Get out of your ruts and improvise…

February 7, 2022

Two quotes that I’ve saved from the Jack’s Winning Words blog just seemed to fit together this morning.

“How do you tell a rut from a tradition?”  (Fr Don Talafous)

“Life is a lot like jazz.  It’s best when you improvise.”  (George Gershwin)

Ruts occur in life all the time. One gets comfortable going to the same places, doing the same things and seeing the same people all the time. It’s not tradition, it’s a rut. Even beloved traditions can become things in which you find yourself just going through the motions, not really enjoying it; but, hey, it’s a tradition. Holidays can be like that. Even small things like gong out to eat can become ruts, when you restrict yourself to a small set of places that you “always go to on weekend.” I suspect that the answer to the question about how to tell if you’re in a rut rather than just following tradition is that ruts have no passion – there is no real enthusiasm in being in them.

Heeding Gershwin’s advice to improvise is the best way to break out of the ruts in your life. Improvising means trying something new, going someplace new or interacting with someone new. The phrase “getting out of your comfort zone” accurately describes what is likely to happen when you improvise. The sense of danger or discomfort in a new experience immediately heightens the enjoyment.

Trying a new restaurant or going to a new store or maybe trying a new sport are all ways to improvise; but, perhaps the most impactful is meeting new people. The other ways of improvising are mostly passive in nature – you mostly just experience them. That’s not a bad thing and experiencing them does add to your store of knowledge; however, you don’t really interact with them, you just experience them. Meeting new people forces you into an interactive mode and may immediately challenge some of the ruts (pre-conceived notions, or stereotypes, or prejudices) that have been dictating your life.

Of greatest impact to get you out of your ruts is meeting new people who are dramatically different from you. Meeting people of different races, ethnic groups or sexual preferences exposes you to points of view that may be very different from yours and forces you to consider those differences. Improvising by meeting new people from different backgrounds, cultures and beliefs will also expose to you some of your own prejudices and hopefully cause you to reexamine and debunk them.

When a Jazz musician takes off on a riff he/she may not know where they will end up; they just know that they are enjoying the moment by improvising. The result is new and beautiful music. Life can be like that too. Improvise and enjoy the moment. You may discover that the new relationships that you form on those moments make beautiful music in your life. Get out of your ruts and improvise. You’ll have the best times of your life and maybe make new friends.

At least pull the trigger…

January 25, 2022

A quote that I saved from the Jack’s Winning Words blog inspired this morning’s post – “I learned a long time ago that there is something worse than missing the goal, and that’s not pulling the trigger.”  (Mia Hamm)

Mia Hamm has been a long-time star on the Us Women’s soccer team and related the many times she pulled the trigger on scoring attempts that failed on her way to the record setting successes that she had. She expressed no regrets on having tried and failed. Her quote shows that a strong and consistent commitment to taking action is preferable to being paralyzed by fear or indecision.

I have another quote that I saved from Jack’s blog that goes well with Hamm’s – “Don’t plan it all. Let life surprise you a little.” (Julia Alvarez)

It is in the tendency to over plan life that many become bogged down in paralysis by analysis and end up doing nothing, not pulling the trigger. Allowing life to surprise you every now and then is essentially taking a chance and pulling the trigger without taking time to consider all of the potential outcomes. That does not have to be as reckless as it might sound. I am not espousing doing really dangerous or stupid things – things like one might see on the show Jackass – but rather that many unplanned or surprise things turn up in life may well lead you in new directions without involving excess danger. You will never know unless you try them. At least pull the trigger…

The most simple and common example of life’s surprises is meeting new people. One encounters people every day that you may not have met before. At that moment you have a choice to make. Do you smile and say hello, in hopes of getting a response or do you lower your eyes and hurry past them in hopes that they do not notice you? If you never pull the trigger on those occasions, think of how many interesting people you will never meet. Sure, you may end up meeting a few jerks or people that you just wish you could get away from – those are the misses that Hamm talked about. But what a pleasant surprise when you meet someone with whom you can have a nice conversation and maybe even begin a friendship. At least pull the trigger…

