Your Expectations Depend on Where You Look

Focus and expectations

Expectations…

My kid’s call me “a warner.” Though I didn’t know this until relatively recently. The truth is, I have a tendency to look for all possible pitfalls, potholes, or troubles that might present problems. It doesn’t matter if it’s a goal I’m pursuing or something my kid’s are considering…I identify the problems. I am very good at it.

I hate it, though. You see, I very much want to avoid disappointment. So I prepare for the worst and hope for the best. Honestly, I seem to forget the hope for the best part.

I must see myself as if a sentry at his post keeping any harm from coming to those I am to protect. I guess that would be fine, but it has the tendency to thwart or dampen enthusiasm for new ideas. Over the years, I have kept the “problems” I see more and more to myself. I’m trying not to be a wet blanket.

Looking for what can go wrong, saps the energy out of going for after a goal or following through on an idea you have.

I have always seen it as doing my due diligence. Walking through and planning for what might go wrong so I could decide whether it, whatever the idea was, was wise to proceed. The basic idea is having more information can produce better informed decisions. This is not broken.

What is important, however, is where you put your eyes…
where you put your focus.

My Pastor shared his story of his struggle and success with overcoming a serious health problem. During his struggle, he had found quotes that resonated with him and provided him with enthusiasm and motivation. One such quote hit me the most:

Stop being afraid of what could go wrong and start getting excited about what could go right.—unknown

When I heard it, I felt my eyes change focus from the problems (what could go wrong) to the successes (what could go right.)

I will try very hard to look more and more at what can go right. I understand how that can keep fan the coals of enthusiasm for success.

I want to share an article I found on psychologytoday.com, 4 Ways the Power of Suggestion Can Change Your Life, by Polly Campbell author of Imperfect Spirituality.

It deals with how the power of suggestion and our expectations influence achieving our goals and that this power of suggestion is always at work, for good or bad. So be careful.

I think it’s a good prescription for “getting excited about what could go right.”

5 Roadblocks to Your Teachability

Detour around your roadblocks to teachability

Your success or lack of success stems from your teachability. So how teachable are you?

You understand that in order to improve yourself you must continue to learn. If you don’t, especially today, you will quickly fall behind those who are willing to learn and keep up or develop new skills.

Teachability according to Merriam-Webster dictionary means the ability to learn by instruction. This begs the question what, besides physical or mental learning disabilities, impedes your ability to learn by instruction?

Let’s consider some possible roadblocks. If you find yourself saying, “yes, I do that”, then you might have roadblocks in your teachability.

1. Little or no desire to learn. This seems obvious, but it’s important you consider your desire to learn. If you’re reading this, you are showing that you are open to new ideas and have some desire to learn. Clearly, if you are not looking to learn anything new, you won’t grow personally or professionally. You’ll only have your existing skill set. What are you willing to learn about? In which areas have you stopped learning? Why?

2. Inability to listen. Being teachable means you will receive instruction. So you need to be able to listen to the instructions in order to carry them out. But this is more than about instruction. The ability to listen requires your being open to learn from someone else.

Have you ever tried to help someone with their problem and found they were nodding in agreement but didn’t act on your help? Couldn’t you just see that they were politely hearing you, but not listening? There is a difference.

Are you guilty of this at times? Active listening requires full engagement with an open interest in learning. This applies whether you’re meeting someone for the first time and finding about who they are or taking a training course. If you aren’t willing to listen, you will be unable to act correctly to the instructions.

3. Don’t accept improvement suggestions. You’re leaning after all. You will make mistakes. So you need to be able to accept suggestions for improvement. To a large degree this relates to your ability to listen described above. When you receive suggestions for improvement, are you simply nodding politely and only hearing, not listening?

4. Impatience with the process. When learning something new it is very easy to become frustrated. Learning takes time. It takes effort to do the tasks and learn from any mistakes you make in practice. You need to allow yourself time to learn. Don’t rush. Have patience with the learning process. And it is a process not simply a task, so go through the process.

