Wandering back and forth across the line…

February 27, 2015

“Starry-eyed dreaming isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.”  (Gabriele Oettimgen), as seen on the Jack’s Winning Words blog. Jack went on to write – G.O. has written a book, “Rethinking Positive Thinking.”  In it she is saying that ”wishing will not make it so.”  There are obstacles when it comes to turning dreams into reality…home, work, life in general.  She suggests that we set for ourselves a desired future and then work at setting a path toward achieving it.  

man daydreamingI suppose that there is a fine line somewhere between optimism and starry-eyed dreaming, just as there is between realism and pessimism on the negative side of life. Gabriele’s advice, which might come under the heading of common sense,  wanders back and forth across the big line between the positive and the more negative (some might say the realistic) and that’s OK because I believe that we spend our lives wandering back and forth across that line. The trick is not to wander too far one way or the other.

There are dangers at the extremes of both attitudes – positive and negative. At the edges of optimism is the trap of starry-eyed dreaming, which wastes our time and accomplished nothing; and on the other side of the big line, just beyond the realistic is pessimism, which can lead to depression or worse. One could, I suppose, make a case for starry-eyed dreaming being less dangerous than pessimism; however, both are a waste of energy, mental and otherwise. Unlike the rules about not crossing the solid line on the pavement while driving, it’s OK to wander back and forth across the line between optimism and realism, just don’t go too far and get off into the ditches of starry-eyed dreaming or depressing pessimism.

Gabriele’s advice to envision a desired future and then lay out a plan to get there is consistent with every other piece of advice from so-called life coaches that I’ve ever reaching goalseen. Whole books have been written about how to do that, so you can read Gabriele’s book or find tons of others in the “Self-Help” section of the bookstore or library. Most of us tend to prefer the positive side of things, so we might gravitate towards the books based upon more optimistic points of view. Books written by scientists tend to hew a line closer to the middle; while books by survivalists and other fringe groups from the negative side might focus upon strategies to make it through the predicted apocalypse.  If Utopia is the envisioned destination of optimists, then Armageddon seems to be the predicted future for pessimists. While neither extreme outcome is likely, I’d sooner be striving towards Utopia than the alternative.

I might sum up much of this advice (at least from the more positive side of things) by stating that it is important to take control of your life, have a plan and work towards your goals. If you do those three things with a positive attitude in general, you will find yourself wandering back and forth across the line between optimism and realism but reward
your journey will always be guided by the bright star of hope rather than the dark star of fear.  It’s not that you will become a starry-eyed dreamer, but rather that you will become an unstoppable do-er. You will become known to friends and family as a problem-solver, a go-to guy/gal, the one who will succeed. Friends, family and co-workers will see you as someone to be emulated. Have you ever heard that about a pessimist? I haven’t.

So, go ahead and have your dreams; just make sure that you also have a path laid out to get to the ones that you have converted from dreams to goals and a positive attitude of hope to guide you along the way. Hopefully I’ll meet you along the way. Maybe we’llWomen dancing even be going in the same direction and be on the same side of the line between optimism and realism. And if you see me headed for the ditches on either side, hook your horn to wake me up; I’ve obviously wandered too far. I’ll do the same for you.

Have a realistically optimistic day!

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Is walkability important to you?

February 26, 2015

How walkable is the area that you live in? Is walkability important to you in your choice of a new home? How do you find out how walkable a location is? I can’t answer the middle question, but I can help you find the answer to the first and last questions. There is a great site called walkscore.com that rates neighborhoods all across the country. If you go there you can put in an address – either where you live now or where you are thinking about moving to – and find out its Walkscore.

walking manThe Walkscore web site gives grades on a scale of 1 to 100 for the walkability of the area surrounding the address that you provide. The site looks at a lot of different factors, but it all boils down to evaluating what you can walk to within a reasonable distance. Things that the site looks for are stores, restaurants, libraries or other cultural venues within walking distance and what that walk might involve. The Walkscore will be higher is there are sidewalks and a good layout, such as the grid structure that is found in most large cities vs. the lack of sidewalks and  winding streets with lots of cul de sacs that are found in  most modern subdivisions. You can go to the Walkscore site for a more complete explanation of the factors that they evaluate to come up with a Walkscore for any given area.

