Eyes and Feet: Good Advice?

I’m returning to my habit of over-analyzing quotes and cliches. Today, I’m going to contrast quotes that say the opposite things and see when the advice might and might not actually be useful.

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This is a great motivational quote, right? Dream big! But, how useful is it?

Poor applications:

  • Getting caught in your dreams and never actually putting any effort into accomplishing something today.
  • Wishful living in the future. (If I could _________, then I’d really be _________.)
  • Using dreams as avoidance therapy for the reality of here and now.

Useful Applications:

  • Motivating ourselves to set our goals a little higher than we might otherwise.
  • Gathering strength to continue something hard.

Now, I’m going to move on to a quote that means the opposite:

Keep your Eyes

Poor applications:

  • Holding yourself back because “reality says” that you’re not good enough or the right kind of person.
  • Wallowing in self-pity.
  • Convincing yourself that your circumstances will never get better.

Good applications:

  • Applying yourself to work hard to get from where you are right now to where you want to be.
  • Paying attention to reality.
  • Being alert for unforeseen problems that might trip us up and make us fall.

 

I think I keep a “bag of quotes” in my head because I have found that they are useful if I apply them correctly. I don’t have to come up with long speeches to feed into my internal voice, I simply repeat a short quote in my head to help me with my challenge of the moment.

Is there a quote you have used recently to help you with a challenge or a hard time? What did it mean to you? Comment!

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Stress, Cortisol, and Gratitude

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As usual, I have managed to lose the original source of the idea, because I didn’t write it down and I found it several weeks ago. I’m pretty sure it was a YouTube video, which really narrows things down, right?

The idea is pretty simple: stress creates cortisol in our bodies and cortisol has multiple effects on us. Within several seconds of encountering a stressful situation, our IQ (intelligence or mental abilities) is cut IN HALF. (If that’s not the correct figure, it drops significantly.)

In short, stress makes us stupid!

To me, this means that living in a constantly stressed-out state means that we are living in such a way that we can’t use our full mental potential, and we are making decisions and doing our work as if we were much dumber than we really are!

So, what if we can’t all do like I did and walk away from a stressful career?

It seems the answer is gratitude.

Somehow, finding something to be grateful for at that moment and about that moment short circuits the stress cycle, and allows us to maintain our mental abilities.

It takes practice, and it can take a shift in our outlook on life. Challenges become opportunities to grow and to learn new skills. Illnesses might have to become opportunities to slow down and/or to strengthen relationships — especially if you become the caregiver. We have to take a creative look at each situation to find the good and feel grateful for it.

Has your life been enriched by gratitude? Share how in the comments!

“Be Yourself” in Perspective

I am a “cyber-clutter artist.” (Ok. I simply have a bad case of FOMO and too much digital storage space available.) While it can be a problem, today it is a bonus. For a while, I collected quotes that I wanted to ponder.

Today, I want to look at two of them:
Yourself (1)

This sounds like a great quote, and it is — if you are struggling to accept who you are or trying to be someone you’re not just to fit in with a group of people. Part of a healthy self-concept is recognizing who we really are and that a successful, fulfilled life doesn’t require us to sacrifice who we are for what we want. In fact, if we try, we suffer mentally and emotionally as we begin to dislike who we are trying to be and our victories feel hollow.

On the other hand, this quote can easily be twisted into an excuse to stop trying to grow and become. We are human, and human beings are flawed. “Nobody’s perfect.” In fact, we have differing opinions on what perfect really is!

Life seems to require that, if we want to be ourselves, we have to be ready to see things we don’t like, discover weaknesses, and face them. Then, we can make educated choices about who we are and who we will be as we move forward.

YourselfAgain, this is a quote for those who lean toward being timid and shy, for people who are basically good people but are worried about rejection.

Having had some experience with abusers, narcissists, and crude individuals in my life, I have seen this mindset at its worst. Feeling the brunt of someone’s unbridled anger and then being told it’s my fault if I’m hurt because the other person was just “being himself (herself) is emotionally crippling.

The key to living this quote successfully is to remember the necessity of respect. We can share our thoughts, feelings, and opinions without being overbearing, crude, or abrasive. We can choose our words thoughtfully with the intent to increase conversation rather than shut down opposing opinions.

