What are you grateful for?

November 29, 2016

“Gratitude improves your attitude, dude!”  (James Taylor), as seen on a recent post at the Jack’s Winning Words blog.

When you get older even things like waking up for another day can be something that one gratitude-1is grateful for. Being grateful is a realization and acknowledgement that the things that happen to us, the experiences that we have and the successes that we experience in life are not totally within our control. Other powers, or other people, have a causal effect on our lives. When you can acknowledge that, the veil of feeling alone in this world is lifted and your gratitude improves your attitude, dude.

When we can put aside ego for a moment and acknowledge and be grateful for those other people and that higher power, we are embracing the fact that we are part of something greater than ourselves; we are a part of society, a member of the pack called “We”. There is some reward in saying “I” did it; but there is a much greater feeling of goodness when you can say “We” did it. It is much more rewarding to thanks and hug others and receive hugs for having accomplished something together than to sit alone and ponder your success. Gratitude improves your attitude, dude.

gratitude-3Beyond acknowledging and being grateful for the help of others, there is the awareness that a higher power is at work in the world and does not ignore you. You may call out for help in prayer to God or you may thank God for saving your bacon today; in either case you are stepping back from your own ego and acknowledging God and showing gratitude for His presence in your life. A secondary benefit of thanking God in prayer for what he has already done for you is the comforting feeling that you’ll get that the future will be OK too, because He will be with you then, too. Gratitude improves your attitude, dude.

We are in the season when people overload on Hallmark Channel feel-good movies and shows and all of the classics from Miracle on 34th Street to Charlie Brown’s Christmas. In every happy ending to those stories there is a group acknowledgement of gratitude for each other and for God and the spirit of Christmas as expressed in the manger in attitude-2Bethlehem. Every Christmas story ends with a group hug and cheerful attitudes as the characters acknowledge and are grateful for the birth of Jesus and His lasting impact on their lives. What are you grateful for this year? Think about it and then say it our loud. It will make you feel better to do that, because gratitude improve your attitude, dude.

Have a grateful week ahead!


You’ll never feel completely ready, so just start…

November 28, 2016

I recently read a great article titled Successful People Start Before They Feel Ready by motivational author and speaker, James Clear. I won’t spoil it for you by revealing the opening, but the gist of the whole thing is not to get too hung up on being ready to take on something new, whether it be a job, an entrepreneurial  opportunity or a new relationship. Just get started.

In my real estate work, I’m under the Real Estate One company brokerage. Real Estate One is a great company for training and developing new real estate agents. The office that I work out of in Milford runs classes for people looking to get their real estate agent licenses several times a year and it always full. A harsh reality in the real estate business is that more than half (maybe as high as 60-70%) of the people who get through the course and get their license will not last a full year in the business. One reason is that they get into it with totally out of line expectations about how much and how fast they can earn and how much they will have to work. I know that the local manager counsels everyone who wants to join our office out of those classes about what they should realistically expect, but many chose to ignore that advice and are gone within their first year.

One of the biggest roadblocks to success for these ”newbie” agents is their feeling that restless sleepthey don’t know enough to handle customer situations. They quite correctly surmise that the training that was required to pass the real estate licensing test is pretty much useless for the day-to-day job of actually being a Realtor®. Real Estate One does provide them with additional training (marketing classes and in-office training on the details of the real estate process); however, they quickly see that there is a ton more to know and the fear of not knowing everything becomes a major roadblock to even trying. Some never overcome that fear and drop out because no business came to them and they were afraid to go after any new business. They feared looking like a fool in front of customers, instead of developing the ability to say, “I don’t know, but I’ll find out”, as they really learned the business.

Life in general is really like that, too. We’re never going to have enough time to know all that we think we need to know or to get as ready as we feel we need to be, whether it is going into the first day on a new job or going out on a first date. Most of us just don’t feel comfortable because we don’t understand the unknowns – we think that we’re not ready.

The advice that Clear give in his article is that successful people jump in anyway; ready or not. They jump in with those fears still in place, but they also jump in with a sense of jump-inadventure and the self confidence that they will be able to tackle any challenges that come along. If they fail, they fail; and they are OK with that because they will view it as a learning experience. The examples that Clear uses also show that they don’t let temporary setbacks stop them. They find a way to recover and move ahead. Some successful people have said later in life, “I was too dumb to know that it couldn’t be done, so I just did it.” They weren’t dumb; they just weren’t afraid to just get started.

