What do you see in your mirror?

March 22, 2019

Today’s entry in the Jack’s Winning Words blog has this quote – “Smile in the mirror.  Do that every morning, and you’ll start to see a big difference in your life.”  (Yoko Ono)

funny face 2Readers of this blog will recall that I’ve posted here more than once about making a funny face in the mirror in the morning to get your day started off right. In this morning’s paper these was a review of the new scary movie “Us” (click here to watch trailer), in which mirrors play a frightening role.

The point of looking in the mirror and smiling or making a funny face is to be more aware of what people see when they look at you during the day. Most of us go through most of our awake lives without any idea what we look like. When we aren’t making asad looking man conscious effort to smile or “at rest” face is what the world sees. It’s not that we are trying to look unfriendly or angry or sad. In fact, we aren’t making any effort to look any particular way. It’s just that, when our facial muscles completely relax, our faces tend to droop into looks that can easily be mistaken for any of those feelings. Have you ever had someone ask you , out of the blue, why you are frowning or what you are mad/sad about? It’s your at rest face giving you a bum rap.

It’s possible to see what you look like by looking in the mirror and relaxing; but most of us would probably still consciously put on some kind of “face” in the mirror.  A better way to see what you normally look like is to have someone take a picture of you when you are not aware of it. You will probably look at those pictures and ask, “I don’t really look like that do I?” The answer is yes. Most of the time the average person’s “at rest” face looks bored, or sad or maybe even a little angry. They are usually not all that inviting and friendly. It takes an effort to smile and when we relax, we don’t make that effort.

What are we to do so that we don’t turn off the world with our at rest face? Well, you can smiling dogstart with today’s advice and conscientiously make the effort to smile in your mirror in the morning. Make that funny face to help you get in the mood. Then fix that feeling of the smile that you are wearing in your mind and try to be aware of your face as the day progresses. You won’t be able to maintain that thought all day, no one can; however, it will pop back into your mind during the day and you can bring the smile back to your face.

An interesting thing happens when people encounter you with a smile on your face, instead of the frown that your normal “at rest” face presents. Instead of avoiding you handshakebecause you look unhappy, they will engage you to find out what you are smiling about. You will look upbeat and people want to associate with upbeat people and not with the Debbie Downer’s of life. A smile presents a mystery to the world that they will want to share, while a frown just says, “you don’t want to know what’s bothering me”.

So, take Yoko’s advice (or mine) and start the day with a smile or a funny face in your mirror and see if your day doesn’t go better because of it.

this-is-meOh, look at her; I wonder what she is smiling about?

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So just do it, now…

March 18, 2019

I save quotes from the Jack’s Winning Words blog because I think I’ll someday use them to inspire a post here. That was the case with today’s quote – “The best time to plant a tree is 20 years ago.  The second best time is now.”  (Chinese Proverb)

Every now and then something that we meant to do just gets left behind and forgotten. We get busy with other things or other people and leave projects unfinished or let old friends drift away. I saw a recent episode of Chasing Classic Cars in which a man was selling a 1978 Datsun 280 Z that he had parked in his garage 40 years earlier. He had purchased the car and put about 2,000 miles on it during the summer months. He had some small problems with it, so he parked it in the fall with the intention of getting it out in the spring and make the needed repairs. Some 40 years later, the car still sat exactly where he had parked it and now he had decided that he was probably never going to get around to those repairs and it was time to sell.

Life is full of little stories like that, which usually use the words coulda, woulda, shoulda somewhere in the telling.

You have old friends that you used to be very close with, but life got in the way and now talking-2it’s been years since you’ve talked. You had a favorite bar or restaurant that you used to hang out in, but you started trying new things and it’s been a long time since you visited your old haunt. Maybe you promised your mom that you’d come visit her regularly in the retirement home, but with the kids school activities and other things putting demands upon you, you just didn’t get the time.

Maybe it’s not an old thing that has been forgotten but a dream that was never pursued. Perhaps you always meant to get back to school and finish up that degree, but family came along and there was always a reason to put it off. Maybe it was that sport that you hoped to take up or that hobby that you always wanted to pursue. Perhaps it was that person that you always wanted to meet or ask out, but were to shy to approach.

