Do you hear the alarms going off?

October 16, 2015

“A guilty conscious is a faults alarm.” – from the Graffiti cartoon

It’s amazing how many cartoonists also turn out to be pretty good philosophers. Most of them occasionally use the simplistic characters and story lines of their cartoons to explore some very weighty moral issues or to make moral points. There was great advice for life to be found in the fun that was drawn in Pogo, or Peanuts, or Calvin and Hobbs. The Graffiti cartoon uses only words (as they might be written or sprayed on a wall) and they are used sparingly; however, it often hits a moral issue or judgement dead-on. The brevity and cleverness of the little sayings of Graffiti often makes you stop and think. Sometimes you have to decipher and expand the little saying to understand its meaning, but there is always meaning.

whining childToday’s little saying makes the case that our faults often result in having second thoughts, remorse or regret later for something that we’ve said or did. The fault is obvious – not being enough in control of ourselves to stop the remark or action before it occurs. Does that happen to you? I know that I have a tendency to sometimes blurt out things, either in judgement of someone or something or in reaction to something or someone’s remarks to us. Yes, I hear the alarms and realize that they go off all too often.

Sometimes the “fault” might actually be found in not saying or doing something when the situation requires it. Lowering your eyes or turning your head to avoid eye contact in situations when the right thing to do is to push back or challenge or rebut are also faults that also leads to a guilty conscious. Not standingtimid up and helping the kid that is being bullied is just about as bad as being the bully himself. Not pushing back and sticking up for yourself when being bullied is also wrong. Letting the boss or the co-worker continue to get away with inappropriate behavior that makes you feel bad or insecure or even frightened, is not “going along to get along”; it is just another wrong and only adds to the problem. You may say, “It’s not my fault; however the fault of not doing something about those things that you know are wrong is yours and yours alone.  Is that a nagging little alarm going off in the back of your mind?

The point of all this isn’t to send you into a weekend with a guilty conscious; but maybe to suggest that you listen to those little alarms that go off in your head, often in “real-time”, as the incident is occurring. Rather than reflect alarmlater on the faults that may have allowed you to act or react badly. Listen to the alarms as they start going off in your mind and pause to think before you act or react, before you blurt out a response or hit the send key on that flamming email. If the alarms going off are telling you that you’ll regret this action later, don’t do it.

That’s a tall order for anyone and requires a self-control that few have naturally. It starts by realizing and admitting to yourself that you have that tendency, to go off half-cocked or with only half of the story or that you sometimes act too hastily and get yourself into trouble or make the situation worse that it was. Think back on situations or incidents where you didn’t exercise that control and ask yourself why you did or said what you said and why you regretted it. Perhaps that will serve as motivation to develop a new personal habit to stop and think before you react – whether it’s stop and count to ten or to bite your tongue. Both of those pieces of “folk advice” are essentially artificial and mechanical ways to just get you to stop and think before you act.

If you can get yourself into the habit of stopping and asking yourself a few quick questions, such as – Do I understand what just happened and why? Why do I feel a need act or react? Do I have enough information to make a wise decision about what to do or say?   Is what I’m about to do or say likely to resolve the issue at hand, calm the issue at hand or make the issue at hand worse?  While that seems like a lot to think about whenthinking woman you read it here it really takes only a few seconds of thought time and could save many hours of remorse later. Snap judgements and the actions that we take based upon them are wrong all too often. Stop and think. You’ll make fewer mistakes and have less to regret later. It will also be much less noisy in your mind, with fewer alarms going off.

Have a great weekend. Practice your new habit of stopping and thinking before you act and that will help you when you  get back to the more hectic work world.


No regreats… No fear

July 4, 2014

“Sometimes I lie awake at night, and I ask, ‘Where have I gone wrong’. Then a voice says to me, ‘This is going to take more than one night.” ― Charles M. Schulz

Like many in America, I grew up on Charles Schulz’s Peanuts comic strip. Admittedly I switched to the slightly edgier Calvin and Hobbs strip for the time that it existed, but Charlie Brown, Lucy, Snoopy and the rest of the Peanuts cast were always still there.

Schultz had a way of capturing the essence of the common man’s life and travails that few could match and Charlie Brown’s life became one with which many could identify.

Today’s Schultz saying certainly resonates with me. How often have I had sleepless nights worrying about dissapointed ladysomething that I probably couldn’t change anyway?  Sometimes the dread would be over events to come that might span many days perhaps a whole vacation that would be anything but a vacation for me or an upcoming closing on a real estate deal that I knew was going to be difficult. So, I also like another Schultz quote that seems to fit –

“I have a new philosophy.  I’m only going to dread one day at a time.”  (Charles Schulz)

Actually I’ve tried to adopt a much more positive attitude than those expressed by Schultz, I just like his sense of humor that is embedded in them.

I’ve written here before about dread and I found this little quote that sums that up nicely –turtle

“Regret and fear (aka. dread) are twin thieves that rob us of today.”- Robert Hastings

I chose not to let those twins rule my life or rob me of today. They may steal a portion of the night on occasion, but by morning I try to put them aside and live that day as if it were my last – exploring, learning, sharing, enjoying and relishing it.

“I, not events, have the power to make me happy or unhappy today. I can choose which it shall be. Yesterday is dead, tomorrow hasn’t arrived yet. I have just one day, today, and I’m going to be happy in it.” – Groucho Marx

No doubt many of you may not even know who Groucho Marx was, but I grew up watching him and his brothers (The Marx Brothers) on TV and in movies, along with some other famous, but long gone comedy groups – The Three Stooges, Abbot and Costello and Martin and Lewis to name a few. Groucho always had a quick retort or funny line to drop, especially on his TV show – You Bet Your Life. Remember the line, “Say the secret word and the duck will come down and give you $100”?

Yesterday is over and tomorrow will take care of itself when it gets here. Have a great today!

Have no regrets…

October 20, 2013

“Never regret. If it’s good, it’s wonderful. If it’s bad, it’s experience.” (Victoria Holt)

Regret is one of those human nature things that are hard for many to let go of, just like self-doubt. Some may mask the term in other words, like “Monday morning quarterbacking”; however, that Monday morning look back only has positive value if it is used as a way to glean experience and not as an opportunity to wallow in regret.

Although the quotes of athletes is often derided as being full of cliques; there is much truth in many of those cliques about looking ahead and not back or putting things behind them. Professional athletes know that they cannot dwell in regret over every loss. They try to learn from those setbacks. They spend time in the film rooms reviewing a blown play or a missed opportunity to see what they can learn from them.

women looking at direction signLife is full points in time where decisions were made that might have been made differently. Some of those times turned out OK and we seldom think back on what might have been, had we taken the other choice that was in front of us at the time.  But, sometimes things didn’t turn out as we had planned or thought that they would and we tend to look back and see (or find) those decision points where we might have done it differently, especially if we knew the potential outcome. Well, we weren’t prescient and things turned out the way they did. Let it go. Move on. If you must replay the film in your mind, at least treat it as a learning opportunity and not an opportunity to beat yourself up.

In the Frank Sinatra song My Way, about aging he has a line – “Regrets, I’ve had a few; but then again, too few to MrHappymention.” The song goes on to extoll the virtue of moving on and doing things in life your own way. At the end of the day, the main regret you will have if you let things get you down and you spend time in self-abusing remorse, is that you’ve wasted another day. Life’s too short to throw days away.

So, rather than spend time regretting things; let’s all think about the words of another song, this one by Bobby McFarland – “Don’t worry, be happy.”