In the past (through the 1950’s at east) most cities and towns were laid out in grid patterns and had sidewalks. The advent of the suburban subdivision in the 1950’s changed all of that.  Many of the early subs still had sidewalks, but those eventually went away, too. People moved further out and became much more dependent upon getting into their cars and riving to get to anything. Subdivisions quickly evolved from any sibilance of a grid structure into free flowing curves and cul de sacs. The term “bedroom communities” was coined to refer to these developments where the only thing that one could do there was sleep; anything else meant getting into the car.

There are still great walkable cities like New York, Boston or Chicago available; wherecity street with people living quarters are interspersed with businesses, stores and amenities and where one can still walk to a great many things. Newer cities tended to be built mainly for business and seem to empty out at night, leaving little to walk to for those who might live there. It’s actually kind of eerie at night or on weekend in many of those cities – like being in a ghost town.

So, why is all of this of any importance? I suppose one could start by pointing out the obvious health benefits of getting out and walking to things; but there is also an environmental benefit – you’re not driving and creating pollution or using up fuel. There is also usually a social a side benefit. When you are out walking you will likely encounter others in the neighborhood doing the same and, because you are walking, it is easier to stop and say “hi” to them and maybe even have a conversation. Try that while driving your car.

You may be much more likely to make use of local libraries, museums or other cultural amenities if it’s a short walk, rather than a drive, to get to them. Walkable areas usually also have lots of neat little restaurants and locally owned shops. You may find that you don’t have to jump in the car and drive to the mall to get what you need. A side benefit is mostly psychological –  you don’t feel trapped in walkable areas, because you know that, even if you’re without a car, you can just walk to most things if you want to.

Skippy and Sadie for calendarI moved from one of those “bedroom communities” in the suburbs that had a Walkscore of 15 into Milford, Michigan, a small village where I’m just 2 blocks from downtown; and I see a Walkscore of 62 when I check it. I can literally walk to most that I need, with a few exceptions where I would have to get in the car and go to a mall or superstore. It’s great and we love it. Plugging in downtown addresses in neighborhoods in Boston, New York or Chicago might turn up Walkscores that are
Front of Palatemuch higher than that. Try it and see what the Walkscore is for your current home’s location.

So, if you’re in the market for a new home, how important is the walkability of an area to you? If you have 3-4 areas that you are considering for a new home location, plug them in to the Walkscore.com site and see what their Walkscores come out to be. You don’t necessarily have to move back into an urban setting to get into a walkable, but it is more likely that small towns offer more walkable environments than most suburban subdivisions. If you happen to be looking in Southeastern Michigan, call me and I’ll help you find a great walkable area to live in.

 


What’s the “Next Play” in your life?

February 20, 2015

A recent post on the Jack’s Wining Words blog had this – “Next play!”  (Mike Krzyzewski)  A recent article in the Detroit Free Press told of how Duke basketball coach “K” has a ritual of saying to his team after every play (good or bad), “Next play!”  No matter what’s happened, focus on the task at hand. 

We all tend to spend too much time on regrets about the past or worrying about the future when we really need to be more in the moment and focused upon the “Next Play.” Life is not like a chess game where you can plan several moves ahead; it is much basketball playerstoo dynamic and has too many variables for that. Rather it is more like that basketball game with you as the point guard. You go brig the ball down trhte court for the next play and try to quickly assess what you are facing (what the defense is doing ) and make adjustments. You don’t have all day to make your decisions (the shot clock is running) and sometimes they are wrong, just like in life; so you keep adjusting and trying again. Sometimes even a well-executed play doesn’t work and sometimes life throws a foul on you.

