Let your mind have some fun…

November 30, 2022

“The mind is like a car battery — it recharges by running.”  (Bill Watterson creator of the Calvin and Hobbs comic)

Accompanying this quote was this write-up about Watterson – Every day, for 10 years, cartoonist Bill Watterson delighted readers with a new story in his beloved syndicated comic strip “Calvin and Hobbes.” But that kind of round-the-clock ingenuity is no easy feat. His secret? Recharging the mind by letting it play. “I’ve had to cultivate a kind of mental playfulness,” Watterson said in the same 1990 commencement speech at Kenyon College where he gave the quote above. “A playful mind is inquisitive, and learning is fun.” In other words, creative ideas come when the mind is encouraged to wander into new areas, exploring wherever your natural curiosity may lead.

I might have phrased the quote differently and added to the second part – “it recharges by running and playing.” Allowing your mind to wander, to play, allows it to explore its creativity. As adults we too often discipline ourselves to stay focused on the tasks at hand. In sports that is often called “mental toughness”. Whether in sports, business or just in our everyday lives, the ability to focus can be helpful but it also can be stifling to our minds. I suspect that the increased incidents of road rage and the general lack of civility today is largely due to people becoming too focused and not allowing their minds any play time.

It’s not that living isn’t serious business. For many in high stress jobs it is very serious and for most the responsibilities that come just with being an adult cause us to take life seriously. But that doesn’t mean that you must or should give up some level of the playfulness that you had as a child. Every now and then on the news you will see a story of kids in a war zone playing and having fun. As adults we may think, “How can they play in the middle of being shot at or bombed, with death and destruction all around them?” They simply have not yet been trained to suppress that need to play physically or mentally. That training will come with age, faster and at a younger age in a war zone.

For those of us not living under conditions like war or grinding poverty or famine, it is important that we allow our minds to recharge by letting it out to play, to stretch itself through our imaginations. I have suggested a way to break the mental tension of being too serious all the time by making a funny face in your mirror each morning as you get ready for the day ahead. It is hard to maintain a serious attitude when you make a face at yourself. Try it and see. Just that small crack in your otherwise serious façade will allow your imagination out to play for an instant and allow your mind a break from the grindstone of seriousness.

You might also be surprised that this small break from seriousness will allow you to approach the happenings of the day and the people that you meet from a different, less somber point of view. Just that little spark of playfulness and imagination may show through in your attitude and that will impact how others perceive you and how you perceive yourself. It may put a smile on your face as you start your day and that will be noticed by those whom you encounter. Just keep thinking of that funny face in the mirror and keep smiling.

Recharge your mental battery this morning. Make a face at yourself in the mirror. Let your mind out to wander about in your imagination. Doesn’t that feel better?

Have a great and less serious day.

Make the choice yourself…

November 29, 2022

I got this graphic in a daily inspirational email…

One of the first thoughts that came to mind as I look at this is how many people decide to be victims. I’m sure that you know some people like that. These are the people whom “the world is out to get.” Their misfortunes are never their fault. They are just the victims of circumstances or of conspiracies against them. They are people for whom the mantra “Poor Me” was invented.

But, as Emerson pointed out, it was never pre-ordained that become victims…they willed that upon themselves. We all have choices in life, and we all make those choices. For some the easiest choice is just to decide that success was not to be for them. They settle into the comfort of being the victim. For others the choice to quit, to give up and give in is a non-starter. They chose to endure the pain of setbacks or failures in a never-ending pursuit of their goals.

It is hard to imagine that one can become satisfied in seeing themselves as a loser – a victim. Emerson tells us that the decision is ours to make.  Winners in life have decided not to be victims. They have decided to be a winner, no matter what. They may finish 2nd or third in the race and still feel good if they’ve achieved a personal best or at least know in their hearts that they gave it their best shot – for this time.  They will be back to compete again and again in pursuit of the goal of winning. For them, it is as much about the journey as it is about the destination.

Life is not all about winning races or achieving goals. Oft times it is about how you play the game, how you live your life. At the end of each day, ask yourself if you are happy about how you lived that day, the decisions that you made and the trajectory that you are on. If you are not happy, then remember Emerson’s advice and decide to make changes that will get you back onto the path that you want for your life.

Make your life what you want it to be. It really is up to you. I often use this line in my prayers – “help me make good decisions today”. I find that combining that with the prayer, “Not my will but thy will be done”, puts me in the frame of mind to accept the responsibility for my life and puts me back in control of who I want to become. Try it, maybe you’ll find that it helps you, too.

Become the person that you want to be.

