’t.  Is it any wonder that we are a nation functioning in large part due to antidepressants?  How can we foster happiness when we live in a perpetual state of feeling as if we are incapable of achieving what we believe others have, in a system that is basically rigged?

I’m not playing the victim card.  Anything but!  I’m playing the “use your critical thinking skills” card.  I’m not suggesting that it’s a bad idea to try and achieve a goal.  But the goal should be realistic and personal rather than as a way to mimic another that you hold in unrealistic esteem.  Even if that person has genuinely achieved a particular goal, you can’t possibly have all of the same predispositions and life conditioning experiences to achieve exactly what they have done.  And they aren’t you.  You have gifts that they can’t or won’t achieve.

So here is what really happened since I started this blog post.  The first batch of cookies looked really horrible.  Picture a kind of “Picasso” cello where none of the parts line up quite right.  And they didn’t taste very good.   So I gave it my best shot and made a second batch.  And they looked well, slightly less horrible, but they tasted really good.  So I took those to the recital.  They were to be eaten, not hung in a gallery and thus, I deemed them “good enough”. 

I’m still planning on taking a live class this weekend because I still want to learn.  But I don’t feel badly about not knowing how to decorate beautiful cookies.  I’ve had no practice, I’m not particularly artistic, and frankly, I have virtually no idea what I’m doing.  The woman in the video made beautiful cookies, but I’m going to guess that she wouldn’t make a good therapist.  And even if she would, I suspect there are still other gifts that I possess which she does not.

This week, instead of looking at something that someone else has that you don’t, try focusing in on your gifts.  This may require that you look at yourself a little differently than you do normally.  If you want to take a real risk in growth, tell someone else about something you do really well.  Celebrate yourself!  And if you need any decorated cookies to help you celebrate, call me.  I just can’t guarantee you’ll recognize them as what I say they are.

Happy Holidays

This is my last entry for the year.  I’ll be back the first week of January.  I just want to wish everyone a joyful holiday season, whatever your faith, including a hopeful new year.

The world is in a precarious state these days.  There is a daily barrage of bad news, potential threats, and looming concerns.  There is also joy, hope, and reasons for gratitude.  Sometimes in the wake of the former, it is difficult to find or focus on the latter.  Regardless of the difficulty, the choice remains ours.

To make the choice in favor of a more pleasant view of life however, is not to try and create a Norman Rockwell painting of upcoming events.  Rather, it means to simply focus on and appreciate what works, rather than to dwell on what does not. 

In his book “Conversations with God”, Neale Donald Walsh explains that we choose relationships based on what part of ourselves we wish to experience.  I would extend that thought as a statement about our lives in general.  What part of ourselves are we wanting to experience when we encircle ourselves with drama, chaos and hardship.  Is it a desire to feel punished, incompetent or inferior?  Is it a desire to see ourselves as a great rescuer?

And by the same token, when we surround ourselves with joy and plenty, are we bringing our self that is capable of richness and connection to God into the mix?  Neither of these questions is a simple yes or no, but are worthy of self-reflection.  What better time to do that than over this holiday season.

Once again, I want you to know how much I appreciate your dedication to reading, and value your feedback more than I can express.

Whatever you choose for this holiday season and the year ahead, I hope that you gain from it the knowledge you seek to make your life the best for you.

 

Happy Holidays

Let the Wobbling Begin

Let the wobbling begin.

I’m going to attempt to create a visual experience for you.  Try and imagine yourself in this scene as you read along.

You are a toddler about 12 months old.  You are used to crawling around when you want to get to somewhere other than where you are.  Your view of the world is predominantly at ground level looking up at everyone.  While this has been fine for a while,  you now realize that others around you are doing things differently.  You also notice that your hands and knees are getting sore.

Everyone around you seems to be getting around on their feet instead of their hands and knees.  Hmmm you think, perhaps I can do this too.  You inch your way over to a table or chair and using all your might, you pull yourself to an upright position.  “There! You exclaim. “That wasn’t so hard.”

Full of confidence and wonder you lean towards the direction you want to go towards.  First your right foot, followed by your left and boom!  Down on your bottom you land.  It looked so easy when you watched others complete the operation, but it doesn’t seem easy now.

Of course you eventually learned to walk, but not without a few good drops to the bottom and perhaps your head as well.  It’s the natural evolution of learning to walk without the conscious processing that I describe above.  Yet, if we were conscious, I don’t think my description would be too far off base.  It might include varying degrees of excitement and fear depending on our nature and our success rates. And of course, there are many other milestone achievements of which we partake as developing children that have a similar structure.

I submit that, to some extent, we retain our childlike approach to change and development throughout the life span.  The differences however, include that 1) we are often more conscious and 2) we are often filled with judgment and fear, both of which, are founded on information we have collected over the years.  That information not even need be accurate, but it still influences our decision making capabilities.

In application, this means that if I had to learn to walk today, I might say to myself “No, I’d rather not, because I don’t want to risk falling.”   Or “I don’t think I’ll take up playing the piano because I don’t ever stick with things.”

Thinking about this topic reminds me of a quote I like very much:

A bird sitting on a tree is never afraid of the branch breaking, because the trust is not on the branch, but on its wings.  (author unknown).

Perhaps my argument is lost if your position is that you don’t trust your own wings.  But even the most confident will at times lose faith in our selves.  It is during those moments that we can trust that even our baby selves were once brave enough to take the risk towards change.  We can know that sometimes we have to fall a bit to make progress and our boo boos and ouchies will heal.  Wobbling is a sign of progress towards success rather than a prediction of our failure.

The baby in us has the desire for something more.  It remains focused on the goal rather than the limitations.  It is not necessary to recreate a state of unconsciousness to achieve this skill.  Because we now have the ability as adults to exercise choice and reason,  it is a matter of prioritizing the goal we want over indulging the fears, some of which are irrational, so that we might move towards the direction of our goals.  We need not employ denial or ignorance, but rather the confidence that we are strong enough to tolerate the necessary wobbling and sometimes falling as a means to our achievement.  And  to consider that wobbling isn’t a sign of our failure, but is evidence of our willingness to grow.

One Small Step for man… and Woman

Yesterday I had a session with someone I’ve known for quite some time.  I’ve watched her grow considerably from a few years ago.  I originally met her shortly after the dissolution of her first marriage.  She was young; the marriage had been brief.

She began working on her career, knowing all the while she also hoped to remarry at some point and have a family.  Her career has taken her to places near and far.  Yet, despite her attractiveness both physically and psychologically, she hasn’t met another suitable mate.   She understandably finds this disconcerting.  It’s not that she hasn’t put effort into it, because she has.  Although she has met people potential suitors along the way, none, seems to be suitable.  And in case you’re wondering, she is not being too picky.

I sat with her, wishing I could wave a magic wand and produce a perfect candidate, or at very least look into a crystal ball and tell her when it will happen.  Unfortunately, my wand is broken and my crystal ball is cloudy.  I also cannot resort to some text book prescription that will instruct her on exactly what to do to insure her desires will be fulfilled.

Sometimes there is luck and fate to contend with.

What I did do is ask her “If I could tell you without a doubt that, it’s not going to happen, what would you change in your life?”  I wasn’t attempting to be prophetic or pessimistic.  I was relieved by her answer, which was simply “Nothing”.  And I appreciated that she was certain about it.

I was relieved because it said to me that she wasn’t missing any of her life by waiting until it was “Right” in order to live it well.  She was instead, getting up every day and moving towards the things that she could control.  She had settled on living in a place that made her happy.  She had recently changed jobs to find work she felt more authentically aligned with.  While she would like a mate to join her world, she is no longer looking for one who will build it for her.  She is a smart girl in addition to being beautiful and charming.

Sunday I finally got around to seeing the movie Martian by Andy Weir.  I mentioned the book in a recent blog.  As I was leaving the theater, my friend mentioned to me that Weir had originally self -published the book as blog entries.  Intrigued I looked up more information to better understand the story.

Weir, a computer programmer always had an interest in writing, but took a job in programming to earn a living.  After reaching some financial independence he took time off to try his hand at writing.   According to an article in the Washington Post “His first efforts weren’t very good, as he freely admits. He couldn’t get an agent, much less a publisher. He decided that his childhood ambition of being a professional writer was unrealistic, and he went back to computer programming.”

But he kept writing.  He loved writing and it made him happy.  Eventually, he self-published it on Amazon and it was later picked up by Crown Publishing.  The rest was, as they say, “History”.

 

Many people give up on their dreams when they aren’t validated by the outside world quickly enough.  Weir obviously did not.  My client is continuing to do what makes her happy without any evidence that a book deal is in the works.    And others may wait for the life to feel “right” until after their dreams are sufficiently met by their own standards.  The ideal circumstance is to push towards living the life you want, while experiencing the one you actually have.  It is possible to dream of more and live in what it is currently.

Are there any paths you are waiting to take because someone or the world has not given you a clear map?  Are you living the life you enjoy even if nothing else changes?

Time savers

My son asked me today what blood is made of.   Of course, I didn’t know the answer so I did what I always do.  I went to consult the great wizard known as google.   In case you’re curious, the answer is plasma, red and white blood cells, and platelets.  But as I went to find the answer, I thought about how if I had needed to know that answer when I was a kid, I would have had to get someone to take me to the library so I could consult an encyclopedia.  Boy, have times changed, and it’s amazing how many time saving tools we have available today.  These gifts are not just limited to information gathering.  We have modernized and improved every aspect of our world right?

So that got me thinking about the things I now have available to make my world improved.

After I got divorced I lived in a 560 sq. ft. apartment.  Now I live in a 4K plus sq. ft. home.  Of course it used to take me about 45 minutes to clean what now takes about 4 hours to achieve.  But I have a lot of sweepers, cloths and specialty products to make it “easier and faster”.  And each of those gadgets needs batteries or filters or bags that must be replaced from time to time but…

Transportation.  I can’t imagine how people used to get around in a horse and buggy, much less on foot.  Obviously they didn’t travel often or very far.  But we are so lucky because we have jets to go around the world if we choose.  On a smaller scale I have a car that will take me anywhere very quickly.  Now that is a huge time saver over walking to the grocery store.  The interesting twist though is that I seem to spend a LOT of time in the car.  I pick up kids; drop off kids, tote kids to and fro a variety of places.  I pick up food, dry cleaning, household items.  I make a lot of trips to Starbucks.  I drop off a prescription at Walgreens and then go back to Walgreens.  All because I can.  I have a car to save me effort and time.  It just seems to use a lot of that time.

Communication.

It must have been astounding when the Pony Express began delivering mail.  People who had been cut off from loved ones and even substantial news information now finally had a systematic way of being able to communicate from afar.  My maternal grandfather came to America and wrote letters to his future wife to keep her abreast of his plans for their ultimate reunion.  It must have been grueling for her to wait for his words to finally reach her.