5. Pride. If you think you are better than others; if you are unwilling to admit you have something you don’t know and therefore have something to learn; if you feel you know better, your pride is getting in your way.

Your teachability or being teachable is mostly about humility.

Merriam-Webster defines humility this way…”freedom from pride or arrogance.” You can see that each roadblock mentioned above can be based in pride or arrogance. When you are humble, you are more open to possibilities and opportunities to learn.

If you’re prideful or arrogant, you essentially close yourself off from these same opportunities. It’s as if your pride has put blinders on you and you can’t “see” but one thing…your own way of doing things.

So many times people spend money on courses to learn how to make additional income. Courses like real estate investing, investing or trading in the stock market, how to become a copywriter, and so on. When they finish the course they don’t see the results they’d hoped.

A common response is to blame the course they paid for and seek a refund because “it didn’t work.” Now, this may be true sometimes. But it’s more likely the roadblocks mentioned here may have at least contributed to the lack of success.

While you seek to reach your own goals and improve yourself personally or professionally, watch carefully for these roadblocks. When you recognize one, detour around it.

To your success…

Free Time — Should It Be Free?

put free time on your calendar

Growth is a process and can be subject to how effectively you use your free time.  A common theme with people finding excuses for not doing something to better themselves is the “Ya but…” default response.  You know “I’d like to learn another language, but work is busy right now, by time I get home from work and get the kid’s settled it’s  time to go to bed.  I really don’t have the time.”

It’s time to be better aware of your free time

Instead of leaving improvement goals for the “extra” time that never seems to come up, schedule the time on your calendar for the upcoming week.

We often feel the need to sit in front of tv to ‘relax’, but if you actively pursued at least part of that time attaining some of your goals, you may find you don’t need that “relax” mind-numbing time…you’ll have more energy because you will have accomplished something.

This all starts with you.  YOU make decisions as to where you spend your time and how.  Even if you have a job, you have decided that you will spend your time employed for x hours this week as your primary source of income.

But what about the remaining time.  Moms and Dads often have time commitments for transporting and supporting their kids’ activities.  They’ve decided it’s important to spend that time developing their kids.  It’s all decisions about where and how to spend time.

So you have work hours, kids/family time mapped out.  What does your free time, often called, discretionary time look like?  Do you know, or do you find yourself saying “great, I don’t have to be anywhere tonight, so I’m going to relax”?

If you’re not careful you can spend lots of time relaxing…this relaxing can become so automatic that you get lulled into the belief you don’t have time for anything else, like improving yourself.

Make appointments with yourself and keep them

So what can you do?  I’ve wrote about using a to do list before, “Interested in keeping your day organized?”    Additionally, if you don’t use your calendar, you need to start.  I recommend using a digital calendar on your smartphone.  This makes it easier to edit and accomplish anywhere.

Each week spend a little time scheduling your week.  By this I mean, putting appointments on your calendar.

Put a block each day labelled “work” covering the hours you will be at work .  Now schedule any other family commitments for the week and put them on the calendar.

Next, schedule appointments with yourself to accomplish the things you will do towards your personal improvement.  Think about what you need to do for the week and put time blocks on your calendar.

This accomplishes a couple of things.  First and most important, the time blocks for personal improvement are now scheduled.  Those time blocks cannot be used for anything else.  You need to treat these blocks as you would any other important appointment.

Go to your appointment just as you would a doctor appointment.  This is now sacred time and you need to keep your appointment with yourself.

Another benefit of scheduling appointments with yourself is time won’t have a tendency to slip away.  Oftentimes, when you don’t have any appointments or time commitments, you tend to become less focussed until your next commitment, eg., going to work tomorrow.

This time feels like leisure time and you have a tendency to view it as free time.  When something is “free” it is easier to take for granted.  When your time is scheduled, it is no longer free…you’ll be more productive.

Planning your week and making appointments, particularly appointments with yourself, makes you more aware of your time and how you spend it.

Practice this and you’ll be able to learn that language you always wanted to; start that online business for additional income, or take courses to improve yourself as an employee.

Whatever your goal, it starts with how you use your time.  It’s your choice.  Make it a good choice.