So, if you’re like me and love quotes, collect them. Just think about them and how they truly apply to a successful life!

Do you have a favorite quote? What is it? What does it mean to you? Comment!

 

It’s a New Year. So What?

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In two days, 2018 will begin. Some people will be glad to see 2017 go and are making plans for 2018 to be their best year ever. Some people had a great 2017 and aren’t all that excited about a new year. Some really don’t care one way or another.

Why make such a big deal about turning a page in a calendar?

In truth, we don’t have to. I normally don’t.

However, with the right mindset and attitude, using a date on the calendar can help us mark a turning point in our lives. We can begin to make progress to improve ourselves and establish new habits that will enrich our lives.

Here’s the process I use:

  1. Identify my guiding principles: What are my real values? What is my true purpose in the world? How do I want people to remember me after I have passed away? Any goal I set has to be in line with my values and my personal purpose, or it will fail.
  2. Identify who I want to be: I have found it is always more positive to move toward something I want rather than to try to remove something I don’t want. Adding good to my life will overwhelm and displace the bad.
  3. Break my goals into smaller steps: And then break those steps down into smaller steps. I need to make sure that each step is manageable and reasonably easy to accomplish.
  4. Work on one step at a time: I have a tendency to try to accomplish as much as possible as soon as possible. It’s a recipe for burnout. Relax and focus on one step of the journey at the time so that you can savor each success.
  5. Keep some sort of record: Whether it’s a journal, a note in a calendar, or a vlog, having a record of my progress helps me keep going as I establish new habits and create a new and better comfort zone for my life.

Do you set resolutions? Do you keep them? How do you achieve personal progress and growth? Comment!

Battling Christmas Letdown

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This is the first year that I haven’t really struggled with what I call “Christmas letdown.” There’s a huge build-up to Christmas: decorating, cooking, music, advertisements, movies, etc. It’s easy to get caught up in the need for Christmas to be amazingly special — especially if you are codependent.

Christmas can be a nightmare as things don’t go perfectly, as that “special feeling” gets swallowed up in stress and anxiety. Kids misbehave (usually at the family get together, so that you just “know” that all of your in-laws are talking about you behind your back). Presents don’t endear you to people like you hoped they would. You just can’t create that perfect “Hallmark Christmas.” You feel like you’re the only one who isn’t happy, the only one who is struggling just to get through the season.

How can you make the craziness stop?

  1. Breathe: I’m being serious. As you feel your sense of crazy overloading, use that as your trigger to stop for a few moments and focus on your breathing. Take in long, nourishing breaths through your nose and feel the air fill the deepest reaches of your lungs. Let the air flow out of your lungs. Really feel the goodness enter your body with each breath. You’re triggering things that are hardwired into your brain to help you reduce your stress.
  2. Be here, now: Last year is over. Nothing will change it. This year is all we have. Enjoy it for exactly what it is. There is good in every moment if we have the eyes to see it!
  3. Connect, instead of perfect: Unpacking the boxes of decorations and trimming the trees was a bittersweet time for me. It had nothing to do with the baubles I was actually holding in my hands, it was about the memories. A perfect Christmas doesn’t bring people together. People are brought together as we open our hearts and reach out to them. Look for ways to spend time with others.
  4. Search for the good: Christmas is one of the few holidays that still lingers after it has officially come and gone. Look for little ways that you can find the good in each day, smile at someone, do a little extra something for someone each day.
  5. Focus on the memories: Presents will break and wear out, family and friends will go home and return to their own lives. Memories are what we can keep. If things don’t go according to plan, laugh and help everyone have a good memory to keep.
  6. Acknowledge that you’re not alone: Christmas letdown is actually very common. You may feel like you are the only one, but you are not. If you’re faking a smile, you’re probably in good company.

I hope that you have already had lots of reasons to truly celebrate already this year and that tomorrow is a day filled with beautiful memories.

 

Merry Christmas!

 

In the Cold Light of Reflection

Reflection-in-mirror2Since leaving the teaching profession, I have had a lot of time (about six months) to stop and think about what happened and why. Why did I have a hard time with some of my administrators? Why did the stress hit me so much harder than it hits others with the same job? Why did leaving become my best option?