Whatever the unfinished things are that sit in the back of your mind and nag at you every now and then, the time is now. The tomorrows that you promised yourself youlife-choices would use to do those things eventually run out. Stop putting things off and just do them. Realize that it’s not that you don’t have the time, it’s that you aren’t using that time that you have to do the things that you want to do. You are letting the living of your life get in the way of the life that you’d like to be living. Take back control of your life and do the things that you’ve been putting off.

So, get that old dream out of your mental garage, dust it off and make it happen. Rekindle old relationships and fulfill old obligations. Do the things that you coulda, woulda and shoulda been doing.

It’s a great time to plant that tree today!


Who will run your day?

March 13, 2019

From an article on planning and time management that I recently read – “Either you run your day or your day runs you.”

The article wasn’t about trying to control things, which is good, because there is no way to be in control of the day; however, you can be in control of yourself…and that was the point the article made. It was about having the self-discipline to get up and spend some time thinking about your day and how you wish to spend it, rather than getting up, looking at your phone and immediately going into react mode. In fact the article phone with msgspecifically mentioned being disciplined enough not to look at your phone until you had created a prioritized list of the things that you want to get accomplished that day – call it a to-do list or a schedule or calendar.

When you eventually do look at the messages and news that have accumulated on your phone overnight, you will be able to slot any needed reaction to things you see there into the schedule that you have set for yourself. You may have to juggle the schedule a bit, but you still have an ordered and prioritized list of things that you want to accomplish. You are running your day, instead of the day running you.

Another piece of advice from the article was not to let “shiny things” distract you. Shiny things are those distractions that occur during the day that are attention grabbing and shiny thingscan cause you to wander seriously off course. For some it can be the little ding or musical notes or buzzing that indicates that a new email or message has arrived on your phone. Somehow, we have become trained to react in real time to the need of the phone for attention. Most of the time the attention-demanding message turns out to be spam or trash, but we have interrupted whatever we were doing to answer the demand of the phone for our attention. Other shiny things might be something passing by outside that catches our eye or someone entering the room. Whatever it is, if you let those things distract you from what you were doing the day is running you.

The key point in the article is constantly being aware of what you are doing and why. If you are aware of that, you will not let other things (distractions) take time away from the tasks at hand. You also need to be aware of those times when you have nothing on your tree slouthschedule and decide how you wish to spend your down time. A popular term in our vernacular today to describe such a time that has no plan is “I’m just hanging out”. A person who answers the question, “What are you doing?” with that phrase is letting the day run him/her. You are basically saying, “I have no idea what to do and have turned off my brain.” There are always things to do. Things that you have been wanting to do. Things that you’ve been putting off. Opportunities to spend time with family or friends. You are in control of that down time.

If you are in control of nothing else, you do control how you spend your time. Don’t just hang out, letting the day run you…grab the day and run it.

Oops, gotta go…my phone just buzzed. I must obey. Ooooooh, shiny thing.


Watch or DIY?

March 12, 2019

I don’t watch a lot of television anymore, but when I do it is likely to be a reality TV show. No, I don’t watch the Kardashians; more likely one of the car shows on the Motor Trend channel or American Pickers on the History Channel. My wife likes the Dr. Pol show and other reality shows on the Animal Planet channel and the National Geographic channel.

Obviously, these shows aren’t pure reality TV, since they are taped and edited and the participants know that they are being taped. I suppose that the live action police body camera TV shows come closest to being reality shows. However, the shows that  I mentioned do provide that mindless respite from our own reality that we all need everywatching TV now and then.

Occasionally, I’ll be watching one of these shows and the thought comes to mind, “Why am I watching what they’re doing instead of doing something myself.” Do you ever feel like that? It’s a guilt reflex triggered by the realization that I’m not “doing something”, combined with the inability to let go and relax. My wife gets on my case about not being able to relax all the time.

