Six Suggestions for Thinking More Positively

what-we-think-we-areA lot has been said about positive thinking, and often times it is easy to dismiss. It is easier said to be positive than to do it, especially if a person tends to be pessimistic and see the glass half empty rather than half full. But the truth is that both positive and negative thinking tend to steer your life like the rudder on a boat.

It is kind of like a chicken and egg sort of thing. If you think negative thoughts you tend to have more negative thoughts, which turn into negative actions and conditions. But if you say negative things and take negative actions, you end up thinking negatively. It becomes a self-reinforcing cycle.

There was a sign in a classroom I recently attended, and a poster on the wall of the classroom is appropriate to this discussion: your thoughts become your words, your words become your actions, your actions become your habits, your habits become your character, and your character determines your destiny. In other words, your thoughts determine your destiny.

I have found that at times positive thinking can be very difficult. But it takes more, you have to speak and act positively also. When I get pessimistic and think negatively, I tend to think that the worst is going to happen and everything is good or bad with no in between. Maybe you’ve had the same experience. Here are six things you can do to become more positive.

1. Identify what you want to change

This requires some analysis. It is helpful to take a look at major life events, including the things you resent or are bitter about. You have to look for common threads and causes not symptoms. This results in being able to identify character defects that you want to change, to be more successful in your marriage and other relationships for example.

2. Be accountable to someone for the change

An accountability partner is an important part of recovering from past hurts and changing your thoughts, words, and actions. The accountability partner is most helpful if they have experienced the same hurts or have changed the same character defects that you wish to change.

3. Smile

I have been fortunate to have traveled all over the world, and it seems to me that the one universal language is the smile. A smile can always get you much farther in communicating, even if the other person does not speak your language. Not only does a smile give other people a more positive attitude towards you, a smile also reinforces positive thoughts and feelings in yourself.

4. Seek humor

Nothing defuses and helps overcome conflict and miscommunication like a good dose of humor. Humor has always been a part of my important relationships.

5. Take a chance when you fear failure

I’ve talked about conquering fear before. Sometimes fear of failure paralyzes you from advancing or even trying. You let the negative thoughts and talk convince yourself its not even worth trying. But when you tell yourself to go ahead and take a chance, the results are often positive.

6. If you fail, determine to try again

A failure usually also prompts negative thoughts and fear of further failure. But when you tell yourself you must try again, you are usually pleasantly surprised with positive results.

What about you? Try some of those six actions and see if you don’t see an improvement this week.

(The image is from here.)

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Three Responses to Procrastination

overcoming-procrastinationI’ve talked about procrastination (here and here), and the fact that maybe the root problem is laziness. I’ve also talked about setting goals and my plans to make this my best decade yet. These thoughts came as I approached turning sixty years old. Now, as I approach my sixty first birthday, I am reflecting on my progress, or lack thereof.

PROCRASTINATION

Martha Alderson talks about procrastination in her book The Plot Whisperer. Taking her three possible responses to procrastination, changing the order and rewording some, I came up with these possible responses:

(1)   Linger for months, years, or a lifetime in limbo, never accomplishing your dreams and settling for the mediocre.

(2)   Turn away and reject your goals and challenges, remain unchanged.

(3)   Keep moving forward, later able to share your triumphs with others.

By default, not making a conscious choice for the number 2 or 3 response, means that you have selected number 1 – to linger in limbo and mediocrity.

There is a saying that insanity is doing the same thing over and over but expecting a different outcome. Another view of procrastination is to see that the real choice is between insanity and sanity. If I am going to approach the next nine years of my best decade with sanity, I have to have the wisdom to change what needs changing, and consistently choose to move forward in my goals. But it is easier said than done.

STEPS TOWARDS CHANGE

I am realizing that while some of my projects do not fit well into the spare time after work, there are other activities that do and are more productive than plopping down in front of the TV to watch Law and Order. One of the first adjustments for this second year in my best decade is to give up the cable TV and take the cable box back.

Then I am re-committing to the pending projects, to complete those one by one in a reasonable amount of time. Alderson also points out the two possible choices for all your goals:

(1)   take steps toward your goal

(2)   shy away and drift – in limbo and mediocrity

BEING ACCOUNTABLE

The final part needed is an accountability partner, that is familiar with where I am and where I want to get to. That is someone to speak up when an adjustment is needed, as well as reinforce the movement towards the goals. The best selection in this case is my wife, but the lines of communication have to be open and frequently exercised.