Leaving the Comfort Zone

leaving the comfort zone

Planning and preparation are not meant to be the complete package.  If all you do is make plans and gather the necessary education, skills, and resources but don’t apply it towards achieving some goal, then what good is that.  Consider leaving your comfort zone.

Or put another way, you may be fooling yourself into believing you’re actively working towards your goal.  Well, maybe and maybe not.  Is there a quicker way?

I heard a phrase recently…it went like this, “authenticity and enthusiasm far outweigh preparation and perfection.”

If you have a cautious nature, in particular, you may not be comfortable trying something without understanding everything involved.  You may see too much risk in venturing forward without a complete understanding of consequences and scope.

I wouldn’t suggest throwing caution to the wind, but stepping out of your comfort zone is probably better than staying safe.  Steve Harvey says in this video “You Have to Jump.” Just take a leap and encounter things as they come up.  That’s becoming my mantra, JAICU (jay sue) “Just As It Comes Up.”

To me, it means you cannot wait until you have all the information or for everything to be in place, before you go for a goal.  Be true to yourself.  Is it something you want?  Do you know you want it?  Are you interested in it for yourself or because you feel you “ought” to want it.  Or are people expecting you to want it.

Be authentic.  Be genuine, go for it for the right reasons.  Give yourself a break and believe in yourself.  You know you can handle things, so agree to move forward and deal with matters as they present themselves.

It’s very often the case that you don’t know what you don’t know.  By taking action and moving forward you will encounter the unknown quicker and be able to deal with it then.  If you only anticipate and try to prepare for every eventuality you will waste precious time on preparing for something that you may never encounter.

Once you know that it is what you want.  Then celebrate!  Be enthusiastic about going for it.  Don’t hide your intentions under a rock so to speak.  Be open and excited about achieving what you want. Let people know about it.  People enjoy helping others.

Yes, you may still do planning and preparation.  But don’t wait for all the pieces to be in place.  When you’re true to yourself and show enthusiasm, you will draw the helps you need to go where you want to go.

Be bold,

 

Jumping the Rut of the Routine

Routine.

Routines provide order to our lives.  They’re steps we follow regularly like how and when you get up and go to work.  Like, where and when you take your coffee.  Routines are comfortable precisely for the order they bring.  But, routines can also turn into ruts.

A rut is a routine that has become so deeply ingrained in our daily lives, it begins to hem you in.  It can blind you to opportunities and make you lazy…in the sense that to make a change to get out of the rut takes too much effort.  It’s easier to stay in the rut.

But at what cost?

Time passes so quickly it ceases being funny.  The passage of time before 30 yrs of age when your whole life lies ahead of you seems to pass much slower than those years after 30.  The age is arbitrary, the trigger seems to be establishment of a regular routine.  Before you know it your approaching 60 years of age and you wonder where the time went.

In school, routine seems somehow temporary.  At some point you’ll graduate and move on to the work world. You can see an end to the current routine.  Once in the work world, you may still have those moving on stages, like a sought after promotion, and the like, but your routine becomes more permanently defined—both professionally and personally. Even the hectic schedule of getting our kid’s from one activity to another is a routine.

When the routine doesn’t provide you with joy or you grow weary of it, the routine has become a rut.

The only way out is to actually change things up.

You need to decide you want something different.  This doesn’t need to be, though it very well could be, a career change.  It can simply mean adding a hobby, taking a course, learning a language, travel…you get the idea.  Even wearing different clothes, more colorful, more updated can work wonders.  You may still be in a routine but somehow you feel different with this very small change.

In a rut, you are guided by the boundaries of repetition.  When you break up the repetition, you begin to see “over the walls” of the rut you’ve been in.  This provides you with a new horizon to look towards.  The adventure has begun and you will receive new energy.

I’ve always been a doodler.  For some reason, I love drawing arrows.  Arrows with a 3-d look to the arrowhead, like this image.   doodle to break routineAny paper near me while I’m at my desk is very likely to have at least one arrow on it.  Doodling is a temporary escape from my routine.  I find myself working on the shading to make the arrowhead’s depth more 3-dimensional.  This small creative outlet, breaks up my routine and allows my head to clear.

