Many of us make resolutions. Many of us break these resolutions. Here are eight ways to ensure your resolutions fail.
1. Don't write your resolution down. Writing down your resolutions makes them concrete and gives them substance. If your resolutions remain abstract you can ignore them far more easily.
2. Keep your resolution to yourself. Other people can provide accountability, support, feedback and encouragement. So to ensure failure, work toward your goals alone.
3. Think about what you want to accomplish but don't think about all the steps it will take to get there. Just plan on going from start to finish by skipping all that obnoxious space in between.
4. Underestimate the degree of difficulty and work required to reach your goals. Reaching your goals should be easy and simple.
5. Don't bother altering your schedule or making plans. Schedules are a drag to change.
6. Cut corners, then rationalize. Shortcuts are far more efficient. After taking the shortcut, just convince yourself that doing things the right way is stupid.
7. Let a slip become a fall and a fall become a failure.
8. Be lazy. Resolutions shouldn't require effort anyway.
If you follow each of these steps your resolutions are sure to fail. Good Luck!
“Merry Christmas,” I said. As the words escaped my lips I began to second guess myself. Would he be offended? Does he celebrate Christmas? What is his religion again? He graciously said, “Thank you but we don’t really celebrate Christmas in my house.” Oops. He wasn’t being rude and he wasn’t upset that I had wished him a Merry Christmas. He didn’t yell at me. He didn’t even look at me scornfully. In fact all the normal indicators that I have offended someone were absent, which led me to believe that in fact I had not offended him. That was the end of the conversation. We said goodbye and proceeded to the rest of the day’s business. It was the first time this year I had wished someone a Merry Christmas so I had not yet had a chance to fully review my 2013 “Wishing People a Merry Christmas Policy.”
We live in a world where we can second guess ourselves for something as simple as offering a blessing to someone. Even as I write this I concern myself with how it will be received. Heaven forbid I offend someone…wait can I say heaven? What if people don’t believe in heaven? Will the expression make sense?...you see my point.
The media has made the Merry Christmas/Happy Holidays issue bigger than it really is. This time of year I hear people all around wishing one another a Merry Christmas. I have yet to see tears, clenched fists or verbal tirades. Does that happen? Perhaps. I haven’t seen it. Strife, conflict and politics makes for better news that respect, patience and grace, so the countless peaceful interactions are overlooked, while the comparatively few clashes are magnified.
When I wish someone a Merry Christmas I am not saying she has to believe what I believe. I am not saying he is right or wrong. What I am saying is that I want the best for you. I want you to be healthy, and prosperous, full of peace and joy. If that offends you I sincerely apologize.
I have offended many people. It is unavoidable. I don’t say this to be callous and I think we should make every effort to live at peace with those around us, but I don’t want to be so concerned about offending someone that I avoid wishing him or her well. That would be a lousy world to be a part of.
Aristotle is quoted as saying “To avoid criticism say nothing, do nothing, be nothing.” This quote captures the inescapability of criticism. If we wish to avoid offending people the same tactics can be applied. To avoid offending people say nothing, do nothing, be nothing.
I will gladly and humbly apologize for all of the times I am selfish, inconsiderate, arrogant and rude. What I won’t apologize for is wishing another human being the deepest blessings. You shouldn’t either. So to you dear reader and to your loved ones: Have a Merry Christmas.
In case you missed it here is the link to a fascinating article about professional cuddling in a recent edition of oregonlive.com. Yes, evidently professional cuddling is a thing. Here is the article in a nutshell: There is a woman in Portland who gets paid to cuddle with people with clothes on and non-sexually. I had a ton of questions about the world of professional cuddling, but one of the questions was how have we become so disconnected as a society that there is a market for professional cuddlers?
I grew up with brothers. We watched pro wrestling from time to time if it wasn’t too “nasty” as my mom called it. We wrestled a lot, just like every group of brothers since the dawn of time. Sometimes the battles would occur on the carpet, sometimes on the grass. Sometimes they were planned, sometimes spontaneous. There were times when my knees and elbows had more rug burned skin than normal skin. I was ok with that. We had a blast and it wasn’t because my brothers and I were violent kids. I’m not sure exactly why boys wrestle but I have a theory. The older I get, the more I see that wrestling served an important purpose for us.
Boys don’t hug it out too often. As boys get older the body slam turns into arm wrestling which is replaced by the handshake at board meetings. Part of this is good because if 50 year old men exchanged body slams they would be seriously injured. If you have video of such an interaction I would love to see that. Another reason is that physical affection is socialized out of boys. Hugs aren’t usually associated with toughness. Fortunately boys are smart. Their bodies understand the need for connection. Physical touch produces a chemical in our brains called oxytocin. Oxytocin helps us feel connection and trust. It also helps us be generous and less anxious in social environments. So what happens when boys don’t wrestle? What happens when we become disconnected from one another? We find a way to get what we need. Enter Professional Cuddling.