In contrast, I can communicate with anyone, anywhere in the world instantaneously with only a click of my mouse.  Sometimes, I have to wait a few hours because of the time zone differences, as someone in Russia may be sleeping when I send my email, but that is about the limit to my hardship.  Since I no longer have to spend time waiting for replies, I can often make plans or decisions much more timely.  However, I have begun trying to reduce the amount of email I receive because I get overwhelmed by the abundance.  I find myself becoming slower on replies, to even important requests because, there is often more in my inbox that requires my attention than there is attention I have available.

Food

My kitchen is well stocked with pots, pans and utensils for faster and improved baking and cooking.  I also have no shortage of gadgets that I’ve never used.  These are for foods I was going to make, but haven’t had time for.  Mostly these days we eat a lot of take out.  That of course, is why it’s so great that I have the car I mentioned above to help me save time.

Personal care-

Boy I shouldn’t even start on this one.  There are 3 products for my hair and an anti-frizz towel, two different contacts, glasses, hearing aids that require frequent batteries.  I have products for softer feet, smoother skin.  I own anti- wrinkling cream and I don’t even wear makeup.  That would require another whole bathroom vanity.  The current one is filled with mouthwash, toothpaste, a rechargeable toothbrush and charger, a water pick.  It also has a magnifying mirror, hair dryer, assorted tweezers, and nail files and…

So all of this is to say that life is what life is.  We can try and “solve” problems, streamline and minimize efforts and there is nothing “wrong” with that approach.  The problem comes in with philosophy of solving or rather illusions of solving.  Some things simply can’t or don’t need to be solved and its okay to live with them the way they are.  Often our efforts to “simplify” a process results in a far more complex system of maintenance our “solving tools”.  Another approach is in learning to let some things go.  There are some areas of life that can’t be made simpler.  They are difficult and we may need to accept that the effort required to have them in our world is significant.  It’s okay if we choose those things, but we have to become willing to let something else go to achieve a balance in the amount of energy required.  In other words, we can’t give 100% to two tasks simultaneously.  The math just doesn’t work.  I know this, because I looked the answer up on google when I couldn’t find one of my three calculators that purchased.

 

 

 

how will you Fall

This is an excerpt from the lyrics of “bring him home” from Les Miserables:

The summers die One by one How soon they fly On and on

I heard this the other day and it seems appropriate for this week’s blog. The kids are back in school (although one could doubt that if you note the plethora of TV commercials advocating the purchase of supplies). The pool is closing and college football begins this weekend. All that remains missing is, a nip in the air to set the tone. But even with the anticipated heat this week, it is undeniable that summer 2015 is ready for the memory book.

How did you spend it? Will you remember anything that stands out positively or negatively or will it blur into the stream of “summer memories” that meld into one vague feeling?

If the latter is true, then this is the perfect opportunity to think about welcoming in fall and the holidays ahead. Why not consider doing so with your eyes wide open and your heart ready to experience the days ahead, rather than to endure or conquer them with a checkmark of completion.

Digital cameras have become so prolific that we often take a million images never to look at them again. I’ve been guilty of hoping a photo will save the memory for me instead of taking the time to actually enjoy the experience in the moment. Try going on a family or personal adventure without taking photos. Consider instead imprinting the memory in your mind. Gather all the surrounding stimulus, sights, sound and smells to help cement a vivid film for future retrieval.

Make it a goal to try something outside your normal activities. Break a routine, check out a new path or route. You might consider taking on a new hobby or more importantly, ending some old practices that no longer serve you, but instead nibble away at all of your time. Facebook anyone? Last week a blog reader commented on the time wasted on funny cat videos. A few days later I caught myself watching a loop of something stupid, remembered his comment and immediately stopped myself. Thank you!

Another suggestion is to think about the company you keep. Are you spending the bulk of your time with the people you would most like to have in your life?  The people that you say are important to you? If not, what is keeping you from that fulfillment? Work, play? Other people? This is a great time to take inventory and reflect.

And last, but not least, is your health, or lack thereof, preventing you from truly enjoying your life at this time? Physically or mentally are you either disconnected from your body or your needs that you remain numb, or overwhelmed to the extent that it preoccupies your every waking thought? This would be a great time to awaken to the life that is yours and begin with one single step at a time to make changes towards greater fulfillment.

Here are two more line from the song that I’d like to share. They follow those listed in my opening:

And I am old And will be gone

So before you are, consider putting forth the effort so you will not only know you were here, but will have enjoyed the ride.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A guest post from Brad Tinnon- more on money and health

I have the pleasure of introducing you to Brad Tinnon this week. I hope you will enjoy Brad’s wisdom.

 

DOES WEALTH AFFECT HEALTH?

Dr. Mary Young recently guest blogged on our website about money causing fear and anxiety in people’s lives.

In relation to her blog, I want to discuss how money can interfere with balance in your life which in turn can affect your health (and possibly your happiness).

Money in and of itself is not the problem, but rather the love of money is.  In fact, those who love money will often times pursue it at all costs. You see, the pursuit of money is generally a very time consuming task so, let me make a bold statement:

If the pursuit of money consumes your time, it WILL likely consume your health!!

HEALTH, WEALTH, AND BALANCE

Health comes in a variety of forms: physical, spiritual, and emotional. If you don’t practice balance in your life in relation to these three areas, then you will not truly be healthy.  Let me give you a brief example of what I mean:

If you pursue money by means of being a workaholic, then your health will suffer in the following ways:

(1) You won’t have time for a proper nutritious meal (physical health will suffer).

(2) You won’t have time to exercise (physical health will suffer).

(3) You won’t have time to get a proper night’s sleep (physical and emotional health will suffer).

(4) You won’t have time to connect with friends, family, or God (emotional and spiritual health will suffer).

(5) You won’t have time for activities and interests that you enjoy (emotional health will suffer).

To sum this up, the love of money prevents you from living a balanced life. And as a result, your physical and spiritual health will deteriorate, your relationships will be broken, and you won’t get that needed time away from work.

HOW TO FREE UP TIME

Maybe the pursuit (or love) of money is not your vice, but perhaps “being too busy” is. And many times it seems we are too busy with the wrong things.

I often times wonder how I can free up my time to focus on the things in life that are important.

IDEA #1

One way to do this is to just simply say “no” to things. If your plate is already full, stop taking on new responsibility when somebody asks you to pitch in and help out. You will never please everybody even when you say “yes” to things.

IDEA #2

Another way to free up time is to stop trying to be an expert in everything.

We all know people who are a jack of all trades.  They fix their own car, do their own taxes, handle their own home improvements, etc…

There’s nothing wrong with these things unless you are horrible at them of if they consistently take you away from spending time with family, friends, and God; preparing or eating a nutritious meal; exercising; helping someone in need; having alone time; etc…

There’s also the aspect that you could end up costing yourself more money in the long run because you perhaps don’t have the necessary training to tackle certain tasks. After all, “you don’t know what you don’t know”.

I’m not saying that you have to turn over every aspect of your life to a professional.  But if you have a task in which you lack the time, desire, or knowledge to accomplish, then I challenge you to consider allowing someone to help you out.

In summary, there is nothing wrong with working and making money.  However, too many people go to the extreme and pursue money at all costs.  It’s helpful if you just look at money as one part of your life and recognize that there are many other parts of your life that need your attention as well.

I encourage you to live a more balanced life and spend your time wisely. And if you do this you may also find that you are more healthy and happy.

Please feel free to share any experiences or comments you may have.

Brad Tinnon is owner of B.E.S.T. Wealth Management and has been in practice for 9 years. He currently holds the CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ and Chartered Retirement Plans Specialist™ designations. Brad specializes in helping individuals and families with their personal financial planning and investments. In addition, he specializes in helping small businesses with their company sponsored 401k plan. Brad is married and has two girls who are ages 6 and 2. He welcomes any sympathy you may have.

 

 

Houston, we have an opportunity!

Recently, a couple of sessions have reminded me of the old Apollo 13 movie with Tom Hanks.

The first involves a woman who was feeling the pressure to stay at work later in the evenings in order to get everything she felt needed to be done. She is a consciences worker, and wants to do the tasks necessary to get ahead in her career. She also has small children at home and would like to spend time with them in the evenings.

Another session involves a woman taking care of an elderly relative. When she signed up for this ominous task, the conditions were understood and seemingly manageable. However, unlike the marriage vows of “for better or worse”, her initial agreement did not include a set of variables that have since come in to play. Thus, she now finds herself trying to maintain her original agreement, but under a whole different criteria with far more rigorous constraints.

One of things that always intrigued me when I worked in residential treatment was this: people who had been starving, feeling unable to eat another bite would come into treatment and immediately comply with the nutrition set before them. People who said they couldn’t get through the day without binging came into treatment and the binging ceased. These examples also made me think about Apollo 13.

When Hanks uttered the infamous “Houston we have a problem!”, the ground team began their mission of finding a way to help repair the capsule and bring the crew down to safety. All of the engineers pulled out their slide rules to find a solution. and I remember asking my husband why they didn’t use calculators. He reminded me that the calculator had not yet been invented. While there were some solutions that were readily apparent to the ground team, these were quickly eliminated when they realized the needed supplies were not on board the spacecraft.

Finally, the team replicated all of the supplies that WERE available to the Apollo crew and began to find a solution that could implemented. Ultimately that is what happened and the rest is, of course, history.

So often, we get stuck on a problem because we insist on finding a solution that is dependent upon something that either hasn’t occurred or might never occur. In doing so, we prevent ourselves from moving forward until that variable occurs—meaning we don’t move forward.

Sometimes what we see as a problem is really an opportunity to see the capability we have to creatively look beyond our self-imposed limits and for us to do something differently from where we currently are. Again, this involves a spirit of willingness.

In the example above with eating disorder treatment, the patients who immediately changed their behavior became willing to do something different. Food didn’t instantly become tastier, the sense of fullness did not immediately dissipate. What changed is the elimination of an paradigm in which they felt they couldn’t do those things. The support around these individuals allowed them to sit with the same set of discomfort without feeling overwhelmed while they tried on new behaviors.

I suggested the woman who is missing her children consider looking at her job as having a mandatory, non-negotiable quitting time. Act as if the building will blow up at a certain time and you have to get out. That paradigm shift would encourage her to prioritize the most important tasks that have to get done and to let lesser ones go until the next day.

And the woman taking care of her relative will ultimately have to take stock of what “supplies” she currently has on board, rather than those she wishes she had to insure proper care for her elderly charge. It will mean acknowledging that the original mission has changed and she may no longer be adequately prepared for the new one with which, she has been presented.

None of these are easy solutions. Nor is continuing to beat one’s head against the wall stuck in the rut of the non-productive status quo. The difference however, is that the latter never changes. And in that sense true identification of the problem presents an opportunity for growth and change.

