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.
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!
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
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.
I believe karma exists. Maybe it is an existential justice system, maybe not. It isn’t necessarily instant and may take a long time, but it happens. The rub is that you may never know it happens where you were wronged and are hoping for karmic retribution.
So what can you do to be on the right side of karma? Be
intentional in a positive way. This means to be intentional and positive in
what you do, what you say and how you act. There is a difference between
generosity and compassion as compared with cruelty or greed.
One idea is to be nice. You can’t do it all of the time, but only you control your mood and actions. And people appreciate dealing with nice people. Another thing you can do is to do the right thing. It makes a difference to others and will make you feel better about yourself.
This is about character and how you want to live your life. It may affect how you are viewed by others, but that shouldn’t be the focus; you should want to be a good person just because. There is truth in the statement that you get what you put out into the world. What do you want to get??
Everything is who you know is a true statement. This includes the company president and the janitor. You never know who will be important to you in the future or what that person may achieve. The company president may be important to you professionally, or maybe the janitor’s child had the same issue your child is having and has suggestions or connections that may help.
These are reasons to know many, people, as well as different types of people. Having relationships with a diverse set of people also can help you overcome implicit bias. Many times your relationships will take you farther and provide more opportunity than your brain. Don’t get me wrong, your brain can help you in life too, but sometimes you don’t get the chance to use your brain if a connection doesn’t provide the opportunity.
Make it a goal to expand your network and relationships. Don’t just make it numbers, but look for people from different backgrounds, types of work, etc. The more you nurture these types of relationships, the farther you will fly.
Life goes by fast. As you age, people around you get sick, are in accidents, and even pass away. If you don’t stop to do things you enjoy, you will end up in the next day and have missed a chance to do something you enjoy, even if just for a moment.
Life is full of wonder. Do you notice? Live each day in a way that you can look back and point to the moments that were good, or even amazing. How much better is that than looking back with regret? We are in control of our thoughts and feelings, but also of our actions.
Smile at strangers. By the way, it doesn’t matter whether they smile back, though most will. Little things like this make life fun. Also, you never know when the person you smiled at needed a pick me up and things like this make people feel good. It will make you feel good too. Little things like this add up to make life better and more enjoyable, and to connect people and create community.
I heard this somewhere and it stayed with me. Think about this and you will know it’s true. If you can’t execute, your ideas are useless. This may mean you need to work with other’s whose skill sets compliment yours, i.e, they are better with follow through and can execute. Or it may mean you need to work on your follow through and execution.
What to take from this is that it’s important to have self-awareness and know your strengths and weaknesses. This is the only way to assess what you need to work on. But know that working on your weaker skills may not help you. If not, you need to look to others to work with who are strong in areas you aren’t
The last thing you need to be is the person with seemingly
great ideas who can’t act on them. Or maybe you are great taking ideas and
turning them into action, but couldn’t come up with the type of ideas you like
to work on even if you tried.
You need to figure out your skill sets, those you need to
work on and then determine whether you can get there or not. It is okay not to
get there because that is part of learning your strengths and weaknesses. As
you learn about yourself, you can adjust so you can, whether alone or with the
help of others, make progress executing and moving towards your goals.
Dance, go down the slide at your kid’s school, sing along with that song you love while driving down the road. The point is to do things that bring you joy as long as it’s not at the expense of others.
Don’t let other’s opinions control what you do and the choices you make. You know yourself and you should focus on what you think and like. If you are open to other’s opinions, you can ask people you trust what they think, but then make your own decisions, i.e. dance to your own drummer.
Life is short, so being yourself and doing things that are joyful is important. If you don’t, the moment will pass you by. You may or may not regret your inaction. If you do act, you likely will look back with fond memories and smile when you do. And who doesn’t like looking back on a fun memory and smiling to themselves or sharing it with others?
It is easy to judge others and many times we do so unconsciously. A great example is the person driving too fast and who may have cut you off. It is easy to just assume they are aggressive drivers who think wherever they need to be is more important than where you are going. I like to think they have somewhere they need to be, such as rushing to the hospital or something similar. It keeps my blood pressure down and changes what my potential reaction might be otherwise.
It is good to remember we all have faults and bad habits. And we don’t want to be judged on the (hopefully) outlier moment when we act badly. Maybe thinking this way can help us change behaviors or bad habits. Focusing on yourself is much more productive than focusing on others.
Sometimes I try to make not judging others a game. What I mean is I make up a story on why they are how they are, are acting how they are, or why they just cut me off on the road. I am sure what I think is not close to being accurate, but it keeps me in check and sometimes makes me laugh to myself if I come up with something really good. Such a reaction is way better than thinking in a judgmental way or thinking negative thoughts about others.
Next time that car cuts you off, think about the emergency they could be dealing with. Also think what others think when you drive like that because you are in a hurry . Then try not to laugh as you think about how everything is relative to where you are sitting.