Archive | June, 2015

Not That Bad

30 Jun

I have a group of friends that I do things with socially. Sometimes we all get together, sometimes just a few of us can get away, but we generally enjoy each other, and have fun. As a group we’ve determined that our adventures will have a certain level of decorum, and we try to stick to that. There is one among us though who isn’t in full agreement about this, and pushes the limits from time to time. When he brings his outlying suggestions to the group he always says the same thing, “It’s not that bad.” He knows he will be outnumbered if we keep to our original decision, but that never stops him from trying again.

We all have decisions to make about what we will, and what we won’t participate in. My standards will be different from yours. Everyone gets to decide where their lines are, and how far they are willing to go in every endeavor. For some there are no limits, and everything is fair game. For others, the boundaries are very close, and defined. We have to choose what works for us, and where we are comfortable. Maybe your group is fine going to strip clubs on Friday night to hang out. Maybe not. We choose what we want, and we need to make sure it’s where we’re comfortable.

Once we’ve decided where our limits are, if we aren’t interested in changing them, we can communicate them to those we interact with. Sometimes our friends may try to push us into situations that make us uncomfortable, and when that happens we can certainly say no. We don’t have to go along if we don’t want to. On the other hand, if we feel open to new ideas, expanding those boundaries may open up new experiences that will embellish our lives. But we should ensure they are in keeping with our personal standards. For instance, say you have a friend who has no problem with lying, and that makes you uncomfortable. Whenever you go out with them they lie about the check, or about a ticket, or something regarding an event. You may decide to excuse yourself from activities involving them. You don’t have to be uncomfortable, and you don’t have to compromise your standards. People may say, “It’s not that bad,” but your standards are yours, and they are worth keeping.

Today if you feel you are being pressured into doing something you don’t feel comfortable with, you may say no. You may politely decline the invitation. You are entitled to do things that make you feel comfortable, and confident. You don’t have to compromise your standards or decisions. You are in control of your life. You may manage it any way that works best for you. After all, nobody knows what’s best for you better than you do. Just because someone else thinks, “It’s not that bad,” doesn’t mean you have to go along. Today do it your way. Be confident. You know what’s best.

The Checkout Line

29 Jun

Unfortunately in our lives, there are some situations that make us uncomfortable, and sometimes there is no way to escape them. Maybe your boss wants to talk to you about an assignment you’ve been dreading, or your friend is having a bad day and dumping it all over you, or a family member is calling because you haven’t been available and they are upset, or a million other situations come up that are uncomfortable. Because we know these things are difficult we may try to dodge them. We may ignore the phone and not answer it, duck the other way down the hall when we see someone coming, or pretend we don’t see the person we are avoiding as we rush by. Those strategies work temporarily, but eventually we have to deal with whatever is waiting for us. We can try to check out, but that only delays the inevitable.

Checking out is something we all do from time to time. If we’re in an uncomfortable or boring conversation that seems never ending, we zone out. As my former boss used to say, “We go to our happy place.” I’m not sure if where we go is happy, but it is away from the situation we’re in, which may help for the moment. The benefit of doing this is that while we’re checked out of the present, we aren’t listening to whatever is making us uncomfortable. But the down side is that as long as we’re checked out, the situation cannot change. If we don’t address the issue, decide to talk openly about it, and share our perceptions and understanding, the situation will not change. And the best thing to do when we’re in an uncomfortable situation is try to change it to a more positive scenario. In order to do that, we have to be there. We have to be present.

Being present when we’re uncomfortable takes some effort. We don’t want to be there so it takes discipline, and it may take courage. We have to choose to be there. We have to recognize that is the only way out. It seems counter intuitive that the way out is to be in, but that’s how it works. We have to stay in the situation to change it. We have to check back in.

Today if you find yourself in a difficult conversation, or an uncomfortable situation, choose to be there for it. Listen completely, and calmly share your perceptions, and views. Make suggestions to change things so they work better for you. There is nothing so confusing or difficult that you can’t figure it out. But you have to be there to do that. Between stations, the radio only plays static. If we want music in our lives, we have to tune in. So plan to tune in. You don’t need any more static in your life. Check in, turn things around and harmony will return.

Going Dark

28 Jun

The other day while driving around I stopped at a very busy intersection. While I waited for the light to change, I saw a man walking across the street. He had headphones on, and was texting. There were cars turning into his lane, and lots of traffic. He was oblivious to it all. It appeared that because of the headphones he could not hear what was going on around him, and because he was looking down at his phone as he walked across the busy intersection, he couldn’t see what was going on either. So basically, he was navigating a dangerous intersection both deaf and blind – by choice. I was stunned. It was astounding to see, and somewhat disturbing.

Today technology is everywhere. We carry our smartphones with us to keep in touch, and many of us listen to music with headphones as we go about our various tasks. There is nothing wrong with technology, but the problem comes when that technology endangers us, or isolates us. There are limits to how we can successfully use these tools. Everywhere we go, we see people walking and texting, and tripping, and running into things. People even text as they drive, and nothing could be more dangerous. Despite the many deaths that have been the result of this behavior, some continue to do it. Headphones are nice, but can be dangerous as well if they keep us from hearing alerts around us. If we don’t hear the warning, we can’t duck.

