Thursday, December 22, 2011

Thoughts on Being a “Grown Up.”



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When I was very young, I thought grown-ups had it all together, just by virtue of being aged [keep in mind that “aged” to me could have been as young as 9]. This belief followed me until fairly recently, I’m afraid.

The word “old” to me, always meant experienced, mature. All the cool people I knew were older than me. I saw it as a good thing. I aspired to be old. I couldn’t wait until I was a grown up. No one told a grown up to clean their rooms or go to sit still in school for boring classes. They had complete freedom. They could go places. They could go to work. They could pay for things with credit cards.

Now that I am technically a grown up, it is very cool, no doubt. But, at the same time, it can be kind of terrifying. I don’t feel grown up. Sure, no one tells me to clean my room, but I’d better get that rent check in on time. EVERY month, no less. I didn’t take into account the responsibilities that came with the freedoms I envied. Sure I no longer have to sit in math class for an hour. Now I am responsible for bills with very real consequences should I miss them. I no longer have to go to school, but I have jobs, which actually are WAY cooler than my school ever was.

But there was something about the security of growing up. Sure, I longed to be an “adult,” like the cool people on TV or just people I admired in life, but I always felt secure. Perhaps I was naïve, but I never worried about bills or jobs, except for when I was playing “house,” or Barbies.  Now that I’m older, they’re not as fun as I remember.

My dreamy boyfriend says that people do not actually grow up. They stay the same person they were when they were young. I do agree with that, to an extent. Sure, I may know a little more than I did when I was young, I’ve got a few more experiences under my belt. [Though, every once in a while I get an urge to go back in time to beat some sense into the high school me]. I hope I’m a little more sophisticated than I was when I was younger, but I still feel very much the same person as when I was a kid. I see grown up versions of the kids I used to babysit; they’re the same too.

The best example of this is the Monica character on Friends, when she and Ross were competing to be on the Dick Clark New Year’s Rockin’ Eve show. At long last Ross and Monica were able to fulfill a lifelong dream of being dancers on the show. They had practiced for years a routine for just the occasion, accompanied with the same childhood excitement.

I love watching her slip into her childhood effervescence, from her otherwise sophisticated character. At one point, Chandler says to her, “Ohh, you’re still just a little fat girl inside, aren’t you?”

The reason I find this so funny is that I know I slip into my childhood persona just like Monica. I wonder if others do too…
c. 2011




Tuesday, December 6, 2011

You are Special


From Max Lucado’s You are Special

c. thomasnelson.com
And all day the Wemmicks did the same thing; They gave each other stickers. Each Wemmick had a box of golden star stickers and a box of gray dot stickers. Up and down the streets all over the city, people spent their days sticking stars or dots on one another.

The pretty ones with their smooth, fine paint, always got stars. But if the wood was rough or the paint was chipped, the Wemmicks gave dots.

The talented ones got stars too. Some could lift big sticks above their head or jump over tall boxes. Still others knew big words or could sing pretty songs. Everyone gave them stars.

Some Wemmicks had stars all over them! Every time they got a star, it made them feel so good! It made them want to do something else, and get another star. Others, though could do little. They got dots.

----
This sounds a lot like most work situations. Actually, it sounds like any group or organization-type situation. There will always be the stars; and well, the slightly duller rocks too. It’s easy to find our worth in how much we are performing, how much we are producing, how much we are shining.

In fact, I would wager to say that most of us go through life making sure that we are getting more stars than dots. It’s normal. Who doesn’t like positive reinforcement?

Awaiting the verdict, will I get a star or a dot, can be very stressful. It’s not bad to want to excel, to do a good job. We compromise ourselves when we don’t. It’s when we start to base our value on the number of stars or dots that become a problem.  Some days we just aren’t going to shine, and what then? Are we less of a person?

Our worth is great even if we aren’t producing, performing, or shining.

My boyfriend and I entered a contest to win a radio show on the local radio station. We made it to the top 10. We didn’t win. [I do think we were the best]. We knew it was out of our hands. We just weren’t the right fit. We were disappointed and we could have concluded that we were huge dots.

Instead, we are going to keep trying, keep shining, pursuing different outlets and avenues. We are not going to let failure or the threat of a brown dot dissuade us from being the stars we are. And neither should you.


Friday, November 25, 2011

On the Lamb

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Suzanne Davenport Tietjen is a shepherd who tells a story about one of her pregnant ewes, Lily. It was lambing season and since none of the lambs were showing signs of giving birth, she thought it was safe to go out. She had no idea she’d be coming home to a dire situation.

“Lambing instinct is pretty variable – some new moms act as if they know just what to do, while others fail to recognize any of the feelings of labor. Birth catches them by surprise.”

And that’s what happened to Lily.

The shepherd came home to a frenzied and frenetic Lily, who was running in circles around the barn, looking for something. They recognized the telltale signs that she had just given birth; She was searching helplessly for her baby, who had somehow gotten, well, lost in the confusion.

Her daughter quickly recovered the baby, shivering in the cold.

They presented the baby to Lily, according to Tietjen, but Lily showed no interest. She was much too busy searching for what she had lost.  She seemed to shake her head as if to say, Nope that’s not what I’m looking for, as she continued her manic search.

As I read Tietjen’s story, I saw myself. How often do I act just like Lily, frantically searching for something I know is important, but don’t recognize it when it’s right in front of me?

If I’m too busy recklessly thrashing about, how can I possibly have the clarity of thought to recognize anything when I see it?

When frenzy seems to take over me, I need to breathe through it; Go slower.

Well, after some quick thinking on Tietjen’s part, as only a shepherd can, she got Lily to bond with her baby. They are doing fine.


c. 2011

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

You are Rich


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When I was younger I used to define wealth as how much money someone had, how much stuff they could buy. [Sometimes I still do].

As I’ve gotten older, I’ve realized that while money is definitely nice, it is not everything. I’ve seen it cause more problems and stress than it’s worth.

I’ve known of girls who literally sell their bodies for money. I’ve seen men sacrifice their families and themselves for money. I’ve seen people waste hours of pure drudgery doing something they didn’t even like for a days, months, years. 

For what?

I know one girl who makes it her mission to have the latest techie gadget. Then she spends so much time playing with it and showing it off that she can’t relate to others. She’ll be in her techie ‘zone,” impossible to have a conversation with. Then the toy breaks. What now?

We need to simplify.

It’s not all that easy, you say. Have you seen the recent economic figures? Have you seen the price of…well, anything?

Yes, it’s nice to have stuff, I am the first to attest. But it is nicer to have peace of mind and a lack of stress. Nicer…and more profitable, I might add. Profitable because you are not wasting brain cells worrying, so there is plenty of space to create; to problem solve, to innovate.

