Yesterday we spoke of doing things from our youth and how it can prevent our minds from growing old. There is another way to keep our minds young and flexible. Acting crazy. Now before you think I am going to suggest something that would land you in jail or a nice comfortable padded room with a jacket that fastens in the back, let me explain. What way to you drive to work? Have you ever arrived there and not remembered anything about the trip there? Providing you arrived sober let me explain what happened. When we travel the same course five or six days a week it becomes almost ingrained in our mind how to get there. So much so that much of the duty of arriving there safely is delegated to the subconscious mind. Think of the act of driving itself. When we first learned to drive our minds were on overdrive. There seemed so much to pay attention to. How fast are we going, don’t look at that too long, check the review mirror every 8 seconds. After a few months we pretty much just get into our car and well, drive. We don’t think about making sure our foot is on the brake before we put it into drive. It all seems to happen automatically. So what is the problem with this? Well, when we lose our focus on the present two major things occur. One like physical exercise if we use our brain for the same things over and over again we plateau. We cease making new pathways in our brain and it fails to get a workout. How many times has a new business opened up on the path to your work and you fail to notice until somebody else points it out to you? Just because you are not looking for something you ‘know’ is not there. The other thing that happens is we fail to appreciate the beauty of the present. A lot of what we do on a daily basis is nothing short of a miracle and was considered, even by ourselves in the beginning, to be a monumental task.
So, how can we avoid getting in these ruts? How can we keep our brain sharp? I am going to take a lesson from the Shaman. For those of you who do not know Shamans were spiritual, and sometimes political leaders of indigenous Peoples. Quite often people would think of them as crazy. They would do things like walk backwards, eat hot food cold and cold food hot, wear ridiculous outfits, or even say things that seemed to make no sense. This all was part of the way of keeping the shamans mind from falling into a rut. Now I am not suggesting you come into work dressed in drag as the boss may frown. What I am suggesting is do a few things to shake up your routine. Take a slightly different path to work. Eat a breakfast meal for dinner. Most of the things we do out of habit are really not all that serious. It will give your mind a jolt and keep it sharp!
A customer came into the post office the other day to mail thank you cards to people who showed up to her 40th high school reunion. She had nothing to do with the planning of the event and stated quite simply, “I just wanted to thank them for showing up and being kind to me”. Not only do I think it is a marvelous idea to sit down and write people a proper thank you letter, but she said something that impressed me even more. She stated that everyone she met seems to have turned out so nice, but some people she spoke with after told her they had the opposite experience. Even though they talked to the same people. How could this be? How could two people go to the same event, talk to the same people, but have entirely different results? There are many factors I suppose, but it reminded me of a story I heard that I would like to share with you.
Two old gentleman were sitting outside of a local diner discussing how the neighborhood was changing and a lot of new people were moving in. Suddenly their conversation was interrupted by just one of those people. “Excuse me, but you look like you may have been a member of this neighborhood a while. What are the people like here?”. That was the question put forth to the old men. “Well what were the people like in the town you came from?” replied one old man. “Oh they were very nice. In fact, we were sad to leave, but my husband’s job had us relocate here” was the reply from the new neighbor. “Well there is no need to worry, I believe you will find the people just as pleasant down here” replied the old man. She thanked them and was off. Well in the middle of a heated debate as to the fate of the local college football team the old men were interrupted by another new neighbor asking the same question. Again the old man replied by asking what the people were like where the individual came from. “They were terrible. Never friendly, rarely said hi to us. That is why we moved here in hopes of finding a nicer group of people” replied the young man. “I’m sorry to tell you, but you wasted your time. I’m afraid you will find the people the same here” replied the old man. The new neighbor left shaking his head. Well now the other old man couldn’t help but ask how he could give two completely different answers to the same question and which one he believed was the right answer. “They both are.” he replied. “People will find just what they are looking for. It has to do with a great deal in how they see the situation.”
Now I like this story, and it brings up a good point. People often do find what they expect to find. Unfortunately there are people who have no expectations and wait for the world to dictate to them how the situation will be. Even worse, there are people who expect the worse in every situation. Have you ever heard someone say “Expect the worse and you will never be disappointed”? Not only is this a very dismal and cowardly way to go through life. Effectively saying you have no control over how things turn out, but it is also negating one of our greatest powers. If you enter a situation or even a day expecting it to be a good day, chances are you will have more good than bad happen. Even if some things do not go as planned, they are easier to take in stride and quite often may be part of a greater plan. If you approach ever day with anxiety and expecting the worse, you will quite often find yourself correct. There are a million reasons why this is so, and we shall discuss them another day. We must ask ourselves, what feels better expecting joy and experiencing the occasional disappointment or glumly expecting the worse and being occasionally pleasantly surprised? I can tell you the attitude I would rather bring to life. The important thing here to realize is we have the power to choose, or to leave it to chance.