 

Fleeting emotions

I want to share an insight this week. Actually it’s a revisiting of a lesson I learned several years ago when my first son Alex was a baby. Most mornings Alex would wake around 4 or 5 and I would pick him up from his crib, bring him to our bed and nurse him back to sleep.

On one such morning, I went through the same routine not unlike so many others. What was different however, is what happened next. As Alex snuggled up to his father, I lay there watching the two of them and became overwhelmed with joy and gratitude. I looked at them both slumbering and thought “This is the most perfect moment of my life! I have everything I could ever imagine right in front of me!” And so I watched. And I watched trying to soak up all of this perfect joy.

And that lasted about 15 seconds.

After that, I got up and went on with my day a little dumbfounded as to why the sensation of reaching nirvana seemed to occupy my attention span for only about 15 seconds before becoming “over” it. Well, not over it exactly, as I still remember it very clearly. That said, it wasn’t something that entranced me to the point of choosing to gaze on.

So the lesson I learned was this. Emotions; all emotions, positive or negative rarely, if ever seem to have the power we ascribe to them. We are simply incapable of sustaining them. That is both the bad news (when we want it to last) and the good news (when we fear they will overwhelm or destroy us).   I suppose this coping mechanism is built in to our species DNA for survival the same as needing to pee is.

The reminder lesson came this past week with child number two. Andrew was at cello camp in Bloomington. It was his first time away from home and the camp lasted two weeks. Okay, it was my first time away from Andrew that long and it was excruciating for me. When I went up to visit, he stayed at the hotel with me instead of the dorm. So this idea I’m about to try and describe to you happened a couple of times over that visit.

I noticed when I first got to hug him, I hugged really hard. There is that sensation when you first make contact, that is new and fresh and seems to touch parts inside of you; even parts that aren’t making physical contact with the other person like warmth in your toes or joy in your heart. But it dissipates quickly. And if you try to hug harder or longer, the feeling doesn’t increase. Then, I noticed at other times, when I went to kiss him that, if I pressed my lips against his cheek the same thing occurred. The “reward” came in the first few seconds of the kiss. After that, pressing harder or longer just seemed weird or mechanical, like lip skin touching face skin, rather than the adoration of a kiss.

So I came away reminded again of the gap between our desire for wonderful things to last forever and the disappointing reality that they don’t, or maybe “can’t” is a better term. But like most things, the disappointment comes from expectation and ignorance rather than the events themselves.

If we could feel that level of joy all of the time, would it really mean the same to us? Remember the wisdom of the Budweiser Super Bowl commercial that tugged at our heart strings? The commercial featured a song by the group Passenger, “Let Her Go”. While it played, a man ultimately feels such joy reuniting with his horse after the two had been separated for a time. It was the absence that made his heart grow fonder.

The following excerpt from the lyrics are relevant:

Well, you only need the light when it’s burning low, Only miss the sun when it starts to snow, Staring at the bottom of your glass Hoping one day you’ll make a dream last But dreams come slow, and they go so fast

If we don’t expect the good to last forever, and can instead, appreciate it for what it is in the moment, we can greatly reduce our disappointment. And the flipside is that if we can remember that pain too, will not last, we can greatly reduce our fear.

How about practicing this week a willingness to let feelings come and go naturally without having to either hold on tightly or push them away.

I’d love to hear your stories about your experiences in this area.

 

 

 

Talent or Delusions?

Talent or Delusions

I don’t watch a lot of television. Except lately that seems a little less true. Last year I got a bit hooked on America’s Got Talent for a while. I was hooked until I discovered that talent was defined as a guy willing to get hit in his privates with baseball bats and the like and somehow  endure the pain.   After that,  I pretty much decided there were better things to do with my time. But the other night the TV was on and when I went by I saw this little old lady dancing and it caught my eye. I recognized her from an article I had seen a few weeks back. Her name is Tao Porchon-Lynch and at 96, she is the worlds oldest yoga teacher and apparently dancer on America’s Got Talent as well.

She is a sight to behold for sure. It’s admirable. I’m happy for her. But I don’t aspire to be her. I have neither a wish to be Debby Downer or self-deprecating, but realistically speaking, Tao is an anomaly, not the new poster child for 96 is the new 46. Yes, people are living longer than our predecessors, and I hope to be among that crowd. That said, the reality is that living longer doesn’t mean we are all going to be capable of doing in our 80’s and 90’s what we did in our 20’s and 30’s or even our 50’s and 60’s.  Why hold ourselves to this as the baseline standard?

I’ve been reading “Being Mortal” by Atul Gwande. It is a phenomenal book. But don’t pick it up unless you have time to read it in a relatively short period of time. The first half of the book is pretty tough to take in because it doesn’t sugar coat the harsh realities of aging. The goal is not to depress us, but rather to wake us up to accepting the inevitability of death. The author’s wish for his readers is that we live out our end with autonomy and agency rather than abdicating that responsibility to the medical community. Gwande, a physician, asserts that our society has turned dying into a medical war and people are often “sustained” and kept safe to achieve a quantity of life.  Further, He believes this strategy comes at the expense of achieving quality of life.

In our society, old age is something to be dreaded, feared and managed. I’m as guilty as the next guy. Yes, I’m used to my hearing aids, but I don’t embrace my aching joints, the lines in my face, or even the ever exposed “blonde” roots near my scalp. That said, I can contemplate at least intellectually that I’m logistically closer to death than I am to my birth. Emotionally, and perhaps this is only because I don’t consider having to confront it any time soon, I feel reasonably at peace with the prospect. I have lived a life I feel content with and have had the luxury of far more than I ever anticipated possible as a young girl. Still with the responsibility for my own young children, I’d like the opportunity to stick around at least long enough to ensure their launch into the world.

Beyond that point, I hope to have the presence of mind and the ability of body that will allow me to bead when I want to, eat and sleep when I want to, and to hang out with people or be alone if I choose. I hope as most people do, to not spend my last segment of life either hooked up to life support or in a nursing home. But the point is, most people currently in those conditions, also prefer not to be.

My mother died in a nursing home. She didn’t want to go into one and I knew that when I put her there. I felt I had no other option. She broke her hip and became immobilized. I work, have a family and neither, she nor I, had the funds to hire round the clock care for her. This is neither confession nor persuasion of justification, but rather an illustration of how these matters so often transpire. They happen because of the lack of a viable alternative.

Being Mortal is an invitation to consider an alternative to the status quo of how we currently manage aging and death. Instead of ignoring its realities and holding the fantasy in our mind that we will dance at 96, go home and quietly die comfortably in our sleep, we can make decisions in our life and our death. We can think about and discuss what we are and are not willing to endure when we inevitably become too frail to enjoy life as we know ourselves to be. This includes contemplation and some frank discussions with those who may be the executors of decisions on our behalf. It is not enough to simply say “I don’t want to be in a nursing home.” It is imperative that we make known what we individually consider quality of life to look like for ourselves and consider what options available best achieve those goals.

Would you trade a being gravely ill for 3 months of chemotherapy in order to live 4 months more?  If you have a heart attack or a stroke, what measures do you want to help sustain you? For those of you who are younger, what if you were in an accident? Would you be willing to stay in a coma indefinitely? How damaged of a body are you willing to live in? There are no rights or wrongs. Stephen Hawking has lived so many years in a body unable to move or even speak and has continued to make enormous contributions to the world. These are personal decisions for you to make. Don’t let someone else determine what you should or should not endure, be it family, children, and least of all institutions that do not know or understand your individual needs.

Shhh I can hear you

Shhhh I can hear you.

My mother wore hearing aids. She got them when she was about 80. Her hair didn’t turn gray until about age 50. My hair started streaking at about 28. And my hearing started to slip a couple of years ago.

I was in good company. My sister doesn’t hear well,  nor does one of my brothers. But they are older than I am. A couple of years ago one of my nieces had to have surgery on an ear that she was having trouble hearing out of. And did I mention that I had an aunt and an uncle who were born deaf? There was no blasting of the jambox. I come by hearing problems honestly.

I was becoming painfully aware over the past year that I was often asking people to people to repeat themselves. “Darn mumblers”, I would tell myself. The TV had to be up extra loud to accommodate me. “Too much noise in the house”, I would say. I started to notice people who wore hearing aids. I wondered what it was like, trying to get used to the idea for some day when I would need them. You know, when I got older.

At Easter I sat with a group of women and noticed that I was really not hearing the conversation. I kind of checked out and smiled as if I was hearing, but just didn’t think what they were saying was important enough to chime in. Perhaps it might have been, if I had heard them.

And a few weeks ago, I realized in a session that not only had I not heard something someone had said, but I had just gone on as if I had. And an alarm bell started ringing in my head. I heard that: Loud and clear.

I went for a hearing test and came home wearing hearing aids the same day. The first thing I noticed is that I could hear. I could actually hear things I didn’t even realize I had missed. I had become so used to not hearing things, that I no longer knew they were there. The squeak of my shoe against the break pedal of the car. The rustling of a wrapper coming off of a piece of gum. The sound of my own chewing. Life is not incomplete if one can’t hear their own chewing, but there are other experiences of the same sound level that are awfully nice to be able to hear and I wasn’t aware of them until I got the aids.

The second thing I noticed as that… no one seemed to notice. No one began looking at me like I was either a Martian or in need of a handicap sticker for my car. I suspect if anyone who knows me was looking at me, it was only because they noticed for the first time in a long time that I wasn’t asking them to repeat themselves.

My husband is happy about the hearing aids because he no longer has to yell to me from upstairs, when I’m one room away from the kitchen that, the oven timer has been going off for 5 minutes. My kids are a little less thrilled because I’m now asking THEM to turn their electronics down a notch or 6. My youngest son asked me if I feel like an old person now. I told him I feel “older”, but I’m not quite ready to claim the title of old person. He said old people where hearing aids and glasses. I reminded him that sometimes young people do as well.

The only negative feeling I have at this point, is the regret that I didn’t do it sooner. I’ve been missing out on a lot of sound because my vanity got in the way. And the real irony is that once I put them on, the vanity piece disappeared as quickly as the speed of sound. It just didn’t matter.

Most people know the story of the boiling frog. It’s of course, the metaphor of how we often get injured by situations gradually because we fail either to notice changes as they occur, or fail to respond to them if we do notice. The latter is what I did with my need to hear better because I tried to compensate for my decreased ability to hear.

Are there any situations in your life where the water is getting hotter, or the sound is getting lower and you are not responding with the appropriate actions?   What are you willing to lose and what holds you back from taking care of what you need?

 

 

 

 

Welcome to my dreams.

Welcome to my dreams

 

A lot of people tell me they don’t remember dreams.   Personally, I think it’s a cultivated skill. I have always found my dreams to be rather instructive throughout my life and I have had a handful of recurring ones. Today I’d like to share one of those with you.

