Show What You Know

dreamstimefree_2404805My husband and I went to a baseball game recently.  Listening to the National Anthem brought back a memory from grade school.  The experience turned out to be one that probably shaped my life more than I thought.

I was in 5th or 6th grade.  The teacher gave us an assignment for the next day:  learn “The Star Spangled Banner.”  I was more than a little concerned—that’s four long verses!  When I got home and told Mom, she told me I’d better start working on it.  After supper, she helped me.  By the time I went to bed, I had the entire anthem memorized.  I didn’t really understand all of it, but I had the words memorized, and in the right order.

At school the next day, the teacher called on my classmates to recite the song.  One by one they went to the front of the class and recited anywhere from a few words to a few lines.  A couple may have recited the first verse.  That was it!

I remember wondering what I should do.  I knew the entire anthem.  That was the assignment and so that’s what I did.  Part of me thought I should stand up and demonstrate what I had done and what I knew.

But part of me wanted to belong.  I didn’t want to stand out from everyone.  I didn’t want to be different.  It would be easy to recite less than what I knew—maybe one verse.  That would be a good compromise, wouldn’t it?  Demonstrate some of my knowledge while not being too different.

I still hadn’t decided what to do when the teacher called my name.  As I was walking to the front of the class, though, I decided to do it.  I had spent the entire evening learning it, Mom had spent time helping me, why shouldn’t I show what I knew?

When I finished all four verses, there was a brief silence (and I thought, “Oh no!  What did I do?!”) and then wild clapping.

My classmates didn’t care that I learned more than they did.  They weren’t going to shun me for that.  It was all good!

I think it is good to show what we know.  If we don’t, no one will know except us.  And others need to know if we are going to succeed.  I have since learned that it’s important to be respectful, to use a certain amount of courteousness and tact at times, but don’t be afraid to show what you know.

Common Courtesy—Not So Common

dreamstime_xs_87916289, resized_edited-1I’m beginning to believe that common courtesy is an oxymoron.  Courtesy is not so common anymore.

You do not hear the little courtesies (please, thank you, you’re welcome, excuse me) as frequently as in the past.  You also hear more obviously discourteous behaviors (yelling, screaming, interrupting).

I think part of this is related to television.  Think about the lack of common courtesy in many of the TV shows; think about how people are treating each other.  Even in many of the news programs, it’s not about a civilized discussion, it’s about who can outshout the others.  When people watch this enough, they begin to think that this is appropriate behavior.

I think part of the lack of courtesy is related to social media.  It’s easy to slam people and their views when you don’t have to do it to their face.

I think another part is related to parents who don’t teach their children manners.  Too many parents let their children do whatever they want.  Children need to be taught what is acceptable behavior, and this means teaching boundaries.  It also means that when children display negative behavior, there is a negative consequence to their negative behavior.  If the child is allowed to continue with the negative behavior, it reinforces that the negative behavior is acceptable.

I think the root of lack of courtesy is lack of respect.  Too many people do not respect other people.  They do not respect that other people have the same rights they do.  They do not respect that other people have the same right to their views and beliefs.  They do not respect that other people deserve to be treated the same way they want to be treated.  And too often children are not taught to treat others with respect, both directly and by example.

I know this is not an easy issue to solve.  But if each of us try to treat the people around us with courtesy and respect, it will at least make our little piece of the world a little better.  And who knows?  Maybe it will spread!

Take It Off the List

dreamstime_xs_34342688Do you have things on your to do list that have been there for weeks? Months? Longer?  If so, may I make a suggestion?  Either do them today or take them off the list.  If you  haven’t done them by now, what makes you think you are ever going to do them?  Plus, if they haven’t been done by now, they must not be that important.

Keep in mind that a to do list is not the same thing as bucket list of things to do before you “kick the bucket.”  It might take a long time to accomplish some of the things on your bucket list.  It’s good to keep that list to keep you motivated to accomplish those things.

