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Archive for October, 2011

The glory of friendship is not the outstretched hand, nor the kindly smile nor the joy of companionship; it is the spiritual inspiration that comes to one when he discovers that someone else believes in him and is willing to trust him.
Ralph Waldo Emerson

Ancient writings refer to the idea of friendship; the Old Testament or the Epic of Gilgamesh or any number of pre-“Jesus” writings have reference to how we should treat each other, what friendship is, and defining family. It can be argued that “friendship” is an overused topic of writing, one that often results in “rainbows and sunshine.” Though enjoying a good chat with a friend can certainly be uplifting and thus an excellent topic of discussion, it is the more modern adult relationships that have taken a bizarre turn.

In recent years, social networking sites and texting, amongst other virtual communication tools, have recreated the idea of friendship. Despite the number of friends listed on your Facebook or the consistency of texting from others, the modern adult has less true connections with friends or other humans than ever before. One might wonder why it matters–so what if we have less in-person connections, we simply connect differently…right? Without one-on-one contact with other adults, without a bond with humans that share commonalities and know our secrets, we lose a bit of what makes us human. This leads us to loneliness, to depression, and to organizations like “Rent a Friend”. This company has been successful in the US as a “friend rental agency” and has recently expanded into the UK. (Blacker, Independent UK). Blacker commented in his article for the Independent UK that, “[o]ne agency exists to provide fake relatives for weddings and funerals.” While it seems beneficial that those without friends might find solace renting via these technological firms, (after all, we often pay for company when we invite friends over to dinner), it is simlutaneously interesting that the cause of our lack of bonding is technology itself. And while those who are terrified to socialize with other humans may benefit from these services, it must also be noted that “the easier it becomes to communicate through a screen, the more fraught with embarrassment and danger real life can seem.”

Thus we find our conundrum: do we cut off our addiction to virtual communication and create real friendships, or do we stay plugged in to a mode of connection that certainly has not met its day? As in previous posts, I aim to sever myself from my Facebook addiction, among other technological tethers. Not completely, mind you, but in that I want to have real conversations and have deeper, more meaningful relationships with those around me.

I have never been known to be shy, at least not as an adult. I enjoy meeting new people, those who can bring new experiences and new light into my life. Simultaneously, I bank on those friends who know me better than anyone else, those I’ve known for literally (and terrifyingly!) 30 years! The length of friendship does not determine the importance, though. My newest friends here in Park City and the surrounding zones bring me solace, comfort, and distraction. Not to say my friends in various parts of the world exist in a lesser capacity, but those I have known for years here and those I am getting to know now embrace the new life I am reaching for, challenging me to be a better teacher, a more active participant in my community, a stronger athlete in biking, climbing, and snowboarding. In essence, those I am getting to know here connect with my life vision and encourage my drive to better myself.

With merely the Internet or cell phone, my relationships here would not exist, or if they did would be superficial and ineffective. Never can I share my thanks to those in my life, for every one brings beauty and strength to me. My goal now isn’t to find friends, but instead to deepen the relationships I have. I aim to limit the amount of “non-face time” communication (i.e. texting or emailing) and spend more time vis a vis or live chatting on the phone. I want that strong, life-long connection that I can trust in others, and they can know that above all else, that I believe in them.

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“You can never conquer the mountain. You can only conquer yourself.” — Jim Whittaker

Ah, the ever elusive self-discipline! The Achille’s Heel of the dieter, the shaking ground of the lazy. Discipline defines our goals, our future plans, keeps us healthy, wise, young at heart. Yet for many of us-me being the poster child- self-discipline is the unicorn of personal attributes. In short? It’s at times easier to sit on the couch after a rough day than go for a run or wash my dishes after grading for three hours. Yet self-discipline, when enacted appropriately, creates freedom. Freedom from the burden of messy kitchens or stressful weight gain.

However, on the quest for a full, beautiful life, in order to accomplish my five new healthy habits, I MUST acquire, develop, and sustain discipline to meet my requirements. How do we conquer the mountain within us? It begins by deciding how you THINK your world and life should be in the long run. That, at times, means giving up the hedonistic drive to enjoy what is pleasurable in the immediacy of the moment as opposed to enjoying the greater thrill of accomplishment in the future. Yet to many, the future is not truly tangible.

According to pickthebrain.com, there are five steps to develop self-discipline. First, knowing one’s self is key. What are your goals? What is your purpose? And is giving up the initial pleasures worth these goals in the long-run? Knowing your own values and defining the self assists in creating self-discipline in this first step. But we’ve only just begun….