Even in situations like asking for a date, feelings of not being ready can creep in and stop someone in their tracks. Maybe you feel like you don’t have enough money for a date or perhaps that you don’t have nice enough clothes. Maybe it’s concern that you don’t have someplace special planned to go or something special in mind to do. Maybe you lay there awake and night wandering what you would talk about in a date. What would you say about yourself? What would you say to him/her? You think that you’re not ready. Don’t live the rest of your live with a bad cases of the coulda, woulda, shoulda’s about that person that you missed your opportunity just with because you felt like you weren’t ready. Just get started.

problem-solverInstead of focusing upon the things that you don’t know and the things you fear that someone may ask of you, focus instead of doing the best that you can, being as honest as you can and being unafraid of saying, ”I don’t know, but I know how to find out.” Just get started and take the rest as it comes. Successful people tend to be good problem solvers, but the problems that need to be solved, in order to reach success, will never occur, if you don’t get started.

I’ve posted here a few times about effective strategies and techniques for problem solving, so review a few of those posts.  Expecting that problems will occur and being mentally ready to go into problem solving mode is perhaps the best way to get prepared. Many successful people might even tell you that the real adrenaline rushes that came with success came from meeting challenges and solving problems along the way. starting

I know that it’s Monday and you had a long weekend. You haven’t had time to get as prepared as you would like; but, be successful today, this week and this year. Get started.


Have an extraordinary life…

November 26, 2016

The only difference between an extraordinary life and an ordinary one is the extraordinary pleasures you find in ordinary things – Veronique Vienne.

It seems to me that the key to that quote from Veronique Vienne is the word “find”. It is an action word that assumes that one is not sitting there waiting for things, and the associated pleasures, to come to them; it says that some overt effort is being made to seek out those pleasures.smell-the-roses

The opening quote is really a variation on the old saw, “Stop and smell the roses.” It is stopping and making the effort to discover the extraordinary that is to be found in all things that brings the pleasure to life. While it is pleasurable to enjoy things like roses or great works of man or even other species of living things; I would submit that the saying might be much more meaningful and rewarding if it were phrased, “Stop and meet the people.”

handshakeIt is in meeting other people that we have our most profound experiences of the extraordinary, because we can relate to their life experiences as if they were our own. We can imagine ourselves living their stories. It is really impossible to imagine yourself as a fish or maybe even living as a lion or elephant; but, one can imagine the life of the fisherman or living in Africa alongside the animals through the stories of other humans who live those lives. One only hears stories like those and imagines those extraordinary adventures if one makes the effort to stop and meet the people.

There was an old late 50’s and early 60’s TV show called Naked City and it’s closing tag line was something like, “there are a million stories in the Naked City and this has been one of them.” There are billions of people on earth and millions within this country and every talking-2one of them has a story, some of them quite extraordinary. Each of those stories allows us to escape the capsule of personal experiences that we live within and imagine new and different experiences, many of them extraordinary indeed.

Imagine meeting a refuge family from Iraq that just moved into your town. As you talk with them about their experiences you are whisked away in your mind to Aleppo, huddled in a bomb shelter or just taking cover under some rubble, with bombs dropping all around you. After the bombing has stopped, you are amazed to see children emerge and start kicking around a ball made of wadded up paper and tape; improvising a game of soccer in the midst of this chaos. How extraordinary is that?

Perhaps you meet an immigrant from an impoverished African country and you suddenly find yourself imagining walking across vast stretches of the plains and desserts in search of food and shelter. In their stories you experience living in the squalor of a refugee camp while awaiting your turn to apply for safety in another country and then the wonder and amazement, along with the fears and uncertainties, of coming to a country where there is men huggingfood and shelter for all in need, but where you don’t understand the language or customs. What an extraordinary journey.

Maybe your travels bring you in contact with Native Americans and they share stories of their heritage and traditions. Perhaps you stop and take the time to talk with an African American who is protesting that black lives matter. You might encounter a member of the GLBTQ community and turn towards them to learn, instead of away from them to shun. It could be that just finding time to share your thoughts with a loved one – your hopes and fears, dreams and disappointments – is an extraordinary experience for you. Make the effort.