Ideas flow when you are relaxed; so does production.

It’s not that I don’t feel bad for people who have lost their job, I know it’s traumatic, painful and often requires an uncomfortable lifestyle change. But as an outsider, I know that money comes and goes. As an outsider, this seems like an awesome opportunity to progress. Of course, I certainly wouldn’t recognize it, if the tables were turned. And I will probably have to be reminded of this posr.

But it is nice to realize that money isn’t everything. [Thank goodness.]. You can live just as rich a life [and often richer] with little as you can a lot.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Mind [fulness] Over Matter

 
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Rent was due, and I was short. I could have berated myself over my lack of planning [I knew this was due, what was I thinking], sending myself into a frenzy of “what-ifs.” What if they completely cut me off?  What if I die homeless and penniless, and no one ever loves me, kind of thing?

But I had been reading about mindfulness from a number of authors. Something that really stuck out to me was something Mark Williams and Danny Penman said in their book, Mindfulness

“Mindfulness is about observation without criticism; being compassionate with yourself. When unhappiness or stress lies overhead, rather than take it personally, you learn to treat them as if they were black clouds in the sky and observe them with friendly curiosity as they drift past.

In essence, mindfulness allows you to catch negative thought patterns before they tip you into a downward spiral. It begins the process of putting you back into control of your life. ”

It is easy to get stuck in that paralyzing pit of “oh, gosh, what am I gonna do,” which   blocks any creativity for solving problems. We lash out at others or beat ourselves up. Both tend to backfire in a bad way. Neither solves anything.

The kind of useless ruminations that I am prone to engage in are not useful because they doesn’t solve anything. In fact, the frenzy paralyzes or stunts any action. When I am stuck in a stressful situation, I need to step back and figure out how I’m going to deal with it. There will be plenty of time for beating yourself up later, if need be [and often there is].

With my problem-solving skills able to flex freely, thanks to my newfound mindfulness, I was able to solve my bill problem much more coolly than if I had freaked out about it like I had originally planned.

c. 2011
           

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Stress-Free Jobs That Pay Well??

photo credit. bsm 2011

Think your job is stressful? I would imagine we all do. Ever find yourself envying what we think might be a less stressful job? I know I have. There are several jobs that I used to think were stress free. I’ve even tried a few of them, to no avail, I'm afraid.

Surfing the net one day, I happened to find a link that said “Stress free jobs that pay well.” It sounded perfect to me. Sign me up for one of those! Thinking I had found the Holy Grail, I eagerly clicked on it.

I laughed bitterly, when I saw that the first listing was Yoga Instructor.  The writer of this article had only been a student of yoga, I'd imagine. I have witnessed up close, the stress of being a yoga instructor. My boyfriend is one. It is all very zen until you deal with all of the bureaucracy of a business. Corporate executives don’t understand yoga, yet they are often in charge.

He would often show up for class only to find that the room was being used for something else.  He would, then, have to explain to 10 students why class was moved or cancelled.  You will always have the stress of unmet expectations, with anything, I’d imagine. Many women are looking to feel the burn with a more cardio, power yoga feel; not true yoga. That’s not him.

I laughed again when I saw Massage Therapist on the list. I have a friend who was an MT, and swears she’d rather die than massage another fat sweaty body. She was quite adamant that she would never do it again.

I’ve heard stories that make my stomach turn. Ask any massage therapist to bend your ear with their horror stories with things like poor hygiene and uncontrollable bodily functions. I’m sure they also have to deal with unmet expectations as well.

The thing is, even the most seemingly peaceful, perfect job has it’s share of stress. What is stressful to you might not be stressful to me, and vice versa. It’s not necessarily the stress of the job, it’s your reaction to the stress, that makes it bearable or unbearable.

When you pursue your passion, when you are doing what you love, you aren’t stressed.  There will, no doubt, be things you don’t like, potentially stressful parts, but they won’t bug you as much.

My own quest for a zen job led me in several directions. I haven’t found it yet, because it doesn’t exist. But I can honestly say that my writing career is probably the most zen of anything I’ve tried. Not that it doesn’t have it’s share of stress, it does. But since it is my passion, it makes the stressors a little more bearable.

c. 2011

Saturday, October 8, 2011

2 Hookers, an Army Private and a Pizza Place

fadingad.com

I tried not to stare at the 2 hookers and army Private in the corner booth of the local pizzeria where we play trivia on Friday nights. They were quite a sight, to say the least. We had come early to eat dinner because I was starving. When the quiet young soldier came in with two, shall we say, not so quiet ladies. Well, at least, one of them was a female; the other, I couldn’t be sure.

They caused quite a scene. The two hookers  were all over the guy, who was basking in it. It was an uncomfortable scene, to say the least.

I felt particularly bad for the waitress, Jennifer. She handled it with the utmost class. She smiled graciously, unruffled. [I tend to take notes on how other service providers handle stressful situations, so that I can learn how to do it better]. When the more mannish hooker started ordering her around, she didn’t let it faze her. She just did her job, like they were any other group.

They were running up quite a tab, so the soldier was asked for his credit card, which he frantically realized was missing. Well, upon hearing this news, the hookers were out, like well, hookers who realize their client has forgotten their wallet; leaving the poor guy bewildered and SOL.

I sat watching all of this kind of on the edge of my seat, with a combination of unease in the pit of my stomach, and curiosity of what in the world was going to happen next.  I was also wondering who was feeling the most stress.  It seemed there was enough to go around. I knew I was feeling some, and I wasn’t even in the situation.

The guy came back maybe a half an hour later, and handed the waitress several bills. I could tell from the expression on her face that it was way more than he owed.

The restaurant handled it with aplomb. The offenders were dealt with, without incident. It’s a big place. The only reason I knew what was going on is because we were in the booth next to them.

c. 2011

Sunday, October 2, 2011

In Praise of Naps

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Few kids like naps. When I was little, the last thing I wanted to do was take a nap. Today I can’t get by without one.


Naps have somehow gotten a bad rap. Somehow we’ve gotten the idea that napping is lazy. That’s simply not true. Naps are smart. If more people napped, I think we’d be better workers. We’d also be nicer. Stress abounds with unrest, as does reptilian behavior. 



The Spanish are famous for their siestas, which are considered a necessity, not just a luxury.
 They know the benefits  of naps. They know a nap will;

- Give you more energy
- Improve your productivity by over 30%
- Improve your alertness by up to 100%
- Reduce stress and the risk of heart disease by 34%
- Allow better negotiation and communication
- Reduce risk of accidents at work and on the road
- Increase your happiness and wellbeing

 Naps can increase your brainpower. Several corporations have caught on to this. Employees of Nike, British Airways, Silicon Valley, even NASA encourage their employees to nap. They brought in comfy sofas to accommodate power naps.