What is your answer to my question? Why is there a market for professional cuddlers? I would love to hear from you.
I have a hunch about you dear reader. My hunch is that you don’t like to be uncomfortable. For example, you probably like your pillow(s) arranged a certain way when you sleep. When you drive you adjust your seat to your exact specifications, lumbar support and everything. You don’t like blisters or headaches. (Bold predictions right?). If I may take my hunch one step further I would predict that you are someone who doesn’t like to experience pain, grief or suffering. I know this because I know the definition of those words. Let’s not overthink this. You don’t like losing a job or loved one, feeling directionless o alone. You don’t like to feel unhappy.
Unfortunately or fortunately, the feelings that we so desperately attempt to avoid can actually be some of the most beneficial feelings we can ever experience. These “bad” feelings tell us that something is out of whack in our lives. At times the imbalance is obvious. The loss of a cherished relationship is an example of this. At other times it is difficult to identify where the imbalance is and what can be done to change it. The imbalance can be an indication that we need closer support and connection with friends and family, or it can indicate that we need more sleep or a different job or more exercise. The bad feelings invite us to adapt and figure out ways of bringing things back into balance.
Often it is through these struggles that we learn something about ourselves or others or life. It is wisdom that can be gained only through difficulty. Depression can lead to some dark and painful experiences that feel like they may be the end of us. We sink deeper as the light dims. What if the darkness, rather than triggering feelings of despair and hopelessness, triggered the belief that something new and beautiful was about to be created? What if the bad feelings were just the beginning of something new and good? It can be difficult to have a broader perspective when it seems that all you can focus on is how miserable you feel. But asking yourself what you can learn and how you can grow as a result of your struggle is well worth it.
Will I become bitter and cynical and isolate myself from others? Will I stop taking care of myself? Will I give up? Or will I emerge from the discomfort more resilient, more humble, more gracious and more hopeful? Will I allow the pain to refine me and develop my character? Will I then offer a listening ear and an encouraging word to others who are in the midst of a similar trial?
You get to decide how to view your struggle. You get to decide whether to view it as the end or the beginning. If someone borrows your car and adjusts the seat you don’t just ignore it. You fix it. If you get blisters, you wear different shoes. Depression is the same way. Adjust your seat and change your shoes. I have tried the whole “bitterness, life isn’t fair, the world is out to get me” perspective and it didn’t get me anywhere. You are certainly welcome to try that if you wish. It’s your life. Just don’t mistake the beginning for the end.
I am afforded the luxury of having nothing expected of me…when I am sick. Better yet I expect nothing of myself. My recent ailment brought this insight to light. I gave myself permission to sleep in and wear sweats and play videogames and not do much of anything. The all too familiar voice of condemnation and nagging, reminding me that I should be doing more, was beautifully silent. After all I was sick. Anything productive I did was bonus. Although I wasn’t physically active, my mind continued to work. Some of my ponderings: What if the voice of condemnation, the voice that brings our inadequacies to light was silenced? What if we could accept that it is ok to feel inadequate? Most importantly, what if we could recognize that our value doesn’t come from what we produce? If the common cold is required to learn that lesson, then I wish a happy flu season to you and yours.
Today is World Suicide Prevention Day. Here are a few surprising statistics from the International Association for Suicide Prevention:
· It is estimated that 5% of people attempt suicide at least one time in their life.
· One million people across the globe die by suicide each year
· There is one death by suicide every 40 seconds.
· The number of suicide attempts may be up to 20 times the number of deaths by suicide.
· The number of lives lost each year through suicide exceeds the number of deaths to homicide and war combined.
While the above statistics are interesting, the statistic I’m curious about is how many of us suffer silently with thoughts of killing ourselves. How many of us are in the midst of a struggle that no one else knows about? That would be an interesting statistic. As I considered this, I initially thought we would be surprised at how high that number would be. Perhaps it would be countless. Upon further reflection I believe we wouldn't be surprised one bit. Many of us are deeply aware of the pain and struggles both in our own lives and the lives of those around us. We know how close we or others have come to suicide. The first statistic to be reduced is the number of us suffering silently. I hope that number plummets and I think the other numbers mentioned above will follow.
For those who are struggling with thoughts of suicide please talk to someone. Just letting someone know how you are feeling is a great first step. Hopefully there is someone in your life that you trust, but if you don’t have someone like that in your life here are some links to people who are trained to help. There are many other helpful resources available. I would be happy to help connect you to them.