All of this technology has its place, and it’s useful. But there is always a trade off. An associate of mine sent me a picture of a dinner he recently attended. There were several company CEOs and senior leaders from various corporations there. It was a chance for ideas to be exchanged, and plans made for the coming year. The picture showed them all sitting around the table looking at their phones, and texting instead of talking. It was astonishing to see them interacting with their phones instead of with those around them, especially when there was such a wealth of experience, and inspiration available right there at the table. I’m sure we’ve all been out with friends, and waited while they texted this person or that, or took every call that came. It’s disheartening to feel that even though we have taken our time for them, they have not taken their time for us.

Today if your’re used to texting throughout the day, and wearing headphones, perhaps go dark for a while. Try being in the moment, where you are. Put your phone down, and connect with those around you. There will be time to catch up with others later. If you’re used to wearing headphones all day, try taking them off for a while to hear the conversations around you, and get involved. Enjoy your gadgets, stay in touch, but remember, while you’re pushing buttons, and texting people who aren’t there, while you’re zoning out to the music in your ears, your life is going by. Precious moments to connect with those right next to you are being missed. Take some time to go dark, unplug, connect, and converse. Interaction in person is the very best we can experience. Enjoy that. Catch your favorite tune, and check your phone later. They’ll still be there.

Backing Up

27 Jun

Within our wide circle of acquaintances, friends, family, significant others, co-workers, and others we meet all kinds of people, and personalities. Some are easier for us to relate to than others, but each brings different types of behaviors to interact with. Sometimes we have interactions with people who struggle with various issues. Perhaps they have an anger problem, maybe they are shy, there may be substance abuse issues, or aggressive tendencies. Whatever we run into, when we are with them, we find ways to navigate whatever they’re going through. Because we care for one another, if someone has a particular problem that complicates things, we might feel we can help. It seems like the right thing to do to try to help.

Helping others is always noble. It’s generally a good decision, but some problems cannot be helped by others. We may find ourselves constantly working with someone over an issue, giving advice, trying hard to show them ways to work things out, but nothing changes. When they complain about the situation, we may offer suggestions, or try directing them to sources that may help. Because of our concern, over time we may find that we feel some ownership for their problem. We may get too involved in it, and try again, and again to make them see what we think will work.

True change never happens because someone tells us we need to change. It only happens when we decide we want to change. Nobody can do it for us, and the best advice in the world will go unheeded if we are not ready to receive it. When we are trying to help someone else, we must remember that. We cannot change anyone but ourselves. Despite our best intentions, we cannot make anyone see the light, and turn their lives. Even if the answer is plainly obvious to us, we cannot make anyone else see it. It has to come from them. The best thing we can do is to let them do it their way. If they come to us for advice, we may offer it, and then we need to let it go. Since it’s not our issue, we can’t solve it. We can be supportive, we can be caring and kind, but we cannot make anyone change anything in their lives. When they are ready, they will do it themselves.

Today if there is someone close to you that you’ve been trying so hard to help with an issue, remember all you can do is offer your support, your best advice, and your care. The problem is theirs to solve. You cannot fix it for them. They must work things out themselves. Be there for them. Be a true friend. When they reach for you, offer your hand, but let them make their own choices. You are valiant, and kind, to want to help. Continue to be there, but remember the problem is theirs to solve. They know you’re there. And being there for them is the best you can do.

Being a Magician

26 Jun

I recently heard a very distinguished, and professional man speak at a college graduation ceremony. He talked about his life, his accomplishments, and his motivations. He is very successful, and had a lot of stories about his failures, and how he overcame them to get where he is today. And he talked about his father. His father had been an architect – something he didn’t really choose for himself, but something his family wanted him to do. He was a good architect, and devoted to his work, but his entire life he always wanted to be a magician. He would perform magic tricks at every party he was invited to, or hosted. He told his son he was happiest when he was performing magic. The speaker talked about that, and how his father’s eyes would light up whenever he had the chance to perform even the smallest of tricks. Then he encouraged everyone in the audience to do what brought them joy instead of what was expected. “Become magicians!” he said.

As children, we all had dreams of what we would become when we grew up. We dreamed of being race car drivers, dare devils, astronauts, dancers, singers, movie stars, etc. But as we got older, and began to plan our lives, the parameters of those choices came into focus, and perhaps we chose something more settled, or more secure. Being settled, and secure are important, but if we are still dreaming of doing something else, we won’t find happiness. Being happy is something we have to give ourselves. Life won’t bring it to us. It’s our responsibility, so we should do the things that make us happy. Sometimes that means doing something different than we are doing now.

We can try to do anything we dream about. Anything we want to do is possible. The only person stopping us from changing our lives from doing what is expected, into lives we really want to live, is us. We deserve to live the lives we most want for ourselves. Are we doing what we want to do most? Are we happy doing the things we’re doing? If not, and we want to be magicians, we can be magicians. We can change course if we really want to. This life is a precious gift. Every day is precious. If we aren’t happy, we can change things. We can live a life that makes us happy.

Today if you’re feeling unhappy with the choices you’ve made, it’s not too late. You can change your course. You can change anything you like. It may take time, and planning, and you may have to rearrange things, but you can special order a better life for yourself. You can be happy. Once today is gone it will never come back. Make sure you spend it living it the way that makes you happiest. You deserve the very best. Make a plan to get it.