Still, there is a message there that living one’s own life is better than watching someone else live his or her life. Doing it yourself (DIY) is better than watching someone else do it. I am often inspired by that thought to get up and turn off the tube and find things to do. There are always things that need doing or that you know you should do. Even reading a good book is better than sitting there watching someone else reading a book (how dumb would that be?).

The next time that you find yourself mindlessly watching Duck Dynasty, The Real dinosaurHousewives of Wherever, or whatever reality you have tuned into, ask yourself if there isn’t something that you could/should be doing that would add more value to your life or the lives of others around you? I suspect that you’ll put down the snack, turn off the TV and start DIY. And that’s a good thing. Living your life to the fullest is a whole lot more exciting than watching the lives of others on TV and you don’t have to wait through commercials to get to the next good part.

Watch or DIY – you make the choice.


Is always being “connected” good?

March 10, 2019

There is a company that Realtors and many others use to stay in touch with their past or future clients called Constant Contact. The company specializes in using electronic and paper-based messages to keep your name and product in front of people. One technique is called a drop-mail program, which is sort of like the Chinese water torture that the name conjures up in the imagination. Constant Contact keeps drip, drip, dripping emails and/or paper mail notes to the recipients until the give up and buy something or use the services being advertised. At least, that is the theory.

Our lives have evolved over the last couple of decades to include the concept of being constantly in touch, being connected somehow. For a while it was through emails and the “Crackberry” became the tool of choice for those who became hooked on constantly checking their email. More recently, of course, the smartphone and aps like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Whatsapp have dominated our time and attention. We are morecouple-looking-at-phones connected than ever. But, is that a good thing?

Stories about distracted walkers getting hurt or distracted drivers getting into accidents, sometimes very bad accidents, would suggest that being this connected in not good. We may laugh at the videos of people walking along fixated on their phone until they walk into a fountain or out into traffic, but it is really not funny. It is certainly not funny to see people blow through a stop sign or light because they are looking at their phone. What we don’t see are eh countless other hours a day that these people are oblivious to the people and event around them because they are absorbed in their connected world of their phone.

It is not just dangerous physically to be so focused upon that world, it is harmful and dangerous to be that disconnected from real life. Social skills fall by the wayside and are left undeveloped. Communication skills become bastardized by the use of catch phrases, acronyms and whole thoughts being reduced to 2-3 letters that are easy to type. Face to face communications, where body language may be studied to help interpret the situation are replaced by screen time where misunderstandings are commonplace and emoji’s attempt to replace facial expressions.

Of course there are very good uses for our smartphones and I’m not advocating that we get rid of them. They are wonderful tools for finding information when you need it and they even allow for great communication with others when distance is an issue; however, they are no substitute for good, old fashion conversations face to

Emoji_Face-with-Pleading-Eyesface with others. Don’t let you phone take over your life. Remain in control of it as a tool; otherwise it can become your master and lead you into electronic isolation. Maybe there’s a three letter word for that – SPS (SmartPhone Syndrome) –

So, maybe always being connected is not a good thing. Maybe it’s time to put down the phone, look up and see what’s really going on around you. Maybe you should put a smile on your face and say “Hi” to someone instead of ending an emoji to Wave at them over Facebook. You may be surprised how much more fun it can be to actually talk to someone, rather than sitting there typing away on your phone.

Oops, got to go. My phone just beeped. It might be something important. Or not. Someone wants to know where I am and what I’m doing. Maybe I’ll find out where they are and what they are dong. How exciting.


Don’t rust out…find new challenges…

March 9, 2019

Seen recently on the internet – “Most people rust out due to lack of challenge. Few people rust out due to overuse.” (Denis Waitley)

Like rust on things, rust on people can be prevented with a little effort. The key message in Waitley’s saying is to keep finding new challenges for yourself. Many people “retire” from work and almost retire from life. They no longer have the challenge of lazygetting up and going to work every day and many fail to challenge themselves with new things to do, new skills to learn or new knowledge to be gained. They begin to rust because they are not using their minds and bodies as they were meant to be used.