Next we must identify when we are disciplined and when we are…not. Identifying when we are being lazy, or when we are being productive, assists in our decision-making as we develop our self-discipline. Third, just writing lists or recognizing behaviors isn’t enough. We must have follow through. This is the area where I often lose. Commitment to our goals must last beyond the first week. Instead, commitment means seeing it through to the end, til those goals we set for ourselves are accomplished.

Now we get to the nitty-gritty. Peter Clemens from pickthebrain.com explains that the fourth step is the hardest of all–having courage. It is through developing courage that we develop self-confidence. As confident people, we have self-discipline. Admit when challenges are just that–acknowledging that which is difficult means identifying how much energy or what time of approach to use. Believe in yourself that pressing on will result positively.

Last, success in our goals mean we must “internally coach.” In other words, give pep talks to ourselves when necessary. In my quest to conquer the five goals in my previous post, I have to remind myself regularly that I can accomplish what is before me–if I choose to. I remind myself that multi-tasking takes away from the quality of “jobs”, whatever they are. Encouraging myself to go to yoga will make me feel more successful and ready to tackle my other goals. Distracting myself from my television obsession is often encouraging chants of, “You don’t need that” or “Radio is better than TV.” The same goes for Facebook. Encouraging myself to find other activities and that once or twice a week on FB is sufficient, helps distract me from that which I was lazily reliant upon. It all comes down to my final goal–no excuses. Pep talks help, but a constant reminder that excuses are the Devil will help me reach these lofty goals. No more, “It’s too cold to run” or “I’m too tired to grade.” From now on, no excuses!

I’m ready now. Ready for success in those goals I set before me. For now, I climb the mountain within.

 

 

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 “Continuous effort—not strength or intelligence—is the key to unlocking our potential.” ~Winston Churchill

Sometimes the hardest thing about doing something is, well, DOING something. It’s easier to drool in front of the television or play on Facebook or do any number of useless “things” than be a productive member of your household, much less society. But that which makes us stronger, healthier, and happier isn’t easy. Nor should it be.

I have created several habits for myself–ridiculously healthy eating is one. Temptation lurks at every grocery store turn or late night fast food craving. It’s easy to buy a large order of fries, harder to eat raw carrots. But after months of trial and error and guilty cavings, my pantry is void of naughty delights and instead overflows with healthier options. Often, late at night or when I’m bored or grumpy I find myself berating my healthy habits when all I want is some potato chips or, let’s be honest, an entire bag. It took time and discipline to create this habit, but it certain isn’t the last I need. Sadly, habits can be negative as well. It just takes time to lapse into laziness or behaviors that detract from one’s life.

Positive habits, that which we work hard for, taste sweeter then the ill-gotten chip bags. Therefore, it is my goal that over the next week to two weeks I am going to add 5 healthy habits into my life, ranging from stress to friends.

1. Multi-tasking. At the rate I’ve been going, I could represent the US in the next Olympics in multi-tasking. Sometimes this is great, as I can type, talk to a student, and contemplate a problem with a coworker simultaneously. However, it also takes away from my connection to others. Even though I can talk on the phone and check Facebook simultaneously, both my virtual and voice communications suffer in quality. So, for the next 2 weeks my goal is to create the habit of walking away from the computer or turning off the phone when I’m having conversations.

2. Manage my stress. Like many Americans, I do too much and I expect I will be perfect doing it all. And then reality hits with an unexpected bill or a surprise visit from my boss. Stress and my body do not mix–I become physically ill at worst, but at best my shoulder tightens up into a lump I’ve now named “Bob.” This just might be a sign I need to destress more. I vow to yoga at least twice a week for the next two weeks, and once a week thereafter.

3. Television. When I moved to Park City I purposefully did not get cable to try to kick my addiction. I hate admitting how much I “need” television, but after a long day or when I feel particularly lonesome, television offers comfort my cat can’t. That said, even with the limited free broadcast that I have, of late I’ve found myself still meandering through life with the boob-tube blaring. I’m making it a habit from now on to NOT turn on the television for “noise” but only for a specific show, or for news. From now on I am limiting myself to 1 hour total a day. Now, normally I’m not even home often enough to go over this allotment–but when I am home, I must find new ways to entertain myself like…say…READ for pleasure or call my friends or clean my place!

4. Facebook. This is the most embarrassing of all my naughty habits. I don’t lurk on the FB as often or as creepily as many of my FB friends, but I do find a “need” to check in daily. Why? This, I believe, is indicative of something missing that this “social connection” tool falsely provides. While Facebook offers free and positive communication with people I’ve moved from or who live far away, the tool itself shouldn’t replace actual social events. Therefore, I propose that I limit my FB time to, say, Fridays (Facebook Fridays!) or to specific communication needs (to email a friend about dinner at my house, for example). But why not go the old fashioned route and CALL or write a LETTER to friends verses staying virtual?