A nap will allow you to see things differently. It changes your perspective on a problem you’ve been musing about Give you new ideas and the energy to work through problems more effectively. Few things compare to a great nap. I should know; napping is my hobby. I live for naps. I love the refreshment I feel when I wake. I feel like I can conquer the world.

Da Vinci wrote, “It is a very good plan every now and then to go away and have a little relaxation…When you come back to the work, your judgment will be surer, since to remain constantly at work will cause you to lose the power of judgment.”

SARK wrote a fantastic book in praise of naps called Change Your Life Without Getting Out of Bed.  She says, “Napping softens all the edges and smoothes the shredded places. Naps are the adult version of a child’s fort.“  And it’s true!!


c. 2011



Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Laughter and a bad memory will help you beat stress.

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I was reading this month’s Woman’s World magazine, when I came across a little snippet in the front of the issue where they list random tips. The tips can range from household to beauty, to anything you can imagine.

This weeks’ list included a tip about managing stress by laughing at it. They cited the journal of Anxiety Stress and Coping as a basis for this tip.

I know the benefits of laughter as a stress reliever, but this seemed a little overly simplistic to me. You can’t solve all problems be laughing at them, I thought. Plus that’s one way to really get in trouble with management at work. Laughing at the boss is generally NOT a good idea.

But I was curious about this, so I tried it. Trying it on a Monday was the perfect test.

Darn it if it didn’t work! Not exactly as I expected, It certainly didn’t solve anything, it just helped my attitude. I didn’t have to meet each stressor with a huge guffaw, just an inner chuckle was enough to change my outlook.

When the man came in with his large list of orders that he sped through, without taking a breath, all the while holding his money out, seeming annoyed when I wasn't following as fast as he was ordering, I just smiled.

When the really high-maintenance lady came in who likes the whipped cream for her third-caf mocha on the side, in a separate cup, like she always does, I chuckled to myself.

I laughed and calmly switched the trash bag which one lady dumped her entire Venti coffee in it after putting the wrong creamer in it. Because what else would you do with it? [My boyfriend insists that this isn’t all that clear].

When the lady who doesn’t acknowledge me, because apparently I am invisible to her; I laughed to myself, very pleased with my newfound shape-shifting abilities

Ordinarily the combined angst of these individual annoyances would have put me in a none-too-pleasant mood. These things would have momentarily bugged me, and I would have given them more space in my brain than they deserved; ruminating over them and getting annoyed over and over again.

But today I was laughing at them and forgetting about them.

c.2011

Sunday, September 18, 2011

The Path to Your Dreams

creatingconfidenceandsuccess.com
In our current economic predicament, lots are finding themselves without a job. While terrifying, I realize, I am seeing this as a good thing, though. It opens doors for new entrepreneurs to open their doors.

Trying new things is very risky, but so is anything these days. Nothing is secure, least of all any large corporation. Why not move from one insecure situation to another one that will make you proud?

Now is the opportunity to really live that dream of yours. Always dreamt of opening your own business? Consulting, coffee, computer, whatever…. Give it a go. The worst that can happen is that you’ll fail miserably.

You’ll learn many valuable lessons. You’ll learn a lot about how not to do it. You will also be able to decide if it’s worth it in the first place.

What about the money, you say? There are all kinds of grants available for this sort of thing. You may need to take a part time job to help finance it. I didn’t say it would be easy; just rewarding.

If you do have to take a “menial” part time job to make ends meet while you are pondering your dream, don’t think of it as “menial.” Enjoy the scenery. Live in the moment, but think of it as a stepping stone to your destiny.  It will give you networking skills. You may even gain future clients who will remember your professionalism in what they see as a “mediocre” work environment.

When people ask what you do, as they always will, don’t roll your eyes and say, Well, I work at such and such place, but I’d really rather be doing….” Say, I am a professional web designer, or whatever. I moonlight here to finance my business."

So investigate that website, business model, restaurant idea that’s been in the back of your mind for years. Make “someday” today. It will energize you just thinking about it.


c. 2011

Sunday, September 11, 2011

OMG!!

examiner.com

I witnessed first-hand an example of the fight response at trivia this weekend.

Friday nights we go uptown to the Buffalo Wild Wing, which sits amidst some other restaurants, nightclubs, and theaters in an area known as the Epicenter. There is a Nascar theme to this particular Buffalo Wild Wing. It attracts a more unruly crowd than what we’re used to.

It’s a large, open space with a central bar area, with three rooms full of tables for dining.  The area is full of TVs with a few arcade games

We usually sit at a table within full sight of the bar, where all of the cheaters sit. As we were playing, we happened to notice that the two girls who were currently in the lead were using their cell phones to “Google” their answers.

We told the Andy, probably the most non-confrontational host in the league. When he saw them, he called them out on it. The girls got really belligerent and defensive.

“I’m sorry, I really can’t accept your answer,” he said.

“OH MY GOSH!! ,” She shrieked, “We were texting. We were having a conversation about…,” she paused for a moment, “...RELIGION!!”

I think we were all so caught off-guard by her answer. We have heard every excuse in the book for having a cell phone out, but this was a first. I think this might have been the only time we have ever been speechless at a cheater.

These girls were caught red handed, and they knew it. But they weren’t going down without a fight.

They continued for about 15 minutes, just arguing and pshawing the host. Their protests were met with unsympathetic ears.

When you are in defense mode, you don’t give up. You have convinced yourself completely of the reality of your version of events, and you are defending that version with all of your might.

It is not until you upshift to your more cerebral brains that you can step back and realize how ridiculous you are being.

Everyone’s been there. It's just funny.

c. 2011

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Dropping the Ball...

photo credit: bostondirtdogs.com


Or, just as bad, being perceived as dropping the ball.

How are we to react? We are doing everything in our power to make things work smoothly, but for some reason it doesn’t; and we end up looking blameworthy.

This is a question I pondered after a rough day at work.

We’ve all been there. Things weren’t going as planned. Humans were being humans. I ended up looking as though I were dropping the ball. I was juggling it a bit; I managed to keep it above ground. But it didn’t look that way. I was responsible for a few mistakes, but not all of them.

Everything in me wanted to protest, It’s not me, I did everything right!! I could offer all kinds of reasons it went wrong, but I’ve found, in situations like this it’s pointless. I just sound defensive, it wastes time, and it really doesn’t make any difference.

