Self Improvement · Uncertainty

What We Need More Of

What we need a lot more of is exuberance, enthusiasm, and elation. The world around me and the one created by media is vitriolic, spiteful and polarized. I find the atmosphere draining and depressing so I am calling on all my friends, family colleagues, readers and any strangers who happen to encounter this challenge to step into the world today, tomorrow and the next day – Until October 1 with the 3 e’s on your face and sleeve.

Be exuberant. Be ebullient, buoyant, cheerful, jaunty, lighthearted, high-spirited, exhilarated, excited, exultant, euphoric, joyful, cheery, merry, jubilant, vivacious, enthusiastic, irrepressible, energetic, animated, full of life, lively, vigorous, adrenalized; be full of life and optimism. Smile when you are walking down the street, down the hall or through the park. Smile a ridiculously big smile at every person you encounter. Laugh, giggle, snort when something tickles your funny bone. Don’t suppress it because of some imagined social convention.
Sing along with the radio, cd, or mp3. Listen to uplifting, inane, silly songs and join in. Try Mary Poppins, Frozen, or Weird Al for inspiration. Sing loud and like you mean it (even if you don’t).

Stand up with your back straight and your shoulders back as you skip, march, prance and dance through your day. Be an invitation to exuberance for the world that sees you and wonders, sees you and smiles, sees you and joins in.

Be enthusiastic. Be eager, keen, avid, ardent, fervent, passionate, ebullient, zealous, vehement; excited, wholehearted, committed, devoted, fanatical, earnest; go hog-wild, can-do, gung-ho, rah-rah. Cheer on someone who is trying, be first in line to accept responsibility or to try something new. Wear your passion on your sleeve by celebrating a great idea, a small victory, a valiant effort, a team success. Share the victories with others and include them in the credit.

Be Elated. Be thrilled, delighted, overjoyed, ecstatic, euphoric, very happy, joyous, gleeful, jubilant, beside oneself, exultant, rapturous, in raptures, walking on air, on cloud nine, in seventh heaven, jumping for joy, in transports of delight; on top of the world, over the moon, on a high, tickled pink. The other two e’s are easy to see and easy to demonstrate – they exist outside of us and are on exhibit for all to see and experience. Being elated is inside of us and is more difficult to hold on to. But like most things, elation is a choice. I get to decide, you get to decide, we get to decide to feel joyful in difficult times, to be delighted by the blessings we have not dejected by any perceived deficiency and tickled pink with the privilege of relationships we have.

As I reach the end of this post, I do a twirl and laugh out loud. Will you do the same? As I step away from my computer, I commit to smiling and celebrating with those I encounter this morning. Will you do the same? In the moments between my desk and the door, I simply choose joy over anger, glee over anxiety, and appreciation, love, and mindfulness over the messages and images that will likely bombard me this afternoon. How about it, are you ready to be exuberant, enthusiastic and elated?

Make Today Remarkable,

B

Original Thought · Self Improvement · Uncertainty

This too Shall Pass (Likely)

Why do things have a way of working themselves out? For most of us, most of the time, regardless of how much or how little planning things have a way of working themselves out. Even when a detour jumps out of the bushes or the sky seems to fall on our heads, we find our way to the end of the road. It might not be the destination we were seeking or via the route that we expected but somehow we make it out the other side. Tragedy can strike and we go on, a windfall can arrive or be lost and we continue, or boredom, stress, or health concerns weigh us down and we march on.

Most of us have had setbacks that knocked the wind out of us and left us reeling; an untimely death, an unexpected diagnosis, a broken relationship and yet we soldier on. We reflect, we ruminate, we readjust, and we remain. I don’t believe there is an exceptional characteristic that allows us to overcome. It seems to lie in the process.

There is a bit of ‘pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and start all over again”, a bit of ” don’t let the bastards beat you down” and a lot of living in the pain and through the pain to the other side. Sometimes the ache can be erased, sometimes it can be accepted easily, but mostly it needs to be acknowledged, accepted, and absorbed. The suffering and pain leads to somewhere, somewhere better or at least different from the current state. To clarify, I am not talking about individuals who suffer from debilitating and deteriorating illness. Their condition might leave little room for relief from long-term distress. But if someone is suffering from diabetes and their illness is managed by treatment, they go through an initial depression but generally adapt to the new normal of medication and/or injections and the regimen becomes part of their day-to-day.