The same is true of things like trying a new restaurant or a new store or going to a new place for vacation. Too many times we allow the safe comfort zone of the places that we know stop us from trying those new places. In today’s fast-paced world of high technology, many older people have resisted embracing new technologies, sometimes out of fear that they will look stupid while trying to learn. Those who embraced new communications technologies were much better prepared to ride out the restrictions on personal meetings imposed by the current pandemic; unlike those who allowed themselves to become isolated because they would not learn how to use Zoom or other methods of sharing time with others. At least pull the trigger…

So rather than let fear of the unknown or the need to plan everything out prevent you from trying new things, meeting new people and journeying on new adventures, let life surprise you a little and at least try them. Embrace the Nike motto and “Just do it”. Instead of stopping yourself, by thinking that it would be reckless or dangerous to proceed, try thinking of it as a grand new adventure full of wonderful possibilities. That positive attitude will help you get over any initial rough spots and enable you to enjoy the benefits of new knowledge, new experiences, and new friends.  At least pull the trigger…

You’ll be glad that you did.

No worries, no regrets…

January 22, 2018

The little phrase “No worries, mate” became popular when the Crocodile Dundee movies came out and it is still widely use, albeit without the “mate” part. In a recent post to his blog, Jack’s Winning Words, Jack reports on an article that he read – An article in Psychology Today asks, What is the worst emotion you can imagine?  Sadness, or maybe, fear, anger, frustration?  The P.T. writer claims that it’s, regret.  How often have you said, “If only..?”

How sad it would be to go through life constantly saying “If only I had…” If only I’d triedturtle that. If only I had said something. If only I had introduced myself. If only…



Resolve today to overcome your fears of trying or doing and get more out of life. Life is meant to be experienced, not just thought or worried about. The time that you spend worrying about possible bad outcomes could have been spent enjoying a new friendship or having fun doing something that you’ve never done before.

How much fuller your life would be if you occasionally had to say, “Well that didn’t work out like I hoped, but at least I tried and I learned something from having tried”; rather than constantly regretting that you didn’t even try and wonder how it might have turned out.

handshakeSo summon up the courage to try this week. Finally say hello to that person that you cross paths with every day and have always wanted to meet. Try somewhere new for lunch, maybe that little place that you have always wondered about trying. Take advantage of that free trial offer at the gym to see how working out might be for you. Accept that invitation that you’ve always turned down to join in an activity at your church or in your community. The key is doing it and not just thinking about it.

We use the phrase “I’m in a rut” to describe our lives sometimes and sometimes that rut can get so deep that it’s hard to get out of, hard to try new things. Break out of your rut this week and see if your life doesn’t become a little more interesting and enjoyable. You’ll never know if you don’t try and then you’ll just regret not having tried. At least if you try you’ll have some new memories to think about and learn from. You won’t regret having tried.

Take the chance and try this week.

Life isn’t dull in the deep end…

May 25, 2017

“Either you decide to stay in the shallow end of the pool or you go out in the ocean.”  (Christopher Reeve)

I remember as a kid the excitement and the sense of danger of going down to the deep end of the local swimming pool. Even though it was only 18 feet deep at the deep end ithigh board seemed at the time to be like the ocean. After all, I could no longer touch the bottom with my feet and it was either swim or sink. The ocean is ever scarier; however, the first and only time that I have ever gone scuba diving, I discovered what wonderful things there are to see in the ocean, once you get out of the shallows of the shoreline. Even only 20-30 feet down there is much more to see and many more fish than in the shallows of the shoreline.

Life is a lschool-of-fishot like that. There is safety and comfort to be found in staying in the shallow end of life, where your feet are always able to touch the bottom. But, if you will just venture out into the ocean of life a bit, you will find it to be a whole lot more interesting, if not a little terrifying every now and them. Out of the terror and the increased interest in things and people, comes the reward of increased knowledge and awareness of the differences and beauty that is just a bit further out – in the deep end of life. Just like at the pool, you have to work a little harder to stay afloat and there is a tendency to panic from time to time when you realized that you can no longer find the safety of the bottom of the pool; but, also, just like swimming out in the ocean, there is so much more to see and experience and learn from.

