Speaking of Habits

tea cupHow long does it take to develop a new habit? I did a little research on Google and found quite a variety of answers. Some researchers have said it takes at least 21 days to develop a habit; others say it takes 2 – 8 months. So… I’m not going to guess which is right or how long it takes to develop a new habit. But I do know for me it is not easy to develop, break, or change habits. When things are second-nature and happen without much conscious thought, it takes what seems like Herculean effort to change them. Especially difficult habits to change can be in what we think and what we say.

Without even realizing what is happening, we can get into ugly thought patterns that develop into ugly speech. I remember years ago I made a concerted effort to stop swearing. In my 20’s I swore a fair amount, as did many of my friends. But, by getting a professional job and realizing not everyone cussed like a sailor, I focused my efforts on finding other words to express myself. It didn’t take long to be almost fully rid of cussing, and I felt more prepared to be professional.

A few other thought and speech habits I think are worth assessing in ourselves and dropping are:

Complaining – About circumstances, the weather, how you feel, or about other people, complaining doesn’t get you anywhere. Complaining is finding fault, not offering a solution. Complaining keeps us stuck in misery. Try not to complain for a day, consider thinking about being grateful for aspects of your life, and see how different you feel.

Criticizing – Pointing fingers at others and finding fault is, to me, one of the ugliest traits. I’ve definitely been guilty of it but really try not to criticize others anymore. My husband helped me realize I could tend toward criticism and cause a lot of hurt. I try to leave others to their own business and not stick my nose in where I have no responsibility.

Blaming – Looking to others or to our past as the cause of our problems and issues says that we are powerless over our lives. When we take responsibility for ourselves and circumstances we are the actor in our play; we have the power. Blaming can be manipulative and holds us in place, but accepting circumstances and our decisions allows us to move forward.

Paying attention to these habits of speech, and then thinking about their place in our minds, can really be eye opening. You may be limiting yourself by what you say, because of what you think. Giving up on these patterns offers freedom. Whether it takes 21 days or many more to drop them, you’ll feel lighter when you do.

Make it a good week!

Advertisements

Making Mistakes?

The biggest mistake we can make is being afraid to make a mistake. ~ Joyce Meyer

In college I had a roommate who was funny, caring, and energetic. She was very bright, a pre-med student majoring in biology. Everyone loved to be around her; that is, until it came time for her to make a decision. What to eat, what to do, where to go… the options seemed endless to her and she didn’t have an easy time landing on just one.

Courses were limited to a certain number of students so we were urged to register early for classes in order to get a seat. One semester my roommate perseverated over the very best course schedule for so many days that, by the time she registered, two of her top choices were no longer available. While the schedule she ended up with looked fine to the rest of us, she was disappointed for days and felt like she was set back on her goals.

A depth of indecision like this can be a real roadblock. Perhaps born of insecurity, worry of what others may think, or fear of making a mistake, it stops us from moving forward. My roommate’s parents had high expectations of her as the first in the family to go to college. She then had high expectations of herself. But her fear of making mistakes led to negative outcomes and complete inaction.

Perhaps fear of making a mistake happens to most of us given the right set of circumstances. It can be almost terrorizing to make a decision. It has certainly been a limiting factor for me as I let fears of doing the wrong thing stop me from doing anything. But, awareness is the first step toward change and when we realize how our fears or beliefs are limiting us, we can make efforts to change them.

I have found that it takes immense energy to perseverate over a decision; even about something fun like what to do on vacation. If I spend time weighing options, listing ideas, becoming invested in each idea and considering the importance of each one, I’m overwhelmed by the planning and aggravated about what is supposed to be a fun vacation before it has even begun.

How are your beliefs limiting you? Is fear of making a mistake stopping you from doing something important? I challenge you to make a choice, step out in faith, and see what happens. Chances are you will feel much lighter by not allowing the decision to overwhelm you. Think of all the energy and time we can save!

Make it a good week!

 

Beginnings

IMG_0273

Happy New Year! It’s the first day of 2015 and I wish you well today and for the days to come!

For me 2014 was a bit of a rough year; things just seemed difficult as I wrestled with expectations of myself and had a dip with my health.

But I have been looking forward to today, to moving on to a new year. I like change, new things, and beginnings. Last year I wrote about the pursuit of excellence on New Year’s Day, the idea that making resolutions is an example of pursuing excellence in our lives. I still see truth in this and am excited to have new year with a clean slate to again evaluate goals, make plans, and take action.

Cheers to new beginnings!

 

 

 

 

 

 

What Consumes Your Mind?

I am reading a memoir called “Un Moving Four Ward” by Bob Bell. It begins with the story of how he suffered an accident as a freshman in college. He became paralyzed, a quadriplegic after a classmate broke his neck in a wrestling move. Bob’s life was altered completely in a dorm room hallway by someone he knew, but was by no means friends with, in a wrestling move.

He describes the move and the scene as all happening very quickly. After Bob fell to the ground, his body completely out of his control, he lay on the floor knowing certainly that something was very wrong with his body. He looked up at the young man, this guy he did not consider a friend, and said, “I forgive you.”

Reading these words and imagining the situation, I cried. I could not imagine a 19-year-old kid, first year in college, looking up at a guy he really didn’t like, a guy who made fun of him and aggravated him, and saying, “I forgive you” without even knowing with certainty what was wrong.

It got me to thinking about the freedom Bob created for himself by uttering that statement. He seems in the memoir to truly feel that way. Bob was freed up evermore from the burden his soul would bear if be blamed the young man. By looking at his quadriplegic state as an accident, his energies could be dedicated to healing and improving as much as possible.