Unfortunately, what seems like an organic process of reflection and recovery requires intention and commitment to staying the course when our instincts scream retreat. Living in the anguish without judgement, accepting that many/most things are beyond the span of our control, and resolving to allow for the time it takes and the energy it requires to feel the depths, hold in the deeps and rise up, in a controlled, steady ascent. This is not something to be taken lightly nor without support.

The world is a much better place when we live in interdependent relationships; giving and taking support, grace, and service to each other. It is difficult for many of us to seek and accept these gifts from others, even those closest to us. We find it much easier and more pleasant to give love, provide nurturing and solve problems for others. There is a happiness glow that occurs when we use our strengths to strengthen others because our brain chemistry is triggered to release chemicals that interact with neurons that signal pleasure in our brains. When we ignore or reject assistance from those around us or stoically deny we have any issues, we are robbing our friends and family of the same pleasure we seek.

My thesis is that we overcome circumstances and adapt with the help of those in our community (community being a group of people who know and depend on each other) while we recognize, acknowledge and live through the downs and ups in our lives.

Who depends on you? Who do you depend on? How are you ‘working through’ a detour or unexpected situation in your life?

B

Self Improvement · Uncertainty

Dear Me

I have been around some young people over the past weeks and am excited by their passion and troubled by their despair (in the same person (or maybe all persons)).
I don’t seem to have any meaningful advice for them to celebrate their enthusiasm or lift them from their anguish. Ther swings, which I suffered because of a mental illness, are wide and deep. I don’t know what to say because when I was bouncing from manic to depressive, nothing helped and almost everything hurt. If someone significant in my life reached out, I rejected them and their words because they couldn’t understand what I was going through.
I started wondering, what advice the today I would give to the fifteen-year-old? What should I tell/remind the seventy-five-year-old version? Does distance give me any perspective?
Dear 15 year-old Me,
I do remember what you are going through. The pain and sorrow that couldn’t be labelled but was tempered by pulling the blankets up over your ears and screaming in silence. The weight on your chest didn’t leave but it hurt a little less when the sights and sounds of the world were walled away. I remember the shrieking tension that rose up as a reversal of emotions waded slowly through the muck. The extraordinarily bright light, the squishiness of your palette at the touch of your tongue, the nauseating speed of everything swirling around me without seeming to make progress were welcomed because it meant that in minutes, hours or days I would be at the top of my game; unstoppable, invincible, joyous and delicious. It all passed and I survived even when I didn’t want to. The best advice is just that -” This too shall pass”. It sounds meaningless and trite but so would the medical explanation that took another 25 years to uncover. Knowing that the anxiety didn’t have a foundation and that whether some girl liked me or hated me isn’t the end of the world isn’t helpful or at 15 even believable. I could offer that when it passes, you will once again be stronger and eventually you will have the courage to share the depths and the heights with someone who cares and she will ‘insist’ that you seek professional help. After a few years of evading, avoiding and resisting you will relent and in your case that is the beginning of a more joyful and productive life. This too shall pass.
With hope,
Me, nearing retirement

Dear 75 year-old Me,

Looking at you from 13 years in the past, I see a vibrant, loving, caring man. Someone who is still healthy. Someone who is joyously still married and sharing a meaningful life with your beloved of more than 50 years. The perspective from this vantage point is that all of that is possible and if you aren’t living hale and hearty and happy, it is my fault. I didn’t set you up by continuing to build on the good blessings of today.
I know you have a great relationship with your grandchildren because I strived to keep the relationships meaningful and unique. You are aging well, with little stress and still living an adventure because that is how I engineered the years between 60 and 75. Even if an illness has arisen, I took the steps to mitgate it and I battled the demon to a draw so you can live in an abundance of love, laughter and learning.My advice to you as I turn 75 is “accept your responsibilities for today – to love well, laugh loud, leap and learn, and accept your responsibility to set up the 90 year-old us for a remarkable encore with great grandchildren and wisdom and wonder and love”

With hope and confidence,

Today Me

Self Improvement · Teamwork

Is a B+ Good Enough?

b

A writer once said, “You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.” If this is true, which five people would you like to spend your time with? This was the WordPress writing prompt one day this week. I have been thinking about the question in the light of my Remarkable People philosophy; remarkable people use their strengths to strengthen themselves and others. Who do I spend time with? Is the 100 hours a week with my beloved a significant impact in how I think, how I feel and how I behave? No doubt that her kindness rubs off on me and her commitment to family makes me a better father, a better grandfather and maybe a better brother.
Does seeing my youngest grandson for a day a week make me appreciate small things and big things and all things like books, toys, smiles,? He helps me notice trucks and machinery and squirrels and birdhouses. I am more attentive to my surroundings after a few hours in his presence.

