Archives for November 2019

Show gratitude always

We are a few days out from Thanksgiving. In thinking about writing about being thankful or gratitude, I thought back to a post from last November. I can’t say it better, so here is my annual blog for the week of Thanksgiving.

This is a good time of year to think of gratitude generally and what you are thankful for specifically. At the same time, it’s a great time of year to spread good feelings, which you can do by letting others know when you appreciate something they have done for you.

Those of you who have younger children (or older ones…) know that you end up reminding them to say “thank you” all of the time. That is because thanking someone or showing gratitude is a learned behavior. If it came naturally or from observing others we wouldn’t have to teach children to do so.

Hopefully you remember to thank people as appropriate in your daily life. In my day, this can be thanking someone holding the door for me when I get to my office, for holding the elevator for me, or for making a pot of hot water so I can have tea and get that needed caffeine injection upon arriving for work. Many of these situations are universal to all of us, but I notice when I hold a door for someone and they walk through without saying anything.

Of course, if you go through your day looking for when people should be thanking you, you likely will be disappointed. Instead, I think about how I want to come across to others, as well as ways I don’t want to come across to others.

We all have bad days, but most days we should recognize when thanking someone is proper and appropriate. Plus, it has the added bonus of making you or the other person feel good, making it a great way to go through life.

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Challenge yourself

It is good to get out of your comfort zone. What that means is different for each person. One person’s challenge is just a normal day for a different person. When you challenge yourself it is invigorating and makes life interesting.

Last weekend I did the Phoenix Summit Challenge with my friend Warren and my wife. It was multiple hikes, with seven summits and a total of 25 miles of hiking. My wife and I hike a lot, but not that long of hikes. I had never hiked 25 miles in one day, so this was a real challenge. I assumed I could do it, but you don’t know until you try.

It always seems easy to start a challenge, but once you get into it the real meat of it, the challenge really begins. Our challenge included hiking and driving – we figured out fast getting warmed up on the hikes and then cooling down on the drives between the hikes was in and of itself a challenge. But we made our way through any thoughts of not finishing and powered on.

Whatever your challenge is, when it gets tough you need the mental fortitude to stick with it. When it’s a physical challenge, you need your body to hold up, along with your mind. That’s where training and working towards goals comes into play. Try to come up with a plan leading up to your challenge to give you the best shot of success. This could be practicing chess for months before playing your friend who is really good, or putting in the miles if you are running a marathon.

The best part is finishing. Whether you win or lose the chess match, following through is the real test. In our case, it was finishing the last hike with a beer at the top of South Mountain even though a Ranger appeared next to us out of nowhere. The Ranger stood by us and said he would let us finish the beers because it was the day of the PSC and we had finished the challenge of the summits (we did have to hike back down, but the last summit was the feel good point of the day!). It was a great moment we will remember.

What is a challenge you are willing to work towards and try to complete? There has to be one. There likely are more. Take one at a time, make a plan and you will give yourself the best opportunity to complete your challenge. You will feel great when you get out of your comfort zone and complete the challenge or goal!

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Dream Focused

I have an old t-shirt from a concert I attended years ago. On the back it says “dream focused.” I hadn’t worn it in a while, but happened to pull it out this week. At the same time, I received an email from a friend who said I need to write about the power of dreaming. Coincidence? I say inspiration!

Dreaming is powerful. Whether as a child or now, dreaming can take you to another place, or place you on a path towards a goal. It involves curiosity. It also can be hard to do in the daily grind of life where we spend little time without someone or something (think cell phone, tablet, computer) in front of our face. When this happens the time to dream is lost.

I think that some of the best ideas or plans I come up with alone or with my wife happen when we are out of town. We generally are disconnected and have time to think of things not involving work, kids, or other daily concerns; our minds are free.

Once you free your mind, you may well find your body following. It could be to a new job or to start a business. It could be to change how you parent or deal with a troubled family member.

It’s a matter of being able to step back and have perspective. Of course this can happen while you are slogging through your everyday life, but it’s less likely. It also doesn’t mean you need to go out of the country or do a cave in the woods. You can create the space needed to dream and let your mind be free from routine in your home or hometown, but then you have to be intentional to do so.

Maybe you need to go on a hike but not listen to a podcast or listen to background music you won’t pay specific attention to (I used to do this with long jams by the Grateful Dead or Phish, but that’s another story). The idea is to create the space for your mind to drift and thoughts to come and go until you latch onto something that intrigues you.

Dreaming is important and powerful, and opens you up to opportunity. So dream big and then focus on how you move towards your dream coming true.

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Work on your implicit bias

Everyone has implicit bias. The term “implicit bias” describes when we have attitudes towards people or associate stereotypes with them unconsciously. This can be on account of race, gender, sexual orientation, age – the list is longer than most people think and specific to each person. And this isn’t about being racist or sexist, it’s about the unconscious thoughts that come into our heads when we see someone walking down the street.

Implicit bias is difficult to change. We all need to try to be aware of our own implicit biases and be motivated to work on them; don’t make negative (or positive) assumptions about people just from seeing them walking towards you or standing on the side of the road. One idea is to analyze a situation before coming up with who you think that person is despite the unconscious thoughts that come into your head, let alone making a comment or taking action. Instead of going with your first feeling, focus and think about members of stereotyped groups as individuals by thinking of their specific word and actions, and how they differ from what you see as  the stereotype.

One thing that results in implicit bias is when you surround yourself only with people who look, think, act and believe like you. Doing this results in you being in a vacuum in which what you think and feel are validated and any negative thoughts of other groups or types of people are reinforced. This happens a lot as most people are more comfortable in situations in which there is unlikely to be conflict.

Engaging with people who are different than you opens up your world. It doesn’t mean you have to change your belief system to align with people who are different than you. On the other hand, the opportunity should provide perspective and the chance to learn or even to agree not to agree in a respectful way. You don’t have to change your politics or religion if you speak with people with different beliefs, but you can and should treat them with respect. Doing so will open up your world to different people, ideas and the chance to looks at things from a different perspective.

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