Be brave, scare yourself…

November 27, 2022

A saw this quote in a daily inspirational quotes email that I get – “A big part of being confident is being brave, and you can’t be brave unless you’re scared.” (Bo Burnham)

I’ve posted here a number of times about taking chances in life and that normally involves being brave enough to try something new or to meet someone new – to put yourself “out there” somehow and open yourself up to the possible pain of failure (See Be brave and dare to love someone)

Oft times, the feared pain is not physical so much as emotional when you open yourself up to share with others. It can be scary; but you must risk the pain of failure if you are to pursue the rewards of success.

The order of the words in todays post title is important. I could have said scare yourself and be brave, but I think it is important to be brave enough to scare yourself first, and then let bravery kicking in to deal with the situation that you have created.  That might be trying something new that scares you or meeting someone new who you have been afraid to try to meet.

Many times, being brave enough to try something that you were afraid to do turns out to be no big deal. The imagined bad things that were holding you back don’t occur and the great new thing that you end up doing turns out not to be all that great anyway. That’s life. You should at least feel good about having overcome those false fears that were holding you back. Learn from that.

Successful people often report feeling an adrenaline rush that accompanies the decision to be brave and take the risk. One does not get such a rush from doing nothing or from taking the safe way out of a situation. It is that rush of adrenaline that pushed them over the top of the mental or physical barriers that were holding them back and allows them to be successful. We often call that final push bravery or confidence; but most times it is just not being timid and not stopping ourselves that allows our success.

So, today, and this coming week, resolve to be brave enough to scare yourself. Try that thing that you’ve been afraid to try. Introduce yourself to the person that you’ve been afraid to meet. Don’t hide in a shell of fear. Put yourself out there.

Dare to try. Dare to love. Dare to fail. Feel the rush of daring to be brave.

Scare yourself.

Imagine that…

November 25, 2022

A quote I think I got from the Jack’s Winning Words blog was my inspiration this morning (as often happens) – “Never be limited by other people’s limited imaginations.” (Mae Jemison)

Jack went on to write – Mae Jemison — who in 1992 became the first Black woman to travel into space — was forced to contend with people’s limited imaginations throughout her pioneering career. I’ll leave that to your imagination; although it is not hard to imagine.

One’s imagination can be limited or influenced by many things – ignorance and prejudice are two. In the case of Mae Jemison it was probable a combination of the two for most people who could not “see” her as an astronaut. A similar story was made into the film Hidden Figures.

Hidden Figures is a 2016 American biographical drama film directed by Theodore Melfi and written by Melfi and Allison Schroeder. It is loosely based on the 2016 non-fiction book of the same name by Margot Lee Shetterly about African American female mathematicians who worked at NASA during the Space Race. (Wikipedia)

In both cases the imaginations of many to see the black women as mathematicians or as an astronaut was limited or redirected by ignorance and prejudice. Also, in both cases, the women involved did not let that stop them from being or becoming what they imagined themselves to be.

While the majority of us may never feel the limitations and sting of prejudice, we do sometimes let the imaginations (or lack thereof) of others hold us back. Being told that you are not smart enough, or strong enough, or brave enough to do something or that “you can’t do that” for reasons never fully explained, serves to set artificial boundaries in our lives…unless challenged.

Sometimes the limited imagination is shown through oversight or being ignored. Nobody expected greatness when Tom Brady was selected in the sixth round of the 2000 NFL draft. I can imagine that Brady sat there through round after round of the 2000 NFL draft wondering why no one could see the potential greatness that he could imagine in himself.

The similarity of those two very different situations is that both Jemison and Brady believed in themselves. They could both imagine themselves in the roles that they were being denied in the imaginations of others. They also combined that with a hard work ethic that helped them never to give up on their dream or imagination about themselves.

There is no way to avoid the limited imaginations of others about you, whether it is driven by ignorance, indifference, or prejudice. The key is not to let what others think of you influence what you think of yourself. Keep your goals out in front of you and keep imagining yourself achieving those goals. Let that imagined achievement motivate you to put in the hard work that may be needed to get to that goal.

Remember that The little engine that could in the book you read as a child achieved his goal; of reaching the top of the hill because he did not believe those who said that he could not. His mantra was, “I think I can, I think I can.” He continued thinking that until he did. You can, too. Like Mae Jemison, don’t let yourself be limited by other people’s imagination of what you can accomplish. Just keep imagining “I think I can” and you will.

Imagine that.

Don’t bore yourself…keep learning

November 23, 2022

A recent post to the Jack’s Winning Words blog had this quote that I liked immediately.

“The most compelling reason to get a good education is that it makes the inside of your head an interesting place to spend the rest of your life.”  (Judith Shapiro)

While I agree with Shapiro, I might have phrased it thus – “The most compelling reason to always continue learning is that it make the inside of your head an interesting place to spend the rest of your life.”