In each of these encounters there are people to meet, stories to be listened to and things tolisten be learned. So, stop and meet the people and fill your life with the extraordinary pleasures found in sharing life experiences with others. Making that effort will certainly result in expanding your thinking and may even make you a better person for having listened to, and hopefully considered, that other persons point of view.

Stop and meet the people today and you will have an extraordinary life.


Who do you see when you look in the mirror?

November 25, 2016

“Feel good about who you see in the mirror, not what you see.” – Norm Werner

I’ve posted recently about topics that may not have appealed to everyone – autism and depression. The posts were more about being aware that a so-called “normal” person has no good frame of reference through which to view the world as a person living with either of those conditions sees it and thus we should strive instead for acceptance, empathy, patience and a willingness to listen and offer support.

Today I’d like to return to you, or to me, as the case may be, and how we deal with our self-image. The society that we live in puts a great deal of emphasis on what we see in the mirror and not who we see there. Physical beauty and fitness are good; while plainness mirror imageand deformity or obesity are bad. By implication, the image that we see in the mirror of our physical appearance predisposes us to draw conclusions about the character and worth of the person that is there. Yet, stare as hard as you might, you will never actually see the traits like honesty, integrity, humility, kindness or a loving and giving heart that really makes up who you see in that mirror.

Mahatma Gandhi was not an imposing or even impressive figure of a man in the mirror, yet he led a nation to freedom.  I’m sure that some who may have encountered Mother GandhiTeresa in India, and not known who she was, would have just seen a squat, homely looking old lady in a nun’s habit and not realized that they were seeing someone who would one day become a Saint. Many who met Lech Walesa in his early years as an activist in Poland might have just seen a somewhat angry little Polish electrician who could be dismissed, rather than the future leader of Poland and a Nobel Peace Prize winner. And, how about Detroit activist Rosa Parks? She was certainly not a lady trading on her looks when she decided not to move to the back of the bus, adding fuel the civil rights movement locally. Do you think that any of these people were concerned about what they saw when they looked in the mirror? I suspect that they were much more satisfied with who they saw there, and not the least concerned with what they saw.

How do you refocus so that you feel good about who you see in the mirror and not worry so much about what you see there? First, realize that all of those people would have almost always seen others around them in that same mirror – those that they were helping and those that were helping along with them. So, join in the movements and groups in your community that are trying to help in your area – get involved. They would have also noticed that they seemed to always be doing something and not just standing there by themselves and admiring themselves. In fact they probably passed many mirrors andcaregiver never even noticed themselves in those looking glasses, because they were too busy “doing” to spend time looking.

Get busy doing. Don’t worry about what others may think of you; focus instead on what you can do for others. Commit yourself to what you can do, to your part in the bigger scheme of things, and be happy with that contribution. If asked about their contributions to society, the people mentioned above might have had answers that sounded amazingly similar, “I’m just one person trying to do what I can to help others.” Reflect on that.

Do you see yourself in roles like that? Do you see yourself helping others, without personal concerns about how you look? Do you see yourself joining others in efforts to help that are helperbigger than one person can accomplish by themselves? Do you see yourself stopping to ask the homeless man what he needs and how you can help? Do you see yourself getting your hands dirty on a weekend helping to build a new home for someone? Do you see yourself standing in the middle of a street with a collection bucket doing what you can to help people that you will never meet? Do you see yourself serving a Thanksgiving meal at a shelter? Do you see yourself visiting a shut-in in a local retirement home? Do you see yourself reaching out to help someone who is experiencing a tough time in their life and just need a friend to talk with?

If you see yourself doing any of those things, or performing other acts of kindkissing mirrorness, charity or love towards others when you look into the mirror; then you are seeing who you are, not what you look like and that’s a beautiful thing. If all you see in the mirror that you hold up
to your life is someone looking back at you who needs a bit more mascara this morning or who might need to visit the gym to lose a little weight; perhaps you need to find a new mirror.

Who do you see when you look into life’s mirror?


What does depression feel like?