Different people have different stories, feelings, emotions, etc. People create a narrative based on their perceptions. This becomes their reality. People are going to think what they think, whether it’s right or not. I know I have faulted others in my own head to fit my perception of reality. We can’t help it.

After discussing my day with my wise and dreamy boyfriend, he said some very wise words.

There is no such thing is an illegitimate emotion. If someone is treating you like crap, or you are just having a bad day, it is natural to feel bad about it.

Having said that, it is important to know that you are bigger than what somebody else thinks of you, how a certain day is going, your performance at a certain task, or even your opinion of yourself. You are not the voice in your head.


I was dubious. The voice in my head sounds a lot like me.

He continued,
I’m all for wallowing in how stupid and unfair the world, the system, and other people are, but sometimes my energy can be spent on better things.

I felt so validated. I had wasted so much energy worrying about it, feeling so guilty for things I couldn’t help.

I was rehashing everything over and over again in my head. Once I got over myself, I was able to forget about it for a few minutes, and take steps to productivity.



c.2011

Monday, August 22, 2011

Focus: Zen Habits' Leo Babauta



I have been so inspired recently with entrepreneur, Leo Babauta. He is the author/owner of the Zen Habits’ site. In the information age, he preaches a simple message. Simplify.

How welcome his message is in an urgent era of inescapable connectiveness. Just when you think you’re caught up, you’ve got ten people digitally informing you just how far behind you are.

Ironically, he has built his empire on connectivity, but he says, “I’m just one example of many people who have managed to do business online, have managed to stay connected, but who are able to limit the stream and make conscious decisions about how to be connected and how much information we consume.”

I’ve often, ruefully, imagined how much more I got done without the distractions of Facebook or other internet distractions.

Leo suggests a digital cleanse, of sorts. Gradually eliminating your streams of information, leaving only the essentials. He says that by limiting your stream to only the most essential information, you’ll free up more time for doing and creating amazing things.

I can’t tell you how exhilarating this prospect is to me. I often watch people with their all of their digital attachments, and wonder how we all survived 20 years ago.

He addresses the urgency we all feel to “connect,” and be “connected.” He says,
“Think about why we feel we need to respond to everything. Often it’s just a compulsion — we’re so used to answering messages that we have developed an urge to respond. Often it’s also out of fear: fear that people won’t think we’re doing our job, fear that we’ll lose customers, fear that we’ll miss out on something important, fear that people will think we’re rude or ignoring them.”

He says that most people unknowingly, perhaps, have a fear of not being up to date with important information. “There are always going to be opportunities we miss. But more likely are the opportunities we’re missing because we’re letting our days be consumed by trying to stay up to date. When we do this, we lose time we could be using to pursue exciting, real opportunities. “

But won’t something bad happen if I don’t know what’s going on? He says.
“This is highly unlikely. I’ve been uninformed — tuned out from the
news and other information I don’t want — for a few years now.
Nothing bad has happened to me. Instead, good things have happened
because I’m free to create, to focus on what makes me happy.”

I personally have witnessed the exact opposite. I have watched enough people, as well as experienced it for myself, that if I am too focused on what is happening on my computer, I will miss the things I need to attend to in the present.

I watched a lady today in the coffee shop I frequent who was immersed in her own digital world of texts and e-mails on her blackberry, that she didn’t realize that the drink that was called at the espresso bar wasn’t hers, so she cut in front of a large crowd of people. Nonplussed, and still texting she got mad when her friend told her it wasn’t hers. “They called tall cappuccino though, ” she said.

He encourages people to test his theory for a day or two. I know I will. I doubt the aforementioned lady will.


c.2011
photo credit: tonsoftime.com

Monday, August 1, 2011

Interview with artist, Christina Steward


My friend Christina is pursuing her passion as an artist and thriving. I wanted to talk to her about taking the leap that so many people are afraid to take, and how awesome it is doing what you love!!

Thank you so much Christina for letting me interview you!! First off, let me say that I so admire you for pursuing your passion! Your artwork is incredible! You can tell just by looking at it, that you were made to do it. You are also a software developer. You mix both sides of the brain seamlessly.

Thank you, Brooke! To hear you say I am “made to do it” is a big compliment. I’ve been on a personal mission for the past several years to find just that: what I was created to do. I think I’m uncovering it. By the way, I was a software developer for 12 years, until just a few months ago. My calling to be an artist was so strong that I finally made the decision to leave IT and pursue a creative career.

When did you discover that you were an artist?

Well, the signs have been there since I was a child; I was always looking for a creative outlet. I used to sketch just for the fun it. I sang in choir from elementary school through college. I taught myself to sew. I studied interior design. But it wasn’t until I took an open-studio painting class (held at the office where I worked in software J), and afterward a formal drawing class with the Art Institute, that I realized I had been missing something. I was surprised at how quickly I learned the concepts associated with drawing...and how much I absolutely loved it. At the end of my drawing class my instructor referred to me as an “artist”; that was the first time I believed it was true.

Something I really love about your art is the precision. Many of them look like photographs. I often have to look twice. I can tell that comes from the computer programmer in you. Are you obsessive about detail or does it come natural to you?

Seeing details comes naturally. That especially helped me in my software role, and is invaluable when creating art. Although, I admire artists who are able to communicate their ideas well without using fine details. I believe they still have the ability to see them in their minds, but choose which ones they’ll include to make a tree look like a tree, for example, without creating a super realistic rendering.

Where do you find your inspiration for your pieces? Is it hard coming up with ideas, or are they constantly jumping out at you?

I find inspiration everywhere: places I’ve traveled, photography outings to the local botanical gardens, a jog outside, everyday objects lying around the house. I’m also inspired by the work of other artists. When I’m struggling to find a new subject to draw or paint, I know it’s time to get outside and clear my mind, visit a gallery or art show, or look through creative images on the web. Ideas eventually flow.

Was it scary going from a steady paycheck to something not as secure?

Honestly, it wasn’t as scary as I thought it might be. Leaving my software job was something to which I gave considerable thought. So when it came time to leave, I was ready. I also have the support of my wonderful husband; in many ways he’s given me the freedom to make such a big transition career-wise.

Of course I have moments where doubts about the unknown future creep in, but each time I do my best to let them go. Sometimes it takes talking with others to help make that happen.
I believe my mindset on what is “secure” has also shifted: is it more secure to work for someone else, who controls what you work on (and if/when), as well as your income, or is it more secure to work for yourself, where you determine the type of work you do, when you work, and how much you earn from it? Working for myself has been extremely gratifying.

Did you deal with any “nay-sayers?” How did you deal with them?