5. Never say never. I recently bought a necklace charm that stays, stamped into its metal, “NO EXCUSES.” Though this isn’t really a habit, per se, it is a behavior I can admit to. “My back hurts–I shouldn’t work out” or “Salt Lake is too far–I can’t meet you for dinner” are all too common excuses I’ve worked into my subconscious vocabulary. Therefore, my last and HARDEST habit to create over the next two weeks is…no excuses! This doesn’t mean I’ll do everything and anything–let’s refer to the multi-tasking habit I’m trying to break. All good things in good time, but when an opportunity strikes, no more “Well I would, but…” as long as it doesn’t interfere with previous plans, my health, or my job.

Wish me luck–five new habits in two weeks? To quote Princess Bride, “Think it’ll work?” and then “It’ll take a miracle.”

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“Laughing at our mistakes can lengthen our own life. Laughing at someone else’s can shorten it.” –Cullen Hightower

Mistakes are not what are important, but instead if we learn from them. It is the learning that makes us sentient and thinking beings, humans in its most base definition. Repetitive errors without correction implies lack of intelligence or a lack of thinking mechanisms to substantiate change.

Humans, luckily, have the ability to change. Thus, if we accept ourselves as human (and mistake ridden), we must then accept our friends, and families, as such as well. That said, repetitive injury to our persons, whether it be physical, mental, emotional, or financial, are not part of the forgiveness realm.

Instead, focus that quality that makes us who we are, the errors that drive us mad or that possibly hurt us to the core. Forgive. Accept. Move on. Families, I think, are most liable to such slanderous behaviors. We take liberal behaviors with those we know so well, forgetting at times their breaking points. We have all harmed, even unintentionally, someone we claim to love, someone we are related to, someone we bonded with as close friends.

And we would ask to be forgiven and accepted as well.

In this journey toward a full-life, I have thus far learned that accepting our humaness is essential to the equation. We are not perfect creatures, we are not without fault, and thus “casting stones” is a game left to the sinless. I reckon nary a stone will move in honest circles, for those who are not without blame, but also those who chose to accept others and not stone them.

We must forgive that which often hurts most.

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Assert your right to make a few mistakes. If people can’t accept your imperfections, that’s their fault.

Dr. David M. Burns

Most days are easy. Every morning, going to work, I am thankful, not just for a job that pays the bills, but a career I love. Every afternoon I am thankful for my health, and my athleticism, every evening I give thanks for a safe place to live, food on my table, friends in my corner.

But despite all these wonderous blessings, there are those “some” days. There are those some days I wonder why I do what I do, why I ended up as a teacher and not a dancer or a writer, days I wonder why I chose single life with a cat than a family. Using
http://www.dragosroua.com/100-ways-to-live-a-better-life/ as inspiration, my goal is to write 100 entries reflecting each of the 100 ways to a fuller life.

The first? Accepting mistakes. How does one forgive oneself? What’s done is done, right? Though we cannot change our past, and I believe that regret implies we have the power to change our past, we can learn from our mistakes.

And we all have mistakes following us like a shadow. Sometimes my “shadows” block out the sun, making me shiver for the stupid things I’ve done, or the wonderful things I never did. Why did I break up with my college love? Why didn’t I beg my parents to help me focus on snowboarding when I was in high school? Why did I date that horrible man for so long? Why didn’t I follow my dream to write or do photography?

The list goes on, swallows me up sometimes. These are the greater mistakes, but the smaller “why’s” are heavy, too, when there’s enough of them to burden my shoulders. Why did I drink that much? Why didn’t I finish grading? Why didn’t I call when I said I would?

If we obsess over what we can’t change, we lose sight of what is most important–what we CAN change. We can change the future by learning from our mistakes, or when possible, do-overs. I can’t be a professional snowboarder now, but I certainly can push myself every day I’m on my board. I may never be a professional photographer, but it can’t ever be too late to pick up a camera for myself. And while I can’t change my decision to date some of the schlubs I have, I can make a more positive decision in the future to date better quality guys, if dating suits me at all.

In short, ACCEPTING mistakes allows us to LEARN from them, to make better choices or to change our lives in new ways, positively. Tomorrow I will make better decisions, will forget and move past my mistakes, and move on to a better, fuller life.

Regret: We all have it.

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