How about you? Do you have some dreams and goals that seem to always stay on the back burner? Do you often answer the question “when?” with “mañana” (means “not today, maybe tomorrow or the next day”)? What will you do today to throw away some of the insanity and take a step forward, towards your goals?

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The Daisy Oracle – part 3

daisy2The daisy oracle is the game of plucking the petals from a daisy one by one, and saying he loves me, he loves me not, etc. I talked about the history of this game here, and the game goes back to Medieval times. Then I talked about it some more here, and had a picture of a spinner in English of most of the choices in the French version. In France there are five different possibilities in the daisy oracle: he loves me a little, a lot, with passion, madly (he’s crazy about me), and not at all.

A professor by the name of Dr. Mieder has written extensively on the daisy oracle, and provided three other possible versions of the French oracle. (1) he loves me – a little – a lot – scarcely – passionately – constantly – with all his heart – in marriage – not at all. (2) he loves me – a little – a lot – tenderly – constantly – madly – not at all. (3) he loves me – a little – a lot – with love – with imagination – with jealousy – not at all. You can see that the French have many more possibilities for types of love.

An antiques dealer, Jacqueline, shared a German spinner with me and it says on each side: he loves me, with all his heart, with pain, a little, not at all. So there would be four or five possibilities with the German as well, depending on whether he loves me is a separate possibility. In the USA, England, and Spain, there are only two possibilities – you are loved or you are not. So it seems that in France and Germany here are four times as many possibilities to be loved.

In the image above the boy is plucking the petals of the daisy for the girl, while saying “I love you a little, a lot…” So did they only write two of the possible outcomes down? Or has the boy modified the game so that he only either loves her a little or loves her a lot? That way he knows as she looks over his shoulder, he will definitely end the game loving her.

In all those different versions above, there is only one really negative outcome – that you are not loved. But a Russian grandmother shared the version of the game that she played when little: he loves me – he loves me not – he will spit upon me – he will kiss me – he will clasp me to his breast – he will make me go to hell. In Russia there were three negative possibilities.

When I think of all the relationships and stages of marriage I have experienced, there would be most of those choices above, and more – probably as many as there are petals on a daisy. When you have had an argument or breakdown in communication in a marriage, you love your spouse a little. When communication is spot on and you’re both happy, you love your spouse a lot. While loving a lot, sometimes the sparks fly and you love with passion. I’ll leave the mad and crazy love to each’s own imagination. When I think of the form the game would take with my relationship with God, I have different names for the petals too. God’s petals all say “He loves me.”

So what is the answer? The answer is to focus on the positive aspects of the relationship and discard the negative petals. I want to save those positive petals, what about you?

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My Problem of Laziness

laziness2I have talked about procrastination several times recently, because I continue to catch myself procrastinating on some of my projects.  In particular, other than wasting time in front of the TV, I tend to spend too much time preparing, planning, and researching.  But I realize I should just take action and move forward in the project.

Recent reflections and examination has convinced me that the root problem is laziness, and procrastination is just a symptom of the real problem.  It has been easy for me to convince myself that I don’t really have a problem with laziness.  After all, I work hard and accomplish a lot.  But I am not accomplishing as much as I believe I should nor as much as I want to, in this “best decade” of mine.

I define my laziness as not doing something that needs doing.  This can be accomplished by doing nothing productive, but more often means doing something not really necessary for the accomplishment of the project – something more enjoyable than the real work.  After all, the real work is sometimes boring and often difficult.  And the real work has concrete objectives that can usually be measured and timed.

Just as procrastination is just a symptom of laziness, for me the real problem may not be laziness either.  I find that fear, for example fear of failure or lack of complete success may be the real issue for me.  I talked about conquering fear here.  I shared three steps to conquer fear, and the first step is to recognize the fear.  Now I am taking action, and staying positive.

They say that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over but expecting different results.  So I recognize after what is years in some cases, without accomplishing specific goals, I need to change something to have a different result and make significant progress.

