Monthly Archives: April 2016

Unplug

DSC00399During my career I was fortunate to work in the same building as IT support. When my system refused to function as I wanted, all I had to do was make one phone call, and a technician would appear in my office in a few minutes. His first question was always, “Have you tried rebooting?” More times that I like to admit, my response was, “No. I didn’t think of that.”  So, before he did anything else, he shut everything down, waited a few minutes, started it up again, and more often than not, the problem was fixed.

Eventually — eventually — I remembered to reboot my system before I called tech support, which saved them unnecessary trips to my office and got me back to work much faster.

Annie Lamott says, “Almost everything will work again if you unplug it for a few minutes, including you.”

The trouble is, unplugging is not our initial response when things go off track. We fret and stew and carry on about our troubles. We scurry around searching for solutions. We throw blame indiscriminately at individuals and circumstances and institutions. We burden our friends and acquaintances with our misfortune and inconvenience. Before long our entire world spins out of control — at least is feels that way.

When we unplug first, several things happen:

  • We detach. We step away. We remove ourselves from the momentary chaos.
  • We get a grip. We can assess what happened. We can check the facts before the chaos consumes and overwhelms us. We realize it could be better but it could also be a whole lot worse.
  • We can check our attitude.  What are we so afraid of?  Why are we so frustrated? Why are we so angry?
  • We can determine what, in this situation, is beyond our control.
  • We can begin a plan of action for what to do next.

DSC00406Unplugging first is a learned behavior.  We don’t often get it right until we’ve practiced a few times. Even a delayed unplug is better than no unplug at all. When and where and how you unplug are a matter of personal choice.  Some listen to music, some head for the nearest restroom stall, some lean against a favorite tree, some take a walk, some go for a drive.  The when, where, and how are irrelevant. That you take time to unplug is critical.

Your perspective and your health depend on your practice of unplugging.

Until next Tuesday . . .

Guidelines

I swim laps several times a week — not for speed but for endurance. My goal is to become more fit and to swim farther or longer than I did last year.

DSC00396Because I swim in a lap pool with other swimmers, the lanes are separated by ropes.  A black line extends the length of each lane on the bottom of the pool. I keep my eyes on that line.  I’ve learned to swim straighter than I used to and seldom run into the wall or the lane ropes.

The black lane line is totally out of my sight when I swim on my back.  I rely on the metal ceiling grid as my guide.  I check my position with the ceiling as I begin my backstroke lap and keep my eye focused on my path along the ceiling tile.

Overhead flags near each end of the pool are another important tool. When I see the flags I know I am three backstrokes from the end of the pool — saves a nasty head bump or arm crash into the concrete wall.

The lane lines and ropes and flags all keep me within my swimming space and prevent mortal injury.

So it is with the work we do.  What is it, or who is it, that keeps us headed in the right direction, that keeps us from going too far afield, or prevents us from becoming dead in the water from inattention to our goal?

We have to keep our goal in mind, and head in that direction, but we also need checks on our progress. I can easily monitor my lap-swimming and my progress toward my other goal of reading one book a week.  Sometimes we need an accountability partner to cheer us on toward success. My teacher acknowledges and encourages my piano playing improvements. And I’m accountable to my writing partner for creating new work.

Teachers, mentors, and accountability partners are like lane markers in the pool. They set the parameters and keep us headed in the right direction.  And they are the coach at the end of the pool saying, “You did it!  Now keep going. You can do even more.”

And I do.  And you can too.

Choose your teachers and coaches and guides and partners carefully.  You don’t need many.  You need ones who will encourage you to keep going.

Until next Tuesday . . .

Time to Make the Doughnuts

I admit it — I’ve been addicted to Dunkin Doughnuts for decades.DSC00393

I pass Dunkins coming and going to nearly everywhere I go. Good for them. Not so good for my body. But I digress.

I really want to talk about Fred, their doughnut maker. The commercials show him going to work in the dark, in all kinds of weather, when he’s exhausted, when the rest of the world is still asleep. “Time to make the doughnuts,” he mutters on his way out the door.

Time to make the doughnuts.

I’m grateful for the doughnut makers. And the convenience store clerks. And the plumbers. The electricians. The car repair folks. The teachers. The journalists. All the people who get up and do their job — every day. We’ve all been there at some point in our life — going to work, doing our job, whether we feel like it or not.

However, I want to take this conversation to a different place.  What about those projects and dreams we never seem to get to — for a plethora of reasons and excuses.  I have my list: my next writing project (I’ve been talking about it for at least a year), sending agent queries (very sporadic), organizing the family archives (started but stalled).  I’m sure you have your own list of stalled, never started, off track, on-the-shelf ventures.

What if . . .

What if I adopted Fred the baker’s attitude?  What if I did my work every day, no excuses?

What if I said, “Time to send an agent query.” And then I sat at my desk and wrote the query.

What if I said, “Time to write one page on my project.” And then I sat at my computer and wrote the page.

What if you — and I — change our attitudes toward the work we want to do? What if, every day, we say, like Fred the baker, “Time to ___________.” And then we actually do what we commit to do?

Our worlds would change. Our art, our writing, our music, our quilting, our photography, our remodeling, would actually happen. We would see progress, simply because we commit to it every day, just like going to a paying job.  Here’s the difference: this is our work of choice, not our work of obligation or duty.

Take Dunkin Doughnuts’ words as your mantra — but make them your own. Say them to yourself. Post them where you’ll see them repeatedly.

“Time to ______________.”

Then show up and do your work.

Every day.

No excuses.

Until next Tuesday . . .

 

 

Memories vs. Dreams

In his book, The World is Flat: A Brief History of the Twenty-First Century, Thomas L. Friedman poses the question, “Does your society have more memories than dreams?” He goes on to say that organizations and societies are the same. If they are focused on the past, if they have more memories than dreams, they are in trouble.

Andy Stanley says something similar: “When your memories exceed your dreams the end is near”.

The first question for us is: What’s the ratio of your dreams to memories?

We can do a quick check by listening to our conversations. Do we talk about the “good old days,” the idyllic times of our past, how things used to be, how society/families/culture/country have taken a turn for the worse?

The second question is: What was/is the best time of your life? Did it happen when you were a kid, when you were in college, when you fell in love, when your kids were born, when you moved to a new location, when you retired, etc., etc.?

If our best times were in the past, it’s a sure bet we have more memories than dreams. If we wish we could return to those times, to somehow relive them and all the related events, our life right now would be fine. Yet that can’t happen. We can’t go back. And wishing we could is just wasted effort.

Longing for what once was prevents us from dreaming of what could be.

For me, this is my best time — so far. Had I been asked at other times in my life, I probably would have said the same — this is the best time — so far. But life changes. Things happen. Time marches on.

There are new days. New opportunities. New experiences. New challenges to meet.

How can we, in spite of circumstances, call our present the best time — so far?

  • Focus on today. Be present in your moments.
  • Notice the good things of the moment, no matter how small.
  • Be grateful for the past, for what it has taught you.
  • Have a thought, a dream, for moments beyond now.

Then move forward.

Until next Tuesday . . .