What are your favorite ways to break up your routine?

Recognize your rut, decide to leave it, and allow yourself to escape.  Your energy will improve and your time will be more enjoyable.

Overcoming the Frustration with Finding Your Passion

aargh or frustration

What do you like to do?  Another way of asking is, What are you passionate about? Have you ever become frustrated with finding your passion?

This question has plagued me my whole life. If you want to work for yourself, be an entrepreneur, etc you are advised to find the thing that you are most passionate about.  What if you never find it?  What do you do then?

You have gone through life stages…elementary school, high school, maybe college and enter the work force.  Presumably, who’ve followed the path that most interested you.

What happens if you find all of that was ok, but not truly about your passion?  What if it was simply taking the steps that was expected of you as you grow into adulthood?  How do you proceed when you finally realize, you don’t have or haven’t figured out what your passion is?

I’ve gone through several self-help processes aimed to help.  I’ve claimed the best answers I had a the time.  But none of it provides motivation for daily action.

You can’t have passion if you enter the workforce to simply earn money.  Earning money is not enough.  Attaching your dream to some material asset doesn’t feel right either.  You pursue the dream, but real life happens.  Responsibilities may take you in another direction for a little while at first, then it becomes difficult to come back to the dream.

In my attempts to find my passion, I have mostly found what I don’t want to do.  I know what I’m good at and what I’m not so good at.  I know which I’m good at and easy to do and which take enormous effort to be good.

I’m still searching.  The best answer I’ve come up with is I have a passion for learning.  I simply like learning.  Not about everything, but about what I need in a pragmatic sense.  For example, when I have some task I need to accomplish, I enjoy figuring out how to do it.  I may not like doing the task, but figuring it out is what I’m interested in.  In fact, once I have learned enough about it, I’m much more likely to lose interest in the task altogether.

Am I alone in this?  Do you have similar experiences?

Here’s an article I found with fresh ideas on the topic of passion…6 Fresh Ways to Find Your Passion. I like how the author describes getting your thoughts out of your way and the reality of the mental battle you may be up against.  I’m going to continue to work through this.  How about you?

Beat The Bully Out Of You

bully punching self-acceptance

Acceptance.  We all want it. We want to belong to some group.  It happens naturally.  You go about your business encountering people along the way.  Some, you are drawn to, others are drawn to you.

Lately, there is a lot of talk of bullying today. Social media has made a problem with bullies picking on someone while at school or work, into one with exposure well beyond the school yard.  While this article isn’t about bullying others, it asks the question, “are you bullying yourself?”

“Bully myself?  How would I be doing that?”

Back in school days, you may have had to give up your lunch money to avoid a conflict with a bully.  You may have tried desperately to avoid the bully seeing you…like the geeks on The Big Bang Theory relate about their school days.  So you didn’t go where the bully would be…even though that’s precisely where you wanted to be.

Have you held yourself back from meeting others?  Have you wanted to ask a question of the speaker at the convention, but didn’t feel you were ready or qualified?  Has your belief in yourself kept you from experiences or opportunities?  You may be bullying yourself.

Acceptance begins with ourselves.  You, me…we all have imperfections.  You know what yours are.  These are the things you want to keep hidden.  They can be physical, emotional, social.  The things that keep you from putting yourself in an environment that might force them to come to light.

We take great care not to reveal those to others.  How much has this caused you to miss in life?

Embrace your imperfections…accept them as part of you.

Don’t be afraid to look at yourself honestly.  Shed some light on both your positive AND negative personality traits or body issues or other concerns you may have.

Some people have been down on themselves for too long.  They often have difficulty accepting praise or compliments.  That’s not the type of focus you want.

You need to be your own best friend for this introspection.  You are working on gaining some self-acceptance.  Go somewhere you won’t be disturbed.  Get your favorite Coffee or tea and relax.  Now, make an honest list of positives and negatives.  This is a brainstorm.  Don’t think too hard about what comes to mind, simply write it down.  Don’t worry about spelling, neatness, ordering, or any such thing.  If it comes to mind, write it down.  Do this for at least 20 minutes.  Don’t rush through or finish too early on yourself.

