Everything Old is New Again…

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…and I feel old!

You probably know that I’ve recently had to admit that I’m a PC and it was with reluctance and excitement that I did so.

Purchase of the Surface Pro 3 behind me, now I’m learning how to use it.  I’ve still got my iPad next to me, helping me figure how to do certain things.

And right now, I’m multi-tasking (multi-screening), and admittedly very bad habit I am looking forward to (hopefully) breaking when I go back to work Monday.

I’m figuring out my Surface, with an iPad assist… watching the 2-hour season finale of Empire… because when it’s over, I need to take some notes on what programs I record and then go to the local Comcast office to upgrade all my old boxes to Xfinity X1 boxes.  So then when I get home I can use both my Surface AND iPad (and probably even my iPhone) to figure out how to watch TV.

And I’m doing this wearing gym clothes… because I went to a class at the gym this morning and haven’t made it into the shower quite yet.  I joined a new gym last month and for the first time in my life I started taking classes named Sweat.  Body Blast. Pound.  In the process I learned that I am even more uncoordinated than I ever imagined.  So in those classes I’m trying to use mirrors and my neighbors and verbal cues to help me get it right.  But I’m still pretty backwards.

To summarize: a lot of unfamiliar stuff is around me.  I start a new job Monday.  Yet somehow I find myself exhilarated.  I wonder whether I’ve got my raging case of FOUL syndrome in the rearview.

Without my even being conscious of it, I’ve been plowing forward, trying new things, stretching myself… and look where I landed.  Who cares that I’m completely off rhythm in Body Blast?  Who cares if I have no idea how to use my laptop replacement or my TV?  Details.

Life changes, and it’s all good.  Because I’m letting it be.  Think about doing the same.  Just maybe you’ll put one of your maladies behind you.

Hope feels good.  Happy feels better.

P.S. Drew this pic on my Surface with a new program, Fresh Paint.  😉

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5,000,000,001 Ways To A Whole New You?

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Here’s the thing.  Well, here’s a thing: I’m an awful sleeper.  I got the bad sleeping gene, and I have tried to manage around it.  Counting sheep forward.  Counting sheep backwards.  Just plain counting, in any direction.  Counting backwards by threes.  Starting at 3498.  Tylenol PM, Advil PM. ZzzQuil.  Melatonin.  Quitting caffeine.  Exercising at the right time.  Eating the right food at the right time.  No TV.  No electronic devices.  Meditation.

Bottom line, no matter what, in the aggregate, I get little decent sleep.

Here’s another thing: for Christmas, I got a fitness tracker.  The Microsoft Band.  It’s pretty awesome.  “Especially” at telling me how crappy I am at sleeping.  This month, I’ve slept 20 times.  I track the few naps I do take because I suspected (correctly) that I get my best sleep in these roughly one-hour periods.  Anyway, over that time period, I note a few things:

  • I really suck at sleeping.
  • I’m usually awake for one hour during the course of the night.
  • The one hour of awake time is spread over seven separate wake ups.
  • I average 6 hours and 51 minutes of sleep a night but have to work really hard to get it.
  • Of the 6:51 I’m asleep, only 2 hours and two minutes are restful (29%).

So the Band is great for tracking steps and workouts, and for other things like alerting me to text messages or incoming calls.  But what about this sleep nonsense?

I read a lot.  I’ve mentioned before that its important to me to kind of inundate myself with information and ideas to keep me motivated, to inspire me to think.  But I’ve also mentioned the importance of picking and choosing what resonates with you so that you’re able to respond to what you read and really give it legs.

That said, too much helpful information recalls to mind a line from an old Shel Silverstein poem, that “some kind of help is the kind of help we all can do without.”

Consider some of what I’ve been reading as I consider my sleep woes:

  • 6 Relaxing Yoga Poses to Fall Asleep
  • 8-Minute Guided Yoga Nidra Meditation to Help You Fall Asleep
  • 10 Tips for Great Sleep Tonight
  • How to Fall Asleep When Your Mind Won’t Shut Off

And as I ponder all of this helpful information, I start to worry that it will take me half the night to go through these activities and checklists…it loads me up with a thick layer of anxiety, and that’s before I even realized I haven’t even considered what behavior changes I might have to undertake leading up to bedtime.

Now, consider some more of my reading list:

  • 5 Things Happy People Do Before Getting Out of Bed in the Morning (Overachievers, those pesky happy people.)
  • A 4-Step Morning Routine to Guarantee a Great Day (Guaranteed? There’s a sucker born every minute.)
  • 11 Life-Changing Rituals for an Excellent Start of the Day (Doing 11 things in the morning better give me more than an excellent start; the piece above lead (tricked?) me to think four things would give me a whole day of great!)
  • 5 Things Healthy People Do Before Starting Their Day (So I guess if I want to be healthy and happy I have to do 10 things?  Or 21 things if I want to ensure I get off to a good start?)
  • 7 Things Healthy People Do Every Morning (Wait.  Seven things?  I thought it was only five.  So am I up to 23 things I need to do before I get out of bed or is it 28?  And how can I possibly do all these things before I get up?  I’ll have to set my alarm for the middle of the night.  Oh my god.  I probably won’t have even fallen asleep by then.)

