Archive for November, 2010

Ever have one of those days when even getting dressed seems like it might be impossible?  You know, zipper breaks, that shirt isn’t ironed, sweater developed a hole.  Ugh..I think we often call those days Monday’s right? We know if we just persevere it will get better (you know, by friday!)

Following your dreams can be like this.

We have lovely phrases like chase your dreams, or follow your bliss but sometimes in all reality you have to fight for them.  It isn’t always butterflies and rainbows and I’m sure you know that but sometimes we really have to struggle.  Where is your line in the sand? At what point do you stop playing sweet, stand your ground and have to get stubborn?

Trust.  That is what it is all about.  You have to trust in your vision; your dream.  You have to trust in yourself

Failure.  It happens.  Learn from it; adjust your vision and keep moving.  Not one single living being can say they have never failed–it isn’t the failing–it’s the way you react to it that matters.

Ask for help.  Even Superman needed a hand now and again. You simply do not have the time to know all, be all and do all.  You’ll go crazy, burn out and certainly not be any fun to be around if you try.

Set the bar high.  You know I just don’t understand some people who reach the goal they’ve set out and then stop.  Clearly, if you got there you can get farther and do more!  Go for it!  If you are worried see the line on failure!

I honestly think that if more people had the fortitude to fight through the tough times we’d have more dreams being realized.  I wonder how many people fail and never try again? 

 Imagine if Michael Jordan had listened to his high school basketball coach who told him he wasn’t good enough.  How many did that man inspire with his strength of character?  Imagine if Thomas Edison had quit after failing so many times while trying to create the light bulb.  Over 10,000 versions that still did not work.  When asked by a reporter how he kept going in light (no pun intended) of all these failures and why didn’t he just give up? Edison replied ““You don’t understand, I haven’t failed 10,000 times, I’ve simply succeeded in finding 10,000 ways that definitely won’t work.”

Just know that failure isn’t a personal punishment, it’s an opportunity to learn.  Struggles keep us focused and teach us appreciation. We learn and we learn.  Keep hanging in there and you will soon reach your own ‘Friday’ and things will get better.  Keep reminding yourself that you are failing in order to win.


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In the confrontation between the stream and the rock, the stream always wins- not through strength but by perseverance.”

~H. Jackson Brown~

One of the things I like to do in my spare (spare?? lol) time is go hiking, often for hours.  It’s what I do to relive stress, get some fresh air or when I just need a change of pace. I pile my dog in the car, pack a few essentials and off we go. 

I was thinking about this the other day when a friend commented on how she just couldn’t see herself walking that so far!  I had never considered that I actually walked so far.  I never worried about it because I never considered the entire trip as a whole.  Let me explain. 

It is rare I tell myself I HAVE to hike so far or for so long.  I just start walking.  I sometimes get distracted, notice new things or even stop to enjoy the view.  I love being out in the woods because I find my peace there.  I am only concerned with what is just around the bend, not what is a mile away.   I once heard a riddle that asked how one can write a book? The answer was one word at a time. I’ve also heard a similar one about climbing mountains. Same idea, you do it one step at a time. 

No matter how fit you are or smart or well equipped the fact remains the same; you overcome all big hurdles one step at a time.  If you are like my friend however and only look a the size of the hurdle you might feel overwhelmed and as if you could never do such a thing.  When that happens take a breath, back up and look for just that one small step and see if you can do that. 

Keep looking for that next step and you will eventually find yourself deep in the woods or up on top of that mountain. 

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I happen to find myself super lucky because I have family and friends both in Canada and in the USA so I manage to wiggle my way into two Thanksgiving celebrations.  Although the feasting is wonderful and the time spent with loved ones is priceless I also count the ability to focus on gratitude in amongst the blessings of this holiday. 

I was mulling over the idea of counting your blessings (something we all need to do more often I think) and being grateful when I decided to write this post.  I realized that as human beings it is in our nature to adjust to our situations and begin perceiving the way things are a ‘normal’ and ‘everyday’.  I wonder if this is a throwback to some survival instinct perhaps? Either way could this be what causes us to gloss over all that we have to actually be grateful for?

It may be hard to imagine but there are still places in this world where there is no cable tv, no phones and certainly no internet.  In fact there are places where clean water is a struggle and may not be one that the people are winning.  We worry our house is too small, our car isn’t new enough or we don’t have a smart phone.   This was really hit home when I saw a Christmas clip off the show America’s Funniest Home Videos where a boy about 8 or 9 opened a gift (one of many by the looks of it) and it was a sweater.  He proceeded to pout, throw it down and stomp off to his room shouting Christmas is over and ruined.  His parents laughed about it hysterically.  Really? That’s funny?  Hmmm. 

