Archive for December, 2013

SOS-ocean-currentThere are some things that are different about life at sea than the life that we are so used to experiencing here on the land.  The lack of discernible and reliable landmarks can be disconcerting for some out on the seas.  The danger of not being able to survive in the water for days on end without the assistance of a vessel underneath you to simulate the land and to give you a buffer from the depths below, can cause anxiety.

One characteristic that makes living at sea different and unpredictable is the idea that where ever you are located there is a current at work.  There is no such thing as standing still.  The waters are always in motion going somewhere.  Standing still will lead to drifting along.  You might not expect or even particularly like where the waters will guide you.  If you do nothing, you will still end up somewhere.

On dry land we don’t notice it.  You can sit down in a public place and “people watch” (oh, please tell me we all do this – I’m not the only one!).  You see the stream of humanity at a mall or airport and think about those who catch your eye.  Where are they going?  What kind of life are they having?  Would we have anything in common?  Would I be able to understand what they’re going through?  Whatever your thoughts, you can stay in that place and observe.  You won’t be moved.  There is a concept of “there” or one called “stationary”.

Our life experience is more like that of the sea.  Events and time change things.  Nothing stays the same.  Even in old places where I used to live the trees have grown up and people have made decorating choices that leave the place with a very different feel.  Even though all the places are “stationary” they have changed.  And I have changed in my thinking and the way I look at them.  It’s familiar, but it’s all different.  The current of life (maybe just of time itself?) has altered what was, or maybe I’m different and my perception is altered by who I am at this time.  Yeah, it can get that philosophical just that fast.  So there has to be a point, right?

First there’s the hurdle of knowing this to be true.  I think if you look at it you’ll see or feel the pull of the current of life (er, time).  So what can you do about it?  Precious little.  But can that knowledge be used to your advantage?  I would say yes.  Let me give a couple of examples.

For one thing, stressing about change turns out to be pretty futile.  Things are going to change.  Embrace the idea and it will definitely go easier for you.  Fighting the current may be a good work out, but it’s not a good long range plan.  Doing this is like complaining about the weather.  People love to complain about the weather, but nobody ever does anything about it (sorry Mr. Twain).  It is going to change, incorporate change into your thinking and some of the resistance you face will evaporate.  Things are going to be different, because that’s how things are.

Of course our desire is that things change for the better.  It turns out there is something we can do about that.  Knowing that change is going to happen we can leverage it.  We can know that although we missed that last wave, another one will be coming.  We can gather our strength and orient our ship to take advantage of the next one that is inexorably coming along.

Later on I’ll talk about some things we can do to get oriented to leverage the current that is already there and pulling at us.  But just recognizing it can change our outlook in the present and help us in planning for the future.  Look for the current, if you can’t see it, you can see it’s effects all around.  Heighten your awareness – look around.

If you know a change is coming, how do you get oriented to take advantage of what’s coming anyway?

SOS-What_Time_Is_ItDo you know what time is best for you?

I guess it depends on what I’m talking about.  The best time to sleep?  The best time to talk with me?  The best time for me to focus and work?  The best time for me to relax and cut up?  Those might all vary to a greater or lesser degree.

Let me start with the main intention.  When is your best time to get the most important things in your day done?  For me, the early morning is my time of focus and when I feel the most alert and thoughtful.  Also for me, my day job isn’t where my passion, focus, and interests are.  I am currently working so that I can live and provide.  My work is not exactly aligned with my greatest desires.  I’m going to hazard a guess that this is true for many of you too.

If you are in my boat (or one like it), your time of focus is very limited.  I have maybe 2 hours before I go to work and about 5 hours afterwards that aren’t taken up by mundane activities like eating, commuting, or sleeping.  Of those, just the 2 morning hours are best for me to focus.  My other 5 are used for social activity, commitments made, and available family time.  This is all not counting weekends, the game changes there and maybe that’s a whole different topic for discussion.

Whatever you determine to be the time that’s good for you.  My question is – is it good for you time?  What are you doing with those times?  For example there is a well known public speaker named Dennis Waitley who says that he wrote his book and developed his life philosophy and thoughts during what he called “prime time.”  Prime time for him was in the evening when friends and family were locked in to the television.  And action taken little and often produced a new adventure for him.  It may not take all your time, it may not have to be every day.  But that directed focus ratcheting things forward will have it’s results.

Maybe you haven’t even realized that you have that little actual time in your day to focus on things that matter to you.  But if you want to accomplish a task, have a conversation, or – and this is a lost art – simply take some time to think about things.  Your life, your plans, your situation.  Use that time when you are at the top of your game.  However if you don’t know when that is, you will not be able to put it to use.

So if you don’t know if you’re an early bird or a night owl try them both out and see which one works best for you.  For me, as I said, it’s the morning, so if you send me a message late at night, you can expect a response in the morning when you get up.  Hey, now we could drift into talking about time shifting, but I’ll save that for another time.

So do you already know what time is good for you?  Are you going to have to figure it out?  Let me know how that goes for you and how you could tell which was best.  OK?

sliding-scaredHave you ever wondered why you don’t go after the things that you want?  Could it be that you’re just afraid?