I’ve been blessed with an incredibly supportive network of family and friends. I can’t recall one instance of being told I was making a terrible decision. Naturally some of them were concerned about me leaving a corporate job when so many people are currently without jobs. That wasn’t something I took lightly. But I did my best to assure them the timing was right, and I believe it was.

It's obvious that you spend a lot of time on each painting. How do you juggle marketing and deadlines? How much time do you devote a week to painting? How do you deal with the stress of "not enough time?"

Keeping a calendar of important tasks is essential. I usually evaluate my calendar a week at a time and record the things I absolutely have to get done, or else. I’d like to say I’m disciplined at blocking off time to create art each day, but honestly I’m not there yet. I normally just listen to my own compulsion to create. When too much time goes by, sometimes only a day, I have to start drawing or painting to ease the tension.

Even when you’re doing what you love full-time, there is still never enough time. I am getting better at accepting this, as my tendency is to focus on work (which is also play) and leave room for nothing else. I just try to remember there are only 24 hours in a day; I want to make each one count both professionally and personally.

You are selling your beautiful art very successfully. Is marketing your work stressful?

Marketing is stressful only when I forget what “marketing” really means. When I first got started I had fear of having to “put myself out there”, imagining making cold calls and visits to people who didn’t have a clue who I was. While I think there’s a place for that, I’ve learned that successful (and less stressful) marketing happens when I simply share what I do, whether that’s at an art show, over lunch, via newsletter or blog. When you love to do something, I think wanting to share that with the world comes naturally. If someone has a need for art, hopefully they can see the quality of my art, hear the passion for what I do, and make an informed decision on whether they want to work with me.

It’s everyone’s dream to do what they love for a business. Talk a little about what it was like going from painting as a hobby to painting as a business. Does it change the experience or outcome any for you?

Even when drawing and painting as a hobby, I secretly hoped one day my art would be good enough to sell. When I believed that time had arrived and I was considering my own business, I surrounded myself with like-minded individuals: those who were pursuing self-employment of their own. We soon formed a “mastermind” group, where we met weekly to discuss our business goals and achievements. The facilitator of this group reminded me that unless I had a place (i.e. website) for someone to purchase my art, I didn’t have a business. And he was right. My very first sale resulted from simply having what the customer wanted at the right time, and providing a way to purchase my art. Being in the mastermind group was instrumental in helping me get my business off the ground. Their constant encouragement and feedback on business decisions kept me moving forward, making progress. I’m forever grateful to them.

Creating art as a hobby was like lacing up my running shoes, anticipating being outside in the warm sunshine and fresh air. But getting to do it for business? It’s like the runner’s “high”, where my feet feel like they’re lifting off the ground.

Do you have any regrets?

None whatsoever!

Thanks so much Christina! This has been very inspiring!! Be sure to check out Christina's blog Art Spiffy which includes her musings on her elegant pieces.

c. 2011
image credit: c. christina steward

Monday, July 25, 2011

Malled


Caitlin Kelly’s memoir, Malled tells the story of her adventures in retail sales after an esteemed writing career. It appeared, and probably felt like a real step down for her, at first. It was very different from her writing job. She was used to a more professional environment. She was used to getting much more respect from her superiors as well as customers. This had to be especially frustrating as she was older than many of her co-workers, not to mention bosses.

Many such bosses felt the need to make certain that it was known who was in control. One day she worked 6 hours without a break [fortunately, labor laws have changed]. She was caught by her younger superior grabbing a bite of apple.

Angie was walking past the lockers when she saw me.

“Are you on your break?” she asked sarcastically. We both knew I wasn’t.

I couldn’t believe she cared that much. No customer could see me. I was taking perhaps thirty seconds away from my official duties. Why did this even matter?

I said nothing but felt humiliated and small as she walked away, her point made. She never mentioned it again. She didn’t have to. She’d flexed her managerial muscle.

---------------

Who hasn’t experienced this? Someone [rightly or wrongly] asserting their authority over us can make us feel about 2 inches tall. My book, Reptiles on Caffeine, is chock-full of stories like this.

Some might say this is a legitimate managerial technique. She obviously wasn’t on her break. But Kelly was one of the better employees of the store. That might have been taken into consideration, as well as her long hours that day.

As Michael W. Dean, author of A User’s Manual for the Human Existence, says, “For many it’s easier to be clever and cut someone down instead of being positive.” I have found this to be true in all of my retail service gigs. Heck, I know it to be true in myself. It’s frustrating dealing with people who just don’t seem to get it, and sarcasm seems like a good release as well as an effective way to deal with the situation.

But it’s toxic and will do more damage than good.


image credit: malledthebook.com
c. 2011

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Pursue your passion, and the rest will fall into place…


"Be careful what you set your heart upon, for it surely shall be yours." Napoleon Hill

My friend, Mary was thinking of starting a business. She’s wanted to start an art supply store/gallery for local artists for as long as I can remember. She’s an artist, but not much of a business person [as is common].

Just a cursory glance at all the stress that is involved in running a business from my own research was enough to deter me from anything like that. For me, the coolness would pale in comparison to all of the work and responsibility. But Mary has dreamed about this for years. She finally decided to make a go of it.

She jumped right in. It was hard! But Mary had such a vision and drive for this, though, that she almost thrived on the difficulties. She outsourced the things that she wasn’t good at; accounting, marketing, and everything that goes into business planning/execution. Even the phone system, for goodness’ sake!

She knew she needed a multi-functioning phone system, one with stationary and mobile capabilities. She knew she needed a receptionist, but couldn’t afford to pay for one. She need a fax machine, web hosting, PBX, voicemail; enough to make anyone’s head spin.

When she found out that she could combine all of her phone needs with one awesome company, even a receptionist, for goodness’ sake! Ring Central made her tasks a lot easier.

I have found that when you have a vision and a passion for something, small stressors don’t seem to matter as much. They might still be frustrating, but
you roll with things easier because you know they are a part of your ultimate plan.

By setting goals and living in the moment, we can experience this. Of course we won't be passionate about all of our goals, but it will reveal and pave the way to our true passion.

c.2011

Friday, July 1, 2011

The Anti-George?


The Seinfeld episode, George Does the Opposite is one of my favorites. Essentially, George thinks to himself, what I’ve been doing hasn’t been working, so from now on I’ll do the opposite. “I’ll become the Anti-George!”

A beautiful woman walks in the diner. He normally would think to himself, wow, she’s so out of my league. I could never talk to her. So he doesn’t, reinforcing his belief that she won’t talk to him.

But the anti-George walks confidently up to her, tells her with pride how he doesn’t have a job and lives with his parents. When he asks her out, she finds his openness so refreshing that she accepts.

Of course it’s meant to be funny, but I believe he might be on to something there. How often do I expect some change or innovation in my life, but keep embracing my old habits?