Seeing as today is my birthday, I thought I would do a post about one of the important elements of an amazing life. Maintaining a youthful spirit. Who wouldn’t want to remain young forever? Less aches and pains, fewer responsibilities, more fun. Well, there are lots of ways from a physical standpoint to remain young. Some we looked at in previous posts, some we will look at in future posts. Today, however, we are going to look at the youthful spirit. Remember when everything in life seemed magical? When the park at the end of the block held the promise of day long adventure? How do we manage to recapture that view of the world while remaining serious responsible adults? Part of that is realizing we can’t do both. I have a few stories to demonstrate what I am talking about. The other day I was at a local establishment for lunch and was watching a young man about 6 years old mixing up a new flavor between six different soft drink flavors. His mom caught him in the act and ran over to put a stop to it. “Stop that, just pick one and sit down”. The kid did as he was told and sat down the smile gone from his face. I began to ponder, other than the terrible effects of drinking soft drinks, what is the harm in mixing five or six together? Sure it is not the responsible thing to do, but it is sure fun. So I grabbed my cup and proceeded to do just that. Some adults looked at me a little funny, but it took me back to when I was a young man.
My next story comes from this past Saturday. My sister and some friends had taken me out for my birthday. On our way to try some new tikki bar she found some songs she used to like when she, and her friends liked when they were about ten. These were songs that were long past popular and would not be considered ‘cool’ anymore to anyone who may have been listening. They turned them up and started singing and dancing along. To all those who may have been driving by we probably looked crazy, but we were having fun! Not to mention for those few minutes everybody was taken back to the time when that song had come out.
In both of these stories people may look at you as if you are being ‘immature’ or just plain crazy. If it were not for the fact that people already know I’m crazy I might get that more often too. So this week I encourage you to find something you used to do when you were young. Go to the mall and try on every goofy hat at the store while you look in the mirror. If you are still concerned with how people may look at you, try something a little more secret. Go for a walk in the park imagining you are walking in a mystical jungle, or turn on a movie at home from your youth and sing and dance along. It will give you a shot of youthful exuberance that we all need. Who knows, those aches and pains may disappear for a minute or two as well.
One of the most unfounded fears in our society today is this, the fear of being wrong. It amazes me the great lengths some people will go to in order to not have to admit they were wrong. Let us be honest, raise your hand if you have ever made a mistake. I’m sure that almost all of us reading this, and the one writing this have their hand in the air. Ok, now put it down because if you are staring at your computer with one hand in the air people may begin to point and whisper. So what is the point here? We are all aware that everyone has made mistakes and that we are not the first one. So why the big fear of admitting it? Some people are afraid it will make them appear less intelligent. I have even heard it mentioned that some people feel inferior to others when they are wrong. Well today we are not going to discuss how to get rid of those feelings. We instead are going to focus on why being wrong can be such a good thing. Let me begin by sharing a story from my own life. One of the many times I was wrong was when I was asked by the owner of the bar I work at if we should bring in karaoke. Now, I first let him know it is his bar and I would respect any decision he made. That being said, I was dead set against it. I pictures having to listen to hours of the worst singers I have ever heard. I thought every Friday was going to be like the first night of the TV show American Idol. Not only that, every karaoke show I have seen was led by a man who seemed half used car sales man, half Las Vegas lounge act. Showing how much my opinion mattered, or how set in his mind he was, we started karaoke. We also started it on Friday, the only night of the week I am behind the bar. Well, I will be the first to admit how wrong I was. Starting with the singers. They are some of the most fun and passionate people I have had the honor of meeting. A few of them have gone on to become friends. The terrible screeching I feared is more the exception than the rule. Business has picked up, as has the atmosphere of the bar. The people who run the karaoke? Not only do they not try to sell me cars, they are some of the most creative and fun people I have had the honor of working with. They also truly care about the people who come to sing with them.
Here is the point of that story. If I had been right, there would have been no pick up in business. My ear drums would probably be bleeding right now, and I would have lost out on working with and meeting some of the most amazing people I have met in a truly long time.
When we are wrong, it frees us up to consider life in a whole new light. The greater the conviction we had about what we were wrong about, the more freedom and freshness it can bring to our lives. Sometimes I say to myself “if I was wrong about this, what else could I be wrong about?”. So just remember, don’t always be so afraid to admit you are wrong. It can turn out to be one of the greatest blessings, and bring a whole new look to life. Also remember that others share your same fear of being wrong. So when a friend, spouse or co-worker find themselves to be incorrect, be encouraging and inspiring. Just remember, being wrong can actually be something worth celebrating. I am reminded of that every Friday!
