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I admit it.  I like reality TV, or at least some of it. I especially like the audition phase of the competition shows. I like seeing people pursuing their dreams. I like the interviews with the people before and after they perform. I like hearing their stories.

Two guys named Stepz and Turf auditioned for a show called “America’s Got Talent”. They are both street dancers – one from New York and one from California – and they were in direct competition with each other for a place in the show.  They’re not friends, but they know about each other from the dance world.

As Stepz was performing for the judges, Turf was backstage watching. At first he looked concerned and said  “He’s not dancin’ enough. That’s not the Stepz I know.”  Then when the routine improved. Turf looked relieved and cheered him on, saying “Now that’s Stepz. Let’s go – lets’s go!”  This guy wasn’t backstage wishing for his competitor to fail, even though that would improve his own chances. He was rooting for him – encouraging his competitor to do the very best that he could do!

It brought a lump to my throat. What a different world this would be if we could all have this kind of attitude. To always root for each other and when someone else is slacking off, encourage them to do their best.  Encourage someone else’s best even when it means they might look better than us, seem funnier than us, sound smarter than us,etc.  Even when it means we could miss out on something we want. And always be happy for someone else’s success and celebrate with them.

Whatever your goals are – I hope you do your best.  “Let’s go – let’s go!”

Someone once told me that I think too much. I’ve thought about that a lot. 😎

Seriously, though, occasionally my mind does get stuck on something that I don’t even really want to be thinking about in the first place. You know what I mean, I’m sure. It happens to all of us.  It’s kind of like when you have a sore tooth and your tongue keeps finding its way over there as if to verify “yep, it still hurts”.   The older I get, the more I am aware of the preciousness of time and the importance of spending it wisely. I don’t want to waste time or energy or emotions with thoughts about something unpleasant!

But sometimes it still happens. I’ll have a conversation with someone that perhaps I wish had gone differently. In my mind I replay the conversation with other possible responses and outcomes. Or maybe it’s something someone else said or did that I didn’t like. I can’t change it, but my mind keeps going back to it and then I’m basically  re-experiencing the negative situation all over again in my mind.

A couple of weeks ago I mentioned how it’s impossible to not think about something.  If I tell you “for the next ten minutes you are NOT to think about pink elephants”, what is the first thing that comes to your mind?  I’m guessing it’s a pink elephant.  Aside from those who are so successful with meditation that they can truly empty their minds, most of us are not capable of thinking of nothing. We are always thinking of something. So if I want to stop thinking about one topic, I have to intentionally think about something else.

I’ve found it helpful to have some “pink elephants” in mind for situations like that.  They include images like the faces of my family members and friends who love me, sounds like my grandnieces giggling, the feel of a perfect summer breeze, a specific positive experience, and much more. I can choose one of those to intentionally think about. Sometimes if I’m really stuck I actually start out by picturing a pink elephant. It’s okay, you can laugh at that, but it works.  It’s a first step-a reminder to shift my thinking to something else and of all the other good things that could be filling my thoughts. In those times when my mind is dwelling on something that I don’t really want to be investing thought/time/energy into, I have a whole herd of pink elephants to choose from.

The next time you find that your mind is filled with thoughts that are getting you nowhere but down, go ahead and try it.  Think about your own pink elephant.  Before long you’ll have a whole herd of pink elephants to choose from.   🙂

“Don’t take it personally.”  This advice is intended to be helpful, but rarely is much of any help at all. Sure, if it’s a driver who cuts me off in traffic or an abrupt cashier, that’s nothing personal. Those are just rude strangers. But if someone I know is saying unkind things about me, that IS personal.   In that kind of situation, what are we really suggesting when we tell someone not to take it personally? How does someone apply that advice?  (I have no idea.)

I’d say, go ahead and take it personally. But what I mean by that is – personally choose how to take it and what to do with it. I can’t change what they have said. I can’t even change what they think. But if I hear or read words about myself that are unkind and/or untrue, what I CAN do is choose what I am going to do with those words. I have the freedom, always, to make a choice about how I am going to respond to what anybody says. The words have been spoken and heard (or written and read) and there’s no way to go back in time and prevent that. So someone else has a particular opinion about me.  What now?

I don’t have to take it. I’m not talking about fighting back or anything like that.  Yes, I do think there is a place for having talking to the person. Sometimes that helps, but at times it just doesn’t help enough. I was in a situation recently where someone was saying things about me (to me) that were both unkind and inaccurate. I spoke to the person about it, but in this case it made no difference in their opinion. I made it clear that further communication of that kind was unacceptable and at least that ended, but it still did not change their opinion of me.  We all want to be liked and respected.  I would liked to have convinced that person of the inaccuracy of their thoughts and comments, but I was unsuccessful.  So what’s next?

When I say I don’t have to take it, I mean I don’t have to keep them. Someone else thoughts/words/opinions belong to them. I don’t have to own them. Even if the person is someone I care about and respect, I don’t have to accept or internalize their words.  If I hear/read something unkind about me, I can remind myself to take it – personally, consciously, intentionally choosing what to do with it. I don’t have to keep it. I don’t have to internalize it. I don’t have to own it. I can just let go of it and move on.

I’m not saying it’s easy – but it IS possible.

 

 

Yesterday I saw a woman who was hunched over with really bad posture. After I passed by her I realized I was straightening my own back and walking a little taller. I have no idea if she was hunched over as  a result of a medical condition, if she was in pain, if she was tired or if she just didn’t care about her posture. But seeing her made me more conscious of my own posture.

I know someone who is really only interested in talking about herself. She doesn’t really listen. That kind of one-sided conversation can be a little annoying. Whenever I experience this, I make a mental note to not do what she does. In other conversations I try to make sure that the other person knows I am interested in their thoughts as well.