But what about the rest of myth motivational reading, reminding me how to stay present, be successful, eat right, stay fit, lose weight, manage life as an introvert, avoid regret, what friends to keep, how to pray, what to wear… and all in fewer than 10 steps or less than five minutes a day?

Or maybe I just need to focus on “How to Get The Benefits of Meditation Without Actually Meditating.”  But after doing my morning checklist and my bedtime routine and taking care of myself in the middle, how can I find the time not to meditate?

Bottom line, take bits and pieces to motivate yourself, and keep moving.  Don’t get bogged down by what other people tell you or what you think you should do.  If everything great could be done in only a few steps or a few minutes, the world would be very different.  But would it be better?  I’m not so sure.  Do what feels good and right for you.  Do what makes you happy.  Do what helps you sleep well at night.

I’m done for now.  I’m going to the gym.  I’m not sure it will give me a six-pack of steel abs or help me sleep or get me better friends or a better job.  But I’ll feel good and I’ll feel happy and maybe I’ll sleep better tonight.  And what does it matter what anyone else does?  It doesn’t.  So go.  Do.  Start.  Happy.

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!

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!

Friday Night Lights A-Blazing

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It’s cold, rainy, and a few weeks until Christmas. Here’s one to make you feel great this holiday season. It’s the story of my college classmate Michael Burnett, the particulars of which I’ve been following on Facebook, and it’s a story of friendship, family,and football. I have not fact-checked the details, nor have I wordsmithed my sentences. It’s such an awesome story, I really wanted to get it out there as fast as I could, and before the big game.

Mike and I both played basketball in college, there was a fair amount of social overlap between the men’s and women’s teams, and that wasthe context in which I met and knew Mike. He was a great guy, a hard worker, nice, friendly, laid back, quick to smile,and quicker to laugh. Fast-forward 25 years, to our 25th reunion; maybe I had seen Mike once since graduation, a brief exchange at another reunion. Maybe not. Doesn’t matter. In any case, I reconnected with Mike over drinks at the Mere Point Yacht Club, met his family, and even though so much time had passed, it took no time at all to remember that when you are in Mike’s presence, you’re in the presence of one of the good guys.

In the course of the catching up that night and over the weekend, I learned about Mike’s non-traditional life trajectory after college; he spent time as a lawyer and carpenter before making his professional home as a history teacher and football coach. I admired him for his commitment to finding his way and embracing his passion, and I sort of envied his happiness.

The weekend ended with rekindled friendships, fueled and facilitated by social media. And that was how I learned about a tragedy Mike experienced not long after reunion, the death of his best friend and assistant coach, a man by the name of Adam Fortune.The publicity around Adam’s death is where I learned more about Mike’s remarkable story. If the story of Mike Burnett and the Tuscarora Huskies were a movie, you might deem the plot a bit of a stretch. And that’s what makes the story so good, why I need to tell it, and how grateful I am that I know Mike.

Mike is a smart guy, went to law school, got a Master’s Degree, worked in litigation, and ultimately pursued a career as an educator,working on both coasts before settling in Virginia. He was a very successful coach in his first four years at Broad Run High School, turning around a 1-9 team and compiling a 43-6 mark, leading the team to back-to-back undefeated seasons and Virginia AA Division 4 Championships. In January 2010, a month after the second championship, Mike announced that he was leaving Broad Run to take on the roles of Social Studies Department Chair and Head Football Coach at Tuscarora, a new school set to open in Leesburg that Fall.

While the decision wasn’t an easy one, it was the right one for Mike, for both personal and professional reasons. It was also the right decision for three of Mike’s assistants, who trusted in his vision and leadership enough to follow him, and to stay with him. When Tuscarora opened its doors, it had a full Varsity football schedule; Mike and his staff guided the inexperienced and senior-less team to an inaugural 5-5 season. The next three seasons saw records of 9-3,10-2, and 9-3. In four years, at a new school, Mike had an impressive record of 33-13.

This summer, Tuscarora was touched by the tragedy referenced earlier, the death of Mike’s best friend and assistant coach, Adam Fortune. He had been by Mike’s side for eight seasons as his defensive coordinator, and in July—while vacationing with family—died of cardiomyopathy. He was 37.

Tragedy has the unique power of being able to bring a community together or to shatter it, often depending on who and what is leading the community’s response. In this case, a unique combination of Adam’s legacy and Mike’s leadership galvanized Tuscarora. In a season dedicated to the memory of Coach Fortune, the Huskies finished 10-0, playing its home games in astadium that was renamed “Fortune Field.” The team lived the words of their departed, beloved coach: “Don’t strive to be good. Strive to be great.”