November 24, 2016

Recently I wrote a post here that focused upon what autism feels like to someone on the autism spectrum – see my post https://normsmilfordblog.com/2016/11/23/trying-to-understand-others-without-a-frame-of-reference/. As the author of the story that I linked to stated, it was just her personal description of how autism affected her and her life.

A line that I found to be very apropos about almost any health issue like autism was referenced elsewhere on the same autism site –  anonymouslyautistic.net – “if you’ve met one autistic person, you’ve met one autistic person”. In other words, you can’t and shouldn’t  generalize and characterize or stigmatize an entire group of people based upon one experience or one meeting with a person who is somewhere on the autism spectrum.insight Every person who lives somewhere along that spectrum is different and must be accepted with those differences.

The reason I found that site and the story that I referenced so interesting and useful is that it forces the reader to try to understand that they can’t really understand. It exposed a different way of looking at things and life that I called a “frame of reference”.  One ends up admitting that they can’t even imagine what that different frame of reference must feel like and that at least provides the basis for doing something more useful, like accepting
and accommodating the actions and needs for someone who is viewing life through that different frame of reference.

I don’t intend to solely focus here upon the topic of mental or health issues in general; however, the research that I did for that first post did take me off to a journey of discovery about the information available and the number of web sites devoted to providing support for a wide variety of health issues. The site that the article about how autism feels  was posted on – The Mighty – is particularly helpful in providing information about an enormous range of health issues, both physical and mental.

depression4I did decide that, from time to time, I would pursue the approach of looking at posted articles that deal with or focus upon how a particular condition or illness makes one feel. The reason is that I believe that gaining an understanding what is causing a person to act or react the way they are is an important first step towards accepting them as they are and helping them, if they wish to be helped. It is just as important in learning when and how to back off and let the person have the space and time to deal with what is going on in their life. A recurring theme that one sees in the writings of people struggling with some of these issues is how annoying the bumbling efforts to help from well-meaning, but ill informed, “friends” can be. I am not a fan of the “intervention” approach to this topic.

Anyway, as I looked through the huge list of topics on The Mighty, one that I could relate to was Depression. I have known many people who suffered some form of depression anddepression2 believe that I went through an episode (or bout) of depression in my own life a decade or so ago. For me it was just an episode and not a recurring or continuous thing. Many who suffer from depression cannot say that and must seek help in order to live a “normal” life. So, I set out to find an article on-line about what depression feels like, and found the site – http://www.wingofmadness.com.

While, I’m not sure about the site name, it does contain the same sort of what does it feel like and how can I deal with it advice as the autonomously autistic site and it is set up in the same way, as a site for those dealing with the issues to share with others. On that site was the post – What does depression feel like?

depression3So, what does reading through this article this do for you? It gives you yet another “frame of reference” with which to better equip you to accept the person in your life who may be suffering through depression, whether episodic or on-going. It may help you recognize the symptoms that are manifested when one is depressed and perhaps better understand why they do certain things. Perhaps it will help you to not make the mistake of writing off that person or ignoring their actions in hopes that they will just “snap out of it”. If you have a friend or loved one in your family who may be suffering with depression, you may find this article at the same site to be helpful –

http://www.wingofmadness.com/how-to-help-someone-who-is-depressed/

To some, posting this during the holiday season may seem to be inappropriate. However, for almost all of the physical or mental conditions that are referenced on the sites that I pointed you to; holidays tend to be the most stressful and difficult to deal with for people suffering through the misunderstanding of others about their view of, and reaction to, these “special” occasions.girls hugging Rather than getting down on someone for being a “wet blanket” during the holidays, take the time to think about how they feel and find a way to help them feel more accepted and comfortable within a setting that is perhaps frightening and overwhelming to them. Sitting quietly with them in front of a fire and giving them a hug, may be the best present that you can give this Holiday season.

Let them know what love feels like.

 


Trying to understand others without a frame of reference…

November 23, 2016

There are lots of things that I wish I understood better or maybe understood at all. Recently I visited the blog of a new follower for this blog and ran smack into one of those things. That new follower turned out to be the site anonymouslyautistic.net, which is a site where people living on the autism spectrum can share stories and posts anonymously. One post title in particular caught my attention and it was actually a referral to another site – The Mighty – which has a wider focus on mental health issues. It was not anonymous, since it was from that different site.