When we think of getting an education, we most often think about our school years – the time when we were focused upon learning above all else. All to soon the demands of life to make a living, first for yourself and then for your family, become our focus and learning new things unrelated to that focus almost always takes a backseat. Even the most challenging of jobs can eventually become routine and boring. Sometimes that makes the inside of our heads a boring place, too.

That is why it is so important to stay curious about new things and new people in your life…to continue learning. When one stops learning their mind stops growing and the world may start to feel like it is shrinking and closing in on them.  The brain loves exploring, organizing and storing new information and relating it to information that is already there. Your brain can get bored and atrophy if you stop challenging it with new experiences and learning.

So, make the inside of your head an interesting place to spend time by making a conscious effort to learn something new each day. Read something new. Try somethings new. Meet someone new. At the end of the day think about that new learning and figure out where it fits into the stuff that was already in your head. Process it and find it’s spot in your mind.  It doesn’t just have to be a new fact. Maybe it was a new feeling that you had during the day or a new reaction to something that occurred.

You’ve got the rest of your life to spend inside that head; make it an interesting place to be – keep learning.

Be thankful and be at peace…

November 22, 2022

As we approach the Thanksgiving holiday this quote that I got in an email recently makes great sense and sets a wonderful tone for the holiday.

I have known some families who make it a practice on Thanksgiving Day to have family members voice their gratitude for something or someone in their life during the year. I suspect that we all pause to reflect on things that we are thankful for at some point during the day of Thanksgiving. Perhaps we should make that a daily habit, rather than just a once-a-year occurrence.

 It is relatively easy to see how being grateful can bring closure and peace about events in the past. It is also not hard to understand that being grateful allows us to pause and be at peace with the present. It is a bit harder to see how being grateful for something or someone in your past provides a vision for the future; however, the thought process that starts with that gratitude quickly morphs into thoughts about how that event or person changed the trajectory of your life.

One can’t help but allow that process to project them into the future and a quick vision of where one is headed. The thought process of, “I’m so grateful for this event/person in the past that go me to where I am today”, just careens on into “and where I hope to be tomorrow.”

So, this Thanksgiving, either out loud or just in your thoughts, pause and let yourself be grateful for the things that have happened and people that you have encountered over the past year. It’s all good. These things and people helped get you where you are today and they have changed and directed your life’s trajectory into tomorrow. If you happen to be celebrating the holiday with some of the people in your thoughts, be sure to thank them for their impact on your life.

Be grateful. Be at peace.

Have no regrets…follow your heart.

November 21, 2022

There are few thigs in life that make you feel worse than regret for not having followed your heart and taken the risk of trying or of loving, even if you failed. Unrequited love feels painful, but it is a pain that comes after the euphoria of the attempt, after laying your soul bare and putting yourself out there on the line. Many times, that open and honest expression of love will be returned, even if not to the level that you may have desired.

The “coulda, woulda, shoulda’s” that result from not following your heart, not even trying, seem to linger much longer than the disappointment of rejection, of having tried and failed, whether in love or just in life. You can eventually reconcile with yourself for a failure, but there is no way to forgive yourself for a forfeiture – the failure to even try. The nagging question, “What if I had tried?” stays with you.

Following your heart will take you somewhere. Not following your heart just leave you sitting there wondering what might have happened and regretting not having tried.

So, today’s lesson, or advice, is to listen to your heart and give it a go.  That is not to say to do stupid and dangerous things. Intelligence must be applied to everything that you might contemplate doing; however, especially in the case of relationships and maybe love, don’t let the fear of failure stop you from even trying. There is a sense of accomplishment to be found even in failure for having tried. “I did it. I tried.”, even while experiencing the pain of failure, it is more satisfying than wallowing in the regret, “I wish I had …”

Follow your heart.

Be brave and dare to love someone…

November 17, 2022

A couple of quotes in my saved quote file just seemed to fit together this morning –

“Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one’s courage.” (Anaïs Nin)

“Love comes… when you dare to reveal yourself fully. When you dare to be vulnerable.” (Joyce Brothers)

There is little else that expands one’s life as much as sharing love with another person. Allowing yourself to be vulnerable enough to share that love takes the courage to dare that you could be hurt, especially if your love is not returned. Yet, even unrequited love expands your life, since you become more aware of your ability to love someone else.

