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Archive for May, 2009

I have come to the realization that, in many cases, what is holding us back from enjoying our lives today or planning for a spectacular tomorrow, are the experiences from our past. Sometimes knowingly, and other times unaware, today’s actions, thoughts, behaviors, and beliefs are heavily influenced by mistakes, unpleasant relationships, unmet expectations, or unfortunate circumstances that occurred yesterday.

In his book, The Present, author Spencer Johnson has this to say regarding the past:

“Don’t be too hard on yourself — you did the best you knew how at the time. However, if you do not learn from mistakes, the present is just like your past.”

Ouch! That sounds very similar to George Santayana‘s quote, “Those who cannot learn from history are doomed to repeat it.”

A random thought here: doom is a word that gets little attention in our society. It means fate or destiny, ruin, death, or an unfavorable sentence (dictionary.com). I think I can speak for all of us when I say, “I’m really not all that interested in the mistakes of my past serving as my future destiny.”

I would imagine all of us have times in our past that we would rather not relive in our future: bad breakups, harsh words, missed opportunities, costly choices, embarrassing actions — things that we certainly don’t want to look at and definitely don’t want to revisit. But if we fail to look back and learn, our future will hand us the same tests, over and over and over again until we get it right. Think of Bill Murray in the movie Groundhog Day.

In the light-hearted comedy, Murray’s character, frustrated at having to cover a story about a weather forecasting “rat” (as he calls it) for the fourth year in a row, comes to the realization that he is doomed to spend the rest of eternity in the same place (Come on, who doesn’t love Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania?), seeing the same people, doing the same thing — EVERY DAY. Until one day, he gets it right — he passes the test and moves on.

The way to break the the ties that are holding you back is to begin by looking at what happened yesterday. Yes, I realize it can be uncomfortable. No, you may not be excused from this exercise.

Johnson writes that “when you want to make the present better than the past” you need to do three things:

  1. Look at what happened in the past.
  2. Learn something valuable from it.
  3. Do things differently in the present.

Sounds simple enough. Think of it as three easy steps to a brighter future. Don’t let the inability to look back, hold you back from moving forward and reaching your potential.

As a child, I recall Grandma Mary had the following phrase taped to the side of her refrigerator:

Good judgment comes from experience. Experience comes from bad judgment” [unknown].

One day I asked her about it. She said, “Well, as a rule, when people make mistakes, they learn to make better decisions in the future.” Grandma Mary always said, “As a rule.” That’s another phrase you don’t hear much today. We don’t want the rules to apply to us. “Do your own thing. Be unique! If it feels good, do it! Rules? What rules? We don’t need no stinkin’ rules!”

I don’t know about you, but I see many people whose “own thing” includes repeated bad judgment that, for whatever reason, never transforms into good judgment. Their lives consist of one mistake piled on top of another bad decision added to another misstep. Yogi Berra said it best, “This is like deja vu all over again” . . . and again . . . and again.

It’s time to look at the past, learn from our mistakes and break the cycle.

Take a wider view. Look at the patterns in your life.

If there are recurring problems, maybe there are recurring mistakes.

Mistakes don’t always look the same.

Look carefully. Find the pattern.

Change your behavior. Learn.” [Patrick Lindsay].

Right actions in the future are the best apologies for bad actions in the past” [Tyrone Edwards].

Whatever you are, be a good one!

Deanna

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Of course I have a secret identity. Who wants to be super all the time?” [Mr. Incredible].

I have a plaque on my office wall that reads, “I am fairly certain that given a cape and a nice tiara, I could save the world” [Curly Girl]. I have always imagined that, if called upon, I could save the world.

In fact, I have often said to Greg, as I head out the door to face the rush hour commute, “Wish me luck! I’m off to save the world through administrative services!” He always responds, “Good luck!” because he knows I fight nasty villains of inefficiency, bad attitudes, small minds, unsportsmanlike conduct, and really bad customer service.