I find myself in high school. Usually in this dream I return to a high school reminiscent of my own or the community college, but last night I was actually in my son’s high school. It feels overwhelming. The kids there are nice enough to me, but I can’t get with the schedule. I keep getting lost while trying to navigate the various buildings and I can’t remember where my locker is or which class to go to next. Finally, I look around and say “I’m not doing this anymore. I already have a Ph.D.” Specifically in last night’s dream I went to the office and spoke to the principal. She said “Sure, you can quit, but there are certain types of jobs you won’t be able to get without your high school diploma.” She described the jobs to me and none of them were things I would ever want to do, so I left and never went back.

Now in real life, I did finish high school. But I finished at the semester rather than the full year. And I had just told that story recently which, most likely prompted the activity in my sleep. At various points in life that dream has meant different things to me. But last night’s version is, I think, the result of my contemplating something for someone else. Actually, for three someone elses: 3 women I am currently seeing in my practice.

Here is a quick vignette:

D- a very successful woman in the business world. She can pretty much count on getting 90% of the jobs she interviews for. In her last position, she worked 70 hours a week, and had to replace 75% of the team she inherited in under a year. Her CEO recently joined her on a sales pitch to a customer that if awarded would have raised her team performance considerably. The day after the sales meeting, without any indication of the customer’s decision, D was unceremoniously let go. She was told “It wasn’t enough.”

S- Another superstar. For her last position, she was courted by the employer. They stole her away from a competing company by promising the moon. They didn’t even know where to put her in their organization they just knew they had to have her. She joined them. Two years later, they still didn’t know where to put her. She never had an opportunity to shine at anything, because it was never really clear what she was supposed to be doing. She often felt like she was overlapping with others in their responsibilities, and they didn’t seem all that thrilled about the intrusion. Finally, the director told her he had made a mistake and they were eliminating her position.

N- Worked in a major institution for 20 plus years. She was the darling of the team. She was thorough and reliable. Not only did N do a great job logistically, but she was deeply committed to the people she served. N was called in to human resources and terminated without warning. Their reason: they claim N did not clock out before going to lunch. N often worked long after she clocked out in the evening in order to get her job done. She would never have gone to lunch on company time.  She was never asked about the incident at the time it supposedly occurred or given a chance to prove her case.

I heard each of these stories in about a two week time span which helped link them together in my mind.

In her discussions about entering the “dark night of a spiritual journey”, Caroline Myss says that anything that stands in your way will be removed for you by the universe. I don’t know if that was the case for any of these women, but I do know that each of them had been unhappy in their jobs and was thinking of leaving, but neither was sure what their next step would be. One could argue that their unhappiness produced substandard work which prompted their terminations. I know that was not the case with any of them however, as they are all hard working women with considerable integrity.

I think my dream was my own minds processing that these stories. For me, they are examples of being in a role that isn’t really right, but doing it because you think you are supposed to fulfill someone else’s rules for you. My declaration that I had a Ph.D. to the other students was a way to say, “I’m not supposed to be here. I don’t have to do this.” And to seal it off, the principal tried to give me advice of the importance of staying, but it was advice from her framework not mine. When I identified that, I was free to leave.

These women became free to leave. I am confident that each will land on their feet, and become stronger and wiser in the process.   Are you hanging on to a role or relationship that you don’t belong in, but one that someone else thinks is a good idea for you? Are you willing to take yourself out of the position or do you have to wait to be asked to leave?

Let’s be honest

I’ve referred to a book before called Your Money or Your Life by Vicki Robin and Joe Dominguez. It’s an old book that I still highly recommend. While the exercise the authors prescribe is annoying and tedious, it is incredibly illuminating. It will make you take a hard look at how you spend your money. I mean really spend it, rather than how you think you do and equally useful, how much of your life are you giving up to support those expenditures.

I did the exercise formally a number of years ago. I was divorced, going to and paying for school. I discovered that I was spending about $2400 per year on Starbucks. Yes $2400 American dollars; that was not a typo.

Now, truth be told, I’m still spending that on Starbucks. In fact, now that I’ve bred a couple of little green label addicts in my own home, the dollars may be a little higher. But here is the difference: I can actually afford to spend that now. Starbucks is about the last known major vice for me and I have no plans of giving it up soon-Although there have been a few windows of time in recent years when for a number of reasons, I’ve done without it for a few weeks or months at a time.

In my earlier life, I really didn’t think about what it was costing me. I only saw the 4.00 expense in the moment and thought it wasn’t “that bad.”

But this post isn’t about money or Starbucks. It’s another about time. From recent posts you can conclude I am feeling pressured about the lack of enough time in my day, as I’m confident, many of you are as well. So I started using the Robin and Dominguez approach to look at how I was spending time.

I have been aware for a while now that email is a major drain on me. Along the way I had subscribed to a number of crafting blogs. I’ve since eliminated all but one. I’ve also become far more efficient with using my Junk mail folder. I can now scan in a few seconds what used to eat up minutes at a time in my day. I’ve started planning meals a month in advance to try and reduce both shopping time and the waste that comes from a lack of planning ahead. But this is the interesting find for me:

There is a little word game app on my phone. While I did succumb to candy crush back in the day- I escaped at a much faster rate than most do. I’m generally not that susceptible to game apps in general. But word games can hook me. I used to play 7 little words. It took about 3 minutes of my day to do the daily puzzle and I was done. I learned a lot of words that way. It was under control- I was content.

And then along came Word Scramble.

It takes only 2 minutes for a round of Word Scramble. I started playing it while I was in line waiting for something. Then I started playing it at night just before drifting off to sleep. Then I started playing it…. Well you get the picture.

One feature of the game is “stats”. So I recently looked up my stats. I don’t know how long I’ve been playing Word scramble, but I know that I’ve played nearly 1200 rounds. I’ll do the math for you- that equals 40 hours. Sure, it’s only 2 minutes a time but its 40 hours of my life gone. Just like a measly 4.00 cup of coffee turns in to 2400.

And this is how a life gets away from us. It’s easy to see the big things that come into our world. They come with a large announcement and a party. But it’s the accumulation of all the little waves that take us further and further adrift into a sea of chaos.

How about taking some time this week to look at the little ways that you may be unproductively losing time. If, like my Starbucks decision, you are okay with the consequence and you know where it fits- enjoy. On the other hand, if it is causing you to feel like it wasn’t worth what you spent, consider a change.

 

Do you have the time?

I’ve been doing a lot of un-scheduling lately. I’ve unscheduled my weekly network meeting. I’ve unscheduled my weekly accountant meeting. And with great heaviness, I even unscheduled my monthly card making group despite the fact that I enjoy it immensely.

Back when I was in school I sometimes had a conversation with someone who would say something like “I’d love to go back to school too, but I just don’t have the time.” It used to tick me off. I refrained from saying something unkind like “Oh, how unlucky of you that you haven’t been given 28 hours to every day like I have!”   But instead, I smiled and thought to myself about the number of things I had chosen to give up so that, I could use my standard 24 to get school on the schedule.

When others played on the weekends, I wrote papers. When others rested in the evening, I went to class. When others ate lunch, I read a book. I’m neither a martyr or a superhero. I simply made a choice because I wanted the pot of gold I thought lay at the end of the rainbow. It made me neither better nor worse-simply attached to a goal I was willing to work towards.

A number of years ago before anyone and everyone called themselves a life coach, Cheryl Richardson wrote a book called “Take time for your Life.” It’s still a relevant and terrific book. Richard’s strategy is to take things OUT of your life before adding new things in. Simple, but not always easy.

Most of us are collectors. And, most of us operate out of habit. Once a habit gets in place (unless it’s eating well or exercising), we have a hard time letting go. Even after only a couple of weeks, we can get attached as if it looks like we were genetically programmed with the behavior. Think I’m exaggerating? How often do you check Facebook or Email?

Schedule fillers can creep in without much notice. I’ve started to watch a little TV in the past couple of months- something I rarely did in the past. But something had to go out. So far its mostly sleep and housework. But there is a limit to how little one can participate in either of those. Summer is coming and I want to spend some time at the pool- hence the unscheduling from paragraph one. This much I know is true: all any of us are ever going to get is the standard 24. Are you spending yours the way you will look back and feel good about?

I’d like to leave you with two quotes about time from guys a lot smarter than me:

“All we have to decide is what to do with the time given to us” J.R.R. Tolkein

“The price of anything is the amount of life you exchange for it” Henry David Thoreau

 

Decide and spend it wisely

Is it time for you to lose wait?

NOTE to readers:     There was an issue with the captcha for new commenters- If you were not previously permitted to leave a comment, I believe this has been fixed.  I apologize for any inconvenience or frustration this may have caused!

Is it time for you to lose wait?

I know I’ve made a lot of typos lately, but the one above isn’t actually one of them.

I heard a story the other day about a guy I’ll call Fred who was estranged from his family for several years.   When Fred learned that his mother, in her late 80’s was on her death bed he tried to make the arrangements to visit her. The arrangements including getting time off of work, and creating travel plans. Unfortunately, Fred didn’t get everything worked out in time and he never saw his mother again.

A couple of years later Fred learned that one of his siblings had passed away from a sudden illness. The person telling me the story reported that Fred was once again devastated as he had been when his mother passed. Although he had not had any contact with his sibling in 30 years, he said he regretted not having spent more time getting to know him when they were kids. Despite these two occurrences, Fred remained distant from the remainder of his family.

Even without seeing Fred, I can tell that, he the kind of person with a lot of wait. Too much wait. Fred is waiting to do things he thinks are important, until the wait is over because the opportunity passes. He just sits around feeling sad that his wait has kept him from really enjoying life as he should.

Our wait is personal. We all carry it differently from each other. Some of us, like Fred wait to let people in our lives know they are important to us. Some wait to start a project, finish a project or develop our talents. Others wait to start their career, get an education or acquire skills. And still others of us wait to change behaviors that are setting us up for consequences we hope we will never have to face.

Would you be willing to start a wait reduction program? What area(s) in your life are you waiting to take action on? What are you waiting to discover about your passion and let yourself move forward on? What holds you back? Are you allowing yourself to fall victim to the rewards of short term behaviors that satisfy your urges long enough to help you postpone the longer term successes?

I’d love to hear your comments and stories!

Reflections from a cruise ship

Seriously, it IS a new topic, I promise.

So the other part of my vacation was a Disney Cruise. Before anyone starts to envy me, let me say I’m never going on another cruise with any of the men in my house. Turns out they aren’t fond of lying on a beach for all the daylight hours like I am- but enough complaining. Let’s get to the real stuff.

Disney cruises are cool for passengers because there is a low staff to guest ratio. They are pretty much there to spoil you. In short, they prevent you from having to do anything for yourself including use up any brain cells unnecessarily while in their care. However, there is limited space on a ship and that means to achieve everything they do, the crew works sometimes very long days. And very long weeks. And very long months.