I am in the process of becoming the anti-Brooke, with regard to my lazy tendencies.
I often stress that there is not enough time in the day to write all I want to write. But then I muse to myself, how much time do I spend on Facebook, or on Sporcle? [my new nerdy hobby]. I’m making an effort to do the opposite of what I am naturally inclined to do, and work towards my goals.

I’ve really started to disdain the clutter in my apartment. If I continue to tippy-toe around the piles, nothing will change. I vow to make a proactive effort to purge and clean. If anything, just to have a more serene environment.

My new habits will be reinforced by success. If they’re not, perhaps it’s time to rethink them.



c. 2011
image credit: http://pacejmiller.files.wordpress.com/2009/12/george.jpg

Sunday, June 26, 2011

"Nature does not hurry [or worry], yet everything is accomplished." Lao Tzu


I was running late to work the other day. My alarm hadn’t gone off, so I woke up with 5 minutes to get ready and get there. It’s doable, but the timing has to be just right. In my angst to get moving, I was snorting, hissing, and pshaw-ing anything and everyone who got in my way.

Of course when I’m not in the midst of a crisis, it’s easy to say something a long the lines of, “step back, breathe, etc.” which is good advice. But I know that when I am in the middle of whirling chaos on all sides, real or perceived, no matter how minor, I have a head-knowledge of how to react. But that insight doesn’t always match up to my behaviors.

I read a very inspiring post by Akaya Windwood, which I loved. She tells about how she made the decision to stop worrying. Yeah, who hasn’t? I’m sure everyone has made that decision at more than one point in their lives. I know have. What made the difference with her was, she knew she would need to replace her ingrained habit of worrying with something else. She chose trust. So whenever she found herself worrying, she changed her worrisome thoughts to trusting thoughts.

She says, “Much to my surprise, I found that not worrying increased my capacity to attend to what was in front of me. All that energy I’d been using to worry was freed up for me to use in much more creative and interesting ways—like helping to change the world….”

“When I stopped worrying, it made a big difference in how I showed up in meetings, to my partner, and with my friends and family. I had a clearer head because it wasn’t all fogged up with rat-in-the-wheel worry. I became much more effective. And people noticed.”

I am going to try this week to change my worry and hurry into prayer. I encourage you to change your worry into something else as well. Let me know what happens.

image credit: flickr.com

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Three Questions

“It once occurred to a certain king, that if he always knew the right
time to begin everything… he would never fail in anything
he might undertake.” Tolstoy, Three Questions




I read Tolstoy’s Three Questions, the other day, and fell in love with it! This is the first of the three questions Tolstoy’s Emperor deemed imperative for success. It got me thinking, how do people determine when to act, to pursue an endeavor, to act upon a decision, or anything, really?

I would hope that in such instances as the story illustrates, helping a feeble man out, as well as reviving someone to life, that all of us would act at that moment. But it represents a larger picture. What spurs people to action?

You can ask any number of people’s advice, and get the same number of answers. If you asked my dad, for instance, he would bring out his calendar, and a yellow legal pad and map it all out with charts, graphs, and a Venn diagram for good measure.

When any sort of decision had to be made, [much to the chagrin of my more abstract mother and I] the legal pad was out [it is never far away]. Whether my parents were deciding to make the move from upstate New York to Charlotte to deciding whether to buy a Ford as opposed to a Honda, the legal pad was out, covered with my notes written in dad’s all-caps print.

There’s something comforting about lists, I’ll grant you. I’ve been known to bring out a legal pad for big decisions. Anything more elaborate, and it’s easy to forget what my original aim was.

If you asked my boyfriend, he would say, to go the Nike route, and Just Do It. He said that the things that have worked best for him is when he didn’t plan or analyze, but just acted.

Many times, there is no time to plan, you have to just act. The Emperor saw that the Hermit needed help immediately, he didn’t wait until he had the correct equipment or his work shoes. He jumped right in. When they both saw the dying man stumbling on the field, they stopped what they were doing and acted.

Our decisions are ultimately influenced by self. How can I best meet MY needs?
There is really nothing wrong with that, we are programmed that way. If you happen to be strolling in the jungle one day, you will not find too many lions looking out for any other lions, but themselves, [except mother lions, of course]. But one could argue that she is looking after a part of herself,

We, humans have been blessed with higher functioning brains than any of the jungle creatures. Along with our self- centered reptilian brain, we have two other reasoning, considering, brains. The neocortex and the limbic system. We are able to consider whether our instincts are appropriate, and help others, when we see a need.

c.2011
image credit: http://quacked.com

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

A Reptilian Witchhunt


In 1692, stress got the better of Salem, Massachusetts. Betty and Abigail Parris caused a mayhem that I’m not even sure they could have predicted. All manner of townspeople were imprisoned, some even put to death upon their accusations of witchcraft.

Betty and Abigail were two daughters of Reverend Samuel Parris. The girls loved to spend time reading books about prophecy and fortune telling, which were quite popular in New England at the time.

The girls of the town would form groups to act out the magic and fortune telling they read about in the books. They invited Tituba, a slave from Barbados to join in. Tituba had many of her own mystical tales to tell. She told their fortunes by dropping an egg white into a glass of water, interpreting the picture it formed. This started the paranoia in Salem.


The girls were displaying convulsions, which at first I thought they were doing on purpose as a cruel trick to accuse the people they didn’t like of witchcraft. But then I read about ergot poisoning, a fungal infection derived from rye bread, which did indeed cause convulsions.

The doctor was called in to treat the girls, but couldn’t find any physical cause for the behavior [he didn’t know about ergot poisoning] and simply said that they were bewitched. Let me begin by saying that Puritans believed in ghosts. Indeed, their testimony was even permissible in court. So this was a more valid fear for them, than for us. Today this would seem an outlandish diagnosis, but since there was no physical explanation for the convulsions, and since the belief in ghosts, and their ability to harm people, was plausible at the time, this was not so far fetched.

The unexplained has confused and vexed people for as long as life has been.
‘Twas no different in Salem. The predominantly Puritan townspeople of Salem found themselves unable to explain certain behaviors, and therefore created their own narratives to explain them.

17th century life was a little tense, to say the least, especially in the colony of Massachusetts. There were economic tensions. There was always the threat of an attack from warring Indian tribes as well as rivalry between colonists. Not to mention the various epidemics that spread through the area, small pox, as well as the aforementioned ergotism and encephalitis poisoning.

The townspeople were reacting from fear. Any reaction from fear is going to be potentially dangerous. It is for our protection, after all. Fears that are not rooted in reality will produce ridiculous reactions, at best. But often they will produce very harmful reactions.