Am I better when I am on vacation with friends who show consideration and courtesy to everyone they encounter? Does their willingness to be of service in tragedies, be of good cheer in adversities and be generous in the face of inequities make be more willing?

What does it mean to be average? Are you smarter than 2 people but less smart than 2? Do you have less compassion than some but more than others? Money? Health? Relationships? Can the average be raised? Lowered?

If you use your strengths to strengthen others and others do the same, can the bar be raised? I believe it can. If true, then it does matter which five people you spend time with? It matters more how they share their gifts, skills and strengths with those around them. It matters how we choose to influence and be influenced. I know that when I spend time with angry, cynical people, I am insensitive and self-righteous. If I listen to rhetoric and join in vitriol, we all become intolerant and joyless.

I was reading a review of “A Paradise Built in Hell” by Rebecca Solnit that reinforced my belief that we are all remarkable when we build on the gifts we bring to the table and community. The reviewer asks “If we think about our own personal experiences, no doubt we have each gone through something “disastrous” in a communal setting. In those situations, there is always something that compels us to rise to the occasion and to do things we wouldn’t otherwise do. We begin to feel our common humanity a little bit more.” Have you risen to the occasion in 2017? Have I risen to a challenge? Will I rise tomorrow and then again and again?
Have we used our strengths to strengthen ourself and others? How have you been remarkable? Fourty-five days into this year, I realize that I haven’t been remarkable on very many of them. That is sad enough for me but if my actions, my words, and my attitudes are having a significant imapct on the folks I hang out with, then shame on me.

Miss Vivienne, an 8 year old girl is rising to the occasion in San Francisco with Making A Stand to eliminate slavery. She is selling lemonade on her street and encouraging others to join her around the world to raise awareness and resources to stomp out bondage and abuse.
Closer to home Emma is using her heart and art to strengthen homeless families in Calgary. She creates one of a kond mini masterpieces and auctions them on a Facebook page.
WestJet staff and volunteers lift the spirits of weary travelers by reducing their anxiety. THey respond with kindness to meaningful and meaningless questions and requests without missing a beat.
A friend is preparing meals and providing support to her extended family, from outside the city, as they go through medical treatments.

The possibilities to be remarkable are abundant and maybe ever present when we open our eyes and ears to the world that surrounds us.

Think about 5 people (or 10, 20, 30) that you would like to surround yourself with and rise to the occasion together by celebrating, supporting and sharing each other’s lives. Are those the folks you spend time with? Are you the kind of person that they should be investing their relationship energy to be with? Are you raising the bar this week or are you pulling the average down? We all have bad days, bad weeks, and trying times but if we know that as they fester, they infect others would we have fewer of them?

My challenge and now yours is to be someone who chooses to set the average very high and then set about to be someone who raises the curve.

B

Original Thought · Self Improvement

Practice What You Preach

What are you practicing? I am re-reading Richard Sennet’s ” Together” ehere hr investigates cooperation. He takes us through an historical journey back to the early 16th century. When discussing chivalry as a cooperation technique he offers that chivalry is the practice of restraint and the maintenance of honor. The idea that knight’s practiced restraint was incongruous until he explained the they were practicing sexual restraint so as not to assault or rape women of the court.Seems an outrageous state when not raping someone is the most chivalric thing they could do. But the idea of practicing prompted some personal questions.

What am I practicing? Am I practicing perfectly and am I seeing improvement? I am not thinking about the running and weight training that I do almost every day which has provided improved health and fitness. It isn’t the practice of learning that takes me through a routine of reading, writing and inquiry. I isn’t the practice of healthy eating that makes me food conscious.

I am wondering about a less specific set of practices. Do I practice generousity? Am I taking intentional steps towards joy? Is there a planned routine to curiousity? kindness? restraint? improvement? cooperation? persistence? mediocrity? excellence? stubbornness? reflection? The list isn’t comprehensive but was meant to prompt me to think about what I am rehearsing by my attitudes, intentions and actions.

The path to achieve awareness is in the doing and the recognition of the doing. Becoming self aware requires honesty, transparency, reflection, and willingness to adapt. Is my practice working or is it bad practice fostering bad outcomes.

I have been dwelling on the tribalism of politics in my head, heart and writing and need to let it all go so I don’t break. Instead I am choosing to practice joy and look for ways to improve being joyful.

