“Optimism is the most important human trait, because it allows us to evolve our ideas, to improve our situation, and to hope for a better tomorrow.” ~ Seth Godin
I am not an eternal optimist but I am a dreamer. Not rose colored glasses dreaming but taking the circumstances and whistling them through my imagination.
Idealism sees the best something can be and wishes and acts it to be so. When I whistle and wish and look to a preferred future I am filled with hope. Hope is a choice that we get to make every day and the more we choose it the more we feel.
I don’t subscribe to a Utopian agenda because I believe that we live in a time and place that can be good, better, best but if we get Pollyana the menu of change becomes sappy and sugary and hard to swallow.
Optimists, enthusiasts, fanatics, admirers can be a ray of sunshine in a group or community but they need a tinge of realism so that they aren’t seen as naive empty headed zealots.
Why is the best of us and the worst of us separated by such a thin line? Have we always seen the easy going, buoyant, stargazer with suspicion if the enthusiasm was too over the top? Bryan Welch wrote “But history also gives us plenty of reason for optimism. On the humble foundation of skin clothing and bone jewelry we have built a wondrous technological superstructure to support ongoing innovation.” Maybe we only suspect the optimist when the level of uncertainty gets too high or the circumstances to dire. I imagine the guy who said ” It will all be great tomorrow” as meteors were raining down or an ice age was upon us would have been pretty hard to take.
Optimism is a motivator and a coping skill. For me it can be both at the same time. Leading me forward to good, better, best and protecting me from bad, worse, tragic.
I get to choose to be optimistic every morning and with every turn of my day. You get to accept my zeal every morning and at each turn. The acceptance has to do with me and our relationship and you and your disposition. Given that we both have a choice, I have decided that I am going to lean to hoping for the best and expecting the best. You can make your own decision.
Make Today Hopeful,
The mire and muck of mediocrity and misery has depressive and draining side effects. One of the consequences of being stuck in the mud too long is that you become less useful than yesterday and eventually useless. Your lack of motivation is smothered by the ache of all the yesterdays and you become rooted in place. In a world that is on a path of skyrocketing change, you are left behind in weeks and knowing that it adds to the lethargy. The only way out is to become useful again.
Utility is incremental. It begins with 3 steps in succession. Take 3 small steps towards usefulness – 1 Do one thing better than you have done it before (or at least better than the past month) 2) Do something outside the bare necessities – if you need to wipe down 10 tables, do it and wipe 10 chairs as well 3) Have a small celebration (to yourself) that you did better and did more.
Rinse and repeat tomorrow. After a week the muck will loosen around your knees and the stranglehold of misery will begin to release you.
As always, utility isn’t a single act that will change everything – keep breathing, appreciating, practicing self care and being kind as well as the other 13 steps we have taken this month.
Tomorrow – Happiness
There are people that I have met whose life choices I don’t understand. Their normal is so outside my frame of reference as to appear insane. I can’t imagine the journey that lead them to the worldview they espouse and demonstrate.
The normal might include a parent who deprives herself of basic necessities and enjoyment so she can ensure that her adult children will receive a generous inheritance. Our kids have been told that “if there is anything left when we die, it was a mistake.”
The normal might be a man in his early 60’s (I call him Vince) who gets out of bed at 5:30 and despite his physical and mental illness gets on a bus to downtown , regardless of weather, to stand on the same corner with his hat extended and a smile on his face. After the morning rush, he gets on the bus and heads home from his job only to return for a second shift later in the afternoon.
The normal might be an executive who hasn’t really seen nor talked to his children in months because he is working 10,11,12 hours every day to ‘make ends meet’.
The normal might be a single mom struggling to keep her three kids clothed and schooled who accesses a school lunch program and shops where she gets the best bang for her bucks.
It might be a couple in their later years who supplement their retirement with risky (some would say) behaviour. Or the young man who bets it all on the spin of a wheel. Or the young woman who bets it all on the spin of an idea.
Is normal just perspective? Is it just adaptation in the face of circumstances? Is it just a defensive reaction to stressors?
I recognize that I am not normal but I am ok with that and likely foster abnormal quirks from my perspective and in order to adapt.
Make Today Normal, whatever that means for you,
What are you deeply devoted to completing today? On a scale of 1-10 with 10 being completely committed, where are you? If you aren’t at 10 what will it take to get to 10?
Is there something that you have been putting off, procrastinating about, but needs your utmost attention?
We all make lists (at least I imagine everyone else does too) and then cherry pick the easy stuff and transfer the frogs to tomorrow’s list. Take a look at your list for today (or make a list) and rank your commitment 1-10 for each item. Now tackle the biggest challenge first. Whatever you need to do to make this assignment your priority; remove obstacles, write the first line, run the first 500 meters, pick up supplies or whatever excuse you are using should be bitten off.
One of Johann Wolfgang von Goethe’s most famous quotes ends ” Whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it. Begin it now” While inspirational it isn’t all that helpful.
I think the beginning of the passage “Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back, always ineffectiveness. Concerning all acts of initiative and creation, there is one elementary truth the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then providence moves too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one’s favor all manner of unforeseen incidents, meetings and material assistance which no man could have dreamed would have come his way. Whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it. Begin it now.” makes sense of the begin it now challenge.
That is why your commitment needs to be 10/10, so hesitancy doesn’t wrap its warm blanket around your shoulders. It isn’t quite as simple as saying you are completely (10/10) committed but almost. Accountability and practice will improve execution to 100% over a very short time. Holding yourself accountable -good or having someone hold you to account – better will make your statement a self fulfilling prophecy. Not stating your firm deeply held conviction can fulfill a different and dangerous self perpetuating prophecy.
Make Today Remarkable by committing completely.
Sometimes it feels like my world is spinning out of control. Busyness captures me and I resort to tried and true rituals rather than exploring remarkable opportunities. In this place, in this time, with these people we should expect miracles but often seemed mired in mediocrity quicksand. Multitasking my way to bounded rationality where “I have too much to do” has been my refrain and excuse for not shipping my very best. My best intentions don’t seem to produce my best work. Only when I focus and deepen my efforts do I see the quality and results I am known to achieve.
Practice makes perfect – not likely. Poor practice delivers poor results.
My battle with mediocrity is the same one I have with procrastination. My important priorities don’t receive attention because I can always create something urgent (often more fun or easier) that looks important. The gravity pulls me to do something else, almost anything else – the laundry, checking Facebook, … When I set priorities for each day (I started with 3) and don’t just tick boxes but rather complete them deeply, fully and to the best of my ability, I celebrate.
Mark Twain said ‘Eat a live frog first thing in the morning and nothing worse will happen to you the rest of the day.’ I try get the most difficult task done first and when I succeed the Twain adage is true. I can feel myself pulling away from mediocrity towards miraculous. I feel better, lighter, readier. I am strengthened by the effort. After years of practice, this hasn’t become habitual and I need to remain vigilant or mediocrity invites me back.
Remarkable people use their strengths to strengthen themselves and others. When I am mired in the quicksand, up to my knees in averageness, I am not strong. Today, tomorrow and the day after tomorrow I am committed to being strengthened and breaking away from the pull. How about you, what miracle could you create in three days?
Make Today, Tomorrow and the Next Remarkable,
Edit – just received notice that the master of productivity David Allen is hosting GTD Fundamentals next month for those who are serious about getting out of the quicksand.