One of the many perks that occurs as you embark down the path of a positive life is this, you start to find inspiration everywhere. For example, I received a kindle for my birthday last year. It has saved me tons of room in my already over-crowded personal library. One of the other fabulous things it comes with is some games to play when you just feel like relaxing. Solitaire has always been one of my favorites. I used to play with my Grandmother when she was alive. We would spend a solid afternoon just relaxing and playing cards. It was a good time to discuss whatever was on our mind and I am forever thankful for those memories. So the portable electronic version is quite handy. No need for a lot of space or a deck of cards. It keeps the mind sharp and provides entertainment as you wait at the doctor, dentist or other such fun places. Ok, that is all well and good, but what does this have to do with inspiration? Great question. The other day I had noticed a few lessons I can take from the game and apply them to life. First the hand you are dealt. Sometimes you begin with a hand that looks like you are doomed before you begin. Such can be the case in life as well. We are born in the wrong economy, or on the ‘wrong side of the tracks’. Many people use these as justifications. What they really are is excuses. Much like in the game of solitaire, a few right moves and we can turn things around completely. I have started a game thinking there is no way I’ll win this hand, but sure enough I just keep playing and I come out a winner. So when looking at a situation that seems impossible I think of that card game and remember sometimes the worst deal can lead to the best game.
Another fabulous feature of the electronic version is at the very bottom of the screen it has a little ‘help’ button. Sometimes I can’t seem to find a move and I think I have lost the game. I push the little help button and it shows me one little move I may have missed. Suddenly one move leads to two, two moves lead to three and so on. Before you know it I have won the game. Ok, I can only imagine what your thinking. Unlike the staples commercials or this game, life does not have an ‘easy’ or ‘help’ button. On the contrary, it does. These help buttons are called friends, co-workers, books. Sometimes it even comes in the form of just taking a break or step back and examining our path so far.
So remember, when you think you have been dealt a losing hand or the game has been lost. Keep playing. Push the help button if you need to. You never know when you will come out a winner.
The very last lesson I learned from this one simple game? Even if you do find yourself a ‘loser’ in one particular game, you can always deal a new hand and start over. There is always the next game. May all your games be victories today!
We left off last week discussing looking at all we have to be grateful for verses all that is wrong. We discussed how to do it with other people. We discussed how to do it with things and situations in our life. Now we are going to discuss one of the most important ways to apply this principle, with ourselves. I was hanging out with a very beautiful friend of mine the other night and out of the blue she says “I am so unattractive right now”. I set down my cup of coffee to try to figure out where this random statement came from. “Why?” was pretty much all I could muster. She went on to explain that she thinks nobody would find her attractive because in the last year she has gained 30 pounds. Now I would have never guessed that to be the case, but taking her at her word I asked her several questions. Do you like your make-up? How is your fashion sense? Do you always shower and try to look nice? With the exception of an occasional roll of the eyes she had to say yes to all of them. Just because we have one flaw does not make us a flawed person. We all have strengths, we all have weaknesses. What seems odd to me is as a culture we seem to address these issues backwards. Focusing all of our energy on our faults as we see them can only lead us to feeling inferior and depressed. Now I am not saying if you do have an issue to work on that you should ignore it, not at all. Work on it, but do not focus on it. We should do our best to focus on our strengths to use the natural skills we have to bring the maximum amount of greatness to the world. As we do we stand the best chance of helping others and our confidence will soar. Knowing how well we can do things will put us in a far better frame to address the concerns we have with the other aspects of our lives. Then when we look in the mirror and see those faults, just as we did with others we will understand it is the situation, not the person we are unhappy with.
Yesterday we discussed focusing on what people bring to our lives and what we love about them so in the challenging times we can remember it is just a situation, not the person we are upset with. Here is how to apply that same logic to other situations in life. Ever had a bad day at work? If your answer is no, please leave the name of where you work in the comments section so I can apply. In almost every job I know even ones people enjoy there are bad days. The important part here, much like with people is to come up with a list of things you love about your job so when the bad day happens you will understand it is the exception and not the rule. The same works for your car/your house and every other thing and situation we can imagine. So much like yesterday I suggest picking out the things that give you the most headaches and compose lists of things about them that you are grateful for. Car always seem to have problems? I know this one all too well. It does get us to and from work so we can at least earn the money to fix it. Allows for longer travel. House having things going bad left and right it seems? Try you and your family being homeless. One time last winter we had no heat, it seemed freezing inside. Then I went out to get a warm cup of coffee. First, that fact I could afford one and travel there safely I began to appreciate. I also realized I had four walls to block the wind, a roof to block the snow. It could always be far worse. Quite often we are focused on the problem and our need to fix it. Chances are that 90% of the things in your life are going right, do not let the 10% ruin that. Like to two mentioned examples, even in the worst of times there is always something to be grateful for.
Have a legendary weekend my friends!