Mei Mei Fox of MBG wrote a post a couple of years ago entitled ” 40 Ways To Practice Joy Every Single Day“. It seems like a great place to begin. While I can’t undertake all of them every day – it seems that progress could come from trying/doing 10 each day.
For today I am making the following my own joy exercises.
5. Listen to the wisdom of elders
6. Cheerlead someone to greatness
8. Speak to yourself with kindness
13. Spend some reflective time alone
15. Pause to say thank you – and really mean it
20. Make someone smile
26. Re-gift something
29. Dress in brightly coloured clothes
37. Connect with nature
40. Pray

I am hopeful that you will take a look at the 40 and choose your own and practice them i your own way or write your list and make it habitual. The ingrained outcome comes from persistent practice and improvement.

Make Your Practice Remarkable,
B

Self Improvement

 

remarkable-peopleCan you design the life you desire? For most the answer should be yes. For those reading this, the answer is definitely yes? But where can we begin? We can’t identify barriers or set targets if we don’t know where we are or where we want to be. We need a destination and best it is one that won’t disappoint when we arrive.

I use a 1000 day horizon quite often because it seems close enough that I can imagine what my world will be like then (as opposed to 25 years). It is far enough away that almost anything is possible. I can’t be a medical doctor but I can be in my 2nd year working towards it. I couldn’t be a doctor – I don’t handle other’s pain and frailty particularly well and I know that I would be impatient with patients.

So 1000 days from now what do you want to be doing? Travelling? Writing? Running? Serving? Sharing? How do you know that any or all of these would bring you joy? How do I discover what is bringing me joy and conversely what is dragging me down? In the whirlwind of our days the rainbows of elation and the clouds of dissatisfaction blend and we miss seeing where they begin and end. What if we took 168 hours; one week and recorded throughout the day those activities and actions that we are involved with and record whether we are energized and joyful or exhausted and dejected or somewhere in between?

We could begin to see the kinds of stuff we should be doing more of and the stuff we should be doing less of. Then we can begin crafting the first 100 day segment. What do I need to do today to have more of what I want and less of what I don’t? What are the first 5 steps – which is first? Begin doing step one and move to step two. As you complete the fifth, re-evaluate : where am I, where do I want to be, what are the 5 steps? This won’t necessarily be 100 day segments. Sometimes the five steps can be accomplished in an afternoon, sometimes it will take a year. But if you keep a record and reimagine every 100 days it will serve as a motivation and you will become proficient at building a plan and completing it.

I usually say ” easy to say harder to do” but in this case I believe it is easy to say and do. Check in every morning, focus on the goal in front of you, move to the next and the next. Progress begets progress. You will soon find yourself closer to understanding what, why and how you want your life to be in late 2019 and you will be 20,30, 100 steps closer to it being true.

Make Today Remarkable, by noticing when you are and aren’t

B

Self Improvement

I’ve Seen Sunshine and I’ve Seen Rain

Summer sunshine and summer storms each bring a freshness to the landscape and a sense of awe to my heart. After days of clouds and rain, we had an amazing thunderstorm last night that left a sheen on everything that is green as the sun rose this morning. There is humidity that we aren’t used feeling here and as the sun reaches its zenith there is a mugginess bit after just a few days of grey, we are all appreciating the light. Being grateful and expressing gratitude for this small pleasure is heartfelt and heartfilling. I try to be agnostic about the weather but I confess that I feel so much better when the sky is clear and the light casts deep shadows through the trees. There is a peace that sinks in and I can feel it resonating in my head and heart. Thank you for the sunshine that I get to bask in this afternoon.

I try to run, bike or walk regardless of the weather and I have been out during the past wet spell doing all three (I did retreat to a treadmill one time in the past week). But today, I get to ride along the river to my appointments and feel a breeze on my right cheek and sunshine on my left (at least when I am heading east). I am grateful that I have access to such beauty and am able to get out and enjoy it in so many different seasons.

I was able to add a walk in the park this morning, holding hands with my beloved, not so much exercise as reflection and exploration. A second crop of ducklings seem to have hatched (i didn’t know they could have two batches) and the fledglings from the starling, blackbird and flicker nests are winging and feeding and singing their little hearts out. There was evidence of a couple of deer bedding down in the park but this is the first year that we haven’t spotted them feeding and enjoying the sanctuary of the urban park. Maybe they have moved down river to a less populated area. I am thankful that when I meander with my eyes open that I am rewarded with sights and sounds that are unexpected and inspiring. Having an oasis on our doorstep is a blessing that we get to share with grandkids – another thing to be thankful for.