And, truth be told, my “saving the world” often has more to do with helping others reach their goals than saving the world, as we know it, from impending doom. Yet, there is a great deal of satisfaction that comes from knowing I’ve helped someone move a little closer to their dreams. After all, “the greatest achievements are those that benefit others” [Lillian Gilcrest].

Some days, when my efforts produce something spectacular, and a client is thrilled with their new logo or Web site or newsletter, I feel like a super hero. Still, I think it would be awesome to look like a super hero sometimes. I could show up at work every once in awhile wearing a cape and tiara. A girl needs to dress the part sometimes!

This afternoon, while I was cooking a microwave meal for lunch, I heard loud screeching cries coming from the back yard. I looked through the kitchen window and saw a very large black bird (I don’t know if it was a crow or raven.), surrounded by six or seven Robins. The Robins were very upset, screeching and flying around the intruder. Obviously, he had invaded their space, and they didn’t like it one bit!

I immediately understood their concern. These Robins have been diligently caring for their helpless newborns, who are stashed in nests throughout our neighborhood. The Robins were attempting to scare off the huge villain, but they were too small and their efforts too insignificant.

As I watched what was happening outside, I saw the intruder peck at something on the ground. The Robins went wild with their screaming! At that moment I saw a tiny wing thrash. I was horrified to realize a fledgling had fallen from the safety of a nearby tree and was about to become a midday meal.

Robin fledgling

Robin fledgling saved from certain death.

I immediately stormed out of the house and scared off the bully. The Robins, too, took flight, but continued their protests. On the ground, was the young bird. He was not developed enough to fly, and certainly too small to save himself from the dangers lurking outside the nest. The tip of his beak was missing, there was a small amount of blood on the portion that remained, and his wing was askew. This little guy was a sorry sight.

I gently picked up the bird and he started squawking and trying to move about. I prepared a safe haven for him on our patio, under the willow, near the other nest of fledglings. (I’m hoping they’ll become play cousins.) I’ve learned how to feed him with a toothpick and, although he looks a bit roughed up from the ordeal, I think he just might make it. At least now he has a chance.

All of us are super heroes with secret identities. You might be living undercover as a salesperson or baker or teacher or student or administrative assistant. It doesn’t matter what title you wear or what your day job looks like.

“A hero is an ordinary individual who finds the strength to persevere and endure in spite of overwhelming obstacles” [Christopher Reeve].

When the alarm sounds you must be ready spring into action and become a super hero to save the world, protect the innocent, help the hurting, support the cause, or pay it forward.

Knowing is not enough; we must apply. Willing is not enough; we must do” [Johann von Goethe].

Whatever you are, be a good one!

Deanna

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Life is often ambiguous and untidy. There are always loose ends.

It is sticky, hot, cold, lukewarm sometimes — and frequently messy and unmanageable.

Most of life is somewhere in between, in the middle — amidst small frustrations and a lot of “I don’t know what to do next” [Tim Hansel].

Life can be so, well, daily. There are ups and downs and all arounds. We meet with life coaches and financial planners and attorneys and all sorts of counselors, just trying to get it right.

We read the books, subscribe to the magazines, listen to the speeches, consult the experts and work diligently on developing and maintaining a positive outlook. We do the work, go above-and-beyond, volunteer, help the neighbor, pay the taxes, walk the dog, get the degree and cut the coupons.

But sometimes, in spite of all of our best efforts, we come upon a section of life’s freeway that isn’t just right. Progress is impeded by pot holes of illness or unemployment, wash-outs of disillusionment, or barricades of broken trust and forsaken confidences. The life you had imagined (if you can still see it) sits far off in the distance.

It is during those difficult times, when the unpleasantness of our life shows like some wayward undergarment slipping beneath the hem, when we often discover our true friends. Those who are not inconvenienced or embarrassed or uncomfortable by our circumstances. Instead, they willingly step in, step up, and help us regain our footing.

“It is not so much our friends’ help that helps us, as the confidence of their help” [Epicurus].

When we cannot see the way clearly, our friends light a candle or turn on a flashlight or emblazon the path with a spotlight. They stand ready to do whatever is necessary, whenever it is required. As Edgar Watson Howe said, “When a friend is in trouble, don’t annoy him by asking if there is anything you can do. Think up something appropriate and do it.”