A to do list is not the same as your long-range goals and corresponding plans, either.  Those, too, can take a long time to accomplish.

However, for your daily or weekly to do list, I’m sure there are things that you can safely delete if they have been there far longer than a day or week.   Clean up your to do list so that you can focus on the important items.

Everything is Subject to Change

dreamstime_xs_76945264My husband and I saw a sign in Key West stating:

“Everything is Subject to Change.”

Yep, that pretty well sums it up.  Anything and everything can change at any time.

Although we can plan for what might happen, I think the best thing we can do is to try to be mentally and emotionally flexible and deal with changes the best we can when they occur.

Find a New Balance

dreamstime_xs_32614115We need to balance all aspects of our professional and personal lives.  We need to balance not only our time but also our energy, mental focus, and finances. We know this.  We try to do it.  The trickiest part, I think, is that our lives change and then we need to find a new balance.

If we change from being single to being married, it means finding a new balance.  If we go from being married to divorced, that necessitates finding a new balance.  We need to find new balances when we have children, as they grow, and again when they leave home.  We find new balances as our parents age and need more assistance.  Often if we start a new job or career and it requires more of our time, we need to find a new balance.

My husband is recently retired.  Of course, he has a major balance change.  Unlike some people, though, he is not having any difficulty in finding things he wants to do.

I’m finding that I also need to find a new balance related to his retirement.  I still want a writing career.  However, I also want to spend time with him.  We enjoy traveling, hiking, golfing, and other activities that we feel we should do now while we physically can.  My challenge is finding how to balance all the things I want to do.

My current plan is to consider myself semi-retired.  I have found that it helps me feel less guilty about not spending as much time working as I did.  I haven’t quite found a balance that feels “just right,” but that’s o.k.  Often finding a new balance is as much of a process as it is a destination.

Clean as You Go

dreamstime_xs_71944316A food service concept is “clean as you go.”  Basically, that means that you keep your work area clean.  As you complete one task, you clean the area before beginning the next task.  If you spill something, you clean it up.  As you have time, you wash pots, pans, and dishes.  All this helps keep food safe.  Plus, it is easier and more efficient than trying to clean a disaster of a kitchen at the end of the day.

This concept is something that can be used in our professional and personal lives.  As we complete one task, we can clean our desk, kitchen counters, or other work area before moving to the next task.  If we make a mess, we can clean it up immediately.  It can make us more productive.

We can use this concept from a mental standpoint.  When we complete one task, we can clear our minds before starting the next task.  It can help us focus.

We can use this concept from an emotional standpoint.  If there is something bothering us, we can deal with it rather than ignoring it.  It can help our emotional health.

The concept of “clean as you go” really is that we take care of things when they are small and easier to do rather than waiting until they are large and more difficult to do.

Planning Backwards

dreamstime_xs_54563294Although we usually think of planning as starting at the beginning and finishing at the end, it can be beneficial to start with the end and continue backwards to the beginning.

Most of us probably do this frequently in small ways.  For example, to determine when we need to get up in the morning to get to work on time, we might plan something like this:

  • I start work at 8:00, so…
  • I need to arrive at work at 7:45 to park the car, punch in, etc. to be on the job by 8:00.
  • It takes 45 minutes to drive to work, so I need to leave home at 7:00.
  • It takes 90 minutes to get ready and take care of the pets, so I need to get up at 5:30.
  • However, it’s snowing, the roads will probably be bad in the morning, so I need to allow an extra 30 minutes to drive to work. I need to set the alarm for 5:00.

This process can also be beneficial for our large dreams and goals, especially if they are very specific.

For example, if someone wanted to design motorcycles for a specific company, good information to obtain could be:

  • Is this an entry level position? If not, what entry level position can lead to the desired position?  What advancement is necessary within the company?
  • What experience is required to be hired by the company? How can it be obtained?
  • What education/degree is required? Where do most of these graduates attend college?
  • What needs to be done to be accepted into that college and that degree program?
  • What needs to be done to be able to attend that college? (For example, would it require moving? Financial assistance?)