On the other hand I have a friend who has a little boy about 5 who has been taught that in order to get more toys at Christmas he must make room for them.  He and his mom take all the toys out of his toy box and make piles. One is for broken, one is for charity and one is to keep.   This little boy actually takes his things to the shelter and hands them over.  He actually sees the kids who haven’t got what he does and often is quite thoughtful about it.  Last year he suggested that they look through his keep pile one more time and he found a few more he really didn’t use much and back they went to the shelter.  This little boy has learned the true spirit of generosity and empathy.

Perhaps we owe our forefathers a bit more of debt then we realize.  They celebrated at the end of the harvest because they could survive another winter.  They were grateful for the lessons learned and that the hard work paid off.  Along with this they set us up to have a holiday that reminds us to be grateful for what we have.  We need to teach our children to appreciate what is around them already instead of allowing them to grow up force-fed by the marketers that they need more and more.  Of course in order to do that, we need to start by showing appreciation ourselves.  Isn’t Thanksgiving the perfect time to start doing this?

So what are you grateful for?

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It was a rough end to the week this week but there were some silver linings to be had.  Having had no voice the last couple of days I was able to really practice my listening skills.  A bout of laryngitis will do that for you.  Now I could lament the crappy way I felt but instead I actually can see a blessing in this.  I was forced to be quiet.  Odd how people feel the need to fill in the silence for you and what ends up coming out; some very deep insights emerged. While I don’t recommend this method of exploring your own listening skills it was interesting for me and I’d like to share some of my insights.

Real listening is a skill that many of us don’t take the time to develop. We often spend the time we should be listening paying attention to the noise inside our own head.  You know, examining what you already said, planning out what you will say next or even deciding what to have for lunch.  As a coach I am always very aware of how I am listening and strive to shut off that noise so I can listen deeper to people.   In truth it can be tough some days; still I want to hear not only the surface words but what lies underneath.  I pay attention to things like tone, body language and listen for statements that are repeated or contradict one another.  These are where we find we need to look deeper at what is being said and explore these ideas.  Our information about the message doesn’t always come just from the actual words.

As someone who taught for many years I early on learned the value of the pause.  Children and teenagers often need more time to process what you’ve said to them and formulate their answers.  Are adults so different? Not really. I think sometimes we give ‘stock’ answers.  We think we figured out what people want to hear so that is what we try to say. We are also uncomfortable with taking time to ponder as we think that others want immediate responses.  This is probably why coaches are becoming so popular with everyday people trying to work it out.  The stock answers get challenged and thrown out and the rawness of it all is brought into the light. 

Think back to a time when you felt really listened to.  A time when you knew your message was taken in and not judged for anything other than what it is.  It’s a good feeling. If you want to improve any relationship be it a spouse, teenager, child, co-worker or boss; start to listen with more than just a cursory glance at what is being said.   I guarantee you it will be gratefully received.

How often do you think you get really listened to? Or for that matter really listen to someone else?

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Honestly, there is no magical wand to wave, no incredible lightbulbs that go off!  Life is hard, sometimes it’s harder than others and sometimes it’s really really great.  So what is the deal with some people’s ability to seem at peace pretty much all of the time even when dealing with life’s hard knocks?

It really isn’t that tough to understand.  They have certain skills and self-awareness in place.  What can be hard is the effort to begin changing your mindset and life focus so that you shift over to the same.  If you have habits of consistently feeling like you need more and don’t appreciate what you already have it can be tough to back pedal and learn that skill.  Gratitude is, I believe, one of the most powerful tools you have at your disposal for inner peace. 

Self awareness begins with taking the time to explore what you really value in life.  This can be tough because we all want to fit in, we all want to be that ‘cool kid’ right?  Well, here’s the thing; when you can learn to let that go and begin to enjoy being you you find that it just really doesn’t matter anymore.  It can be so hard for some to believe in this idea.  Start being really honest with yourself.  Explore your core value system and learn to live in harmony with those values.  Be grateful for all the joy and blessing you have right now.  Look deeply at where you happiness comes from and follow those paths rather than following the ones others have set out for you. 