“My friends have made the story of my life. In a thousand ways they have turned my limitations into beautiful privileges, and enabled me to walk serene and happy in the shadow cast by my deprivation” [Helen Keller].

Thanks to my very dear friends who have walked alongside me during the difficult times and “not only saw a light at the end of the tunnel, but became that light for me” [Compendium]. Thank you for not becoming uncomfortable when my life was showing. I appreciate your kind encouragement, wise counsel, and boundless support.

“We cannot tell the precise moment when friendship is formed. As in filling a vessel drop by drop, there is at last a drop which makes it run over. So in a series of kindesses, there is at last, one which makes the heart run over” [James Boswell].

Look for opportunities to be that last drop of kindness for someone today.

Whatever you are, be a good one!

Deanna

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The path we have chosen for the present is full of hazards, as all paths are. The cost of freedom is always high, but Americans have always paid it. And one path we shall never choose, and that is the path of surrender, or submission” [John F. Kennedy].

This past weekend our country observed Memorial Day. Unfortunately, “traditional observance of Memorial day has diminished over the years. Many Americans nowadays have forgotten the meaning and traditions of Memorial Day. At many cemeteries, the graves of the fallen are increasingly ignored, neglected. Most people no longer remember the proper flag etiquette for the day. Some people think the day is for honoring any and all dead, and not just those fallen in service to our country” [Memorial Day History].

Yesterday, Greg and I biked the T. J. Evans Recreational Trail. We started in Johnstown, and traveled 10 miles through Alexandria, nearly to Granville, before retracing our route. The trail is heavily shaded, the weather was warm, and a nice breeze kept us comfortable. Although we encountered a number of people out enjoying the holiday, the two-hour excursion was peaceful and a perfect time for reflection of Memorial Day.

There are so many rights and freedoms we enjoy as American citizens, and, unfortunately, often take for granted: Freedom of religion, the right to free speech, freedom of the press, the right to assemble and petition, the right to bear arms, freedom against unreasonable searches and seizures, and the right to vote (just to name a few).

Too often we live our lives, never pausing to realize how incredibly blessed we are. These rights we enjoy are not common to people everywhere. How many other countries believe that man has an inalienable right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness?

The freedoms we enjoy came at great cost. “Freedom is not free. Never has been. Never will be” [Gary Keesee]. It is important that we honor the sacrifices that have been made for you and I to live in this “land of opportunity.” We must never neglect to recall the courageous men and women who have given their lives so that we might live our lives in freedom.

The bravest are surely those who have the clearest vision of what is before them, glory and danger alike, and yet notwithstanding, go out to meet it” [Thucydides].

“Throughout our history, thousands of brave Americans have died serving their country and fighting for their beliefs. From the early days of the American Revolution to our current war in Iraq, the numbers of battle deaths speak to the sacrifices our soldiers, and their families, have made.”

American Revolution (1775-1783)

4,435

War of 1812 (1812-1815)

2,260

Mexican War (1846-1848)

1,733

Civil War (1861-1865)

140,414 (Union); 74,524 (Confederate)

Spanish-American War (1898-1902)

385

World War I (1917-1918)

53,402

World War II (1941-1945)

291,557

Korean War (1950-1953)

33,686

Vietnam War (1964-1975)

47,410

Gulf War (1990-1991)

147

Afghanistan War (2001-present)

677 (as of April 13, 2009)

Iraq War (2003-present)

4,271 (as of April 13, 2009)

~ They Died for Their Country

The brave men and women represented by these numbers not only fought for freedom, each of their individual acts of heroism inspires our nation to remain great. “Courage is contagious. When a brave man takes a stand, the spines of others are often stiffened” [Billy Graham].

To all of those who have paid the price for our country’s freedom, who died yesterday and serve as an example of courage today, we honor you and thank you for your patriotism and service.

