Self Improvement

If You’re Happy and You Know It (even if you aren’t and don’t)

Can people around you make you happy? Turns out that we are masters of our own domain and many of our emotions are within the span of our control but, the big but is that if we are surrounded by negativity, it begins to pervade our tendencies. If we hang out with negative people we begin to have negative feelings regardless of how we structure our mindfulness. Even, if we read negative status posts on social media, we get nudged towards negative thoughts about our own lives. A large Facebook study determined that the degree of happiness and contentment we feel is significantly impacted by who we follow and whose posts we spend time reading.

If we can be influenced by fleeting glimpses from Facebook, imagine the impact that we can have on those who we are closest to; our partner, children, friends and coworkers or they can have on us. Are you being dragged down by constantly surrounding yourself with unhappy people? Are you choosing to be unhappy in this moment, today, this week? Would you prefer to feel joy rather than despair? This is where the power over your own decisions comes back into play. You get to decide how you act (If you consciously choose to) and how you feel. When you finishing reading this post, spend 10 minutes exuding happiness, being exceptionally social and expressing gratitude.

Start with 10 minutes and build to an hour, then 2,3,4. You will be amazed at how quickly a dramatically your experience and that of those around you will improve. Once the momentum shifts to happiness, the impact goes viral and becomes infectious to a much larger audience. It takes commitment and persistent incremental change to keep the ball rolling but my/your 10 minutes can grow into a neighborhood celebration.

The world is large and we aren’t but we can make a big difference if we commit and change how we act.

Make Today Remarkable, by choosing 10 minutes of happiness, being social and expressing gratitude.

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Self Improvement

From Where I Stand

My view of the world, my country, my ideas is based on when and where I have planted my feet and likely how I got to that line in the sand. We all adopt perspectives and for most of the time that is a safe, sane and effective practice. We are comforted by knowing what to expect because we construct tomorrow by how we view today. We can breathe in the chaos of life when we can anchor to a place or position. And we get stuff done when we don’t veer too far left or right. Safe, sane and efficient but also prone to mediocre, missed opportunities and single-mindedness.

When I stand at the crossroads of fiscal responsibility and social justice, I see an inequity of opportunity and reduced choices when I look from the point of view of the most vulnerable. Their options are limited and moving from one crisis to another, doesn’t  offer any margin for planning for improvements. When faced with the choice of feeding the kids or paying the utilities, you don’t have the luxury of striving or thriving.
If I take the extreme fiscal conservative place, I see irresponsible waste and poor planning. I feel like I am working harder and getting nowhere fast. My taxes are going to support octal programs that I will never use and it makes me angry to think that someone else is living off the sweat of my brow.

If I manage to reflect as the god Janis would, seeing both directions simultaneously then I see a version of “from each according to his means to each according to their needs.”
But we are only reduced to three choices by our own design. What would the circumstances look like if viewed from above? Would it seem like a living organism with each role filling a different and necessary responsibility? What if we could see the scene from a place that understood the future or the past, would the way we see the present be different? More generous? Angrier? Caring? Content?

As an example, this one might miss the mark but the point to make is that what we see as fact/truth/known/obvious/the only way/ has more to do with where we plant ourselves or maybe in the fact that we are planted than in the moment/circumstances/situation/challenge.
We might see unimagined solutions if we took off our shoes and ran in the sand rather than defending a position. When I go on the defensive, my ability to create/Innovate/change is reduced exponentially. If I don’t draw the line or I rub. It out with my foot I become imaginative/open/motivated.

What do you see from where you are standing and what would you see if you crouched down or jumped up?

Make Today Remarkable by stepping into a different field,
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Self Improvement

Popeye Arms

Are you exercising regularly but focusing on the same routine? Like Popeye the Sailor Man you may end up with huge forearms and tiny ineffective muscles everywhere else.

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I worry that many of us are exercising our brains but the routine is so predictable that we are growing giant frontal lobes ( not a physical representation but a metaphor for what I see happening). I spent time with three different groups over the past week and discovered that they were well read and well versed in a narrow band that gave them agreement comfort. If we don’t stretch away from the echoes bouncing around in our heads, we end up with a distorted image, likely uni-dimensional of the world that we live in.

I was with 1300 bright, interested, motivated people last week who were okay being pushed within a very small bandwidth. They felt thinking out of the box required that they keep their bodies inside and maybe let their nose sneak out and smell the air. There was an opportunity to be challenged, checked, changed and choices were waiting to be made but there was a lot of escape hatches offered and most people retreated to the same thoughts they were having when they walked in.

