A Life of Mistakes and Honor

“A life spent making mistakes is not only more honorable, but more useful than a life spent doing nothing.”- George Bernard Shaw

I agree. Mistakes are bound to happen and are important in life. Heck we even cheer when little kids make them, case in point, when learning to talk kids fall down and we cheer the attempt. A life without a mistake is a life without risk, learning, or growth. It is just a static existence with small boundaries and limited experience.  A life with mistakes is messy, but filled with experience and opportunity to expand the possibilities in your life.

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Friendship with oneself is all important. . .

“Friendship with oneself is all important, because without it one cannot be friends with anyone else in the world.” ~ Eleanor Roosevelt

I just love this quote. Simple truth, which can be hard to realize for ourselves. Just how does one come to make friends with one’s self? Especially when maybe you don’t like everything about yourself. Here is my tried and true formula.

Acceptance + Forgiveness + Openness = Friendship

Acceptance: the act of taking or receiving something offered; accepting yourself fully for the person you are warts and all. You don’t have to like something to take it.

Forgiveness:  act of forgiving;  state of being forgiven; to grant pardon to (a person); to cease to feel resentment against (a person). Forgiveness provides freedom to live in peace and the ability to change. Stop holding a grudge against yourself, that saps your energy.

Openness: not closed or barred to ideas, experience or possibilities. Some people are more open to experience and possibility than others. And this could be situational too, like being open to try anything at work, but not out on the dance floor. When we hold ourselves back for trying we stymie any chance we have to change.

Simple, Easy-peasy right? Well I know that each element in my formula can be easier said or read than done. But if done, the internal work, leads to better outcomes externally too. Give it a shot, give yourself a break and see what happens over time.

What a wonderful life

“What a wonderful life I’ve had! I only wish I’d realized it sooner.” Colette

A wonderful life, filled with folly, triumph, love, heartache, failure and success. A wonderful life is one rich in experience, abiding friendship and a deep appreciation for all of it. The joyful and messy parts of life. That is what I take from this quote. And you?

Flubs happen, what matters is how you recover

Most of America knows that Kristie Alley and Maksim Chmerkovskiy took a spill during a couple of week ago during a live performance of a rumba. His leg buckled and plop! they ended up on the floor. Legs cramp, ankles twist, minds go blank and all your carefully rehearsed choreography vanishes. Mistakes happen. It is an awful feeling to make a big flub publically it is embarrassing. It can easily paralyze you. Like many people I was, and remain impressed, with the professionalism and “stick-too-itness” they embodied by getting up, catching the rhythm and finishing the dance beautifully.

I was reminded of all the times I flubbed on the dance floor, in relationships, at work and in social situations. Now I am grateful for those awful moments – not that I would EVER repeat a single one. I am grateful that I could get some perspective, at times administered by some straight talking family, friends, colleagues (you know who you are) sometimes on my own. Each time an opportunity and to step back, look the mirror and honestly answer “What good can I take or make from this?” and “In the scheme of things how awful is this really?”

Yes, it is banal to say you learn from mistakes. But is also true and not easy to do. Courage is be required to learn from mistakes. You can decide what story you tell yourself about the mistakes or accidents that happen in your life.  People are creatures of extremes when it comes to flubs and tend to tell one of two stories.

Story 1: “I am human. This feels yucky, I am embarrassed. It does not need to happen again and this will pass.”

Story 2: “This is awful and I’ll never be good enough. This always happens to me.”

To me the first story is the harder one, it implies ownership, personal agency and the will to do something(s) different in the future. The second can be a very comfortable place, even if it is negative.  So what story do you tell yourself when a public flub occurs?

Got Stress? We Got Tips.

April is Stress Management Awareness Month. I wonder if that is because taxes are due?  Regardless of why, stress is a very really experience for all of us. There comes a time when you have too much on your plate, too little time or have just had it. Here is a baker’s dozens worth of stress management tips.  They have been found to be successful by many people. Different combinations and expressions of these work for different people. This is not an exhaustive list, but is a list of tried and true techniques, a place to start.

1. Mindfulness: We have the innate ability to intentionally put ourselves in a state of deep relaxation. To be calmly present in the here and now, not letting your thoughts run away unchecked.  Doing this neutralizes the physiological effects of stress: your heart rate goes down, your breathing slows, and your muscles relax… As little as 20 minutes once or twice a day has real benefit.

  • Here’s a simple exercise you can do just about anywhere anytime. Close your eyes. Breath in and out deeply, repeat several times.  Notice how your body begins to feel more relaxed. Keep your mind focused on breathing and your body if it wanders, just bring it back.