We have a euphemistic term for this; it’s called getting out of one’s comfort zone. Our comfort zone is that shallow end that is a little warmer than the deep end and in which we can always securely feel the bottom and even stand up if necessary. When we were real little we may have even worn those “water wings” on our arms to make sure that we could stray afloat. We quickly outgrow those devices, but many of us never really outgrow the need to feel the bottom of the pool – to stay in the shallow end of life.

For many the safety of life’s routines in the shallow end eventually become dull and boring and so they venture out into the deep in (the ocean) of life. That involves interacting with people that we normally don’t interact with and doing things that weworried1 normally don’t do. The biggest challenge is really overcoming our own imagined fears about what could happen and just letting go long enough for the interesting things in life to happen. Sometimes that means meeting and interacting with new people, people who are different from us and our usual friends. Those may be people of different colors or different sexual orientations or even different religious backgrounds. It could be someone from a foreign land or just from a different neighborhood or even a different city or state. Many times it will involve people from different socio-economic backgrounds or different levels of education. The important thing is that it involves people who likely see things from a different perspective than our own. We will be in a different end of the pool, one in which our feet may not be able to touch the bottom.

take a riskSuch interactions, out of your normal comfort zone, might leave you a little breathless or maybe a little frightened, but they seldom could be classified as boring. In fact, you may find yourself longing for another dose of that excitement and the little edge of fear, because it awakens things in you that may have become dormant due to the comfort of living too long in the shallow end. Some who begin to venture out into the ocean of life describe it as a natural high – a combination of the adrenaline rush of trying something new and the satisfaction of having been successful at it.

There is an old saying that what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. I think it also makes you more interesting to yourself and to other, too. So, get out of your comfort zone. See what wonderful things and people are out there in the deep end. Try new things. If you fail, learn from those failures and try again. Meet new people and not just people who look exactly like you. Learn from them. Appreciate them and their cultures and theirjump-in points of view. Life is too short to spend your entire time here in the shallow end. So, venture out into the ocean – the deep end – of life.

I’ll see you out in the ocean…

Improvise and put a little jazz in your life

April 13, 2017

From a recent post to the Jack’s Wining Words blog come today’s inspirational saying – “Life is a lot like jazz.  It’s best when you improvise.”  (George Gershwin)

Improvising is basically doing something that is out of the ordinary or the expected. Jazz musicians may have no idea where they are going or where they’ll end up when they take off on an improvise riff, but it often ends up being something great sounding. Life jazz-1can be like that if you are willing to head off into a new adventure, not sure where you’re going or where you’ll end up but just improvising as you go. Put a little jazz in your life.

The same thing that makes Jazz work can work in our lives. The brains of the Jazz musician have enough understanding of music principles and progressions to keep the musician from getting off into the weeds of just sounding like random notes. When improvising in life we need to trust what some call our instincts and others would call our common sense. We don’t usually do things that are really stupid just to try something new; however, too often we let misplaced and unwarranted fears hold us back from trying new things or meeting new people. Change up your life and try to improvise from time to time. Put a little jazz in your life.

Improvising is trying something new. Ralph Waldo Emerson put it well when he said – “Unless you try to do something beyond what you have already mastered, you will never grow.” Yet many people sit and wait for something to happen in their life that will somehow magically change it. Germany Kent said, “Happiness is achieved when you stop waiting for your life to begin and start making the most of the moment you are new-way-forwardin.” Making the most of that moment is trying something new, putting a little jazz in your life.

For some people the way to try something new is to go somewhere new, to travel. Alex Day put it this way – “If real, regular, normal, boring life, (when you’re at home every day, seeing the same people, doing the same things) is like sitting at home on the floor surrounded by toys… traveling feels to me like going to Toys R Us with your toy box and getting to trade stuff in and buy new things and explore whole new ideas.” I don’t think you really trade in your old toys (or memories) but rather add to your memory toy box. Put a little jazz in your life.