Admittedly, our bodies change as we get older and start to put some limitations upon what we can do physically. That just means that we need to adjust by doing different things or doing things differently. That’s one of the mental challenges that we should be focusing upon – not quitting, but finding new ways of doing things that we love to do. caregiverAnother challenge may be finding new challenges to replace those lost with the last job. Some may take on new or different jobs, as I have. Some may find both the challenge and satisfaction that they seek in volunteer work. I do some of that, too. The key (to steal a phrase from Chevrolet commercials) is to find new roads (new challenges) to keep yourself busy and stave off the rust.

Taking on the challenge of a new job, especially one in a field that you have no experience in can be both a physical and mental challenge. You must learn new skills or maybe just sharpen and adjust old skills and you usually must learn a new vocabulary of the terms and words that the new job uses. Both are a bit frightening, but that ads to thevolunteers challenge and the rewards of the new job. Some may find new jobs that take advantage of management skills that they have developed over time. The challenge there is to recognize the differences in the job settings and to find the best ways to implement the skills that you may have developed in a big company setting to a small company or non-profit organization. That can be quite a challenge.

It’s really easier than you think to find new challenges. The need for volunteers is everywhere around you. You just have to try a few to find one or two that suit your needs, your interests and the time that you have to give. Most churches have lots of volunteer opportunities, so check with your church. Then, there are all of the non-profit service organizations that exist in every community in America, from Meals on Wheels old-ladyto local mobility services. If you can drive a car you can help them. There are community food banks and homeless shelters that need help. There are local retirement homes that are full of people who would just like someone to talk too. If you can talk and listen, you can do that.

The point is that there is no reason to sit around and rust out. Some get it in their heads that no one needs them anymore. Not true. There are tons of people that need you, but you just don’t know who and where they are. Get off your duff and find them. Be useful and be patient with yourself and with the new challenge. You’ll be in learning mode take actionagain and isn’t that exciting! You’ll figure it out and it will feel great when you do.

Don’t rust out. Find those new challenges. What are you waiting for?


Start your day with a laugh?

March 4, 2019

From a recent post to the Jack’s Winning Words blog comes this piece of advice – “I love people who make me laugh.  Laughing cures a multitude of ills.  It’s probably the most important thing in a person.”  (Audrey Hepburn)

The important message there is the ability to laugh. For some it is the ability to laugh at themselves; to take life less seriously than others do. When we let life get so serious that we can no longer laugh is when we get into mental health problems. People who experience depression have temporarily lost that ability to see any humor in life; theydepression3 can no longer look at what is happening and laugh. Sometimes things in life can seem so bad that they become absurd. It’s at those moments when the ability to look at the situation and just have to laugh at the absurdity of it all that can get you through it.

I have almost always had the ability to see the humor in life, even in it’s most absurd moments. My wife and I often say in bad situations, “Someday we’ll look back on this and laugh.” Of course, just saying that usually makes us laugh in the present, too.

Some comedians based their whole routines around making you laugh at the absurdity in their lives. Rodney Dangerfield was one such comedian and his stick based upon how absurd his life was never failed to make everyone laugh. Here’s a routine from the old tonight show – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MecU2keW54I

I believe that it is important that we retain the ability to see the humorous side of life dumb blob guyand not get so serious about it that we lose the ability to laugh at it and at ourselves. My first reaction to having done something stupid is usually to be mad at myself, but that lasts only a moment until I see the humor in the dumb thing that I just did. Then I step back, have a good laugh and move on with life. It helps immensely sometimes to be able to see the humor in the absurdity of life and in our own reactions to things that are happening.

One of the things that I have advised in this forum in the past is to start each day as you finish your morning routine in the bathroom by looking into the mirror and making a funny face 2funny face. Stick out your tongue. Scrunch up your face. Do whatever it is you need to do to make yourself laugh at what you see. Break the grip of seriousness on you the first thing in the morning and see if that doesn’t make your whole day better. Laugh at yourself first and then find the humor in whatever life throws you way during the day. Life cannot defeat you if you can still laugh at it.

Can you still laugh? Make a funny face today.

Have a humerus week ahead.