What consumes our mind controls our life.

Because of that forgiveness in Moment One, Bob did not allow hate, anger, or revenge to consume his mind or control his life. I dare say many of us, if not most of us, would not forgive in Moment One. And, therefore, we may be consumed in our life with the negativity of hate, anger, or revenge.

Since my heart attack and diagnosis of a chronic vascular disease (FMD) five years ago, I have tried to consume my mind with gratitude. Living with a chronic medical condition and gradually becoming accustomed to new, lower levels of “normal” is challenging. But as soon as I start to feel sorry for myself I learn of someone else in a tough situation. And the other person’s situation is always worse than mine.

My goal is to allow my mind to be consumed with positivity, with gratitude, and with joy in experiencing the moments of the day. These are the attitudes I want to control my life.

Fear, anxiety, and anger have consumed me from time to time. But I refuse to be controlled by them. And I am thankful to Bob Bell for the reminder.

Happy Thanksgiving to all my American friends and family. May we all give special thanks this season. Make it a good week!

 

 

 

Who’s Your Hero?

Yesterday my husband and I saw the movie “The Judge” and, although it has mixed reviews, we thoroughly enjoyed the movie. Several facets of the story stood out but one comment in particular took my attention. One of the characters told the story of a terrible car accident years earlier where her vehicle hit a large deer that ran into the road. As she finished the story, telling of how she and her daughter lived through wreck, she said, “In that moment, I decided I was going to be the hero of my story.”

She made a decision that moving forward she would use her inner strength and push through the difficulties in her life. She was in charge. She bought a business, worked hard, then bought another one. She raised her daughter and took care of business.

In most stories with a hero there are also supporting characters. Their jobs are to play a role, to interact with and help the hero, or perhaps to antagonize the hero. If we think about our lives using this analogy, who would you rather be? The hero or the supporting character?

To me, being the hero means that we are the main actors in our lives. We take responsibility for the details and for the decisions we have made. We take action to improve ourselves and our position.

Operating in a supporting role, we may look to others to create our happiness, or to take care of us. We may feel subject to other people and wait for their help to figure out what to do.

Most of us are likely both the hero and the supporting character given different circumstances in our lives. We do need others, and we do need help. But I appreciate the reminder from this movie that we can be our own heroes, taking the lead and making things happen.

Make it a good week!

 

Re-framing the Question

Recently I asked two of my good friends to read the first draft of my memoir. I knew they each would read with a critical eye and be able to provide honest feedback. I was looking for general impressions, areas where they thought I could improve or change the story. But they each treated the project with a level of care and seriousness that I could never have imagined. They provided thoughts and suggestions that were immensely helpful!

Now I am to the task of editing, adding and changing the book. It means re-living moments and days that were painful, scary and difficult. I realized in this re-living and re-writing there was a pivotal time in which I made a decision that completely altered my experience of living with a chronic condition.

There was a period about three years ago in which I re-framed my focus from why to how.

For a long time after having a heart attack and then being diagnosed with a rare and relatively non-researched vascular disease (FMD), I wondered why very often. And other people asked me why. Why did it happen? What could be the reason?

I think other people wanted to know why because they cared, number one, but also because if there was a why for me that wasn’t the same for them, they likely would not end up in the same boat. If there’s a why, there is a way out, a solution or a way to avoid the situation.

Realizing that no one could tell me why was like hitting a brick wall. With the reason unknown, there was nothing for me to do. I could have no impact to change it. But rather than fall stuck on this question, stuck searching for reasons, I chose to start asking how.

How do I accommodate a new lifestyle? How will I remember to take medications twice per day? How will it work to work full-time? How do I best cope with the anxiety and fear?

In order to feel like I had some control and some say over my life I needed to change the question.

I believe we each have a choice in these questions. We don’t all have the same circumstances, certainly. Medical, financial, relational, spiritual — there are many issues to go around. But I venture to guess that in each case we have much more power and influence over an issue if we decide to ask how to deal with it rather than why it happened.

I hope you are not in a season where things are going wrong and you are asking why. But if you are, I encourage you to consider the other question. How can you move forward?

Make it a good week!

Maya Angelou

Maya Angelou

Among my favorite things are inspirational quotes. I am impressed with those who can paint pictures with words and express thoughts succinctly and creatively. This past week saw the passing of Dr. Maya Angelou, a lyrical thoughtful writer, poet, teacher and faithful woman. I had the pleasure of seeing her speak at a local university several years ago and although I don’t remember what she spoke about, I do remember feeling enraptured by her words, their rhythm and strength flowing easily. She had the gift of empathy, to meet people where they were, to listen and inspire.

Two of her commonly cited quotes have spoken often to me over the years; one has always seemed like a reality check. People won’t remember what we said or did, but will remember how we made them feel. That’s a powerful notion. It’s almost intimidating isn’t it? We can touch people, often unknowingly, by how they feel after we part ways.

maya angelou 2The second quote I think of often is this: When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time. An analogy is the tiger showing his stripes or a person showing their true colors. I think the gist is the same: we may want to believe someone we like or love is different deep down inside, but they show us who they are by their actions. Life is so much easier if we accept others for what they show themselves to be rather than waiting around for them to change.

Mayo Angelou will be quoted for years to come. I am sad for those who won’t hear her voice or read her books. Feelings of gratitude and inspiration are what she left with me. May she rest peacefully.

Make it a good week!