“True heroism is remarkably sober, very undramatic. It is not the urge to surpass all others at whatever cost, but the urge to serve others at whatever cost” [Arthur Ashe].

Follow the example of those who have gone before us. Be courageous today. Be a hero today. Serve others whatever the cost.

Whatever you are, be a good one!

Deanna

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I don’t see much sense in that,” said Rabbit.

“No,” said Pooh humbly, “there isn’t. But there was going to be when I began it. It’s just that something happened to it along the way.”

And some days, that’s the way it seems to go. We start out with the best of intentions; our “To Do List” is filled with worthy aspirations. But somewhere along the way, a little distraction pops up here or a small emergency emerges there and before you know, the day is spent and it doesn’t even begin to resemble the plans you had for it.

If you’re not diligent, urgent things supersede important tasks while distractions gobble the hours, steal your minutes, and empty your effectiveness. All too often lives veer off track when the consequences of seemingly insignificant choices, made on a daily basis, snowball into an avalanche.

“You are free to choose, but the choices you make today will determine what you will have, be, and do in the tomorrow of your life” [Zig Ziglar].

Some choices are easy: I choose not to litter. Other choices are harder: I choose to wake up 30 minutes early every day in order to exercise. Regardless of the choices we make today, be aware that each one (large or small) impacts our future.

  • Reaching your potential or wasting your life is your choice.
  • Those extra ten pounds that are currently sitting around your waist are the result of choices you made yesterday, and the day before that, and the day before that . . . and the day before that.
  • You maintain a positive attitude or throw a temper tantrum because you choose to do so.
  • Your dreams sit up in the attic because you chose to abandon them.
  • Your family is eating dinner without you again tonight because you choose to be elsewhere.

“We are who we are today because of the choices we made yesterday. Likewise, tomorrow will become the result of today’s choices. Mary Crowley, successful businessperson and author, says this about choices: We are free up to the point of choice, then the choice controls the chooser” [Glenn Van Ekeren].

So, I have to ask, “Are you thrilled with the life your choices have created?” If not, the good news is that you have the power to begin building a different life — one choice at a time. I recently heard a speaker quote Charles Tremendous Jones: “You are the same today that you are going to be in five years from now except for two things: the people with whom you associate and the books you read.”

I don’t want to be the same person in five years that I am today, do you? Of course we want to grow and develop during the next five years! To reach those goals, we must commit to making some great choices — starting today.

You are what you make of yourself.

Not what others want you to be.

If you don’t like the direction in which you are heading . . . change!

Set some goals: short, medium, long-term goals.

Consider the new path you need to take.

Take that path.”

~Patrick Lindsay

“Choose carefully the path your life takes. Once you choose, your choices will control you” [Van Ekeren].

Whatever you are, be a good one!

Deanna

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“The only difference between a good day and a bad day is your attitude”

[Dennis Brown].

Let’s face it: bad days happen to everyone — no one is immune. Sometimes you know from the minute you wake-up, (late — because you forgot to set the alarm) and sometimes you don’t realize the storm clouds of misfortune are forming in the distance until you arrive at your destination, only to discover a colleague’s bad day is raining on your parade.

Wouldn’t it be great if, in addition to the headlines, the weather, and traffic conditions, local news stations could provide us with the mood outlook for the day? Maybe it would sound something like this:

  • We’re expecting a strong frustration front to blow in this afternoon. Be sure to take your resilience with you. You might also want to consider packing an extra dose of enthusiasm before you head out the door.
  • Eye in the Sky is reporting that you’ll want to avoid the Accounting and Finance Departments entirely this morning. There’s been a huge pile-up of egos, unmet expectations, and ineffective processes in that area. HR is now on the scene, but it looks like progress will be backed up for hours.
  • The big headline this morning is that power remains out in the Customer Service Department. It appears that a supervisor, who had previously reported ongoing communication problems, blew up late yesterday afternoon. Unfortunately, nearly everyone on that floor was affected. No word yet on when crews will be able to restore productivity to that area.

If we’re wise, we’ll be initiating defensive maneuvers (for example, reading motivational books and articles) before we’re hit broadside by the attitudes of others. What safety measures are you engaging to protect your attitude?