The cruise director said that a passenger once asked him if the crew slept on board. Tongue in cheek he told her no, they are helicoptered off and on at the start and end of each day. But of course they sleep on board. When they sleep that is. Depending on their contract, the crew may remain on board for 2-8 months at a time, with the latter being more common. The following information is from the Disney employment site:

  • Agree to share a cabin with another crew member
  • Be able to work a seven-day, 70-84 hour week with limited time off

The workers come from all over the world.   They have to pay their own transportation to get to and from the boat. And with the handful of workers I informally surveyed, many repeat their contracts after going home to their native country and family for a month or two.

These working conditions would not fly (or cruise for that matter) in the U.S. At least not at the pay scale cruise workers receive. In fact, when someone works for a couple of weeks without a day off, we are generally appalled. One client recently told me of a woman he knew that had worked over 100 days without a single day off. As a man who had himself run his own business, he was amazed by what he felt was a rare work ethic. Yet, the people on the ship do it for months a time, willingly gratefully, and usually with a pleasant disposition.

But how about working conditions for our own military? I don’t have personal experience, but I suspect they too ,work long hours, days and months on end without time off. It’s not like a soldier in the middle of a mission, can say “ I’d like to take a personal day off next week for my son’s birthday.”

While I’m hoping to not sign up for a job that requires me to be alert and on my game 24/7 any time soon, I do think it’s worth dissecting this idea a little bit. What makes it possible for people to plunge in to these types of experiences and not feel totally abused, while others feel like they will fall apart if expected to work a little overtime?

Maybe it has to do with a mindset more than a temperament. Does someone from a third world country view the opportunity with gratitude that there is continued work, because it means continued financial support for their family back home? Does someone in the military value the opportunity to learn a skill or complete a mission without the interruption of other things that naturally occur in a more traditional job?

The reality is that we can do a great number of things both positively and negatively depending on our mindset. Marathon runners tell me they can complete a race because of their mental strength not their physical stamina. Anorexics can continue to push their bodies far beyond reasonable physical limits because of the image they hold in their minds eye. One is positive, the other negative, but they are alike in the sense that, it is the story held in the mind, not the body that determines an individual’s course.

Perhaps Henry Ford discovered this truth a long time ago when he said “Whether you think you can or think you can’t, you’re right”.   Is there anything that you think is impossible that could become possible if you change the story you currently hold?  I always appreciate your comments and insights.

 

 

 

 

 

Do you have any bad habits?

Do you have any bad habits?

Scientists estimate that roughly 40% of the actions people perform each day aren’t actual decisions, but habits. The good news is that habits can be changed if we understand how they work.

Habits are the result of neurological patterns that become “hard wired” in our brain. Once that wiring path is established, we no longer have to engage in thinking about a behavior. It comes naturally to us. Therefore, if we want to change a behavior, we have to do something to “interrupt” the existing circuit.

The circuit, if you will, consists of a couple of static variables. First is the trigger, second is the behavior and third is the reward. My husband often complains that our dog wakes him up in the morning to go outside. There is a trigger, perhaps one of us stirs or daylight breaks through the window. Snickers begins to bump our bed on Ben’s side of the bed as if it was the boat in Jaws and she is a circling shark. And then he goes into the kitchen, opens up the door, lets her outside and feeds her. And that is what we call a double reward. So it has become a habit.

The interesting observation for me in this circuit however, is that if Ben is out of town, I usually have to wake Snickers up. She will be in a deep peaceful sleep much past her usual wake up time. I often have to call her to get her to go outside, and if I don’t put down food (in the garage) she will jump back up the step to go back in the house without even having gone out to go to the bathroom. She has figured out there is no reward in that behavior, and thus ignores the trigger. My boat is safe from dangerous attack. Before you start to think my husband is just a wimpy pushover, I should confess that the kids have me much better trained to provide rewards.

I imagine if we were to look at brain scans of our dog (not something we do with any regularity), we would find a neuropathway (for those with a science background, forgive me if my grasp of this sciency stuff is childlike), that she has a circuit that gets tripped not only by the light coming in or a sound, but it must also have the information available that someone who cares (my husband) is also home and available. So, Ben being home is also a part of the trigger. She may see the same light of day, but the absence of Ben contributes to a fail in providing a strong enough trigger to motivate behavior.

What does this mean in human terms except that we can do it 7 times slower? Well, it means that if you don’t like a particular habit, you’ll need to examine both your triggers and your REWARDS. Habits don’t really go away in the sense that the brain doesn’t “lose or expunge” them, they just become more like abandoned roads. They still exist, but they become the road less traveled so to speak.

Most of us don’t like to give up our rewards. Even ones that stopped making sense to us along the way. Sometimes what started as a reward for one reason has now become a reward in the sense that it gives us a feeling of familiarity or continuity and so we continue to strive for that. So, any attempt to change a habit means to put triggers in place that will still provide a payoff for us. And, the payoff can’t be so far in the future that, its remoteness strips away our will to earn.

 

As is the case with nearly every blog I write, the key to making progress in habit change begins with mindfulness. Habits don’t change when we are rushed, unprepared, and unable to think clearly because we are depleted and or exhausted. Mindfulness means to start first with understanding what you are doing now, why you want to change, creating a plan with accountability and support and THEN implementing behavior.

Have you had any success in changing habits that you would like to share? What helped you?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Happy New Year

Well look what the cat dragged in….. I’m back!

I took a break from blogging but I am hopefully back to stay. I’m still working on some of the behind the scene changes so please bear with me while I continue to work out some of the bugs. However,  I absolutely welcome questions, comments or observations about changes.  Thank you so much for hanging with me throughout the year, and a special welcome to my new readers.  I am truly grateful for your time.

For starter, I’m uncertain of my timing. For now, I am committing to one entry per week. There may be more, but I hope not less. With that, I’d like to plunge in.

 

Happy New Year.

Even though today is January 7 and not January 1, today is New Year’s Day, meaning, today is the start of a year that is 1 year newer than the same Jan 7 of 2014. Tomorrow will be a new year starting one year ahead of January 8, 2014 and so on. This isn’t an attempt to be silly. I’m dead serious, so let me try to explain.

New Year’s Day is associated for many with New Year’s resolutions. In reality, these are usually not resolutions, or things one is resolved about, but rather New Year’s “wishes”. They are often things we wish would happen, hope will happen, would be happy if the desired action came about. But sadly, they are actions which, more often than not, fail to mature into consistent or lasting change. Some will fail within a week or two. Others may last a couple of months. A study from the University of Scranton found that only about 8% of the 40% of Americans who make New Year’s resolutions, actually achieve their goals. So, if by January 7 you have given up on your goals, you are clearly not alone.

There are two points I’d like to elaborate my thoughts on with regards to this topic.

First, If we drop the ball on January 7, or even February 7, why do we have to wait until January 1 of the following year to start again? As my opening paragraph suggests, every day is the start of a new year for us. We can choose to start fresh from where we are at any given moment. There is nothing more magical about 8:00 a.m. January 1 then there is about 8:00 a.m. on March 10th. The time to start is right now.   Start at the moment that you recognize you have the desire for a change in your life. Delaying until another time marking significance, is arbitrary and only means you are willing to live with the unwanted behavior a lot longer than you need to.

And that leads me to the second point.

There is a difference between resolutions and desires, wishes, hopes. A resolution to lose weight doesn’t mean starting a diet. A resolution to improve your relationships doesn’t mean scheduling a date night. A resolution to find a job you like is more than simply dusting off the old resume.

 

Here are some definitions for the word resolve:

Verb: to find a solution, to determine a course of action

Noun: Firm determination to do something.

 

If you want to achieve the goals above, chances are you have tried some of the solutions I listed above before New Year’s Day. Most likely, they weren’t met with lasting success, which is why they resurface year to year as a resolution for the next year ahead.

 

To make goals more than just a wish or desire, they require resolve. Resolve involves figuring out how you will get to the gym when you haven’t gone before. Resolve means finding ways to anticipate your pitfalls and have a “firm determination to do something” by having reliable support, structures and accountabilities in place to help you stay focused on your goals. Resolve means to search your heart and answer yourself truthfully about what has immobilized your efforts in the past towards these goals.

 

Resolutions are about what are you WILLING to make happen in your life. What are you willing to change, to give up, to work harder towards? Who or what are you willing to let go of in your life? What are you willing to stand up for, to be aware of and mostly to be vigilant about?

 

A posture of resolve takes thought and planning. It also takes dedication and perseverance. So, if you can’t get it all done by January 1, the good news is there are 364 other days in the year that you get to try again.

 

As always, I appreciate your comments and feedback! Until next time… take good care!

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In recent blogs I’ve introduced you to people achieving some amazing results through their perseverance. My hope is that their stories are inspiring. I realize however,  that sometimes people will see a story, such as these, and conclude, “But I can’t do anything that monumental.” They actually become less inspired, rather than more.

That’s incredibly unfortunate, because there is often something amazing in just showing up to a “regular” life every day. It takes work. It takes commitment.  And an uninspired conclusion comes from what I call “snapshot” thinking. It means to look at what you see in a single image and think that image, is the whole story.

When we look at a snapshot of a model it’s easy to conclude that the woman (or man) is beautiful and we can’t possibly compete. But what we fail to consider in snapshot thinking is that the person photographed, doesn’t actually look like the photograph either. The photo has probably been airbrushed to remove any imperfections. It has also been staged, and in our normal everyday lives, most of us don’t have stage hands.

The people I introduced you to in my blogs don’t have airbrushed lives.   It was their effort, and mostly their attitudes that made them so incredible. But what I presented to you was the snapshot version. It is the end result. I didn’t describe to you in detail, how many times they curled up in a ball and cried, got overwhelmed with fear or just plain failed in their quests. Maybe those moments lasted minutes or days at a time. But they kept at it. They got knocked down along the way, but they kept getting up (at least eventually).

Sometimes it’s harder than others to get up. It’s harder to keep going when the finish line appears so far in the distance.  Now I’d like to introduce you to a video that I find very inspiring as a source of motivation to help you get up when it seems too hard. It contains clips from movies, The Pursuit of Happiness and Rocky as well as a number of other historical events. This video is a great investment of six minutes that will hopefully, help you think realistically about the work you stage to get to success. Success defined by you.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Keep Climbing and Use Your Toes if You Have to.

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In my last post I shared the story of an amazing woman in history, Irena Sendler. Today I’d like to tell you about two more people; Jessica Cox and Sean Swarner, both are tremendous, but for very different reasons. Personally, I find stories that champion the human spirit of tenacity, to be incredibly inspirational, and hope you will as well.

Jessica Cox putting in her contact lenses

 

I’m including both a photo and a video of Jessica Cox, because you have to see her in action to appreciate the sense of what she has mastered. Born without arms, Jessica is the first armless person in aviation history to earn a pilot’s license. She lives a normal life, drives a car, plays a piano, puts on her own makeup, texts on her phone among many other day to day tasks. She even types on the keyboard of her computer at a rate of 25 words per minute.