But, before we get too far into the weeds with sports metaphors for life, let’s backtrack to the main thought of today’s little saying and that is to stay focused in the moment and what is right ahead in life. While we would all like to think that we can multi-task, in fact all we usually end up doing is multiple things badly, instead of any one of them well. Letting one’s mind wander off to the past or focus too much out into the future means taking it off of the tasks at hand and life is far too complex to be doing mental texting to yourself while trying to live (drive).

eye on worldFocusing upon the present will allow you to see the whole court (back to the basketball analogy). What are the decisions that must be made? What are the options that are available to you and what are the possible outcomes of each option. That’s actually the approach that the IBMers took with the Watson computer that they built to play chess. They programmed Watson to look fairly far out at the possible moves and countermoves at any point in the game. We usually don’t need to go as deep into the possible future in real life, but we do need to recognize that every decision and action has a consequence. Hopefully we are guided by a good moral compass and strong common sense.

The Next Play in a game coached by Mike Krzyzewski is seldom something crazy or planningoff-the-wall, but it is one that he makes sure his whole team understands and is ready to execute. If you don’t understand how to execute your Next Play, call a mental time out (as coach K would call a real one in the game) and think it out. Does it make sense to you? Are you capable of executing that Next Play? If the answers are “no” then step back and come up with a different play.

What’s the Next Play in your life? Are you ready for it? Are you focused upon it?


Life lived looking up…

February 18, 2015

“We’re all so focused upon looking down to make sure that we don’t step on some ice and slip that we miss what’s going on around us.” – heard on a newscast recently.

Even those who are totally focused upon the task of not slipping will occasionally hit a patch of ice that was hidden and slip anyway.  Do you go through life constantly
dispairlooking down to avoid the danger of slipping and falling? Many people focus too much on trying not to slip or fail, so they miss what’s going on around them.

It is all too easy I life to get completely focused upon not slipping – not making mistakes. When that happens we take no chances, because those chances represent the danger that we will slip and fall. We no longer think about getting back up if that happens, we are consumed by making sure that it doesn’t happen. We are essentially paralyzed by the fear of falling (the fear of failure).

It is important, therefore; that we do not let ourselves become so risk averse that we
turtle stop living life and just end up existing in a safe, boring cocoon. Each risk not taken represents a potential reward not earned, a new friend not made, a promotion or raise not awarded a new feeling of accomplishment not realized. There is safety in not taking rises, but there is a boring sameness to live lived in that manner, too.

So, raise you head and look around. See the opportunities and the risks that are all about. Maybe you need to start with something that only has a small risk, something that may not hurt you all that much, should you slip and fall. Maybe that is just proudintroducing yourself to someone new, in hopes that you might forge a new friendship. Maybe it’s taking on new tasks at work or a new project as leader, in the hope that a good outcome will bring some recognition or rewards. Perhaps it is taking the risk to go serve food in a soup kitchen in a part of town that you would normally avoid. You know that this will make you feel better and it really isn’t likely to get you harmed.

Almost every time that I have forced myself outside of my normal comfort zone to do things like mentioned above, I have ended up enjoying it and asking myself why I didn’t do it earlier. As I looked back at the fears that had kept me focused upon my feet I realized just how unfounded and stupid they were or how selfish and self-centered the resistance to trying those things had been.  I realized, too, how often had I ended up doing nothing; because I was afraid that I would miss something even more fun to do. It’s funny how many weekend nights were spent waiting for those “fun things to dreamsdo” calls that never came.

The bottom line in life is that you will slip and fall from time to time. The important thing is to get back up when you fall, dust yourself off and go on living. Don’t become so afraid of falling (failures) that you spend your life starting at your own feet, trying to avoid the slick spots, instead of looking around you for new adventure and new people to meet.  Raise your head and enjoy life!


Holding on to the ones we like…

February 17, 2015

“There aren’t many people that you just ‘click’ with, and when you find those people, you don’t just let them go.”  (Unknown), as seen recently on the Jack’s Winning Words blog.