Just thinking about what I am grateful for and acknowledging it here makes me feel better, breathe easier and studies suggest live longer.

Be gregariously grateful today,
B

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.

B

Uncategorized

Today

It was a grueling race and I needed to slow to a walk on a couple of hills but all in all a great track and a good run. I finished in the middle of the pack 122/260 and won my age group. Good thing I am getting older and most of the competition is getting younger. I said ” if I can still do this at 70, I should still be able to do a lot of things.

The remainder of the day was spent with my favorite person; my beloved in one of my favorite places. I think we like Canmore so much because we don’t have it every day, every week or even every month. There is no familiarity that breeds complacency. We saw new sites and spent some money on hats and a gift. One of our haunts had elocated to a new location but we passed their vacant digs first and were disappointed that it wasn’t there. Finding it a block north was like finding it anew. The streets of Canmore were busy on a cool Saturday afternoon and coffee at Beamers was delicious and entertaining. The international crowd; young travelers passing through the mountain parks or those that are working their way across North America and are spending a few months here seem to pick this crowded little shop. The buzz of accents and foreign languages are always uplifting. Three young guys, speaking German approached the counter and I didn’t hear there order but the question ” do you want whip cream with that” needed translation. I am not sure if he was satisfied with his friend’s version but I hope he enjoyed the topping on his cup.

After 40 years there is lots of familiarity between myself and my partner. We grew up together and were married very young. She supports me in all the craziness that is my life and all the stuff that I want to try. She was cheering loudly and snapping pictures at the race and was at the finish line with water and a congratulatory kiss. She ‘mothered’ me enough to make sure I had enough water, stretched and cooled down and then refueled with food and fruit from the race tables. It isn’t a control issue, she just loves me and knows me. She also knows that if I feel like I am being ‘made’ to do anything, I can dig in my size 9 1/2 shoes up to my heels and stubbornly ignore even the best of suggestions.

While the storefronts change and the inventory is different or even if we are strolling an avenue together for the first time, there is a camaraderie, a rhythm and an easiness that comes from 15000 hand-in- hand walks we have shared. We offer each other sensitive feedback on whether some garment or toy works or is a good buy. I make decisions easily so her advice usually tempers an impulse and I can be honest if I think something makes her look like her much older sister. We both ended up with new hats that we were told ” You guys rock those hats” so are pretty confident about the choices. Although the compliment did come from the staff at the store so she maybe had an ulterior motive.
When we are together, we don’t often finish each other’s sentences because most often we know that we are thinking the same thing. In some ways “we share a brain” and are so completely in sync. People who know us recognize the rhythm, but also would say that “you guys are so different from each other”. It is in the knowledge that we have history, ups and downs, shared victories and losses, and the confidence to say what needs to be said that we are free to see the world so differently. I see big pictures and am destination focused. Without her I wouldn’t see the beauty and curiousity of nature and would never have found Beamers with my nose. We compliment and tease, we keep the other in mind when making decisions, we live independent lives, and we work hard every day to continue to live happily ever after.
In the consistent and in the unexpected we share our joy and sorrow and in the differences we learn and are challenged to learn. Somehow sharing live together, this way brings fulfillment and in our daily appreciation of these blessings we acknowledge how fortunate we are to have found the other.

Uncategorized

Wear a Smile

A smile can turn a conflict into a conversation. A fight into a hug. Why don’t we do a disarmament and replace all the weapons with more smiles? I feel better when I smile, I probably look better when I am smiling and others react better when I offer a sincere smile. Life is better when you are smiling even if the circumstances haven’t changed our physiology and brain mapping has. A smile is a placebo that works in all situations. Turn the corners of your mouth upward and let the twinkle in your eyes come out and you will see changes that wouldn’t have occurred otherwise.

You don’t need to feel giddy or even joyful to smile. The process of letting your face muscles make your brain muscles shift and tweak your emotions is remarkable. You can be sad and smile. Mad and smile. You can stand, sit, and dance while you smile, You can smile alone or in a group. When you are alone, smiling in a mirror doubles the unimaginable shift.

Smile
You should smile when you feel tension or when you feel a sneeze.
You will smile when someone hugs you or tickles your wee knees.
Smiling raises your expectations and clears your troubled heart.
It will give you motivation and create a place to start.

Make Your Day Remarkable, by smiling,

B