I wonder if Trumpamania and Brexit are manifestations of getting to the edge and ‘remembering that the world is really flat’ and pulling back, out of fear, into something that sounds vaguely familiar (and safe). Most troubling is the polarity that single-minded opinions, confirmation conversations, and willfully blind tribal loyalty encourage. The more you focus on bicep curls, the bigger your biceps get but now those tiny calves don’t give you a leg to stand on.

Enter into open and curious conversations with people, books and ideas that you don’t understand and/or disagree with.

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Self Improvement

Frames

What if every question prompted a reversal question? Why doesn’t 100% of eligible voters exercise their franchise? Could become Why do 56% of eligible voters vote? Or How can eligible voters be discouraged from exercising their franchise? Or …

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The way we frame the inquiry or the solution dictates what we see in the picture. I served on a committee for 5 years called “The Calgary Poverty Reduction Initiative” and we developed recommendations that were approved by the governing authority. The ideas were variations on actions that were already being taken in Calgary or elsewhere. What if we substituted Prosperity Creation for Poverty Reduction? The recommendations wouldn’t resemble the list that was created and execution would certainly have been significantly different. It isn’t just semantics and framing speaks as much to our bias as to our optimism. Even when the outcomes might have a similar intention we can imagine what the ‘might have been’ of the path not taken.

It is worth the effort to pause when creating the boundaries and ask some what if questions. What if we positioned this inquiry in an open ended fashion? What if we focused on what we don’t want to create? What if we ignored the current state and asked from a preferred future position? We might struggle with the ambiguity of a floating iterative question but it seems that the possibility to find something unexpected in the journey and maybe even end up in Paris rather than Cleveland.

Every day we begin our ‘research’ inside a tight thesis but we also have an opportunity to tilt the frame, build it from different stuff, or break the shape completely and put the pieces together and then build the frame.

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Make Today Remarkable, by knocking a picture off the wall,
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Uncategorized

Learning

I try to learn something new every day. In my areas of interest; religion, urbanization, community development, coaching, running, and sociology I receive blasts, books and blogs from the best and the brightest on a regular basis. I attend workshops and panels to hear from people who are working in the field and I assimilate their experience and expertise with the knowledge and opinions I already hold.

But I learn most by entering into engaged, important conversations with the people I encounter. Family, friends, strangers offer me a wide array of ideas and challenges to chew on. I learn more in the rumination than from another audiobook, tome, or lecture. I realize that my preferred learning style has shifted from asynchronous pull to multi synchronous exchange. I get more from the material when I get to touch it, talk about it and toss it around in my head.

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I am attending a running workshop this morning in Calgary that is billed as a panel but the reputation of the facilitator suggests that we are going to be engaged physically and intellectually at each step. I am going to be looking for the best and the brightest to help me understand how to improve my stride and reduce injuries but I am going to be observing how I interact with the message, the medium and the masters.

Make Today Remarkable by Learning Something New,

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Self Improvement

Is Planning Crazy?

The world changes so quickly and the variables that impact us and our lives are so interconnected. Does this make planning ahead (more than 168 hours) utter nonsense?

I have meetings booked into July. A vacation is booked for next January. I am looking at financial requirements for mid 2017. We have been discussing goals for 10 years from now. Is this all just to quell anxiety or is it helpful in shaping the future?

A few years ago, I would have said ” it is  essential to lay the groundwork and make specific plans for the future”. Everything seemed so predictable then. Predictability has been shaken. Two economic downturns in ten years. World conflicts bubbling everywhere. Political partisanship and pandering is the order of the day and thousands of variables that I don’t recognize are banging into each other and creating and recreating trajectories.

I obviously am still planning, even if it with less certainty. In uncertain times having a preferred planned future appointment or direction creates a bit of a frame around all the tomorrows. Today I need that range of possibilities or fear I would be paralyzed by the undetermined and erratic possibilities.

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I suggest we all continue to lay out the future with the understanding that adaptation and evaluation may be our most important tools. Planning may be crazy but it is also crucial and constructive.

Make a Plan Today,

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Uncategorized

Is This Thing Working?

Imagine a country filled with possibilities where most of your needs can be met and lots of your desires achieved. A place where honesty, integrity, persistence and some initiative are rewarded by providence and fellow citizens. In this place government serves the people but doesn’t smother them. Our elected officials are expected to represent the diverse and vocal electorate with decisions and actions that are thoughtful and not ideological. Decisions that don’t please everyone and never always please the same people are the order of the day.

Work is valued and those who perform it are honored whether a doctor or a caretaker.  The contribution they make is recognized and compensated in such a way as to allow dignity. Small businesses thrive and large corporations balance profit against community.

Intelligence is respected. Individualism is encouraged. Inspiration is abundant. Wisdom of elders is acknowledge and lessons are learned. Playfulness and curiousity isn’t just the prevue of youth and everyone seeks lifelong learning across a wide menu of opportunities.