I don’t know what your list will look like. You may have judged yourself too harshly in this process or perhaps you puffed yourself up.  For now it doesn’t matter.  This is the you YOU see.  Now examine your list.

For today, simply reflect on these.  If you journal, write any thoughts you have about them.  Maybe you’ll have some revelations.  Maybe you’ll only confirm what you thought all along.  At the very least, accept them as who you are today.

These are the things that make you YOU. That make you different than others in your group. Celebrate your differences.

Realize the value the complete you offers.  Think on the ways your uniqueness can contribute to your group.  Also, what can you learn from others’ unique contributions? In the process you’ll create a renewed confidence and a freedom to be yourself.

Stop missing out on life…be who you are, wherever you are.

To your growth,

 

Affecting You Where You Live, Work, and Play

Thunderstorms over Louisiana on radar

(This was originally posted prior to National Severe Weather Preparedness Week in the Spring of 2013.  Its points are still valid so I’m reposting with updates.)

 

As many are still enduring the blizzards and snowfalls of recent weeks, we want to help you with your preparation for a new season of weather perils and hope you are doing well with the recent ones.   Again, the goal here is to get you thinking of the Spring season and how you may be affected.

So, let’s first talk about your first step:

Identify which types of hazardous weather affect you where you live, work, and play.

Spring weather brings its on list of possible weather types:

  • Thunderstorms
  • Severe Thunderstorms
  • Tornadoes
  • Flash Flooding
  • Lightning
  • Fires from lightning strikes
  • High winds to include rapidly advancing storms, gusty winds, and very strong straight line winds and microbursts
  • Hail
  • Travel problems, like, hydroplaning, poor visibility, and more.
  • Even freezing rain may still be a problem in early Spring

Take a moment now and consider which events typically affect your state, county, town, and neighborhood.  If you’re living in an area you haven’t  spent much time in yet, check with a neighbor on what you may expect.  If you’ve been living in the area for a few years, this is easy to do, but it may help you to think about “where” you experience the local weather hazards.

Identify the activities that may be impacted

Again the idea is to begin to think about any preparations Spring weather may require.  In other words as you think about where you spend your time, think also about the actions you may need to take should Spring weather occur.  So, think about whether:

  • You are on the road often
    • Driving and road conditions
    • Flight delays
  • You spend much time outdoors
    • Children sport leagues
    • Picnics
    • Go to professional sporting events/games, outdoor concerts
    • Entertain in backyard or in campground or parks
  • You are at home
    • Outdoor furniture
    • Gardens
    • Have any dead or rotting trees
    • Loose roofing or shingling, shutters
    • Likeliness of rising water from prolonged rain
    • Loss of power

Once you have a better idea of what you may expect and then the types of actions you’d need to take, you’ll be ready when you are warned of coming weather from weather forecasts and advisories.  We will talk about those in the next post.

 

#severeweatherweek  #safety  #prepared

 

Counting Calories and Exercise–Much Easier with an Helpful App

Woman selecting calorie counting app

Last June, I made a couple of changes in how I eat–I started counting calories. Actually, it was more of a change in how I approach meals. That month, I visited my younger brother who lives in New England. I hadn’t seen him for a couple of years.

He had lost 40 lb.  Of course, I asked him how he did it. He told me about an app he downloaded to his phone called MyFitnessPal.  He was using it to make better choices on the number of calories he ate.

Two years earlier, I lost about 20 lb in time for my son’s wedding.  Back then I lost the weight through exercise…walking at a very brisk pace.  In the process, I hurt the muscles in my leg and I couldn’t keep it up.  So I gained my weight back and then some.   After the muscles healed I returned to walking a little more sensibly.  But I wasn’t losing any weight.

A New View on Counting Calories

So…I downloaded the app.  Entered my profile of age, current weight. And set my goal for the rate of weight loss I was after (lose 1.5 lb/per week). Now, I never was a fan of counting calories, particularly when I was younger and could lose weight easily. “Who wants to look up or calculate all this before they eat?”, I thought.