Even prominent people were not exempt, including the Governor’s wife.
More than 150 people were accused of witchcraft and put in jail, 18 put to death.

And then the witch trials ended as quickly as they began. Apologies were issued, losses were compensated. But the harm was done, all because of the stress of some unchecked fears.


c. 2011
image credit: elfwood.com

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Just another day in the ER...


“It was the wildest thing, ever,” Sam said. ‘It was so scary, but everyone just snapped to action. They just did their jobs, moving on auto. ”

My co-worker, Sam’s mother works in the ER of our local hospital. Sam told me of a day she had been visiting her mother at work. Everything was running normal, they were even enjoying muffins someone had brought in. The EMTs had a free moment to chat leaning against the ambulances, when a “gang drop” occurred, which is when a gang will drop off a member who has been shot, cut, or otherwise injured, to the ER. The hospital is required by law to treat them.

They rolled the guy in. No one was shouting like they do on ER, or even talking, except the nurse who was quietly relating the specifics to the doctor. They asked the usual questions to the patient, like “Do you know your name, and do you know what day it is?”

“It was almost like watching bees. Everyone was moving. They all knew what they were doing. It was very fluid, very precise. It seemed very natural. He was in and out in a matter of 60 seconds. They knew what to do quickly and how to do it.”

This is a prime example of one of the benefits of the brain stem. The adrenaline produced will spur you to action, and it is your reptilian brain which will cause you to perform your duties unfettered by nagging thoughts and second guesses. Which ordinarily might be good, but not when time is of the essence.

Let me make a disclaimer, these are trained professionals. This stuff is second nature to them. They KNOW what they are doing, they save lives many times a day. You wouldn’t want me, in my untrained, very stressed out, reptilian mode, anywhere near you with a surgical knife.

I asked her if she was scared [I know I would be]. She implied that the calm manner of everyone else eased her fears. “I wasn’t scared, but worried about my mom. They knew exactly what they were doing”

She said Everything went back to normal when he left. I hate to leave you hanging. I wish I had a more conclusive ending, but no one knows what happened to him afterward. Did the gang pick him up? Did anyone follow up, make sure he was safe? Did he remember anything? Did it change his life for the better. I wish I knew….

Thank goodness the people in the ER are used to this, and know how to react to a literal life or death situation. Not only does it save lives, but it gives us laypeople a practical, up-close look at the stress response in action.




c. 2011
image credit: flickr.com

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Want to lose that belly fat?



So, you’re eating right, you’re exercising, but you can’t seem to get rid of that gut? Check your stress.

I remember I used to think that stressing out about stuff, [especially with my subsequent fidgeting], would actually help keep me in shape. Little did I know that I was doing the exact opposite.

That is because when we are stressed, our bodies produce a hormone called cortisol, which protects the organs by storing fat around them. I’ve mentioned before, our bodies can’t tell the difference between a physical threat and an emotional threat; real or perceived, so it will respond the same.

In an experiment done with rats, the stressed out rats gained larger bellies. What was interesting was, that as the bellies expanded the stress levels decreased.

A friend of my dreamy boyfriend’s decided that he needed to change his lifestyle. Reducing stress was a huge part of it. So he intentionally decided to make a few schedule changes, which drastically improved his stress level, and his overall well-being.

One change he made was making sure that he was eating dinner at home. This ensured that he wasn’t over working himself and that he was eating right. It also gave him more time with his family. The second thing was that he made sure that he fit exercise in. He had tried running, but that was largely contingent on the weather, so he picked indoor activities that he knew he could do at any time, such as swimming and yoga.

Not everyone is free to make such drastic changes, but here are a few to get you started.

Tricks to lessen stress:
• BREATHE
• You may want to try limiting caffeine intake: Some studies have shown caffeine to be a culprit in this phenomenon. This is not for me.
• Exercise. When you are stressed about too much to do, exercise often is the first thing given up. This is the last thing you should cut out. Exercise changes the way you respond to stress, so by all means, make sure you are getting exercise of some sort.

Of course a lot of factors play in to a person’s weight gain, or loss, diet, metabolism, genes, etc. This is just one aspect, but one that many perhaps don’t realize.




c.2011
image credit:flickr.com

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Accepting the unacceptable


I was on David Bembenek’s radio show last week, and he asked a question that I admit, I couldn’t really answer intelligently, off-the-cuff. And, to be honest, I’m still not entirely sure, but I have gotten some more clues.

The question was, “[given the all encompassing nature of the fight or flight stress response], why was the response to the recent earthquake in Japan, contrasted with the response of hurricane Katrina so different?”

He was referring to all of the looting and crime that happened in the aftermath of Katrina compared with the seeming placidness of the Japanese in response to the earthquake.

How do stories like; the 13-year-old boy who had been home alone; after the earthquake struck, rode around the neighborhood on his bike, yelling out, ‘is everyone alright?!” jibe with the selfish nature of the reptilian brain?

I was literally brought to tears when I read about a businessman who had been waiting for the train in the cold and the rain, when some homeless people offered him their boxes, saying, “you’ll be warmer if you sit on these.”

While it is true that people will usually behave selfishly when they are thinking with their reptilian brain [or brain stem], some people are able to “upshift” to their more cerebral, or thinking brains a little better in times of trauma.

I think Japanese were more able to do this because of the way they are trained to handle difficulty. Earthquakes are fairly common in Japan, so they were a little more prepared than their American counterparts. They were not taken completely off guard. The closest thing I can liken it to would be to a diabetic, who suffers from seizures frequently. It certainly doesn’t make the seizures any less serious, or scary, but the diabetic’s response would be a lot more different than mine.

Some would say that the close family ties also add to their ability to handle disasters. They take care of each other, not out of obligation, but out of respect and loyalty.
“There’s a lot of orderliness in Japan,” Josh Smith, a Japanese musician with an oddly American name, explained. “Sometimes it can seem redundant and boring ... but at times like this, where there really is chaos there’s a feeling that, ‘well this is the situation, we just have to deal with it.’”


It’s not so much a matter of being free from the selfish effects of the reptilian brain, but learning how to upshift more quickly. I think we can all take a lesson from the Japanese on this.

c. 2011
photo credit: flickr.com

Monday, May 2, 2011

Another reptilian moment


I had my own reptilian moment the other day. As many of you know, my dreamy boyfriend and I play trivia obsessively at different local bars. One Tuesday, after working my job at the Curves’ in our town, I was tired, hungry, and very thirsty.

When I met up at the bustling newest location, I flagged down a waiter, who asked what I was drinking. I said, “just a water.” He promptly put down a beer.