Today’s thought concerns those that we meeting in life who we just immediately like and want to spend time with. These people may end up being our BFF’s. We enjoy
freinds - 3them and, if we’ve really “clicked”, they like us, too. For women these may be the few that you share everything with, your hopes and dreams, your fears and concerns and your crushes and loves. For guys, the relationship may seem a bit less open and may involve a bit of drinking before anything is shared, but these are the few with whom you could watch the movie Brian’s Song together and both cry at the end.

The concept of “clicking’ usually has a lot to do with finding someone with values and beliefs that are in sync with yours, which you will discover over time. Many times the initial attraction of this new friend will be fairly superficial – mannerisms, how theyfriends holdi hands speak or how they conduct themselves in public. As you get to know them better, you may start to see a lot of yourself in them or them in you. That may be the real “click” here; the fact that you and they are so alike. It’s sort of like hugging yourself and we all seem to find satisfaction in confirming our own beliefs and values.

The old saw about opposites attracting may also come into play here; although I have my doubts about the strength or longevity of such a friendship. Occasionally I’ve seen people who hung out with other people who seemed to be their complete opposites. Usually one of the two was either brash and loud or maybe just odd couopleproudly and defiantly different; while the other was the image of the prim or proper person who would never appear like their friend or do what they do. I’ve never been able to figure out whether those were symbiotic relationships in which both gained something, somehow; or whether they were just instances of lives someone (or both) trying to live vicariously through someone else. Somehow they’ve clicked.

There’s an old saying “it was love at first sight”, and certainly today’s little saying would apply there, too. Most often the initial “click” that you might have with someone of the opposite sex is physical and based almost solely on appearances. That is usually short lived and if there is nothing below that initial surface reaction to like the click can quickly turn into a clank. Did you ever see someone that you thought, “Wow, I’d like to meet them” and when you do and they open their mouth and speak you immediately try to find the quickest way out? The old saying might be better phrased as “it was lust at first sight” in those cases.

Then there are the cases where someone who was standing there all along and young couplesuddenly snaps into sharp view when they say something that you know that you can relate to or identify with. Sometimes those insights are the first real sight that you have of them and you may find that you love it and them.  Women seem to develop the ability to look passed the physical in order to find the true beauty of the person inside; while men, especially younger men, often have great difficulty looking at anything other than the physical. It is then very fortunate that women also develop patience and tolerance for the younger men that they meet, undoubtedly in the hope that they will eventually mature and catch up. Some do. Hold on to those that do.


Don’t fear success…

February 16, 2015

“Most people we encounter fear success, not failure” – Brian Buffini – from a post on Inman News.

Brian is founder and chairman of Buffini & Company, a life coaching company. It seems counter intuitive that people might fear success more than failure, but Brian went on to make some points about people not doing what they know they need to do afraidin order to be successful. It’s not necessarily that they are lazy or don’t want to succeed, but rather that success to them actually represents the great unknown in a world of failures that they’ve come to know and embrace. For some it’s a matter of not having anyone to hold them accountable for achieving the things that they claim that they want to achieve; which is, of course, where a life coach comes in handy.

As perverse as it sounds, people who fear success might go into situations expecting failure and welcome it as the outcome because they’ve become comfortable with failure. They take the attitude of, “I know I won’t win”, at the start, so the end is pre-ordained and is usually the outcome. That allows them to wallow in the misery that eeorethey had anticipated to begin with. Do you know people like that? They are the eeores of life. Perhaps, in their cases they have attached this tail of constant woe and failure to their own backsides with an emotional pushpin, sort of like eeore’s tail is attached to his rear.

(Ed. – for those unfamiliar with eeore, click here for more on this Disney character in the Winnie the Pooh stories.)

As we start a new week, are you setting off in search of victories and success or do you begin the week sure that it will bring nothing but five more days of failure?  Do not fear success and do not embrace failure as your fate in life.  Rather look at your successes as grand new adventures, taking you places that you’ve never been before. After all, you’ve seen enough of failure, so there must be a better view from somewhere else.