John Wayne said, “Courage is being scared to death… and saddling up anyway.”

Fear can paralyze, but it doesn’t have to.  Action while facing fear is courageous.  So  how do you do that?  How do you act when being frozen?

Some people just lash out, any movement just to break the grip of fear.  You’ve seen this in funny videos when people lurch and wiggle in all sorts of uncontrollable ways as their body tries to process through the fear.  It looks funny after the fact, but it’s deadly serious when breaking out of that frozen fear response.

For those with a little more analytical mind, there is always reasoning through fear.  Recognizing that what you’re facing isn’t as lethal or final.  And knowing that fear is not unexpected.  Here’s how Mark Twain put it, “Courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear – not absence of fear.  Except a creature be part coward it is not a compliment to say it is brave.”  If you aren’t facing fear, year really can’t be called brave – now that’s something to, well, give you courage!

Bringing this down to a personal point.  I’ve been wrestling with this blog for a long time and very early this morning I asked myself, “What is it you are afraid of with writing to the blog?”  There were a few answers, but one that stuck out was that I was afraid that I’d just say the same thing over and over again.  Then I asked myself two questions:

  1. Is it so bad to repeat a message – if it’s a good one?  Repetition is how we learn and master.
  2. How could you avoid doing that?

So the first one is an example of an unfounded fear.  When you look at it, it kind of evaporates.  So let’s say at the end of the year, either in December or January, you wrote yet another blog post about wrapping things up, reviewing what’s been done, new beginnings, setting goals, and fresh starts?  Is that so bad?  (OK, now don’t go looking in my blog archives – because that’s exactly what you’ll find! ) I already did it!  So my fear has been realized, is it the end of the world?  Who cares really?  If it’s where me head is – and it’s getting there again as the year runs down.  That fear is unfounded and once faced down, diminishes and becomes a nag, or even nothing at all.

Then there’s #2.  This is a legitimate fear of mine.  Repeating stories I’ve already told makes me feel foolish.  But sometimes people haven’t heard the stories.  They’re new to them, if old and boring to me – since I keep telling them.  But if it bothers me, it bothers me.  What can be done?  Well I came up with a solution.  Technology.  What?  Shocking, I know.  Evernote is my friend.  It’s a place to just keep track and store anything from anywhere in the cyber universe.  And I just finished archiving everything I’ve ever said in this blog.  The beauty?  It’s all locally searchable.  So when I have an idea for a blog post I can search through my old posts quickly, without having to reread each one and see if I’ve used a word or phrase like the one stuck in my head before.  If not, I can blog away with my new found courage.

Facing your fears is a great way to actually move ahead on your voyage.  In fact, it is really the test of your mettle, your virtue.  I like the way C.S. Lewis puts it, “Courage is not simply one of the virtues, but the form of every virtue at the testing point.”

So take the opportunity to put your courage to the test and exert your virtue.  Whenever I think of courage I think of this song that I came across.  I’m always the last to discover songs, so this is probably some pub tune from the mid 18th century and I’d be none the wiser…

This song puts some wind in my sails – check it out:

SOS-Jujitsu So I’ve talked a bit about akrasia before.  Procrastination is one form of akrasia that I recently noted on Facebook is one of my super powers.  Or maybe it’s a weakness, I’m not sure.

But if procrastination is a problem for you, then here’s a little tip you might enjoy.  Let’s look at what’s going on when you procrastinate.

You are basically trying to put off doing something that needs to be done by finding other things to occupy your time.  This is what we mean when we’re too busy to do something.  You filled your time with something else and there was not enough time left to do the referred to task.

If you are this brand of ackratic – then you know what I’m talking about.  So instead of looking at the looming thing that really needs to get done, let’s look at this filler stuff.  What could it be, video games?  That book?  Um, speaking of book Facebook’s a filler par excellence.  Some people, I’ve been told, actually go into house cleaning mode for filler activity.  Now to me, that’s extreme!  What would happen if you instead replaced that filler, those task avoidance activities with other activities that you’ve been needing to do.

So here’s an example.  There’s a task I’ve been avoiding, and I’ve enjoyed watching myself go through mental gymnastics to avoid accomplishing it.  Last night was very bad.  So bad in fact that I made the statement that I’d really like to do some blogging.  So I decided to look in the mirror at me looking in the mirror of some of the crazy things we do to satisfy the now us at the expense of the future us.

Ah, but there’s the pivot point!  I really do want to get to blogging.  But then the excuses why and the procrastination starts up again.  Only your mind can only do so many iterations of this (like Inception).  So the inner avoidance of blogging is much weaker because my mind is so busy avoiding that much more imposing task.  So you pivot on that and actually use the filler time of the big task you are trying to get away from and actually do something you’ve been putting off for a long time.

And now there’s this blog post!  In the flesh (well, in the electrons!)!  Isn’t that cool how that works?

Now if you want to take this to the expert level.  You have a list of smaller tasks that you are avoiding and you whip this out when you need filler from a big task and you can knock out a bunch of stuff in your attempts to not do what you really need to be doing!  You can use procrastination (and akrasia in general) as a super power.

Tell me how that works for ‘ya.