2. Limit or Eliminate Caffeine: We call coffee, tea, chocolate and cola pick ups for a reason. Caffeine is a stimulant that generates a stress reaction in the body. Less caffeine usually results in people feeling less jittery, more relaxed, and getting better sleep. You don’t have to go cold turkey, try decreasing by one drink a day until you are down to one or even better none.

3. Fuzz Therapy: Anything that makes you feel warm and fuzzy regardless of the rest of the nonsense going on around you. Spend time with your pet or someone else pet, patting it, snuggling with it, brushing it… Spend some time doing something that makes you feel good for someone else. This can be a simple as offering to pick up a few things at the store for someone else when you are out.

4. Practice Gratitude: say thanks and mean it. Keep a gratitude journal. Write and deliver a thank you letter to someone you have not fully thanked.

5. Get Physical: We’re not gazelles, we don’t automatically dash off burning off stress hormones when stress arrives.  It’s just not generally social acceptable. So our bodies stay in a stress arousal state for a long time. Channeling nervous fidgeting into a more complete form of physical activity helps to “burn off the stress.” Get some Regular aerobic exercise: Dance, run, walk, hike, bike, swim, play football with the kids, whack a ball on the court, kickboxing… find out what works for you. Stretch: move throughout the day, yoga. I love a five-minute Bust-A-Move Break, just you some music and a closed office door, rock away.

6. Take A Time Out : No one expects a hockey player to be on the ice the entire game without a break. Why should you be out on the ice the entire time? Pacing yourself and work-leisure balance go a long way in taming stress. Pacing: know your stress and energy levels and act accordingly. Fatigue is THE early sign of distress don’t ignore it.  Like sleep cycles we have cycles of energy and concentration, 90 minutes on average. Taking a 20 minute break and then go back to what you were doing. Work-Leisure balance: less leisure = more stress. Leisure comes from the Latin root for permission. Give yourself permission to take a break, a healthy amount of respite from your day-to-day pressures. This can include exercise, recreation hobbies, socializing, relaxation, vacation, or entertainment.

7. Realistic Expectations: Be gentle with yourself and others. Things often push our buttons or upset us not because they are inherently stressful, but because it’s not what we expected or wanted. This does not equate with settling for less. Realistic expectations can make life feel more predictable and manageable. “Expect less from people who can not give you what you want. It makes it easier- not great, just less upsetting.”

8. Reframe: Get a different perspective or change the way you are looking at something, in order to feel better about a situation. There are many ways to interpret a situation.

  • Is there anything positive here at all? What I can I do with it?
  • Why do you think so-and-so did that?
  • On a scale of 1 (minor hassle)  – 10 (worst catastrophe), just how bad is this?

9. Smile and Laugh: Laughter releases “happy” hormones. Laughter releases tension.  Humor is an individual thing, so find what makes you laugh and keep that at hand. Smiling triggers the limbic system to tilt towards calm. So fake it until you make it.

10. Ventilation System: keep up with the maintenance or install a new one if needed. A problem shared is a problem halved. Some times you just need to vent and blow off some steam. Sometimes you need the open ear and relative objectivity of an other person for encouragement or advice. Sometimes you need to ask for help. Talk it out. Write it out- then get rid of it. Count to ten, then react.

11. Get Back to Nature: Helps to get out of our head and focus on something else. You can tend to your garden or your houseplants. Trim shrubs with a hand trimmer. Paint in the yard. Take a walk in the woods or fields. Watch the bird feeder. Cloud watching.

12. Get Some Sleep: If you are regularly short of sleep you pay for it through increased crankiness, decreased energy, decreased concentration etc. which essentially results in being less patience, which in turn results in more things being out of our control which can of course increase your stress response. Write down the thoughts buzzing around you mind and look at them in the morning, appraise and take action as appropriate. Give your brain something calming to focus on like an undemanding book. Keep the same bedtime.

13. Stop Multitasking: Most of us really do not perform at our optimal level when multi-tasking. We don’t really get more done when trying to concentrate on more than one complex task at a time. Slow down and focus on one important task at a time.

Humor Not Just for Kicks

Humor and laughter can be effective self-care tools. They can improve the function of the body, the mind, and the spirit. Humor and laughter can foster a positive and hopeful attitude and gives us a sense of perspective on our problems.

We are less likely to succumb to feelings of depression and helplessness if we are able to laugh at what is troubling us. Laughter provides an opportunity for the release of uncomfortable emotions which, if held inside, may create biochemical changes that are harmful to the body. Finding humor in a situation and laughing freely with others can be a powerful antidote to stress.

The adrenal gland releases corticosteroids during dress and that elevated levels of these have an immunosuppressive effect. Lee Berk’s research demonstrates that laughter can lower cortisol levels and thereby protect our immune system. Other researchers have supported these findings. We cannot control events in our external world but we have the ability to control how we view these events and the emotional response we choose to have to them.