I do love me some new shoes and such, but this isn’t where  my inner peace and joy come from.  If I never had a new pair of shoes I could still be happy and content.  The kind of peace that resonates through the rest of your life and gets noticed.  It isn’t magic, it’s thoughtfulness on your part that does this and it’s possible for anyone to search it out if they are truly willing.

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It is so interesting to me to read all the tips and tricks about how to get people interested in reading your blog, liking your Facebook fan page or following your tweets on twitter.  I’ve even seen a few people talk about how they decide whom to follow on these media sites.  Interestingly enough I’ve rarely heard or seen anything talking about what they gain from these ‘relationships’.  Are these really true relationships?  A relationship is a state of connectedness so I suppose it technically fits doesn’t it?  The purpose of the relationship needs to be clear however.  While I appreciate the dialogue most people are not actually my friends.  We are not close, we don’t hang out and we certainly don’t share intimate secrets. 

Used to be our friends didn’t sell stuff to us (well, beyond the girl guide cookies).  The lines are rather blurred these days aren’t they? 

Don’t get me wrong I have really begun to enjoy social medial; twitter especially.  The access to so much information is incredible.  I can simply follow people who speak to things that interest me.  I hope that those who follow @myrivendell ‘s tweets and retweets find some value in them.  I also enjoy going to a few stores because I like the staff and how they treat me. They are friendly and helpful and often have a great sense of humour and even though I leave the store feeling good, I don’t mistake this interaction for friendship, I  think however, many people are mistaking these connections on social media sites for real friendship.  People are posting the intimate details of their lives and innermost thoughts; things they wouldn’t walk up to a group of strangers at a real live party and say and yet these same folks put it up for the world to see and judge them by.

It seems there are new things for parents to teach their children.  New types of relationships that we need to define and acknowledge and learn to deal appropriately with.  Social media is amazing; there is so much to learn and so many people willing to talk about all sorts of topics but it needs to be kept in the perspective of what it really is.  We still need that face to face connections and joy that we get from our true friendships.  Let’s sharpen that line and keep things clear.

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According to Wikipedia The word “apathy” derives from the Greek apatheia. This has the  meaning “absence of passion” or “without feelings”. 

Apathy is a state of indifference or in simple terms you  just don’t care.  Most people tumble through a range of emotions all day from excitement to worry to annoyed or angry.  The apathetic person just seems to drift along with no real reaction or interest in what is happening.  (wait..isn’t that what happens to people in every zombie movie?)

There are different levels and states of apathy. At a deeper level,it can be a symptom of serious disorders, however this isn’t the type of apathy I want to focus on here.  I am talking about people who just can’t be bothered.  I think for most people this kind of apathy is often situational (think voting!)  it can also be a sign that we need to DO something else because what we are doing isn’t working.  Apathy is not caused by events, but by our reaction to events and this is something we can choose! 

In 1950, US novelist John Dos Passos wrote that “Apathy is one of the characteristic responses of any living organism when it is subjected to stimuli too intense or too complicated to cope with. The cure for apathy is comprehension.”  When I came across this quote I had to sit back and think it over for a while.  I read it over a number of times, looked up the quote the author and such.  I have mulled it over and over and have come to think that there is some real merit in what Passos is saying here. To go back to the voting example, people who are informed on the issues, aware of the candidates platforms and at least somewhat involved in what is happening usually DO go vote.  It is the ones who feel overwhelmed by the whole thing and all the ads and information out there who tend to go with the ‘can’t be bothered’ or ‘whats the point?’ tag lines and do not go out to vote. Interesting no?

I’ve noticed that this sneaks in and happens in our day-to-day life too.  I’ve been putting off replacing my barely working 14-year-old car because I don’t have the research done about what I want or need to replace it with.  (Okay and I love that car!) I don’t want to get stuck with a car I dislike or had loads of problems or simply isn’t a good choice but there is so much to learn that it can seem a bit overwhelming.  Yikes, apathy strikes again! 

I wonder how much today’s access to incredible amounts of information contributes to our overload and resulting apathy.  What a circle! The very information we crave sends us into a state where we have trouble dealing with it all because it is so easy to be bombarded with it. Picking and choosing, learning to critically think and to take a breath once in a while and reassess what our needs are can certainly help. 

Albert Einstien said “The world is a dangerous place to live not because of the people who are evil, but because of the people who don’t do anything about it.”

Have you noticed apathy sneaking into situations like voting or my car issue?  How do you deal with apathy in your life?

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