Success can come in many forms from the many experiences that we might have in everyday life. We might start a successful new relationship with someone by simply saying “Hi, how are you” to them, instead of lowering your heading and hurrying by them. You might have a satisfying success during the week by offering to help someonecaregiver with something. It could be something small; like holding a door open for a person behind you that has their hands full or combing the hair of someone no longer able to care for their self. Maybe success will come in the form of making a great presentation at work or doing really well on a test at school. When those successes occur, embrace them and get used to how they make you feel. That good feeling can be yours more often if you approach everything with success in mind, instead of the fear (or expectation) of failure.

Remember the childhood story of the Little Train that Could. He didn’t succeed by littel train that couldapproaching the hill saying, “I know I can’t, I know I can’t.” You need to approach the ups and down in your life with the same philosophy as that little train – “I think I can, I think I can.” After a while that will change to, “I know I can, I know I can” and then a reassuring reflection of “I knew I could, I knew I could.”  I’ve written here before about believing in yourself – see First Believe in Yourself. If you can get there, then you will not fear success, you will expect it of yourself. See; I knew you could, I knew you could.

Have a great and successful week ahead.


Dive into the deep end of life…

February 15, 2015

When you’re a young child and your parents take you to the swimming pool, they might start you out in the kiddie pool – it’s shallow, it’s warm and feels good and it’s kiddie poolsafe for you. You can splash around there and the security of mommy being nearby is reassuring. As you grow older you eventually step over the little wall that separates the pools and enter the big pool. Still you stay down at the shallow end. The water is deeper and maybe you can actually swim a little now; however, it is comforting to know that if you tire, you can put your feet down and stand up.

Still later in life, most eventually venture into the deep end. Maybe you have floatees or swim noodles on the first time into those uncharted water, but you soon cast those off, embarrassed to require them now that you are swimming with the big boys. In the deep end, you must be able to swim because you can no longer touch the bottom with your feet. It is in this end that you can get into real trouble. It is in this end that your struggles and panic can drag others down with you. This is the deep end. This is life.

People grow and mature in body and mind at different rates, especially when looking at emotional maturity. The swimming pool experience provides a good metaphor for life. Some never leave the kiddie pool emotionally or perhaps don’t venture any further into emotional relationships than the shallow end where they can safely stand up and walk back away. A few never want to lose track of mommy and some cling to their emotional floatation devices forever. Listen to groups of teenage girls or even women
swimming pool
talking about their relationships and you’ll soon hear a litany of descriptions of boys and men who are still in the kiddie pool emotionally or who refuse to go beyond the shallow end in their relationships. These are usually frustrated women who are looking for guys who are willing to commit to the deep end of life with them, ready to discard their insecurities (and floatees) and commit to swimming together with them in a deep commitment to life together.

Sure they could go back to the shallow end and enjoy some meaningless physical relationship and maybe even have some fun for a time. Some do from time to time. And maybe they’ve had an experience with an insecure partnert clinging to them and trying to drag them down when they ventured into the deep end and struggled to keeplovers on the beach afloat. Eventually one finds that partner who is not afraid in the deep end and who provides the mutual support to help keep both of you afloat. That requires an ability to let down one’s guard and to be emotionally open. Like the game where you turn around, close your eyes and fall backwards, trusting that your partner will catch you and not let you be hurt; swimming in the deep end means swimming together with that level of openness and trust. That’s a hard, hard thing for many guys and for many women, too.

As you assess where you are in life emotionally, especially if you are in a relationship that is at that step-off point to the next level; ask yourself if you are ready for the deep end with this person? Are you willing to take off the floatees that you have been comfortable with – the guarded independent image that you have of yourself, the rock, the island image (Simon & Garfunkel had a song about that) – and instead open your heart and your mind to allow the new experiences dive inthat wait in the deep end of life. One cannot truly experience life until he can let go of “me” and fully embrace the concept of “we”. That’s what defines the deep end of life. Once you have tasted life at its fullest in that end of the pool of life, the shallow end will never be anything but that – shallow. Dive into the deep end of life!