The post is –

Lori Sealy of The Mighty shares – My Answer to the Question ‘What Does Autism Feel Like?’ talking about her sensory processing differences and how they contribute to her experiences as a member of the autism spectrum. This is a must read article that can help you establish how far from your own frame a reference for life someone else’s frame of reference can be. Once you understand that, you are ready to start trying to accept others.

As I read through Lori’s article the thing that really struck me was that trying to understand autism and how it affects the people who live with it is really trying to boredunderstand something for which I have absolutely no frame of reference. It is a common mistake when we try to understand things like this from our own frame of reference, our own life experiences and knowledge base. Lori’s descriptions of her sensory perceptions of the world are so far removed from my own that I had trouble even imagining what that must be like, yet it was trying to imagine it that helped me understand how little that I really understand. It also helped expand my thinking about how I react, or might react to others; especially those who might be far removed from my own frame of reference. I intend to follow up by reading more of the posts at the anonomouslyautictic.net site and probably at The Mighty site, too.

There are many ethnic and  lifestyle groups that I’m trying to better understand, such as people who identify as members of the GLBTQ community. I felt like I was somewhat comfortable with my understanding of the GLB part of that; but the T and Q parts left me searching for a frame of reference to use, in order to better understand the experiences visualizingand point of view of people self-identifying in those categories. I read a rather scholarly article on the T part of that, which I found on the site ReconcilingWorks.org (a site for Lutheran churches that wish to become safe haven places of worship for GLBTQ people who are seeking a church home). That article left me even more confused, so I ordered a more complete book on the topic from the site. In reality my understanding of the entire community is on shaky grounds, so perhaps that book will help some, or at least point out how little I really already know.

My point is that I have this trouble understanding most of these things, and I suspect many people have the same problem. Perhaps this is because we’ve all been trying to different-points-of-viewunderstand things from our own frame of reference, rather than opening our minds to an entirely different frame of reference and an entirely different way of looking at things. Maybe others, like Lori, have an entirely different way of processing sensory inputs and experiences or a different way of making choices – a different frame of reference.

The more that I’ve thought about that the more convinced that I am that I have not been trying to understand at all; I was just judging the people that I encountered by a set of standards that I call my frame of reference. My frame of reference is the result of my judge thingsupbringing and experiences, my education and knowledge base, my beliefs and my fears and misconceptions.  That judgement of others starts with the presumption that whatever I feel or think must be “right” and anyone else that I encounter who deviates from that definition of “right”, must somehow be “wrong”. Different must be wrong. Not acting, and reacting, as I do must be wrong. Not being like me must be wrong. Apparently, not being me is wrong. How wrong is that?

Then I recalled the response that Pope Francis had to a question about gay priests. The Pope said, “Who am I to judge?” I think that is a healthy attitude that can be applied across the board when dealing with others, no matter how different they may be from me or you. Who are we to judge? So, my new mantra will be, “Who am I to judge?”

I have concluded that I will never really understand another person’s frame of reference and I have decided that I should not judge others by my own frame of reference; so, what’s left? If I don’t judge others and I don’t understand others; how do I act and react with girls huggingothers? Well, there’re still a lot of options left. One could start with acceptance. Accepting the person as you find them and not immediately judging them or rushing in to try to change them is a good first step.  You could continue by striving for some level of empathy with that other person’s perspective on life. That requires other things, such as patience, sympathy, sharing, openness, kindness, perseverance and a willingness to learn, among others. One may end up quite often saying, “Wow, I never looked at things that way”’; and that’s a good thing. That’s a step towards understanding and so much better than just deciding that the other person’s point of view is wrong, just because it is not the same as yours.

It’s not easy taking that first step towards “acceptance”; rather than rushing into the more usual first step of judgement. In fact, I find that I must often step back from having made a preemptive judgement and recall the Pope’s words – “Who am I to judge?” If I can men huggingstop myself early enough, before I have caused the damage to the relationship that a judgement can cause; then I still have the option to accept that other person. Perhaps I will never get all the way to understanding that other person’s frame of reference for life, but maybe I can get to the point of accepting and appreciating them for who they are and trying to learn something from their different perspective on life. Who knows; maybe I can make a friend of someone, if I take the time not to make an enemy. Who am I to judge?

Have a great, judgement-free Thanksgiving!