So I start by addressing the fear.  In addition to the steps I covered earlier, I pause to examine what I’m accomplishing now and what do I want to accomplish.  Then I ask myself what is the worst that could happen if I get serious in my efforts and don’t succeed completely?  What am I really fearful of, in addition to failure?

This has led me to purpose to have a minimum time that is productive on my projects even on days I work a full day.  And I am tracking progress in some specific areas.  One area is to get back to publishing an article on this blog every week, usually on Sunday.  I wrote every week for years, but recently have let my priorities be impacted by the urgent rather than addressing the important.  And my blog is important to me.

What about you?  Is there any procrastination in your life, maybe a symptom of some laziness?  Is it possible that the root problem is fear?  Why not take action today?

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Snowmageddon in Atlanta and Similarities in Life

snowmageddonLast week’s storm in Atlanta was not a big problem because everyone learned a lesson from the Snowmageddon storm two weeks earlier.  A couple weeks ago, Atlanta was hit by 2 to 3 inches of snow, all predicted well in advance.  But the city ended up paralyzed for a couple days.  Most people had gone to work thinking that they’d leave early if and when the storm started.  I left work at 1 PM and it took me two and a half hours to get home.  Had I left at noon it would have been the normal 35 to 45 minutes.  My boss took six and a half hours to get home, and one coworker had to abandon her car and another spent the night stuck in stopped traffic on an interstate bridge over night.  What was bad was that a lot of the snow turned to ice on the roads.  Looking back on my relatively short ride home in the storm, I see some similarities between life and the road conditions I encountered.

As I got onto the interstate beltway, there was a car on each side, both northbound and southbound, that had spun out into the ditch on the side of the road.  Others, myself included, were for the most part proceeding very slowly.  I try to do that in life in general, not just in driving.  When others are having problems and failing, I try to learn from others’ mistakes, proceed slowly, so that I don’t repeat the same mistakes.

Soon after getting on the interstate, I proceeded to pass an 18 wheeler stuck stationary on the slight uphill.  As I slowly went by, I saw that he was not moving at all, but his wheels were spinning on the ice.  That reminded me of the times I loose traction while pursuing a goal or objective.  When I get bogged down in the research and planning as a means to procrastinate taking the needed action, I am just spinning my wheels.

Just a couple of miles after the stuck 18 wheeler, I came to a three lane banked overpass with even more ice.  I was following some vehicles in the slow lane, going 3 to 5 mph, and as I approached the bank, I saw the cars in the center and left lanes braking as they saw other cars sliding down the banked slope to the left.  Most of the cars in those two lanes made the error of hitting the brakes when noting the ice or someone else sliding, which broke the traction and sent them spinning and sliding as well.

Those of us in the slow lane kept to the right, with the right tires actually on the shoulder in unpacked snow, and kept moving at a very slow constant speed over the overpass without incident.  I see the same issues in my life – when I hit the slippery slope of a mistake or error and tend to want to make a quick correction, I can overcompensate.  I may make a quick change in direction or want to put the brakes on and give up, at least temporarily.  Or I may focus on others and what they are doing or thinking.  What I need is a clear objective with a clear path that can be pursued at a steady pace.

I am reminded of the little boy who cried wolf when I think of several times the weathermen here have predicted a picture of weather doom and gloom that didn’t pan out to be so bad.  So this time, most people didn’t really take the warnings seriously until things were already getting bad.  That has happened to me in other areas as well.  When someone (often someone close with insights) gives advice over and over without any of the predicted consequences, it becomes easier and easier to ignore the advice.  My best current example is the fact that I want to loose some weight, and the doctor has even suggested it would be a good idea.  But I keep delaying the advice to put an app on my smart phone to assist, and the weight doesn’t get any better by itself.  I need to accept that there is a wolf I want to get rid of and determine to do so, whether or not anyone else cries wolf.

Anyway, snowmageddon reminded me just how quick things can get bad, and that we really do have to plan ahead when we want to accomplish a goal or objective.  What about you?  Need to increase your traction on something or to get off a slippery slope?  Why not start now?