It would be so easy to blame everything on one or two difficult administrators. It would be so simple to claim that this person’s leadership is hurting many people and then absolve myself of any mistakes. But, easy isn’t always best.

The problem with being a recovering codependent is the tendency we develop to take responsibility for EVERYTHING. There are many pieces of the puzzle that weren’t my fault: high-pressure evaluations, high-stakes testing, other unwise legislative moves from the government, the choices and actions of the people around me, etc. Those things weren’t my responsibility — even though some of them factored into my decision to leave.

What could I have improved?

  • My interpersonal skills: Unfortunately, I often send the message that I’m not a “team player” because I work best when I have time and space to filter through my thoughts. I was so busy trying to take care of “putting out fires” on a daily basis that I missed the need to connect with my colleagues. I also could use a lot more practice in reading personality types by words and actions.
  • My ability to focus and prioritize: (This weakness is still getting in my way on a daily basis!) There were several times where I would have done well to set aside time to strictly focus on the work of my career, think things through a little more deeply, and put forth a more polished product. My inclination to keep too many irons in the fire diminishes my outcomes.
  • My ability to separate: Teaching was very personal for me. I put my heart and soul into it to the point that I suffered an identity crisis when I resigned. I would have fared much better if I could have kept the fire but had a little bit more emotional distance.

There may be even more items that I could add to the list, but this is a good start. It hurts to admit that I contributed in any way to my “downfall,” but it’s a necessary process. Not only does it help release me from some of the bitterness that I could harbor in my soul, it helps me recognize where I can still improve so that I manage the remainder of my life better, as well.

What life lessons have you learned from a difficult situation where you really weren’t to blame? Leave a comment to start a discussion!

Baby, It’s a Mixed Message!

Recently, social media blew up with the #metoo story, and women came forward and told their story of sexual harassment at the hands of men. The judgment seemed to be that these men were animals and harsh punishment is their just deserts.

I thought, in passing, about how sad it is that some men grew up that way, wrote a blog post about it, and didn’t think much more about it — until I cued up my web-based Christmas music list.

That’s when I noticed a couple of songs were making my skin crawl.

Baby, It’s Cold Outside

Have you really listened to the words in this song? This is a man that won’t stop until he convinces the woman to give him exactly what he wants. He’s not inclined to take no for an answer, and he doesn’t seem to be concerned about how either of them will feel about it in the morning!

Many women I know love this song! He’s so suave! It’s so sexy! And, as you can see in this video, it’s so cute when we have kids joining in!

What kind of message are we sending to men — especially our sons — when we swoon over this?

Santa, Baby

This is another song that I have sung along with without thinking. What’s the theme of this song? Using sexuality to convince Santa to fulfill all of my dreams.

Again, what message are we sending to the men and boys in our lives when we adore songs like this?

“I Have a Right to Feel Sexy”

Sure, I’ll give anyone that right. But, I have to question what anyone expects when they take that to the extreme of flaunting sexy. By definition, sexy includes attracting the sexual attention and arousing the sexual desires of others. We may think that we are trying to feel good, but we are sending messages as we do, and sending messages includes the possibility that they will be received incorrectly by people who are confused about boundaries and relationships. It may not be fair, but it’s real.

I also have to wonder if women who are demanding the right to feel and be sexy aren’t actually looking for something else. We, too, are drenched in the culture given us by movies, music, TV shows, etc. We, too, have been fed the idea all of our lives that being sexy enhances our value. I have to wonder if many of us aren’t so concerned about feeling sexy as we are feeling valued and respected, but we’ve been misled by cultural norms — just like the men.

Fixing the Problem

I was very touched when I discovered this talk because I noticed this a lot during my teaching career — boys and girls trying to figure out how their gender plays into where they fit in the world and finding that they have to deny parts of who they really are in order to be accepted. It’s going to be a long and difficult process, but now that we have begun to accept and celebrate the strength and intelligence of women and girls, it’s time to go back and nurture the process of men and boys being able to be open with their emotions.

While men and women are obviously different, it’s time to recognize, respect, and celebrate what we have in common and stop being so rigid with our gender stereotypes.

 

What is something you can do to help yourself and others overcome toxic cultural norms and create a world where we are all safe to be our authentic selves? Comment below.