 

Cox believes the way we think has a greater impact on our lives than does our physical constraints. Now 31 years old, Jessica has earned a degree in psychology at the University of Arizona and does public inspirational speaking around the globe, on what she calls, “thinking outside the shoe”. She credits her parents with teaching her from the start not to see herself as a victim, but rather as someone, who when confronted with an obstacle, uses determination to overcome what faces her.

Sean Swarner is my next source of inspiration. Several people have achieved the once thought impossible task of climbing Mt. Everest and Sean Swarner is among them. However, Swarner is not only the first cancer survivor to accomplish the feat, but he did so with only one fully functioning lung. He holds another record as the only known person in the world to have been diagnosed with Hodgkins Disease and Askins Sarcoma, both deadly, yet seemingly unrelated cancers.

At age 13, Swarner was diagnosed with Hodgkin. His diagnosed occurred only because of a knee injury he suffered while playing sports. He underwent successful, yet brutal treatment which included, among other things, throwing up for 36 hours straight, gaining 60 lbs. and losing all of the hair on his body. Twenty months into remission, at a routine checkup, doctors discovered the presence of Askins Sarcoma. An even more aggressive cancer than Hodgkins, Askins presented, in the form of a golf ball size tumor in 16 year old Swarner’s lung.

Treatment for Askins ravished his body through 3 months of radiation, followed by 10 months of chemotherapy that left him emaciated with atrophied muscles. It was so toxic, that his doctors placed into a medically-induced coma during each of the five-day cycles. At one point, he was expected to live only days and was given his last rights. He attributes his remarkable feat of recovery to the love and prayers of his family, humor and modern medicine all working together. With regards to his own attitude he says:

“During both the day and night, I focused on feeling better and not letting any negative thoughts into my head. It’s amazing how mental being physical can be.”
After his recovery, Swarner said he felt an obligation to give other cancer patients hope for survival and uses his story as an example of what is possible. Because he believes nothing is impossible, he prepared for Everest, by first climbing Colorado elevations, filling his backpack with 100 pounds of rocks. His motto is “Keep climbing. Never give up.”

 

I hope you found these inspirational. Your mind is an amazing tool. Is yours working for you or against you to let you know what you can achieve?

 

 

 

Nice guys and gals just finish

 

 

 

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f you’ve followed my blog for a while, you may remember that I had a different career prior to becoming a therapist. The job efficiency was largely measured by a matrix of conditions, all of which could be measured by percentages. Each month one of us was awarded darling of the month for coming the closest to our numbers. At the end of the year, the person with the best success was darling of the year.

I think I won one month. It probably had little to do with my effort, and more to do with good fortune that something in my department had become a high demand item that was short lived, and thus not repeated in another month. And this was often the case for most of us in the department. Some were harder workers and received a little more prestige, and others got lucky from time to time as I had. But the interesting part of this for me is the progress of my friend and co-worker, Julie.

Julie, who was smart and a very hard and conscientious worker, never won her 15 minutes of fame at the monthly meeting. She was always a runner-up, but never the queen. And so, all of us were shocked, as Julie, when the coveted Distributor of the year title was bestowed upon her. At first, all of us scratched our heads and then we realized, while she didn’t have peaks… she also didn’t have valleys and therefore, her numbers averaged out to a much higher total than did anyone else’s.   This story isn’t too far off from the tortoise and the hare.

I often think of this memory when I’m at a place in life trying to figure out my own goals and how much I should be achieving at any given moment. In my youth, I was very much the hare- rushing to get as much done as I could. I ran a perpetual race in search of affirmation for my competence and validity. But the older I get, the more I realize the need for a steady pace that is focused not on recognition, but on dependability, consistency and the value of finishing the race in a comfortable position. Comfortable enough, to not be so exhausted, that you can’t enjoy the sense of accomplishment.

Sometimes I have patients who come to therapy expecting that every session will produce an “aha moment” for them. I can appreciate their wish.   Therapy is expensive financially and emotionally. But the aha moments are not actually what therapy is about, any more than vacations are what life is about. Vacations are special because they don’t happen every day. They need everyday life around them in order to stand out. The relationship built in therapy, session to session, is the context needed in order to make an aha moment useful.

But I digress, because this post is more directed at life in general than it is therapy specific. How many people long to be the YouTube discovered star? How many people are playing the lottery? How many people are searching for the latest fashion, the biggest house. How many people stood in line to get one of the first new iphones? The cost of scurrying to be the best is dangerously lethal, yet coveted and promoted in our culture.

When is the last time you saw more than a cursory news story about a little old woman who dies with a million dollars in the bank because she saved and lived a frugal life? Or about the couple who celebrated their 75th wedding anniversary still living happily together, working as best as they can to take care of each other? Or the millions of people in middle America who go to work every day, pay their bills and tend to their responsibility? It’s not exciting news, but its still the standard that many of us could well consider ourselves lucky and fulfilled if we can achieve. It’s also doable and doesn’t require the exhaustive push of trying to be the one who stands out for 15 minutes of fame. Nor is it likely to cause the life of profound disappointment if it doesn’t result in those 15 minutes.

It’s easy though to blame society. What’s harder to remember is that we are society- you and me. We have the choice every day to let mass opinion impact us, or make decisions, one person at a time that impacts society. But be patient, because it takes longer than 15 minutes. And chances are, no one will remember to cite you with the credit.

 

 

 

Smacked up side the head with perfection

 

 

 

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There is a pretty funny video that circulated around the internet a while back. I’ll post the link on my website so you can watch it if you haven’t already seen it.

It’s in another language, but you don’t need to understand what they guys are saying to get it. There are three guys. Guy A shows guy B how to hold a wooden spoon in his mouth, bob his head up and down and use the spoon to smack Guy A on the top of the head as hard as he can while guy C looks on from behind Guy B. Guy A takes the spoon and demonstrates. Except what guy B doesn’t realize, is that Guy C secretly pulls out another spoon and whacks him painfully hard. He thinks that guy A has done it using only his mouth.

Now its time for B to give it a try and of course, he can only make a little tap on Guy A’s head. They repeat this sequence a couple of times. It’s funny and sad to watch, but if my description didn’t make it clear, take a look.

I’m not sharing this due to my secret love of sadistic video. Rather, it made me think about how people try and “win” at something they think others are doing, without ever realizing that the deck is stacked and they never had a fighting chance. Yet, they will pursue their goal over and over again in an attempt to achieve the unachievable, all the while berating themselves for their inadequacy.

Women try to look like supermodels with flawless skin. It’s flawless because the photo has been airbrushed.

Ever try to prepare a recipe that looks like one in a magazine? I once met a photographer who does food shots. She told me that food for photos is prepared differently, and is usually inedible because it is made to appear attractive for the camera and is often cooked improperly for consumption.

Ever compare your relationship to someone else’s and find that that same couple ends up divorced and no one saw it coming?

Real people are not perfect. Their houses, cars, clothes, relationships are not perfect. Heidi Klum is divorced. Steve Jobs died of cancer. Johnny Depp didn’t finish high school. Nor did Robert Downy Jr. or Walt Disney.   Oprah was fired from her job as a news anchor in Baltimore.

I’m going to share with you one of my favorite all time pieces of printed material. This comes from the book Breaking Free from Compulsive Eating by Geneen Roth.

Real people feel some kind of discomfort every day of their lives. Being born hurts. Living hurts. Dying hurts. If we know that, if we don’t expect to be happy all the time, then we don’t have to feel frightened or cursed when, inevitably we are in pain. The expectation that pain is bad, abnormal, or avoidable creates fear and confusion when pain arises. It also creates varied and complex systems within us that are designed to avoid pain at all costs.

Most people never touch the bottom of their pain. They become compulsive instead, and in so doing, they exchange one pain, that of being alive, for another, the pain of compulsion.

Neither road is easy. Compulsion is painful, and living without compulsion is painful. Compulsion has its joys, so does living without it. The biggest advantage I see in living without compulsion is that you stop being afraid of the pain.

 

What would it take for you to be willing to look at your pain without the veil of compulsion? Or without the veil of perfection.

 

Leap of Faith

 

 

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There is a movie from 1992 called Leap of Faith starring Steve Martin and Debra Winger. Martin plays a con man Jonas Nightengale, who poses as an evangelical preacher that goes from small town to town creating “miracles”. But what he actually does is use a crew, led by Winger to feed him information about the audience into a hidden ear piece so he can “appear” to know things about the people. Of course, everyone is impressed by his great capacity and gives him money. Then he moves on to the next town and repeats this scenario.

Jonas and his crew find themselves in the impoverished town of Rustwater Kansas after their travel bus breaks down. Jonas looks around and declares “A town this deep in the crapper’s got nowhere to turn but GOD!”   Among their many problems, the drought plagued town needs rain to survive. Jonas plans to run a show or two while he waits for repairs before being discovered.

Shortly into the movie however, he is intrigued by a young boy Boyd and the sister who cares for him. Boyd can walk only with crutches since an accident that killed his mother and father and left his legs dysfunctional. The sister warns Jonas to stay away from Boyd, explaining that once before a preacher tried to heal Boyd. When it failed, the preacher blamed the boy for not having enough faith. However, despite her cynicism, Boyd is mesmerized with Jonas and wants to be healed by him.

Jonas continues to prey upon the vulnerabilities of the towns people. Each time they suspect God has spoken to him on their behalf, they add money to his coffers. Boyd makes his way to the stage and seeks to be healed. Jonas tries to ignore his presence because he doesn’t want his cover blown. But Boyd actually begins to walk without his crutches and the crowd goes wild. They throw money at Jonas and shout one more miracle. They now want him to make it rain to benefit the town.

Jonas is angry, believing that Boyd was a bigger conman than even he presuming the boy faked his impediment. The next night the town gathers in a field to camp out waiting for the miracle of rain. Knowing he will be discovered as a fraud, Jonas slips off and hitches a ride on his own leaving his crew behind. Ironically, he isn’t very far out of town when the truck driver notices it has begun to rain. Jonas laughingly calls out “Thank You Jesus.

Okay, I ruined the movie for you I’m sorry. But I wanted to give you an illustration of something I think best illustrates a principle one of the classic theorists in psychology, Alfred Adler. He calls it the As IF principle.

Adler suggested that when we are trying to make a change, we need to behave as if the change has already taken place. For example, if you want to get promoted, wear the clothing of someone at the next level. If you want to improve your marriage, act as if it is already improved and treat the other person from that mindset. If you want to be more financially sound, live as if there is money around you and operate from confidence rather than fear or deprivation.

Please don’t confuse this as simple and easy. Actually, it is somewhat simple, but it isn’t necessarily easy. It requires clear goal setting, commitment to the goal, letting go of obstacles you may be holding on to (crutches), and the willingness to experience the discomfort of being in transition or even limbo between the self you have been, and the self you wish to be.