My brother showed me the app actually did this for me. It shows the calories by portion size. It has a large database of foods and their associated calories with options from homemade to restaurant chain food items.

You simply start typing in the search and up comes the choices you can match with your meal item. If you can’t find it in the list, you can scan the bar code on the product packaging and the app will add it for you. This made the idea of calorie counting a no-brainer for me.

Conscious Calorie Decisions Before Eating

What I didn’t appreciate was what counting calories did for me. I always thought calorie counting was simply to keep me from eating too much. So I thought portion control was easier and that’s what I went with.

But I learned counting calories was more about me deciding how I should spend my daily calories.

Let me say that again…it was about me making a conscious decision, before I ate something, whether to spend my calories on the particular food in front of me or not.

Since MyFitnessPal allows me to increase or decrease the portion size and adjusts the calories accordingly, I didn’t have to stop eating the foods I ate.

Maybe that isn’t an “ah-ha” moment for you. But it was a paradigm shift for me. It goes like this: Do I want to spend 280 calories on those two slices of bread for my sandwich? I found a brand that had fewer calories per slice. Do I want to spend 360 calories on rice with my meal or eat the baked potato for about 1/3 less calories?

And on and on. I just found that I was more attuned to how I had been overspending my daily caloric requirement.

Burned Calories as Exercise Motivation

An even bigger finding was just how important exercise in burning calories. Clearly I knew I should exercise. And in fact I was walking three miles each day. But once I added the exercise in MyFitnessPal app, I could see the number of calories I just earned back!  It even syncs with my iPhone and Apple Watch.

Being able to see how many calories the exercise gave me has been a big motivator to continue to exercise…And in a weak moment, even deciding to have the sandwich anyway, as long as I commit to ride my bike instead of doing a walk.  I burn more calories on my bike.

I lost 40 lbs in six months!

I’m very near my goal weight now. I attribute it to my use of the MyFitnessPal app. It has helped me make calorie and exercise decisions very simply. The paid version allows you to track other things, but I’m using the free version.

I’ve told many people about the app. People who’ve not seen me for sometime and strangers too, when conversations turned to food and weight-loss. In most cases they tell me, “oh, I have that app…maybe I’ll try it again”.

So go ahead and “try it again”. Download the app yourself. It’s available on smartphones in the for iOS and Android devices.

Warm regards,

Paul

Celebrating, Panicked, or Aimlessly Darting About. Do You Recognize Yourself?

I had a squirrel acting crazy in my backyard.  He was darting around the yard, but then would jump about six to ten inches off the ground and in the process do flip.  The squirrel entertained me over breakfast for very nearly 10 minutes.  It was fun to watch so after the first couple of minutes I decided to capture it on video.  The quality wasn’t great but if you want to see the squirrel here it is.

[embedyt] http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ShmJVTRMxzc[/embedyt]

I immediately thought it would be nice to share on this website as an example of a celebration for completed work.  That is, the squirrel had gathered everything it needed and was now celebrating or relaxing.  I like this idea because it supports the idea of being prepared for situations and that you should celebrate your preparedness.

After all you’ve worked to plan and gather either the skills or material you need to achieve your goals.   When  situations or opportunities arise, you want to capitalize on them.

Then I was hit by the dark side.  The squirrel’s motions could also mimic someone’s actions when a situation or opportunity comes up for which one isn’t prepared.  At this  point, activities become frantic and one begins darting here and there to pull things together at the last minute.

Another analogy could also be employed here.  The squirrel’s actions could simply mean it has no plan.  The squirrel is then simply going from one task to the next with no ultimate goal in mind.  Its attention drawn to whatever seems most urgent at the moment.

I’m sure there are other comparisons that can be drawn.  The activities look similar.

Let’s work to make the interpretation be about enjoying a prepared life.  Plan and prepare today and increase your opportunities and resiliency to life’s situations.

If you could use some ideas for being better prepared, check out Enjoy Greater Success.