Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Your time is short, your time is long

Time is short.
How long is a day?
How long is a decade?
How long is your life?

Your time is short.  It's passing by so quickly.  You look back and what seemed like a moment ago is the distant past. Babies are now children or even adults.  I'm not asking you to make each and every moment count but I am asking you to look at what you are doing and make sure it's how you are choosing to spend your time.  Make sure it's not passing you by.

Time is long.
How long is it when you are waiting to see a loved one?
How long is it during that last hour of school or work?
How long is it when you are doing something you love to do?

Your time is long.  It is so filled with hope, and joy, and love.  It's not only your time either.  You share it with the people you are with.  You have time to make the world a better place.  You can focus on HUGE things or keep it small, but you have your entire life before you to make something wonderful.

Time is funny because it is constant externally but is so imbued with feelings that it becomes flexible for each of us.  The events that make today a good day can be fleeing or near forever . . . it's up to us.

What do you expect?

I never wanted to be rich or famous.  I never hoped for any of that.  I never expected it either.  I'm not upset because I'm not rich or famous either.  Not wanting all that and not being all that makes for good days.

There are people that live unhappy lives because they want more and don't have it.  Perhaps they expected that their house would be nicer than their parent's house or their kids would be trouble-free and, when the house needs paint and the kids need a tutor (or a lawyer), it's not a good day.

It's not wrong to HOPE for a better life or better things.  Sometimes hope is all we have to keep us going.  It's also not wrong to EXPECT a better life or what-have-you.  It becomes difficult though, when you are not working to fulfill those expectations; when you are expecting them to happen for you.

The thing is, we can't let hopes and expectations overwhelm our reality.  We can't live our lives disappointed because our hopes and expectations are never met.  We need, sometimes, to accept what we have and what we are willing to work for and realize that those things are good enough. . .  and often pretty good.

We don't need to give up on our hopes and expectations.  We just need to put them in context and do what we can to make them a reality.

Document the good days

For longer than I can remember girls and women have been telling me things that happened or things that I said or did.  They have dates and days and sometimes times.  I'm challenged though because I don't seem to recollect as well as every woman I have ever known.  I don't always clearly recall those things I said or did and I don't remember the "when" of the matter.  As there is no permanent record though, I must trust the information they give.  However, I wonder a bit.  Could all these women be part of a conspiracy where they make up events with specific times and dates to lend credibility for things that never happened?

The answer, of course, is for me to document things.  I should be recording everything and keeping a diary to index all the recordings.  Then, when confronted with something I said or did, I can verify.

That's a bit extreme.  It's borderline crazy really.

Having said that, it's good to document the good things and the good days. Writing something down can be magical.  It can make something more permanent than it was before.  Writing something down requires a person to take a bit of time and think about it a bit longer than they might.

Whether you use Facebook, or a diary, or some other thing, looking back on what you've documented can give you a fresh perspective on today or a boost of happiness when you need it.  It can show how you've grown and improved.

In my house we say, "If it's not written down, it didn't happen." and good days are worth documenting so we know they did happen.

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Don't be a quitter

There you are; trying to see the good in each day.  Smiling and laughing and singing and practicing all the skills in your bag of tricks and yet . . . you are just not feeling it.  The house is a mess or your projects are running behind.  The kids are fussing or you can't find that file you need to have.  Things are not going well and you've just about enough and that ice-cream or wine or bed are calling to you saying, "It isn't worth it.  Give up and come to me instead."

Don't give up.
Don't give in.

We don't know when that break-through will finally happen.  We don't know where success is going to find us. We do know that if we stop now . . it's over.  So don't stop.  Push through and keep in mind that amazing feeling of satisfaction when you succeed.

You can do this.
Put some weight on it.
Rub some dirt in it.
Push through.
Use whatever cliché works for you but get it done.

I believe in you.
You can make today a good day.

Monday, February 12, 2018

It's OK to walk away

When I was younger I thought that I had to finish everything I started.  I finished books I didn't like.  I cleaned my plate when filled with food I didn't want.  I even felt a self-imposed obligation to listen to a song to the end even when I wanted to listen to something else.  Even as a parent I made my children finish out all the activities they signed up for even when they didn't give it their best (because it wasn't their thing).

I'm in recovery now though. Over time I've found that it's OK to walk away from things that don't bring you joy or help you along your journey.

If we are doing things that are preventing you from making today a good day it is fine for us to stop doing those things. We don't have to explain or make up polite excuses.  We can just walk away.

We can walk away from bad relationships.  We can walk away from uncomfortable situations.  We can walk away from failed attempts at good-day-making.  We can walk away.

Later, we can walk back if we want.  We can come at it from a different angle or attitude.  We can try again after we've rested or rethought the goals. Or . . we can walk away forever.

Friday, February 9, 2018

Today is better than yesterday

You have made it to today!
Yesterday and the day before and the day before, etc. had situations that could have prevented today but they didn't stop you.  Congratulations.

You made choices.  People around you made choices.  Nature did its thing and still, here you are!
Lessons were learned. Experiences were had. People were encountered. You are improved.

Today is going to have a new set of challenges but because of yesterday and all the previous yesterdays you are better prepared for those challenges.  Today is better than yesterday because of you.

Take a moment today and be thankful for all the yesterdays; all the people and events that helped you be here.  As you encounter the stresses of today keep in mind that tomorrow these will me the lessons of yesterday.