Trying something new or even going someplace new will always involve some risk and that’s a good thing. Rita Wilson said – “Be fearless in trying new things, whether they are physical, mental, or emotional, since being afraid can challenge you to go to the next level.” And Roger von Oech aid this about risk – “Everyone has a ‘risk muscle.’ You keep it in shape by trying new things. If you don’t, it atrophies. Make a point of using it at least once a day.” So, take a risk, improvise and put a little Jazz in your life.

You can certainly find new things to do in life without looking like an episode of Jackass from TV. Just think of things that others have told you that you can’t do or maybe you convicted yourself that you couldn’t do and then go do it. Pablo Picasso out it this way – “I’m always doing things I can’t do. That’s how I get to do them.” Don’t end up life with a bad case of the coulda, wouda shoulda’s. Like the Nike ad says – Just do it. Improvise and put a little Jazz in your life.

mime in boxLife without some improvising and trying new things can begin to feel like the world that the mime is trying to portray when he mimes being in a glass box – there are walls everywhere that prevent you from going beyond some self-imposed limits. You can see through the walls and some things look appealing, but you hold back, afraid to try something out of the ordinary for you.  There is comfort in the familiar, in staying within the box; but a feeling of confinement, too. Break out of your self-imposed box and put a little jazz in your life.

What could you be if you only let yourself try?

February 4, 2016

From the Jack’s Winning Words blog comes this little saying – “If you only do what you can do, you will never be more than you are now.”  (Shifu to Po in the movie, Panda 3)  The dialog continues…Po: “I like who I am.”  Shifu: “You don’t even know who you are.”

Do you know who you are or what you could be, if you only tried something new; something that you didn’t know that you could do?

We all tend to find our own “comfort zone”; that place where we love to go and stay because it is non-threatening and, well, comfortable. Some may tend to cocoon in theirprisoner comfort zone, building walls to keep others out. The trouble is that those same walls keep you held in; you become trapped in who you are and never get to explore who you could be, if only you tried some new things. Your comfort zone becomes your personal prison.

Maybe, like Po in the movie, you think that you are happy with who you are in your safe and secure little cocoon; however, it is more likely that Shifu’s admonishment is more true – “you don’t even know who you are” or who you could be. That advice is particularly true in human relationships. You will never know how your life might change and become perhaps more rewarding unless you make the choice to interact crayonswith a great variety of people. Choosing to live life with few, if any, close friends is like sitting down with a coloring book and having only one or two crayons. It can get pretty dull pretty quick and you can lose interest. Making friends and understanding their different points of view fills you crayon box with many colors and makes the pictures that you do much more interesting.

Trying different things in life both increases your knowledge and makes you a more interesting person for others to know. Can you imagine attracting “likes” on your Facebook page if all you posted every day was, “Got up ate breakfast, went to work, ate lunch, came home, ate dinner and when to bed”? Sometimes life may begin to feel like that; but that can be changed by just trying something new each day. The easiest way to saying hellodo that is to try to meet someone new each day. Each new person that you meet adds a new crayon to your box and allows you to add a new shade or color to your life story.

It’s much easier than you may think to meet someone new each day. You can start by not ignoring those that we already see or pass by each day – the person on the elevator that always seems to be there when we are in the morning, or the person that is out walking their dog at the same time that you do or the woman down the hall from you at work whom you see in the break room all the time. Don’t ignore those people, stop and say, “Hi, I see you all the time, I’m …” You may be pleasantly surprised that they were also wondering about you, too.

As for trying new things; that can be a simple as trying a new way home. We all get in ruts, comfort zones, about things like our routes to and from work or our routines before decisionsor after work. Try something new, a different route to or from work or maybe a stop on the way to or from work that we don’t normally make. Maybe you can try something completely different on a weekend; go someplace that you’ve never been or try a new activity that you’ve never tried. You don’t have to go out and try sky diving, but maybe something as simple as going to a sports event that you’ve never been to or actually participating in a sport that you’ve never tried.