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Sharing and Trust

trust_fallYesterday I was listening to Vanessa Williams sing Save the Best for Last.  The stanza that prompted some thought was:

‘Cause how could you give your love to someone else
And share your dreams with me
Sometimes the very thing you’re looking for
Is the one thing you can’t see

The question is how could you give your love to one person while sharing dreams with another.  Last week I shared the top ten posts for 2013, and number seven was about the myth of the other woman.  It would seem that sharing dreams, and more importantly, sharing goals is important in a love relationship.  And to me, to share goals means not only sharing each other’s goals with each other, but sharing in the encouragement and motivation for each other’s goals as well.

COMMON GOALS

Of course there are common goals that the two work together on that impact the couple as a unit.  But there are also individual goals each has that still need to be a partnership with sharing.  It’s like many things in a relationship that need to be shared – such as acceptance, loving, and forgiveness.  It’s hard to accept, love, and forgive others if you can’t get to the point you can accept, love, and forgive yourself.

But it’s a catch 22 that you also have to feel accepted, loved, and forgiven to be able to extend those same three to yourself.  In a close loving relationship, these three feelings are all shared with each other.  And that is one reason why I say that God’s love is the Best Love model for the Better Love we want to share with our spouse – He loves, accepts, and forgives us without conditions.

GROWTH IN MARRIAGE

There is no steady state plateau in a marriage.  There must be a constant input of energy to maintain a level of love and sharing.  Thermodynamics teaches us that the energy in a closed system is constantly changing towards the (lower) energy or temperature of the surroundings.  Everything we do and say has the potential to build up the marriage, to add energy, or to tear it down and diminish the level of energy.

I have talked about sharing, about communication, and about commitment.  Though communication and commitment need to be shared intimately for an intimate relationship, what I think is even more important is to have shared trust.  As more and more is shared through open and honest communication, the level of love, acceptance, and forgiveness can increase.  Then in turn, the level of trust also increases, prompting more of all the other feelings.  It becomes self-reinforcing.

THE VITAL INGREDIENT

There is a popular group trust exercise, where each person falls straight back in turn and is caught by the outstretched hands of the other members of the group.  If we agree with a group to be caught, our expectation is that everyone will do their part.  But in a real relationship, we seldom create an exercise prior to coming to a point where we need to be “caught” or rescued.  When we are indeed saved from little trips, our trust and confidence in our partner are increased to the point we believe our partner will catch us even in a big fall.  When we do have a big fall and are caught, again, it all becomes self reinforcing and we are able to trust even more.

We would probably all agree that we cannot have a good relationship without sharing good communication and commitment.  And most would agree that acceptance, love, and forgiveness are parts of Better Love.  But the one thing that a growing marriage really depends on is trust, not only a mutual healthy dose of it, but in increasing measures.

What about you?  Can you think of anything to do today to increase the level of acceptance, love, or forgiveness in your marriage?  What could you do to demonstrate more trust?

thanks to David Bork for the image

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Top Ten Articles From 2013

best

 

1. What Separates a Great Boss From a Not-So-Good One? – the two main characteristics of a great boss are supporting their employees and caring for them.

 

   
2. There Are Three Kinds of Lies – a twist on the quote attributed to Mark Twain. This article has been at the top every year. There are three kinds of lies:  lies, nefarious deception, and the damned denial and self deception.

 

   
3. Actions Speak Louder Than Words – thoughts on several proverbs, relating to the fact that judgements based on what is done can be more accurate than those based on what is said.

 

   
4. Communicating With My Wife Requires an Air Traffic Control Radar, Part 2 (and the cat, chicken, egg, and pig) – additional thoughts on communication and on commitment. You’ll have to click the link to part one to find out how communicating with my wife is like an air traffic control radar.

 

   
5. He Loves Me, He Loves Me Not – some of the history of the daisy oracle, plucking petals from a daisy to see whether you are loved. And in the case of the French, to see how you are loved.

 

   
6. Love is a Decision, a Choice – Daisy Oracle 2 – some more on the daisy oracle, and thoughts on how love is a choice.    
 

7. More on Change – The Myth of The Other – thoughts on change, and the other woman.

 

   
8. Love Kills Slowly, More Thoughts – my take on Ed Hardy tattoo art is that love means slowly learning to become less self centered.    
 

9. What, Me Worry? – two steps to reduce our worrying.

   
 

10. The debate between the Greek and the Roman – one of my favorite stories from the Book of Good Love, Medieval Spanish poetry. It illustrates more than difficulties in communication, that people really do hear (and see) what they want to.

 
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