(Not so) secret tip:  You are the reason today is better than yesterday.  You take or leave what yesterday offered.  I believe in you though.  You made it!  Today is yours do use as you will.


Wednesday, February 7, 2018

A lists of lists

I love lists.  They clearly illuminate what's important.  Some lists are written down and some I just keep in my head.  They are changing all the time but always there.   Any day can be a good day with the correct application of the right list.
  1. People - Make a list of the people in your life that make it special.  Then set some goals for making some of them part of each day.  It might be a phone call, or a postcard, or a chat.  If it's someone that's passed then it might be quiet time of reflection or prayer.
  2. Food - We all have food that makes us feel better.  It might be comfort food or healthy food but knowing what snacks or food you want or need to make today a good day can make a good day.  Your grocery list or errand list should have "good day foods" on it.
  3. Books - There are books I've read so many times they are like an old friend or a warm blanket.  I can open them up anywhere and know what's happened and what's going to happen.  They are instant good day makers.  You book list might have books you've read out loud to your kids.  It's not important if the books are picture, comic, self-help, or bodice-rippers; your book list will be yours.  Make sure you have the listed books on hand as needed.
  4. Objects - Raindrops on roses, whiskers on kittens, bright copper kettles and warm woolen mittens may be some of your favorite things.  You may have photographs of your family that bring you joy.  Perhaps the ashtray you made in shop class takes to you a place and time when all was good in the world.  Knowing what things make you happy is one step closer to being happy.
  5. Activities - You may like doing things by yourself or with a friend.  Gardening or walking or doing puzzles or watching a movie may be your jam.  Whatever it is you like to do write it down in a list so you have a clear idea of what your best options are when you need a boost.
  6. Tasks for the day - Write down what you want to do today.  Does it seem reasonable?  Do you need to move things to tomorrow?  Are they prioritized and optimized?  There should be things on that list that you enjoy.   Marking them off as you finish provides feelings of success.  Moving the things that are not completed to tomorrow's list is totally acceptable.
  7. Goals - I once read that if you aim at nothing you are sure to hit it.  Naming what you want is a great reminder to do things that will help you reach the goal.  If you have "Be a world-class singer" on your list and you are not singing daily, you may need to revise your goal or do more to achieve it.
  8. Bad-day makers - Have you ever made a list of things that are sure to trigger a bad day?  A list of things to avoid?  What would happen if you had that list in front of you every day?  You might make more of an effort to mitigate those things each day.  You might also work to remove them from your life entirely.  If you had a list and three of the items were work related you might be motivated to change jobs.

Monday, February 5, 2018

"Blockers", "root cause", "5 whys" and you

Sometimes things are in the way of a good day.  They might be big or small, or internal or external but they are preventing you from having the day you want.  Those are good day blockers.

When blockers occur, we can let them remain and stop us in our tracks or we can work to remove them.  We can take each one as it comes along and change the world or ourselves to make today a good day.  Once all the blockers are gone, the day will be good.

It's like a "Choose your own adventure" book:
What is preventing a good day?
     Blocker X is preventing a good day
Remove Blocker X
    Blocker X is fixed (yay!!)
    Oh no! 
Blocker Y is in the way now.
    Remove Blocker Y
    Blocker Y can't be unblocked because of Blocker Z.
         Remove Blocker Z
    Remove Blocker Y
No Blockers!!
Have a good day!

At some point, all the blockers will be removed (or you may discover that you were the blocker and you don't really want it removed) and you can go on with your good day.

Oftentimes the hardest part of removing blockers is recognizing them.  Sometimes what you think is the problem really isn't.  Trying to find the root cause of a blocker can be the hardest part of dealing with one.

Let's say you need to call a family member to make today a good day.  Maybe you need information or a favor.  Maybe you need an audio hug.  Your battery is dead though.  
Problem:  I need to talk but I cannot.
Cause: Phone is dead.

Is that the root cause or the immediate cause and what's the best way to fix the root cause?
We can use the "5 Whys*" to trace the problem and find solutions.  Simply ask "why?" at least five times at each level of the issue.

Why is my phone dead?
  "I didn't charge it last night".
Why didn't you charge it last night?
  "I was too tired to plug it in."
Why were you too tired?
  "I stayed up late watching TV?"
Why was watching TV more important than rest?
  "It wasn't.  I was just killing time."
Why were you not resting instead?
  "I have no good reason.  I should go to bed sooner."

In this scenario there are multiple places where the immediate problem could be fixed (bring a power pack, plug in the phone before TV, set a reminder to plug in phone) and we've identified a root cause.

Blockers are going to differ and finding the right "whys" to ask may not be natural; it may feel a bit odd.  The thing is that, if the Blocker isn't removed by what you have asked or what you have answered or if it returns, you can try different whys, receive different answers, and do something different.  Repeat as necessary.

Having trouble dealing with a family member or a co-worker or a stranger?  Ask why.
Not enjoying your job or how you spend your day?  Ask why.
Sad?  Ask why.

One last (important) thing!  Once we think we know the root cause of the blocker we are trying to remove so that we can have or make a good day?  We need to do whatever we discovered we need to do.  Doing is the most critical part of today being a good day.

*The "5 whys" system was developed by Toyota Motor Company back in the day.