It’s amazing what getting a few new things like that under your belt can do for you. Once you get past the realization of “that didn’t kill me” and maybe all the way to “I really enjoyed that”; you will find yourself looking for the next adventure out of your little comfort zone. In fact you may find that your little cocoon just got a little bit bigger and the pictures of your life a lot more colorful for having tried something new. You have butterfly 3become more than you were then because you did something that you didn’t know that you could do. And, unless this all happens on a desert island, you will also find that you now know more people than you’ve ever known, because you put yourself out there where they were, too.

Life can be beautiful and colorful if you fill your crayon box with the colors of the others that you meet. Get out there and be more than you are now.

Don’t get stuck…

December 18, 2014

“You are not stuck where you are unless you decide to be.”  (Wayne Dyer) – as seen on the Jack’s Winning Words blog.

I like today’s saying on Jack’s blog, because it helped me get unstuck here. I haven’t posted much lately because I got stuck waiting for the right inspiration. I suppose that I also got a bit busy and distracted with the things going on leading up to Christmas – shopping, wrapping and the like. All I really had to do was look around to see things that should have inspired me to write something. I guess I decided to be stuck for a while.

It seems to me that sometimes we aren’t even aware that we are allowing ourselves to become stuck. That can apply to things like your job or your relationships. Of course we have developed euphemisms to substitute for the term “stuck”. We may say that we are in our “comfortdissapointed lady zone” or perhaps use the phrase “go with what you know.” Sometimes our relationships settle into a kind of rut because we allow ourselves to become stuck. It’s not that this is necessarily bad; but, at the same time, if that comfort zone becomes a “boring zone” or worse a “dead zone”, then the relationship can whither and become unsatisfactory. That happens a lot in marriages if the couples don’t explore reasons to love each other beyond just the sexual attractions that may have fueled the relationship initially. They get stuck.

Getting stuck at a certain level or in a specific job at work can also be bad. We are creatures who thrive on learning and challenges. In most jobs there is an initial learning curve and then a sad looking manperiod of building experiences enough to master the tasks involved. Once you get to that level, people normally look for new challenges. If the current job doesn’t provide for those new challenges and growth, people move on to another job and new learning curves. There is, of course, much to be said for job security; however, keeping jobs interesting and workers challenged would seem to be a key to successful companies.  Don’t let your workers feel like their stuck.

The last half of the little opening quote is the important part for all of us – unless you decide to be. A key to dealing with any issue in your life is to accept that only you really have the ability to change how you deal with it. You have the ability to assess whether you are stuck and it’s time to move on to a new and more challenging job. You have the responsibility in your relationships to decide that your actions and reactions aren’t going to be the things that keepout on limb you stuck in a less than satisfying state.

What you do, once you accept the responsibility for getting yourself unstuck doesn’t mean that you go right to the boss and quit or that you go ask your spouse for a divorce. It means that you plan a course of action to get yourself out of the rut that you are stuck in. That may mean signing up for some classes to learn new skills for a new career or it may mean doing things with your life-partner that you usually don’t do – maybe signing up for ballroom dance lessons or something as simple as sitting down after work and talking with them for a while about your relationship or a small thing like going to church with them. What needs to happen is something that wasn’t happening before, something out of the ordinary, something that will help you get unstuck.

Men seem to have a much harder time getting unstuck in their relationships ruts, I suspect thnk about itbecause it requires that they first admit that there is a problem and that they may be a part of the problem. Almost all of the TV ads that we see that are focused upon men seem to be focused upon sexual performance and none deal with emotional performance – the ability of the man to drop his guard and let his partner into his soul. That’s not considered to be manly. The problem is that we become stuck in that macho stereotype and can’t get out of that deep rut. Those who do find a way to get unstuck are able tosunday walk
forge the deep, lasting relationships with their life-partners that you see depicted on 50th anniversary cards.

The challenge for today is for you to examine your own life and see if you can identify areas of it in which you are “stuck.” Once you can do that, the challenge becomes doing something about it and finding a way to get unstuck. Life’s ruts are not lined with Gorilla Glue. It is possible to go in new directions, to experience women dreamingnew challenges and the new joy of meeting those challenges. Get unstuck today. You’ll be happy that you did.