The plan, of course, would include the details on how to make this work.  Additional questions might include the following.  Would an internship meet the experience requirement and could that be completed during college?  If the person is in high school, what classes could she take and what grades would she need to be accepted to the college?  If she is already in the workforce, can some of her work experience assist her in being accepted to the college?  Are there classes she needs to take before she will be accepted either into that college or into that program?  What financial assistance is available?  What support, if any, will she need from family?

The next time you need to plan something, try planning backwards and see if it helps you develop a better, more detailed plan.

Lose 5 Pounds 5 Times

dreamstime_xs_78713976A family member and I were discussing (complaining) about how difficult it is to lose weight.  I said that my philosophy was that I would rather lose 5 pounds 5 times than to try to lose 25 pounds once.  She laughed at me, until I explained why.

It is easier to lose 5 pounds each time we gain 5 pounds, even if it means we repeat this 5 times, than it is to wait until we have gained 25 pounds and then try to lose it all at once.  We can make small adjustments in our lifestyle to lose 5 pounds.  We will have to make larger adjustments to lose 25 pounds, and it will take longer.

I think the concept of losing 5 pounds 5 times is sound and is something that we can use in all areas of our lives.  Problems and issues are easier to deal with when they are small.  When we address them when they are small, they do not become big problems or issues and are not as overwhelming.

One example is overall health.  It is easier to make the life changes necessary to avoid a heart attack than it is to deal with life after a heart attack.

It is easier to deal with debt when it is small, rather than letting it pile up and trying to deal with it when it becomes large.

It is easier to deal with people over minor issues as they occur than it is to let bad feelings accumulate and then try to deal with them.

It is easier to deal with anything when it is small, rather than waiting until it becomes overwhelming.

Is there anything you should deal with now before it becomes worse?  Won’t it be easier to deal with now, rather than later when it is a larger issue?

Why?

dreamstime_xs_91972430Why do you do the things you do?

I think why we do things is usually more important than what we do.  If we don’t know why we are doing something, how do we know if we are doing the right thing?  If we don’t know why, we are just going through the motions.

I encourage you to think about why you are going to do something before you do it.  Since we usually have more than one “why” keep asking yourself “why else?” until you have a complete answer.  Are those good reasons for doing what you are planning to do?  If so, do it.  If not, reconsider doing what you had intended.

Accumulation of Consequences of Choices

dreamstime_xs_71641025We are where we are in life because of the choices we have made.  All our choices have consequences.  It is not just a matter of each choice having a consequence (or consequences), however.  Our choices, and the consequences, accumulate and can have a domino effect.

For example, choosing to eat a piece of dessert for a special occasion will not make anyone gain weight.  However, choosing to consume more calories than what one needs, day after day, week after week, year after year, will cause weight gain and can lead to obesity and other health problems.  This is, of course, an example of a series of choices leading to negative consequences.

Choices can also lead to positive consequences.  Exercising for 30 minutes for 1 day is not going to impact anyone’s health.  Exercising for 30 minutes 3 times a week, over the course of months and years, however, will have a positive impact on a person’s health.

I know, and I’m sure you do as well, people who lie.  The more they lie, the more people don’t trust them.  The more they are dishonest, the more people believe they are always dishonest, even on the occasions when they are telling the truth.  On the other hand, people who choose to be honest build trust with other people.  People believe what they say.  Both the dishonest and honest people have built reputations—not because of one choice, but because of the series of choices that they have made.

People who continue to make responsible choices gain more of what they want out of life.  Those that continue to make irresponsible choices spend time and resources trying to repair the negative consequences of those choices.  That is time and resources that are not available to create the life they want.  More is spent on damage control than on creating.

This same concept applies to all aspects of our lives, and all the choices we make.  The consequences, good and bad, of our choices over years becomes significant.  If we want a different life, we need to make different choices, not just today, but always.