Epic Snow Forecast? No Problem.

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Really, why panic? So an epic snowfall is predicted in the Northeast over the next few days. Perfect place to practice choice. In attitude. In reaction.

There’s nothing I can do about the snow. I can’t control how much falls, how long it lasts, whether the power will go out, whether the plows do a crappy job…none of that is inside my sphere of control. Given that, what can I do?

A lot!

Plan. Get your groceries, batteries, electronics charged up. Get your books ready. Your movies cued up. Your favorite sweatpants washed. Get gas for your snowblower and make sure it starts. Plan events with your neighbors. Make sure you have wine and beer.

You can view the storm as calamitous and start worrying now about what might or might not happen. Or you can accept the unknown, whatever it might be, create your context, and make it a happy place. Snow removal is a drag? Consider all the exercise you get and reward yourself when you get back inside. Give yourself a free pass to catch up on the tv you’ve been too busy to watch or the books you’ve been too busy to read. No electricity? Relish the forced unplugging and remember what it was like a few years ago, before you were constantly connected.

I could go on and on, but you get the picture. It’s winter in New England, so this isn’t even a curveball that Mother Nature is throwing. She’s lobbing a change up right down the middle. You can choose whether to go down looking or whether to swing for the fence!

Go. Hit it out of the park. And enjoy your trot around the bases!

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Lessons In Low Places

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By way of update, I’m someone who likes to learn the lesson in things, even the hard lessons. Constant learning and challenging and reworking—in balance with total free-spirited chill time—is what drives self-improvement and happiness and growth.

Sometimes finding the lesson is hard. Sometimes learning it is hard. Sometimes both are difficult. And that’s ok. That’s why it’s important to pay attention to and heed the basic lessons, the easy ones, the obvious ones…pick the low-hanging fruit, as they say in business-speak.

Today, it struck me that a great place for happy reminders to incubate is in the lyrics of seemingly inane (or annoying or overplayed) pop songs.

Without really being conscious of it, I’ve taken to saying—when someone seems to be holding onto some marginally meaning emotional something or other a little too tight—”cue Idina Menzel and her hit from Frozen and let it go!” The other day, I was talking about something and my sister asked, “Do I need to play the Frozen song for you?” Which led me to think about just what it was that I was harboring, and whether it was worth it.

Today, I heard Taylor Swift’s Shake it Off. Say what you want about the artist or the song but in the end, the player’s gonna play, the hater’s gonna hate…leaving each of us with a choice…so why not free ourselves of the burdens of others and just shake it off?

So today, I encourage you to—starting right now—when you feel yourself getting rattled by some quasi-meaningless thing, or by someone or something outside of your sphere of control, remember these pop song lessons and choose to let it go and/or shake it off.

You’ll free your mind to focus on things that matter.

And as you go through your days, channel other lyrics into motivating mantras that make sense and work for you!

Go have a dance party for one and tell me you don’t feel better afterwards.

Recharging…

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It’s MLK Day, so we’ll start with his words: “The time is always right to do what’s right.”

What’s right isn’t always what is easy.

For me, the last week was spent recharging my batteries. It was easy, and it was right. And now I’m ready for what is hard and what is right…facing life, staring it down, making good choices, and feeling alright.

So go feel alright, now!

Contradiction? Conflict? Hypocrisy? Or Just Plain Life?

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As I continue to push forward in 2015, as I find myself exercising less and weighing a little more, I’m setting myself up for positive change. I’m not excusing myself for making excuses, nor am I beating myself up over a holiday extravaganza of bad choices.

With the constant influx of messages that promise not just improvement but twice the results in half the time, I’m sitting here and shaking my head. Even when you know what you want and how to get it, it still sometimes is hard to know quite where to start, and how to start. That’s the position I’m in right now.

And then it hit me, that I need to practice this concept that just hit me:

ACTIVE UNWASTING.

To understand active unwasting, you must first acknowledge the presence and extent of its opposite—passive wasting—in your life. Even the busiest of us, I suspect, are guilty of it. Passing time idly on a smartphone, iPad, or some other gadget. Watching mindless television. Subconsciously throwing precious minutes out the window. When challenged, you might deny that you do it. Defend your position staunchly, stammering about down time or unwinding. Fair enough.

But some of that time you passively and subconsciously fritter away can and and should be harnessed for better. Which brings me to where I am, and how I’ll be taking my first steps toward improvement—by actively unwasting a few chunks of time every day and consciously devoting that time to finishing some incomplete something. Be it laundry, a reminder I’ve been snoozing for days, or a card I’ve been meaning to put in the mail. Something. Anything. A positive action in place of a neutral bit of inaction.

Think about it, and start actively unwasting your time right now, freeing you up to do the things that really matter.

Go!

And be happy.