I sat there, confused for a while, wondering if my boyfriend had perhaps ordered it for himself [I don’t drink]. So I asked him, he said no.

I, then, spent the next 10 minutes trying to find my waiter, who had disappeared, it seemed. By then I was desperate [not to mention cranky], so I stopped the next waitress that I saw.

“I asked the waiter for a water, and he gave me this, and I’m pretty sure this isn’t water,” I said, snidely.

She went to get my water. As she placed it down, she said, “He thought you said Sweetwater. He doesn’t hear too well,” and moved on to the next customer.

“Oh,” I said, as my parched throat and empty stomach gave way to shame and embarrassment.

My boyfriend said, “I wouldn’t be so snotty with someone who handles my food.” The food part aside, I don’t really want to be a jerk to anyone.

The next time she came by, I apologized, saying, “I really didn’t mean to be snotty, I was just confused.”

She kind of shrugged and said it was fine. However, whenever we come back, and she asks me if I want my water, I feel a tinge of shame.

image credit: flickr.com
c.2011

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

New Adventures



I like to be in control. Not of everything, mind you; that’s way too much work. I just want to only be able to blame myself should something fall through. I like to feel that I have a safety net. Which is a reason I don’t often try new things. I will every now and then, just to stir things up, but I don’t make a lifestyle out of it.

I hear of people who backpack across Europe, staying in hostels, thinking, I would LOVE to do that! The adventure sounds incredibly thrilling. I would love to be one of those people who could pack up their car, or hop a bus and just drive to a place they had never been, and transition comfortably to the new environment.
Many of my friends, on more than one occasion jet off to Europe, Canada, even just unexplored states several times on business.

The thing about it is, even if I were to adventure off to one of those places, I wouldn’t be able to enjoy it until I got home. The whole time I would be grumbling about the uncertainty of it, the this-isn’t- how-we-do-it- at-home-ness about it.

Since new things stress me out, I try to minimize them. My primitive stress response doesn’t always behave very well under novel conditions. Knowing this about myself allows me to be on guard. It doesn’t always work, though. But at least I’m aware of it.

Not that it isn’t a good thing to sometimes “stretch” yourself, getting out of your comfort zone. It is always good to try new things, but if you are prone to stress, realize that you may be in fight/flight mode the whole time, diminishing any enjoyment.

However, it should be noted, when a new adventure is successful, the thrill of conquering a new mountain is immeasurable.

My dreamy boyfriend and I met a lovely English/Jamaican lady last night. She relocated to several new environments seemingly effortlessly. Since my boyfriend lived in England for a while, they had plenty of stories to share.

I’m the person who has to take the same routes to work, church, etc. Thus sparing even a local adventure. Which I’ll admit, I don’t really want. Adventures are preferable in controlled, contained environments. I’ll take the “safe” adventure, thank you. Then I’ll brag about how “devil may care” I am.

c. 2011

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Change


What happens when change is wrong? When you have no say in the matter? Unfortunately this is all too common in life. There might not be anything you can do to prevent the change. But as with anything, you can change how you react to it.

Control the adrenaline surge that will cause you to react badly by breathing deeply and/or laughing.

Try to get as much information that you can before you react. It may not be as bad as you think. Keep an open mind.

Don’t let anger paralyze you.

And my favorite, use unwanted change as a means of revenge. I can hardly hide my tremendous satisfaction in proving people who don’t budge wrong. [Keeping in mind, though, that often the reverse might happen ;)]

image credit: backinskinnyjeans.com
c. 2011

Monday, April 11, 2011

Are YOU the major stressor in your life?



Imagine my sheepishness when I realized that I was exacerbating my stress, by egging it on as a means to “scare myself into doing well.” I felt less than proactive, if I wasn’t really stressing about a task.

It was a major discovery for me when I realized that it was my own reactions to stress that were stressing me out the most!

Imagine how much more successful I would be if I were to channel even half of that nervous energy into better preparation!

Have you ever noticed how much more smoothly things go when you are relaxed and enjoying what you are doing? What might start out as a thorn in your side, or an act of tedium, can easily transform into a rewarding, even enjoyable task when you are not fighting it every step of the way.

You won’t be open if you are stuffing bad feelings, or living in denial. So recognize those feelings, but physically open yourself up to the moment. Relax your shoulders and don’t cross your arms. These are defensive postures. If you are rigid and tense, you will be acting that way, creating a self-fulfilling prophecy.

c. 2011
image credit: opencage.info

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Singularly Focused


Crash, Boom, Screech, WAAAAAAH!, may not be as a typical distraction as background noise. “So did you hear what Sandy did last night? Can you believe she said/did that?”

Things like slow internet, [which can be easily be resolved with Wireless Internet] will stop your speed and raise your ire. Everyday creaks or buzzes, each with their own dire stories, suddenly become very intriguing. All vie for your attention in the same manner. Especially when you are working on a pressing project. Distractions will seemingly come out of the woodwork. Never fear. Whatever is distracting you from your duties at hand may be combated with intention.

Intention can be defined as “to have in mind a purpose or plan, to direct the mind, to aim.” When we have in mind a purpose or plan, it becomes easier to direct our thoughts to fit our ultimate aim. It is very similar to what is called Mental Toughness, though one yoga teacher prefers the term “mental suppleness.”

1. Create your intention.
Find your inspiration, and realize that it comes more from the heart than the head. Once you have created your intention, you take steps to prepare for it. I do a lot of work online, so I know I need a reliable internet connection, so I prepare for it, using Wireless Internet.

2. Use doubt as a tool. Realize that the reality may not match your intention. Bring your focus back to what is going on. Plan for the task, but realize that you are planning for a trip you’ve never been on before.

3. Detach from the outcome.
While it’s important to acknowledge an ultimate goal, it’s important to focus in on the process.

When you are interested in a project, distraction is rarely a problem. Intention can often override interest. When you are performing the tedium, the mundane, distractions are more likely to hijack your attention. Intentions are like momentary goals that will get you through the project.

Distractions and disruptions are inevitable. Accepting the distractions, being thankful for the awareness of them will make it easier to go back to what you were working on.

Realize that not all distractions are bad. A distraction used in the right way can reframe a concept in a way you hadn’t thought of before; taking you down a path you ordinarily might have ignored, a path which might give an insight you wouldn’t have considered, thus guiding you more smoothly to your ultimate goal.

You can eliminate all foreseeable distractions beforehand. For instance, we can combat slow internet by switching to Wireless Internet, among other preparations. But even when you have all of that under control, there is the matter of your own wandering mind. How do you focus? You intentionally bring your mind back after any diversions; as many times as you need to.

c. 2011