Even more than changes in behavior on the outside, acting as if, requires significant changes on the inside. It means to practice seeing yourself as successful. And, while many people have this desire, as the move suggests, it often requires a leap of faith.

While Martin is a clearly stated con man, Adler is not. However, in this exchange between Jonas and Boyd, Martin actually demonstrates in a crude way how Adler’s theory works:

 

Boyd: My sister says you’re a fake

Jonas, “Well maybe I am and maybe I’m not

If I get the job done, what’s the difference?

When we act as if, we begin projecting outward the image of us as having the capacity to live in the role where are seeking. Others, seeing us in that role begin to respond to us that way, which reinforces that confidence within us that we can handle the change. From that confidence, we continue to develop and strengthen the skills needed to make the change permanent and natural for us. Essentially what Jonas told Boyd is that whether or not it starts out as pure and legitimate, belief can make something become true.

 

Are there any areas that you could benefit from acting “as if”? How might you change if you took a leap of faith? I’d love to hear your comments.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How to be a Birdbrain

 

 

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The recent storms created a lot of fallen trees in my subdivision which is mostly wooded. In fact, one of my neighbors had a rather large tree fall across their driveway. It was a pain to remove, but it’s also one of the expectable hazards of living where we do. Trees get old; storms knock them down.

I’m not so much of a nature watcher, but I suspect when a big storm hits birds don’t hang out in the trees. I have to guess that if they do, they fly somewhere pretty quickly if they feel a tree starting to sway and tumble.

But on a regular day, I imagine birds hang out in the trees for the most part, unless trees are not prevalent. And it reminds me of a quote I like very much:

A Bird Sitting On A Tree Is Not Afraid Of The Branch Breaking Because His Trust Is Not On The Branch But On Its Wings .

I guess to be a bird means to have faith when it walks out on a branch that, it will either be fine or it will do something else. In contrast, as people, we tend to think in advance about the branch, look at it, research branches, finding out the statistics on how many branches will break per year and under what conditions, and then try and make a calculated guess of whether or not we should step out onto the branch. After that, we invest more time still discussing our findings about branch safety with others to try and validate our plan. Very often this results in either not going out on the branch at all, because we haven’t finished the analysis, or forgetting what we went there for by the time we arrive. Possibly, what we went out there for has already passed.

On the other hand, there are also some humans that will tromp on out to the branch before they learn to fly which doesn’t usually end well either. One could argue that real faith means not even worrying about the flying part- trust that God or the universe or whatever you subscribe to will simply take care of the falling bird.   And so when they inevitably fall, they use the bump on their head as justification that God doesn’t really care about them, or even that, there is no God.

Do we really want to live in a world where something other than us takes care of every single for us? While it sounds tempting in those moments that we feel overwhelmed, the truth is that we derive a vast amount of our satisfaction and esteem from mastering things. We learn from the struggles and to have them taken away from us leaves us without much purpose in living. Faith is to fill in the parts we don’t need to struggle with. Faith is the connective tissue between the parts we do, and the parts we don’t.

The parts we do are simply “our part”. It means to develop the strength, skills, resiliency and in some cases, patience and understanding. And probably a few other qualities that I’m forgetting at the moment. So in short, it’s not about developing how to anticipate everything and account in advance for every unknown. It’s about developing a plan A to try and get down the right path, and a plan B for when A doesn’t work out. Plan B isn’t just a more developed A. Plan B is a strategy about how to be okay when Plan A doesn’t get you where you wanted and accepting that you have to live with the way things are now, at least for now.  Another way of looking at his is that Plan A is your willpower and Plan B is your willingness.

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Time to learn

 

 

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A young but earnest Zen student approached his teacher, and asked the Zen Master: “If I work very hard and diligent how long will it take for me to find Zen.” The Master thought about this, then replied, “Ten years.” The student then said, “But what if I work very, very hard and really apply myself to learn fast — How long then ?” Replied the Master, “Well, twenty years.” “But, if I really, really work at it. How long then ?” asked the student. “Thirty years,” replied the Master. “But, I do not understand,” said the disappointed student. “At each time that I say I will work harder, you say it will take me longer. Why do you say that ?” Replied the Master,” When you have one eye on the goal, you only have one eye on the path.” — Author Unknown

 

I often think of this story when people tell me that they are working really hard at something and it doesn’t seem to be happening quickly enough for them.

A young woman wants to find a mate and none seems available.

Another is eating well and exercising but is unable to lose weight.

A man is trying for a promotion that is taking too long while others in the organization seem to be moving ahead.

I recall how badly I wanted to have a second child and found it hard to get pregnant, yet every female under 17 seemed to be turning up with child whether she wanted to be or not.

It seems so unfair when we are working so hard for something that seems logical and possible and yet, it still doesn’t happen.

Or at least it doesn’t happen in the time frame that we have deemed reasonable. The dilemma in most cases is that, it is not our unilateral decision to deem what the right time or right amount of work parameters are actually supposed to be. There is a universe around us that has to also consider the needs, wants and expectations of a gazillion other people as well. What if that perfect mate is saying he is looking for someone exactly like us, but not for another 6 months because he has some other things to finish working on first? What if the conditions for us to have the promotion and succeed are not yet all in place?

The thought process of the western mind is cultivated in an environment in which 1+1=2. There is a specific sequence to follow and you get the prize. But eastern cultures cultivate a different mind-set. For them it is 1+1=3. I’m not talking about common core here. But the Easterners acknowledge that when you put two things together something additional happens by virtue of that union. The sum is greater than the whole of its parts. When you put a match and paper together, you don’t get paper and a match- you get fire.

I think there is great value to both eastern and western thinking and that wise people use some of both.   In the examples I mentioned, western thinking teaches us the value of hard work. But eastern thinking helps us to accept that there is more to consider than only our own definition of the way things should work. And that sometimes we need to let go of working so hard and allow time to follow its own course. Some things can’t be accomplished faster, just because it’s what we want.

 

The Safe Appeal of Disorder

 

 

 

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Let me state clearly at the start that this blog has zero to do with a political opinion. It is merely a political event that introduced me to a thought.

In the recent news stories about the conflict in Gaza, I heard a quote that really grabbed me. It comes from former prime minister of Israel Golda Meier.

Peace will come when the Arabs will love their children more than they hate us. I thought it was such a powerful quote. And it got me thinking about other areas in life that it might be useful. Of course my mind naturally wondered to my work and the conflicts I see for people I work with. So I changed it to this:

Until you love yourself more than you fear imperfection, disorder will remain.

You can quote me on that.

A person with an eating disorder will abuse themselves to any length in order to achieve a body that they believe will gain them acceptance or legitimacy. The result is reliance on a chaotic system of eating and exercise that not only precludes any other area of their life, but often results in malnutrition, injury, and even self-abuse.

A person who lacks confidence in their ability at work will ignore their personal boundaries and work themselves to oblivion at the expense of their personal life or personal self in fear of having that inadequacy exposed.

A person who ignores themselves to help others in order to win status is forced to function at the mercy of everyone else’s beck and call. It is easy to get caught up in chaos and frenzy only to realize that one has little to show for all of their efforts. They may find themselves in middle life feeling empty of anything to measure their life by, especially if the people they have served have outgrown the need for them.

A person may remain in an unhappy or even harmful relationship with another because they do not feel deserving of happiness or peace. As a result such a person may deny their needs on any level in order to tolerate remaining in the relationship because they fear they are unjustified in the eyes of others to ask for more.

So what does it mean to love oneself? And how does that eliminate disorder?

Loving oneself means to make decisions based on self care as a priority over decisions that lead to approval or acceptance from others if the actions required for either are in mutual conflict. So, if I have to decide to eat because I’m hungry, or not eat because I feel too fat and unacceptable to others, self love means to eat- but eat well and appropriately for the highest level of self care- drowning one’s self in a container of ice cream is not self care.

It means if I have to choose between going to bed when I’m exhausted or reading email from my boss because I’m trying to get promoted, it means go to bed. Sleep well and then be prepared to work to the best of my ability tomorrow.

I’m confident that I’m not sharing any new earth shattering news with anyone here. We all know these things. But we get afraid. And then we get busy. Out of our fear we fill our lives with a million things that we think, or at least hope will make us happy and fit in. And then those things fill our time and our psyche to such extremes that we are too saturated to even think about what is good for us, much less find the time to implement those strategies. But as Meier so eloquently brought to light- we always have a choice. And until we value one thing more than another, change will not occur.

 

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Games people play

 

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Games people play

I heard someone talking about their life recently making it sound like a constant series of fires needing to be extinguished. Since I often think in pictures or imagery in my head, I started picturing the game of “Wac-a Mole”. If you aren’t familiar with this game, you get a mallet to hit moles that pop up quickly in a random pattern on a little motorized wheel of sorts. The goal is to hit one and push it down before it retreats on its own. Sometimes more than one mole pops up at a time.

It got me thinking about other familiar games to describe one’s life. I’m going to just list them out here and you can decide if any of them describe you or anyone you know.

Monopoly—This is a person who spends their time and energy trying to collect the best real estate. I don’t mean literally houses, but things they think have worth. Their primary pursuit is the acquisition of status and this is often prioritized over relationships. In fact, in the actual game of Monopoly, the goal is to use one’s assets to weaken the rest of the people in the game. While monopoly players in this metaphor might not have the intention of hurting others deliberately, that is often an outcome when acquisition is their driving force.

Twister: In the musical “Oklahoma”, Connie sings “I’m just a girl who can’t say no”. Twister people have undefinable boundaries. They are there for everyone all the time. Pick up the dry cleaners, watch the neighbors kids, volunteer for the PTO, work overtime. You name it, they are there. There is a saying ,” If you want something done, ask a busy person- they know how to get things done.” Yes they do, but at what cost? Twister is a game where you place a part of yourself on the mat that the spinner selects for you. It doesn’t take a lot of spins to have yourself so sprawled out that, you collapse on yourself or another.

 

Jenga The goal of Jenga is to lay the blocks one on top of the other to see how high you can build things. Similar to monopoly, the goal is to get higher than the next guy, but you aren’t as protected as you are in Monopoly. With jenga every acquisition puts you closer to a potential crash. Jenga livers are people who take risks without regard for the potential consequences. They push the limits again and again. There is little time to enjoy any single accomplishment because each is only a stepping stone to the next.

 

 

Candyland. Part of me envies the Candyland players. Except I have to remember that as delightful as it looks, the win is really not sweet and yummy; its only an illusion.   Candyland promises that, while there are a few setbacks here and there, for the most part everything is good and delicious, as it should be. And if you just hang in there long enough, you are guaranteed the promise of more at the end. Perhaps the electronic game Candy Crush, (which I’m ashamed to admit I got hooked on for a while and fortunately ultimately escaped) is a better choice. At least with Candy Crush, it becomes apparent at some point, that in fact, there is no end point. Life’s achievements always give way to the opportunity to grow towards something else until the day you die.