Family, however that is defined, is the main source of support and encouragement. Friendships are based in respect rather than reciprocity yet an unspoken quid pro quo is dutifully, intuitively and joyfully observed.

Stewardship of all resources; physical, financial and human are tested but not abused, shared but  not demanded, conserved and preserved rather than spent in a short term quest for more – right now.

I live in a place (and likely so do you) where some of this vision is already true; a place where most of the ideals were once held across society. But also a place where many of these ideas are fading. We are all complicate in the erosion of a collective preferred future, either by our actions or inactions. What steps can we take ourselves, with our family and in groups of likeminded compatriots to reverse engineer the future. If we begin with a version of this ‘Utopia’ as the goal and work backwards to the current state maybe a plan will reveal itself. More likely we just need to start acting like the future is already here and when enough of us begin the destiny will manifest itself.

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Make Today Remarkable by taking a first step,

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Uncategorized

Calculated Frenzy

One of the definitions of madness includes the idea state of frenzied or chaotic activity. I have some routines that serve me on the micro level. My mornings from 5am to 8am are all very similar. My dietary state , my physical and mental health are all better when  I stay close to a routine. I end most days with a consistent practice that, for the most part, ensures a restful sleep. In between I have moments of accidental madness and periods of calculated frenzy.

I try to shake things up where I have some measure of control. My travels are opportunistic rather than planned. I don’t take the same route two days in a row. If walking, I meander and try to be observant (even though I have a destination in mind). If biking, I take a different loop. If driving, my options are limited but still varied. This practice seems to step me out of the rut of sameness and leaves open the possibility for some madness.

As a procrastinator, I usually have a looming deadline that creates some calculated frenzy that I find  exhilarating. I do worry that my best work might not arise from the pressure but not enough to take a different approach.

The impact of working with others, especially those who have a different agenda or those who answer to a different authority means that unexpected accidental chaos can occur. I do get frustrated and can feel anxious by delayed responses and too much paralyzing collaboration. Strange that where someone sees collaboration as an organizing practice, I find it can be fruitless and mediocre.

I know my frenzy isn’t anything like yours. I understand that where I see beauty in change you may see chaos. It is likely that some of you live a heart pounding frenzy that I somehow have avoided. I would be interested in hearing how you handle or create madness in your life.

Make Today Remarkable, for someone you love,|

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Uncategorized

March Madness

With NCAA basketball playoffs, Super Tuesday, St Patrick’s Day, Easter, Time change, and spring break this month we will all feel a bit of the madness (both invigorating and deflating). I am going to break away from the coaching/teaching/ranting mode, on this site, and try have some fun this month.

I have a whole month ahead of me, 31 days; 744 hours; 44640 minutes so anything is possible. For those needing lists – my friend Ali Polin has started the month with a different challenge.

Madness is defined as; the state of being mentally ill, especially severely. extremely foolish behaviour. a state of frenzied or chaotic activity. While I have exhibited all of the definitions I am going to shy away from illness and focus on foolish and frenzied.

Almost all new ideas have a certain aspect of foolishness when they are first produced.
~Alfred North Whitehead

The philosophies of one age have become the absurdities of the next, and the foolishness of yesterday has become the wisdom of tomorrow.
~William Osler

Without space for foolishness,it seems, greatness and innovation don’t have a chance. Whitehead and Osler aren’t saying that all foolish behaviour leads to remarkable outcomes but it seems there needs to be enough to seed some new opportunities.

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I’m going to take some time today to think about some of my foolish behaviour and give myself some space to be foolish every day this month.

Tomorrow – I will report in on how I let a bit of zany into March 1.

Make Today a Tiny Bit Foolish,

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Uncategorized

Persistence

We don’t live a solely self determined life. If we live, work and [lay with others, they impact us positively and negatively. With the exception of a despot we can’t make people bend to our will and we can’t be bent. We can become persistent in our approach to the blessing of each day we are given. This isn’t the strong headed stubbornness of childhood but rather a daily reminder and commitment to our values and our goals.

When I hold the value that all people are capable I need to act that out each day even when it would be easier to find someone else or do it myself. If I believe that remarkable people are remarkable because they use their strengths to strengthen others then I need to find ways to lift people up but not carry them on my back. I am committed to being healthier so I need to be more food aware and vigilant that my french fry addiction doesn’t take over. I also need to exercise every day because when I ‘take a day off’ it has a history of turning into two..

I am successful when I do the things I do because of the things I believe. Values and action when married create a perfect persistence.

What are three values that you hold today and how are you acting to keep them at the forefront of this week?

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