One of my favorite children’s books is by Judith Viorst entitled, Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day. This humorous short story follows a boy named Alexander throughout his day, documenting how (from his view) everything and everyone (including the family pet) conspires to make his day horrible. He’s not permitted to sit by the window during the ride to school; his mother forgot to pack dessert in his lunch; there are lima beans for dinner (UGH!) and, “The cat wants to sleep with Anthony, not with me.”

At the end of the book it’s the end of the day and Alexander repeats yet again, “It has been a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day.” His mother responds simply, “some days are like that.” Isn’t that the truth?

The good thing about life is that it is just so . . . daily! If you don’t like how today turned out, despite your very best effort, don’t despair. You’ll get another chance tomorrow.

Finish each day and be done with it. You have done what you could. Some blunders and absurdities no doubt crept in, forget them as soon as you can. Tomorrow is a new day, you shall begin it well and serenely . . ” [Ralph Waldo Emerson].

Just remember, “happiness doesn’t depend on any external conditions, it is governed by our mental attitude” [Dale Carnegie]. Regardless of uncontrollable external conditions swirling around, you have absolute control over your attitude and your response.

One of my favorite quotes is attributed to former Boston Celtic Bill Russell, “The game is scheduled, we have to play it — we might as well win.”

Are you in it to win it today? Or are you going to allow the torrential downpour of negative news, grouchy coworkers, and rude drivers quench your positive outlook? “If you don’t like something, change it. If you can’t change it, change your attitude” [Maya Angelou].

Whatever you are, be a good one!

Deanna

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Life is either fun or drudgery. It depends on your attitude. I like fun” [Colleen C. Barrett].

After seven months of job hunting, I have come to the conclusion that interviewing is like starring as an eternal contestant on the Game Show Network. Of course, without the fancy lighting, interesting sound effects, or trips to exotic locations. (Unless you consider Grove City to be an exotic destination, which I do not.)

During panel interviews (and I’ve had quite a few lately), I feel like I’m on some wacky “Career Edition” of Survivor. The tension mounts . . . will I locate the immunity idol in time to make it to the next round of interviews? Or will I receive the dreaded “The Tribe has spoken . . .” call from the recruiter as my torch is extinguished and I’m bounced off the interview island?

With other employers, interviewing feels like the game show, “Who Wants To Be A Millionaire” only without the Lifelines (Sorry, can’t phone a friend or ask the audience for assistance.), the millions of dollars to be won, or the commercial breaks to catch your breath. It’s just the host asking question after question after question, “Is that your final answer?”

I’m fairly certain that if I felt the overwhelming need to throw myself a lavish pity party for going through such a rough time, and especially with the economy in such poor shape, and with all the effort I have put into looking for a job with few results, no one would begrudge me the event. But I have to ask, “What’s the benefit in that?” Life’s much more enjoyable when you realize there is fun to be had!

Sometimes all you need to transform a situation from stressful, boring, or uninspiring is a new perspective. Sure, interviewing is exhausting and can cause anxiety. But I look for ways to make the experience fun. As Dr. Seuss says, “Fun is good.” (And who am I to argue with the good doctor?)

“Laughter in the face of reality is probably the finest sound there is. In fact, a good time to laugh is any time you can” [Linda Ellerbee].

So whatever your day looks like, inject a little fun into it. Laugh in the face of adversity, have dessert, go down the slide, dip your toe in the water. Share a joke, send a funny email, sing a silly song, do a crazy dance, laugh out loud. Give yourself permission to wear the wacky t-shirt and have a good time.

Why not, just this once, think about your situation from the game show perspective? Why not? When the announcer asks, “Who is the next contestant?” wave your arms wildly, jump up and down and shout “Pick Me! Pick Me!” Then have the time of your life. The time for fun is now! “The future starts today, not tomorrow” [Pope John Paul II].

“Today was good. Today was fun. Tomorrow is another one” [Dr. Seuss].

Whatever you are, be a good one!

Deanna

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