Which brings us to today, with the Tuscarora Huskies having won four playoff games, including one against Broad Run, preparing for their next opponent. The offense is led by the Virginia Gatorade Player of the Year, Noah Reimers. And the team is led by my college classmate, Mike Burnett. On Saturday, at the University of Virginia, the team will be playing for Adam Fortune and the 5a state championship. I’ll be rooting for the good guys, and enjoying the reminder of how important it is to pay attention to what really matters. And as hokey asit’s sure to sound, no matter the outcome of the game, Mike Burnett and his team are ending this season on top.

God/Someone/Anyone, Grant Me The Serenity…

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You may recall that every Wednesday morning I’m up at 4:30 and out the door by 5 for my 5:15 run at a local homeless shelter as a volunteer for a terrific organization called Back On My Feet. Today was no exception, it was a good morning, unseasonably warm weather (mid-40s at that hour), and while only one schlecter resident turned out to run, we hammered out 3 miles at a decent pace, and it was—as it always is—a great start to the day.

We begin and end every run with “The Circle,” where we throw our arms around each other and say the Serenity Prayer, often associated with Alcoholics Anonymous. (“God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”)

When I first started working with the group, about 9 months ago, the prayer kind of threw me. I didn’t know why. While I’m not super-religious from an organized religion standpoint, I definitely have deep faith. As the weeks went on, as I grew comfortable with the prayer, my mind opened…I started to enjoy saying it, viewing it less as a prayer and more of a mantra. I started to feel the power of the words, and to realize the necessity of believing them, and living them.

My father was known to tell me “honey, you’re wrapped too tight.” It’s true. I’m demanding of others, and even more demanding of myself.m I can forgive others much more easily than I can myself. As I get older, I’m realizing that I’m allowing situations and circumstances to impact me much more deeply than they should, and that being wrapped too tight could ultimately strangle the light, happy, fun life right out of me.

On Monday, in the middle of the afternoon, I decided to try a guided meditation on YouTube. It was about 20 minutes, I was completely I disturbed, and I found it quite calming. Last night, I found another and put it on before bed. This one was a 30-minute guided meditation, and I lasted no more than 10 minutes before I was out cold. I did wake up not long after, found a 2-hour self-hypnosis sleep thing, and went with it. Again, I lasted only a few minutes, then slept soundly until just before the alarm went off at 4:20.

I’ll circle back to The Circle now and get to the point. While there were only two of us this morning, we circled up and said the Serenity Prayer. And as I drove home, I thought hard about what it means. And that we could all benefit from it, really. For me, it still is more mantra than prayer, as I work to accept myself, limitations and all, to open up my mind and my heart…to be bold, daring, patient, compassionate, accepting, loving…not just with others but, and maybe more importantly, with myself. It doesn’t make me selfish, and if I am successful, it will allow me to be better in every role I fill.

Take some time alone. Look inward. Find the serenity you need to sort it out. Build up the courage to take the bold first steps that only you can take. Slowly open your mind and your heart to all the possibilities—known and unknown—that exist.

I leave you with this:

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What Are You Going To Choose?

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It is a crappy day out. It’s cold. Gray. Rainy. Monday. Ugh. Right?

Yeah.

Wait.

No.

Well, yeah…

But…

OK…hmmm…

When the day looks like this:
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…it would be really easy to allow the weather to creep inside, into your psyche…to hang your head and droop on down…it would be easy to use the weather as a scapegoat, to rationalize gray thoughts, or inactivity, or any other “bad” behavior we exhibit.

And I just almost fell into that trap myself. But do I want to be all sulky and sad and gray inside? No! I want to feel rested and satisfied and happy. So what do I do? I don’t want to run in the cold rain. I don’t have a job so I don’t have disposable income, so I can’t go out and burn calories (and cash) at the mall. But it would be so easy to sink into the couch and be blue…

And here’s the thing. I could do that. But I have a choice. So here’s what I’m going to do:
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…well that, or something like that.

I was going to go with old reliable, this great workout from the NY Times, one that I find very effective and challenging, especially when repeated 4 or 5 times.

And when I looked online to grab the link to put in this post, I found this, the advanced version, and that’s what I’m going to do, as soon as I finish this post and get changed.

I know that doing something good for myself will make me feel good about myself. I can choose to do that, or I can choose to be a sad sack. I’m the only one who can take care of me…and sitting on the couch and lamenting all that is wrong with my surroundings is a waste of time and energy…time and energy that I could be spending on making me a better version of me.

So I’m going to shut up, put up, and work out. You should too. If you want to feel better, you have to do better. If you want to feel different, you have to do different. But mainly you just need to do. So start. Go. Now.

[UPDATE: Did the advanced workout three times with some modifications. Solid. I feel great, ate some leftover Buffalo Lentilloaf for lunch, and am going to hit a hot shower. And then I’ll give myself permission to relax and to sit, shrouded in goodness v grayness, because that’s what I’ve chosen.]