Loving someone else does not have to be restricted to romantic love. When you form strong bonds with friends it’s often because you have allowed yourself to be vulnerable with them, perhaps sharing secrets or dreams or fears. By opening yourself up and sharing personal things with them your life has expanded to take them into your personal space. Sometimes that may prove to be a mistake, but most times they reciprocate by also sharing parts of their life with you that are their secretes. Think of your BFF’s and the things that you each shared with the other. That took courage.

Being brave enough to keep trying for friendship or love means being able to overcome the disappointments of past attempts that did not work out. In almost all cases it means being able to forgive and move on. I’ve posted here many times about forgiveness – forgiving others who might have hurt you by betraying the thrust that you placed in them; as well as forgiving yourself for misreading the situation and placing trust in someone who was not ready to honor or return that trust.

The bruise that is left by a betrayed trust or an unrequited love can be deep, but it will heal if you let it. Sometimes it is important to forgive yourself first and then move on to forgive the others. That is why Jesus included in the prayer that he taught the disciples in the Lord’s Prayer that they needed to forgive nor only their own transgressions but those who transgressed against them. I chose that version of the wording of the prayer because the word “transgressions” seems to have wider and more inclusive meaning that the word “sins”.

Don’t let your life shrink into loneliness. Put yourself out there and life will become expansive for you. Have the courage to keep being vulnerable, to keep making new friends or searching for love. 

Dare to love and you will find love in return.

Think about it, but then act upon it…

November 14, 2022

“Humility is not thinking less of yourself; it is thinking of yourself less.” (Rick Warren) This quote is from pastor and author Rick Warren’s 2002 book “The Purpose Driven Life.”

Thinking of yourself or about what something will mean to you is quite natural. How we perceive and react to the world around us is pretty much driven by the thought, “What does this mean for me?” That was certainly not what Rick Warren had in mind and I doubt that Warren had apathy in mind when he penned today’s quote.

Perhaps empathy is a good starting point to what Warren was pointing towards in his remark. However, given the focus on purpose that Warren took in his writings and his ministry, I suspect that there was implied action in Warren’s advice and not just empathy.

Thinking to yourself as you walk by a street beggar, “Oh that poor man. There, but for the grace of God, go I”, is one thing; but, stopping to help or perhaps just giving him/her a little something to help is completely different. Watching the news coverage of a natural disaster somewhere else and feeling bad for the people that you see in the story is most of the time accompanied by feelings of thankfulness that it did not happen where you live. Donating to help those people or donating your time to some relief effort is based upon thinking more of them and less about yourself.

We cannot turn off the natural instinct to think about ourselves and the impact that things might have on us; however, we can make a conscious effort to think more about others and the impact that our actions might have on them. We can turn our thoughts from “How do I get through this” (whatever it is) to thoughts of “How can I help others get through this” and turn those thoughts into actions.

We often see on the news shows stories about people who have been through some personal tragedy, such as the loss of a child to gun violence or drugs, starting a movement to stop or lessen the cause of their loss. Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) was one such movement. Those are movements and organizations started when someone thought more about others and how they might help others than about themselves.

Maybe the next time that you catch yourself being thankful that something didn’t happen to you, instead of just praying, “Thank you Lord for watching over me and protecting me from that bad thing”, you can go on to ask, “How can I help keep it from happening to someone else or help someone to whom it has already happened?”

Just getting yourself in the frame of mind to think less about yourself and more about others will often lead you to a course of action that will be helpful to others. You will be acting out of humility and acting out humility.

Think about it, and then act upon it…

That’s life…

November 11, 2022

This quote was at the top of an email that I got this morning which was probably advertising something. I like it because it takes an active view of making life better, rather than a passive view.

One could spend (waste) a lot of time in the passive mode of hoping and dreaming about how life could be, but those who actually achieve those dreams are the ones that take action to make their dream happen. It is through the doing that we turn “I wish I was” into “I am.”

So instead of spending more time this morning hoping and wishing for a better life, maybe take a few moments to ask for God’s help doing the things that you need to do to become that better person. A simple prayer like, “God help me make better decisions today and help me become a better person” can set the stage for the successes that you desire.  

At the end of the day, if you can look back and feel good about the decisions that you made and the way that you comported yourself you will feel a sense of accomplishment that surpasses the achievement of greater wealth or power. You may also notice that the things that make you feel the best about yourself were things that you did to make someone else’s life better – a kind gesture or effort to help someone else, to complement them, or otherwise engage them.

Life is not lived in the vacuum of self, which is the lonely realm of hoping and dreaming; life is lived within the context of society in which “we” is more important than “me”. We are told in the Bible –

“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.”  (Philippians 2:3-4)

It is not enough to wish that the other person has a better day or to hope that someone would open that door for them; it is up to you to do thigs to make the day better for them and in so doing to have a better day and become a better person yourself.

That’s life.