I have noticed that a lot of people like to complain about the weather – regardless of what it is. It’s always too hot or too cold or too windy. Even if it is a perfect day with blue skies and a gentle breeze, someone will comment about how it’s going to rain in a few days.  This just makes me even more determined to enjoy the day regardless of the weather.

I once heard someone say that sometimes the reason we dislike or are uncomfortable with a particular quality in someone else is because it is  reflecting a trait of our own that needs work. Nobody is perfect and we all have areas that need work. Sometimes people can be annoying or thoughtless. It could be a result of not feeling well or being tired or they maybe they just do not care. I might never know.

But the point is that when we notice something about someone else that we don’t like, rather than just being annoyed by it we can use that as a mirror to check how we are doing regarding that element of our ow lives.

Self-improvement is an ongoing, lifelong project. Some people don’t care about it at all and they just want to go on living  however they feel like it. If that’s the case, that’s their choice, but  it’s not enough for me.  I can’t change anyone else, but I can change me. I want to make the most of the time I have on this earth and become the best version of me that I can be.  So if the situation calls for it, I’ll swallow my pride and take a look in the mirror and then do what it takes to make sure that I like what I see.

When I was younger there was a time when I wanted to have a career as a singer/songwriter. If things had been different, I probably could have had that experience. There was a time when I thought it would be really cool to do a triathlon, but I can’t run because of a knee injury and I don’t even own a bike.  If things were different, maybe I’d do a triathlon. There was a time when I wanted to own a big house and have a place where people could come and stay for a weekend or a week or however long they needed to recharge their life batteries. If I had more money that might have happened.  If only things were different…

It’s so easy to say “if things were different…” and use that as an excuse for not going after something we want. Okay, so I’m not going to have a career as a singer/songwriter. But what I really enjoyed about my experiences with singing the songs I wrote was the connection it created with people. My songs went from my heart to theirs. I can still write and form a similar connection with people. I like writing this blog and sometimes getting feedback from people who say it was just what they needed to read at that time. I enjoy the responses I get when I share chapters from the book I’m writing. It’s different than singing, sure, but I really like it.

Two years ago I trained for and completed a triathlon. I didn’t compete with other people. I did this on my own at the gym, using the pool, the stationary bike and the indoor track. Some would say it wasn’t a “real” triathlon just because it was not part of an official event, but on 02/28/10 I swam a half mile, biked 10 miles and walked 3 miles. I had a goal. I worked hard for it. I reached it. It was real to me.

My home is a one bedroom apartment. In January I had 11 college age guests stay here for 3 nights during their Winter Break. They seemed to have a good time and I sure enjoyed having them here.  I would welcome them back anytime.  It isn’t the size of the home that matters, but the size of the welcome.

So what I’m saying with all of this is that if you want something, don’t let “if things were different” stand in your way. If you can make things different, go for it. You may need to modify the dream a bit, but that’s okay.  You might find that the new version of the dream is just as great – or even better than the original.

It’s great to look forward to something. The anticipation of an event can often be as enjoyable as the event itself. But I think we can create unnecessary problems for ourselves when we have expectations that something will go a certain way or a person will say/do something specific.

Expectations say that life should always go the way I want it to and people will say and do what I want them to, the way I want them to and when I want them to. So expectations are a bit narcissistic, often unrealistic and set ourselves can lead to disappointment and sometimes even hurt.

Sometimes we even expect someone to behave in a way that is uncharacteristic of them. If someone is typically self-absorbed, for example, but I expect him to be conscious of others around him, or if someone is generally a rollercoaster of emotions and I expect her to handle a situation calmly and rationally – I’m just setting myself up for disappointment (and probably annoyance).

I totally believe that people can change – if they choose to. Unless a person recognizes a need to change and chooses to change, it’s best to accept that they are going to stay the same and then make my own choices about my interaction with them.

Remember the old expression “If it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it’s probably a duck”?  Well, it works the other way, too. If it’s a duck, it will probably walk like a duck and quack like a duck. It is unfair to expect someone else to change their ways just because I think another way would be better, even if it would be better for the relationship. I can voice my request, if appropriate, but it is still up to the other person how they choose to respond to life.

It is important to believe the best in people. It is important to hope. It is essential to have faith in the possibility of a person making the choice to change.  But I think it is a mistake to expect it. I need to give people the freedom to be who they are, make their own choices, live their own lives.

When I trade in my expectations for reality (combined with faith and hope), I save myself some disappointment and annoyance. And then I am also better able to know a person for who they really are, accepting that are imperfect  – just like I am.   If what they are doing is hurtful to me, then I have a choice to put limits on my interaction with them.  But I am doing us both a favor when I let go of my expectations of them to be anything other than who they have always shown themselves to be.

This might sound kind of defeatist, but it really isn’t. I’ll keep hoping and believing for the best in them, just as others keep hoping and believing for the best in me.

just a moment

Just a moment. That’s what life really is. One moment followed by another. This moment goes by and there’s a new one. There are no spaces between the moments. There is no pause button. No rewind. No fast forward. The moments just keep coming.

Sometimes it seems to happen too quickly. We want to hold onto life exactly as it is right now. But we can’t, because the new moments bring change. So we need to experience the “now” while it is “now”.

Sometimes what’s happening right now is unpleasant – maybe even painful. But the good news is that we’re not stuck here. It might feel like this will last forever, but it won’t. It’s a series of moments that will eventually lead into something else. This moment will pass.

We miss out on really experiencing the “right now” moments if we’re dwelling on the past or just focused on getting to the future. I can look forward to something in the future and I can remember the past and learn from it, but the only moment I can live is this one right now.

So whatever the moment contains, be in it, because it’s where life happens –  in this moment –  right now.

Love now.

Laugh now.

Live now.

in this moment.