Now more than ever…

November 22, 2016

“Cast all your anxiety on the Lord, for He cares about you.”  (1 Peter 5:17) – from a post on the Jack’s Winning Words blog some time ago.

Anxiety is defined as “a feeling of worry, nervousness, or unease, typically about an imminent event or something with an uncertain outcome.”

The recent election has caused a great deal of anxiety among people who voted for Hillary winner-loserClinton and against Donald Trump. That anxiety is driven by fears that President-Elect Trump will actually carry out some of the more outrageous promises that he made while campaigning, concerning things like building a wall at our southern border and deporting illegal aliens or taking harsh and discriminatory measures against various ethnic or religious groups. There would have been a similar anxiety had Hillary won from those who saw her as a threat to their right to own weapons or who fear more and bigger government interference in their daily lives. Those on both sides should step back and remember Peter’s advice – “Cast your anxiety on the Lord, for He cares about you.”

There is a great deal of irrationality in both of those views. While a modern President can impact our lives in many ways, our governmental system does not allow for him/her to run roughshod over the will of the people or even that of the minority. Having rebelled against an onerous king, the founding fathers of America put enough checks and balances into the reality2system to insure that tyranny by a ruling leader would not be possible. Also at work here is the shift that President Obama has spoken about that occurs once one actually has to be the President, rather than just campaigning to be the President. We can see that already in Mr. Trump’s rapid backpedaling away from some of his more outrageous stated positions from his campaign. Some have called that being pragmatic, but perhaps the Lord is already at work and you can, “Cast your anxiety on the Lord, for He cares about you.”

If one lives long enough, one gets to see (and live through) the various swings of the political pendulum back and forth between the two major parties and their underlying philosophies on government. The earliest that I recall being actually aware of who was President and what they meant was during President Eisenhower’s terms in office; although I do vaguely recall early TV news reports of Margaret Truman playing a piano eisenhowerconcert for her family while in the White House. I do remember how the press seemed to cover every golf outing that President Eisenhower took and how he was called the “do nothing” president; even though he was the father of our modern Interstate system of highways and a bulwark against the spread of Communism after WW II. Eisenhower also created NASA in response to the launch of the Sputnik satellite by the USSR. He fought behind the scenes against Joe McCarthy and effectively ended McCarthyism. There were many who feared what would happen when Eisenhower was elected; but, also many who had faith enough to, “Cast your anxiety on the Lord, for He cares about you.”

I could go on to give examples of the anxieties caused by the elections of each of the Presidents since Eisenhower; but, here we are today, still anxious yet still hopeful. Things will change for a while as the pendulum prepares to swing back towards the other side. Perhaps it is at its furthest rightward point away from the center, but I suspect that this last election was actually a turning point and the momentum has already shifted back reality-checktowards the middle for the next few elections. Those most likely to be disappointed are not those who voted for the losing candidate, but those who voted for the winner, in hopes that all of their anger, hate and prejudices would be assuaged. For those who standing quivering in fear and anxiety at this turn of events, I can only offer the comfort of faith and ask them to, “Cast your anxiety on the Lord, for He cares about you.”

Now is not the time to abandon your faith; now is the time to find strength and comfort in it. Many may feel the same way they recalling feeling when they faced a bully at school or bully.pngat work. There is a lot of bluster and bravado from the winning side and some disappointment, whimpering and shame on the losing side. Both have already subsided as both now try to envision a future with this status quo. One side is focusing upon what they can actually do for the next four years and the other is deciding what they can actually prevent from happening in that same time period. The gridlock that is our Congressional arm of government has shifted from “prevent Obama from doing anything” to “prevent Trump from doing anything.” The Lord does work in mysterious ways, indeed. “Cast your anxiety on the Lord, for He cares about you.”

In churches across the land the prayers remain the same – “Lord give our leaders the wisdom to lead us wisely and to do the right things” (or words to that effect). We haveman praying no power over what those leaders see as “the right things”, but God does. Now, more than ever, we need to trust in God to put into the hearts and minds of those in power the wisdom and compassion to do the right things. So pray often and pray hard for God to intervene to make the right things happen; and, pray with the conviction that you can, “Cast your anxiety on the Lord, for He cares about you.”

Have a great and anxiety-free week ahead.