Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Look for the Big Dipper and 4 Other Things You Can Do More of This Year

Behavior change is hard.  That is why resolutions don’t work.  But what can I say?  I’m a sucker for lists.

Here is my list of 5 things I’m going to do more of this year.  You can too! 

1. Be Quiet - I’ll think I’ll throw up if I hear another marketing guru wax on about the importance of “listening” via social media.  It’s become such a cliché.  Thing is, as far as cliché’s go, it’s true.  Chattering on and on (which I am very good at) is bad for relationships.  It’s bad for meetings.  It’s bad for marriage.  Heck it’s bad for Happy Hour.  No one is that interesting and people tune you (and me) out. 

It turns out that being quiet is really important.  It’s a skill that all adults must master.  (Note: I said adults.)  I’m going to try very hard to be quieter in 2011.  If you see me out, remind me to Shhhhhh! 

2. Look for the Big Dipper – In college I used to walk home to my apartment late at night. If it was very late, my walk included a jog downhill. (This was Seattle.)  Right before I slipped inside my door, I would look up and try to find the Big Dipper, you know that constellation of seven stars, which follows the rough outline of a large ladle or dipper.  Regardless of my mood, locating those stars comforted me and altered my state of mind. Seeing that cup in the same spot stopped my head from spinning.  It made me feel safe. 

Work is tough.  Life is tough.  Find those special moments, points of connection and stars that guide to help you put things in perspective.  And, remember.  Regardless of how bad things get, we’re all part of a much greater and deeper mystery. And, that is good. 

3. Write – I love to write.  An idea or “subject line” pops into my head and I’m done.  Head over heels with a phrase that I simply must expel. It’s my primary way of expressing myself and “getting to the truth.”

I hate to write too. Writing doesn’t let you off the hook.  No matter how tired or tiresome you feel, words distract and batter your brain until you get them down.  The good news is that writing is both science and art.  Writing well is about exercising your heart and brain (and hands) and trusting that somehow the words will come together to make sense, even inspire.  In other words, you don’t have to be Alice Walker.  You just have to practice.

Write more this year to become a better writer.  But also write more to become a better you.  Writing will free you.  It will bless you and your life. 

4. Breathe – This probably sounds strange.  How can you breathe more?  We’re always breathing aren’t we?  Well, yes and no.  If you’re like me, you’re anxious and easy to unnerve. Someone cuts you off in traffic, your co-worker is way late to a meeting, and your spouse forgets to call.  In short, the shit hits the fan and suddenly you realize you’re hyperventilating.

The best way to avoid a melt down and regain perspective, in situations like these, is to be quiet (see point #1) and BREATHE.  If you breathe deeply for just a few minutes, your brain will calm down. 

The Buddhists have figured out something here. The ability to self-soothe is a critical skill to develop in our hyped-up world. Focus on your breath and it will help you to relax and be kind. 

5. Play – I’m bad at play. I’m one of those types that internalized the Protestant work ethic when I was much too young.  I’m into delaying gratification.  Eating the frosting last and spinach first.  I love making lists and checking them twice.  Heck, I’m into work.

The problem is, the older I get the less I play.  (For me, play is work!)  For example, my new frolleague (friend and colleague) Susan has invited me to go Salsa dancing four weekends in a row.  Unfortunately, I can’t seem to figure it out.

I’ll never be able to sit down with my eight year-old and play Barbie’s or build a go-cart but I am going to try to be silly for 15 minutes a day.

If you too find that life has become all work and no play, schedule an office outing (without alcohol). Bowl.  Go for a hike.  Sing Karaoke (OK, you might need a little alcohol for Karaoke).  Do something totally frivolous - together.  It will help you remember why you came here and what you really like about these folks.


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