Multnomah County Crisis Line (503) 988-4888
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-8255
When the garden is planted in the spring I get antsy in my pantsy. I want crops. Now. Or better yet yesterday. The seeds are planted, watered and receiving adequate sunlight. Then I wait…and hope…and second guess whether I planted too early or late, and consider whether I arranged the garden to achieve maximum productivity.
I don’t actually make anything grow. I haven’t figured that one out yet. It’s above my pay grade. What I have figured out is that sometimes patience and time are the most important elements in a garden. There is a point where more water or more sunlight becomes detrimental, and the most beneficial thing is for the garden and me to just chill out. This year, despite my best efforts, the tomatoes did just fine.
I will be happy when...I get this or that thing. If only this relationship were different. If only I had this car or house or yacht or job or prestige or influence or…then I would be happy. Each of us has our own seemingly endless list designed to ensure our happiness should we somehow attain what is on it. The problem is not what happens when we don’t get what we want; the problem is what happens when we do get what we want. Often what we hope will bring us happiness becomes an object of contempt because it fails to bring us the happiness it promised, or rather the happiness we promised ourselves should we obtain it. Rather than enjoying these things in their rightful place, we place upon them the burden of making us happy--a burden they were never meant to carry. Freeing these people and things from the burden of securing our happiness has the surprising effect of enabling us to truly enjoy them. What or whom have you burdened with ensuring your happiness?
How many of us have had plans shattered by a metaphorical punch in the mouth? We come up with plans for a career, a house, or a relationship, only to find ourselves lying on our backs looking up into lights, having been flattened by a haymaker. The punch in the mouth may take the form of an illness, loss of a job, loss of a loved one or many smaller challenges that result in the same sore jaw. Whatever form the punch takes, it comes unexpectedly and sends us reeling. A few nights ago I was watching a boxing match. The commentators were discussing the game plan one of the boxers had leading up to the fight. The fighter's plan had been solid but he was losing the fight. One of the commentators quoted Mike Tyson saying “Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth.” One needn't look far to notice some parallels to life outside the ring.
I think plans are a good thing. They help us identify goals and establish strategies for success. Sometimes unpredictable circumstances make us question whether the plan we made was sound. Our confidence is shaken and we are wondering whether it was a bad plan from the beginning or a good plan requiring exceptional discipline. We can do two things with our plans after we get punched in the mouth. Option 1: Stick with the plan. Option 2: Come up with a new one. Both options require courage and wisdom. Wisdom is necessary because sometimes our plans just aren't that great. Stubbornly sticking to a bad plan will lead nowhere. Courage is required to change course. On the other hand, sometimes good plans meet great resistance. It is wisdom that enables us to trust in a good plan and courage that empowers us to persevere.
If you decide to alter your plan, may you have the wisdom to adopt a better plan. If you decide to stick with the original plan may you have the courage and confidence to endure. Whether you decide to stick with the first plan or create a new one, may you find the strength to pick yourself up from the mat and keep fighting. Sooner or later we all get punched. What will come of your plan?
On Monday Ryan Braun was suspended by Major League Baseball for the remainder of the 2013 season for violating the league’s drug program. The former MVP’s vehement denial of using performance enhancing drugs has been discussed at length. That’s not what this article is about. Ryan Braun is the focal point of controversy for lying to fans and media, but I am more interested in his family and teammates. What did they know? How much did they know? How long did they have to tip-toe around conversations? Braun’s teammates were not the ones responsible for his cheating and deception and yet they were the ones left standing in the locker room answering questions regarding their suspended teammate. I wondered how I would have answered the questions: Were you aware that Ryan Braun violated the drug policy? How disappointed are you? How does this affect the team?
Teammates protect teammates. They look out for one another. They guard each other against media and fans who will stop at nothing to provoke a controversial story. But how do you defend a teammate when doing so compromises all your credibility? How do you defend a teammate when his choices and subsequent dishonesty show utter disregard for those around him? What do you do when the integrity of the game, or your profession or family is compromised by someone for whom you care deeply? That’s a tough time to be a teammate. I know the answer is not more lies or deception. I know the answer is not feigning ignorance.
I hope to never put those I care about in a position where they have to defend poor choices I make. If I do put them in such a position, I hope they have the courage to call me to task. I am grateful that I am not famous enough to have my mistakes laid out for the world to see, but we all have teams, whether they are religious groups, families, friends or coworkers. Teammates protect teammates as individuals, but they also protect the integrity of the team collectively. When an individual puts his choices before the welfare of the team, he must be confronted for the sake of the team. It is not easy and it is certainly not fun, but it is what teammates do. Without accountability and transparency, I’m not sure whether it can be called a team at all.