 

Pictionary- This game is less about a life strategy metaphor, and more about a communication style. I think of Pictionary players as the people who seem to find it difficult to speak about what they want or need from you in clear language. Instead, they give you hints, sometimes not clear ones, and then it’s your job to guess correctly so everyone can win. And when you don’t, it’s your fault.

 

 

Trivial Pursuit. These are the folks whose lives are consumed with everything trivial at the expense of never getting to where they would like to be. I’d like to change jobs, but I can’t get my resume done because I have to clean the house, change the kitty litter, water the garden, cut down some wood and make paper from the pulp in order to print the resume on before I can think of what I would say. They may be very talented, but few people will ever learn that about them.

 

What game best describes your life? Are you having fun playing it?

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Which Way is North?

 

 

 

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This morning I had to run some errands before work. I tried to leave myself enough time. But I was day dreaming and I, unfortunately, took a wrong turn. I was actually on a familiar road, but that road had nothing in common with my first destination. However, since it was familiar, I drove pretty far down the path before I woke up and realized I had to turn around.

But turn around is what I did. It cost me enough time that I cut it close getting my tasks done while still arriving at work on time.

This is similar to the feeling I have when people tell me about their life not being on the right path. The dilemma is that, often they are afraid to turn around and take another direction. The road they are on may look familiar, so they stay, even when they know it won’t lead them to where they ultimately hope to go. They may stay the course because they feel safe knowing which twists and turns lie ahead. Another thing that keeps people stuck is the feeling that sometimes it may feel like it’s too late to turn around. They’ve lost too much time. So they concede to live the remainder of their life going where they don’t really want to go, rather than risk ending up some place else in between.

My first career illustrates this challenge. I fell into a line of work and then kept doing it because it fulfilled financial needs. I hated it, and knew my growth was pretty limited, but taking another path meant I had to get an education. For awhile, that seemed unsurmountable. I shudder now to think how miserable I would have remained, had I not turned around and gone in another direction. Now I love my job and have for 23 years.

When I contemplated a divorce in my first marriage I was scared of the unknown. I remember thinking what if I leave in hopes of something more and end up with everything less. I recall a friend who said to me , “It’s true, that if you leave, you might not get what you want. But if you stay, you guarantee that you won’t.” That advice helped me make the decision and I started down a new path.

Please be sure that as I describe these two major turning points in my own life, neither of them landed me on a shiny road made of gold with clear painted signs and beautiful flowers along the perimeters. Sometimes my car stalled, I got lost, it rained, sleeted and snowed on my journey. But each new day, the sun rose and I resumed my travel. I had to learn to remember that the sun is still present even when I can’t see it through the clouds.

One of the things that helps a traveler is having a good map. So often, we forget to ask ourselves at the start of our journey, where is it we really want to go. Many of us end up going where others suggest. Perhaps well meaning others, but in the end, no one can really know where each of us needs to go better than we will. It’s personal. The answer needs to come from within.

Another useful tool is the ability to stop and ask for directions. Though no two people will experience the same journey in an identical way, others can still help you seek out and recognize milestones.   They can let you know at least some of the pitfalls ahead to expect, or caution you about detours or construction. In non metaphor terms, this can mean someone with a lot of marriage experience teaching you that marriage happiness ebbs and flows. Another example is a career mentor who might tell you the pros and cons about a vocation with honesty.

But probably the most useful tool for a traveler is willingness . You have to be willing to stay awake at the wheel and not daydream like I did on my morning adventure. And in that state of attentiveness, be willing to ask yourself if you are going where you want. And if the answer is no, be willing to turn around, no matter how much time you have invested.  Because even if you don’t ultimately end up there, at least you’ll know that you were headed towards your happiness, rather than going further away.

 

Thanks for taking the time to read this entry. I’d love to hear your comments and I hope you’ll pass it on.   Until net time- take good care.

 

Operating Instructions

 

 

 

For an audio version of this post, click on the link below:  On a smart phone, scroll to the bottom of the page and click on the sound icon

 

Operating Instructions

Recently it seems I‘ve been asked a lot how I come up with blog topics. There are a couple of ways actually. First, there are a lot of ideas that have circulated in my brain for a long time and I’ve never written in a formal way before. Many of them are stories I’ve used repetitiously in my career over the years and found them helpful. So sharing those is easy. I have an ongoing list that I draw upon from time to time.

The second way is when I feel a reaction to something going on in current events, or happening in my own life. My goal when I provide these is to offer another way of looking at something that might be happening, with hopes that it can be applicable to your life as well.

The third source is perhaps the most quirky. Sometimes I think I have a rather peculiar brain, but over the years I’ve learned to run with it, rather than fight it. Mostly what I mean by this is that when an idea hits me I try to capture it as best as I can. Often this is when I’m in the shower, or driving, or immediately upon waking up in the morning. I find that when I fail to get it down its usually pretty much gone forever. And I get a lot of ideas.

I like to think of these ideas as whispers from the Universe. They usually aren’t hand engraved announcements but rather a nudge to make me aware of something or more curious about something. When the latter occurs, I will often go dig up a little more information to better understand a topic. What I find so interesting, is that many times, its something I previously had no interest in.

My reason for sharing this with you is to encourage you to not “ignore” whispers. Perhaps you too, have a peculiar brain that you haven’t been “listening” to. One very common place people experience this challenge is in dreaming.  Often, they will tell me that they don’t remember their dreams when they wake. I’ve found this is a cultivated practice. Try keeping a note pad beside your bed and jotting something down, even if you wake up in the middle of the night. Once your subconscious knows you are taking notes, it is more likely to be a little more forthcoming.   You may find some helpful insight.

As for daytime whispers, try not discounting the information you take in and brushing it off. I’m not suggesting you try to find the shape of Jesus in your nacho chips here. I am however, suggesting that, my legitimization of events that many would chalk up to coincidence, has proven to be very helpful to me over the years. Anne Lammot titled her best-selling book “ Operating Instructions” after the phrase her father often used. She reports that he when he felt stuck, he would look to the sky and ask for his next set of operating instructions.

The biggest resistance in this arena for most of us is when we get a “message” that may be our operating instructions, we are not open to what may come, but rather are focused on what we want to hear. This often blunts us from hearing what we are offered. Another resistance is that we may not want to stop what we are doing and get quiet enough to take note. I am particularly resentful when my operating instructions come before my desired wake up time. I’ve also had to pull off the road a time or two in order to make notes. Now, I try and carry along a micro tape recorder and get down as much as I can even when I’m driving along.

Just to be clear, I’m certainly not suggesting to anyone that I hear “voices”. At least not in the technical sense. But like many of my other posts, cultivating a posture of mindfulness is essential in being able to notice what happens within you.

I’d like to finish today with a quote I love from children’s author Shel Silverstein

 

The Voice

There is a voice inside of you

That whispers all day long,

“I feel this is right for me, I know that this is wrong.

” No teacher, preacher, parent, friend Or wise man can decide

What’s right for you–just listen to

The voice that speaks inside.”

Think outside the box

For an audio version of this post click on the link below:

to listen on a smartphone click to the end of the message and click on the sound icon

A few years ago Taco Bell scored a great pun with their marketing campaign of “think outside the bun”. It was a clever twist on thinking outside the box. Are you familiar with what thinking outside the box refers to?

If not, here’s at least part of the back story.

Gestalt theoriest’s credit the phrase to experiments led by Karl Dunker in 1945. Subjects were given a candle, a box, thumbtacks and matchsticks and then asked to figure out how to attach the candle to the wall in such a way as to avoid dripping. The findings led the researcher to conclude the concept of “functional fixedness” or a person’s inability to see an object as itself, free of the meaning it has in the greater scheme of things.   To learn more about this here is a link:

http://io9.com/the-experiment-that-led-to-the-concept-of-thinking-out-1463883774

 

Another argued origin of thinking outside the box is associated with the The 9 dot puzzle. While the puzzle first appeared in Sam Loyd’s 1914 Cyclopedia of Puzzles, many management consultants throughout the 60’s and 70’s takes responsibility for linking the puzzle to a strategy for problem solving.

It works like this:

Take a piece of paper, and draw dots three across and three down so you have a square made of 9 dots.

The goal is to use only 4 straight lines (no taking your pencil off the paper), and connect all 9 dots. You may want to pause and try this a few times before I give you the spoiler.

 

The paradigm set up by the 9 dots causes most people to look at a “box” that contains the dots. They generally try and approach the solution by staying within the confines of the “box”. But its not a requirement, and in fact, can’t be achieved unless you go or think outside the box. To see the solution, click here:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rrlJHs6-tpo

Thinking inside the box or seeing something the way we are used to see it, (functional fixedness) is something we are all vulnerable to when we are faced with a problem. Our natural tendency is to try doing more of what we have done in the past. Sometimes it will work again. But very often it won’t. So we try and repeat it louder, faster, harder- still to no avail. Thinking outside the box means to leap into the area of what hasn’t been done before. But in order to get there, we have to become willing to see what we are looking at from a different angle or different lens.

In Dunkers experiments, people were only successful if they could use the box as fair game in their solution, rather than seeing the box as only something that held the contents of the other items. With the 9 dots solution, you have to be willing to draw lines that extend out beyond the boundaries of a box and see the space around the dots as fair game.

To solve problems in your own life you have to become willing to see yourself with a different set of eyes or labels than those you may be most familiar with.

Here is an example. I met with someone the other day who hopes to make a career change into sales. She has a marketing degree. She also worked her way through college as a server in a few restaurants. She said she gets interviews for sales jobs, but keeps getting beat out by people with more sales experience.

I suggested she wedge her foot in the door and begin talking about her sales experiencing rather than apologizing for the lack of it. She looked at me puzzled since she had just told me she didn’t have any.

So I pretended to be her in an interview and said the following as if speaking to a potential employer:

On paper it looks like I don’t have sales experience. But I can tell you that working as a server has given me a ton of sales experience. I have to begin selling the minute I walk up to a table. My attitude and demeanor have to convince the patrons that they want to invest in what is going to be a great experience for them. They may ask my opinion about menu items. I have to be knowledgeable about every item on the menu and have the ability to sell it honestly, whether or not it matches my own personal likes or dislikes. And then I have to try and convince them to buy more than they came in for. And I do it hour after hour.

My client looked at me surprised that it made so much sense to her. She had been seeing sales one way, and I went outside that box.

Do you need to look at your job, or your skills through a new lense?

How about a pathology or illness?

What about your financial state?

Could a significant relationship of yours shift by changing the paradigm through which you label it currently?

Drop me a comment, I’d love to hear your ideas and experiments.

Thanks for stopping by.  I ‘d love it if you pass this on to someone else and suggest they subscribe as well.