New Year, New You…Just Not Quite Yet

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I think I’d be remiss if I let one year end and a new one begin without any reflection, application of learning, and goals for personal improvement. Even so, I’m not one for resolutions per se. If you want to change something, commit to changing it. Don’t wait for a new year and don’t resolve to do it…actually do it, whatever it is.

Anyone attuned to social media sees the commercial promise of improvement. And it’s easy to feel, at the beginning of a new year, that anything is possible. It’s important to start each new year optimistic and hopeful and committed. And if you “just” follow this or that “basic” program or approach, it’s easy, too. Right? Right? RIGHT?

I say this: wrong.

Not because I’m cynical or contrarian, but because I’m practical and realistic

The old saying goes “everything worth having is worth fighting for.” And remember, if it were easy, everyone would be thin and beautiful and wealthy and happy. Right? Right? RIGHT?

I say this: wrong.

Not because I’m cynical or contrarian, but because I’m practical and realistic.

Change is hard. If it were easy, everyone would do whatever they wanted, whenever they wanted to. But change is not impossible, and you can set yourself up for success by designing an approach and a program that works for you, supporting and leveraging your unique strengths to help you achieve your goals.

There’s definitely some pressure that comes with the perceived clean slate of the new year, but the fact of the matter is that the slate isn’t any more or less clean that it is any other day of the year. We’ll never be without our baggage our hopes our excuses and our dreams, often all rolled into a single moment.

So anyway, as I was saying, I’d be remiss if I let an old year start and a new one begin without any reflection…and this year for me the dominant observation and lesson learned was that I have very little choice in what happens to be, I have a lot of choice in how much it weighs. So as I plan my life strategies moving forward—a constant, iterative, ongoing process, not just a perfunctory start-of-year exercise—my thoughts are dominated by this sense of choice. In what I do, how I act, how I react, what I say, what I neglect, how I treat people, how I a manage my finances…and as I think about this, I am immediately overwhelmed by the number of things over which I do have influence. It’s easy to throw your hands up and say “why me?” and then absolve yourself of any responsibility because you didn’t choose to be in whatever situation. That’s a big cop out, and those are the moments when, if you take ownership and accountability, you can start making the change you want and need to make in order to drive happiness and improve your sense of self and your quality of life.

So I say this…take in as much as you can of these self-help articles and guides for change and mantras and whatever…let the goals and ideas and approaches roll around in the back of your mind while you think about what you want, why you want it, and what makes sense for you in terms of an approach to attain it. Synthesize the two, challenge yourself, make a plan…don’t pressure yourself with time (you don’t need to start now) or results (Rome really wasn’t built in a day), but start doing something different…one small thing, as you start to plan…and keep making small and gradual changes and then positive momentum will drive positive momentum…and instead of feeling overwhelmed with a sense of “I can’t”, you’ll feel empowered by a sense of “I can.”

This post was in part driven by a graphic I saw on Facebook, promoting 31 days of habits. I read the proposed behaviors and found myself a bit daunted by these suggestions, and felt like I have so far to go it’s not even worth trying. And then I thought about choice and that it’s always worth trying, especially if you’re open to success coming in the form of “failure” that manifests as valuable lessons learned.

You can see for yourself!

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Here’s the choice for me: walk away from new, good habits because I know I can’t achieve the specific suggested behaviors or make an achievable-ish plan that will challenge me and lead me to self-improvement and increased happiness regardless of the outcome?

I’m choosing the latter, and if you are serious about wanting to change, you’ve already made your choice and this is a no-brainer!

Here’s one way you could approach it:

Make a list of things you want to do, broken down into small, manageable chunks.

Your list will be unique to you, of course, but this might serve as a guideline or a jumping-off point. I’ll go through each of the above suggested habits and “translate” some of the ones that I could be daunting into behaviors that are a little more realistic/aligned with lifestyle and goals…and remember, one a week for 31 weeks would be more than adequate!!! Plus, they say it takes 21 days to make a habit so once you get one down, then add in another…don’t take on too much at once so you abandon ship…drive change at a pace that it’s sustainable enough to become habitual. Be realistic!

1) Drink your water => For one week, drink your water and keep track of how much you drink. Also, substitute one “bad” drink a day with two 8 ounce glasses of water.

2) Exercise for 30 minutes => Exercise for 30 minutes 2x/week, then 3x, increasing the time as the weeks go.

9) Add a few planks to your routine => Try a plank at a set time every day for 5, 10 or however many seconds you can hold it, increasing the time as you go.

26) Eat breakfast you made at home => Eat breakfast, period.

You get the idea. Build a plan that works for you!

Maybe you have these two goals, exercising more and eating healthier. So try this:

Exercise more => Run or walk 3x/week with one core strength session

Eat healthier => Try one new healthy recipe a week

The key is to be flexible while being committed, and to get started. So go. Now. Do it!

You’ll be happier, I promise!