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Archive for November, 2009

Never measure the height of a mountain until you have reached the top. Then you will see how low it was” [Dag Hammarskjold].

While making the three-hour trip to Thanksgiving dinner last week, I noticed a road sign I had not seen before.  It was your typical yellow diamond-shaped warning sign which read, “Hill Blocks View.”

And while the road we were on was quite narrow and unlined, and the sign appeared at the bottom of a hill, the terrain wasn’t what I would call treacherous, nor was the hill especially steep. I guess the sign was present simply to notify drivers that the hill created a blind spot.

I mentioned the sign during lunch and my sister said, “That’s what hills do, they block the view.  Why in the world would they need a sign to alert drivers?”

And, that started me thinking about why, indeed, you would need a sign at this location to state the obvious.

Perhaps the sign was present specifically because the hill didn’t appear to be dangerous. I wondered how many drivers, without a reminder to use caution, went flying over the hill only to experience a disastrous encounter with a piece of slow-moving farm equipment or stopped school bus or other unexpected obstacle.

Each of us encounters hills that block our view of the future. It is not unusual to encounter similar challenges over and over — they may not appear especially difficult or dangerous or out of the ordinary, but at that moment they are all we can see.  And because they block our view of what could be, we accept them as permanent and insurmountable. In reality, however, if we keep going, they become temporary obstacles which dissolve away as we continue our climb toward the summit.

Don’t become discouraged. Don’t stop. The hill in front of you, the one that is blocking your view, is not meant to be your future.

If you keep going, you’ll be able to see your future from the top of the hill. I guarantee the view will be worth the effort!

It’s the constant and determined effort that breaks down all resistance and sweeps away all obstacles [Claude M. Bristol].

Whatever you are, be a good one!

Deanna

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~ In celebration of “Black Friday,” I’m sharing one of my favorite essays. It was originally published May 21, 2009.  Enjoy!

“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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To speak gratitude is courteous and pleasant,
to enact gratitude is generous and noble,
but to live gratitude is to touch Heaven [Johannes A. Gaertner].

Beyond the occasional thank-you note you manage to get in the mail, or the quick, “Thanks!” you utter, are you truly living a life of gratitude?

Running around. Living our lives at an exhausting pace.

Too hectic. Too much. Too little time.

We’re so busy looking for that and building this and trying to squeeze ourselves into the next 60 minutes.

It’s no wonder we scarcely notice the kindness from a stranger, acknowledge the generosity of a friend, or remember the thoughtfulness of a family member as we rush to and fro, trying to meet expectations and deadlines and self-imposed ideals.

Our lives are so busy we need a reminder to be thankful. We have to schedule our gratitude. Fortunately, we have a day set aside just for this purpose. An exit ramp, if you will, from the rat race to a thankful place.

A mandated respite to cherish kindness, honor sacrifices, recall our blessings.

After the traveling and meal preparations and dinner table discussions. When the dishes are cleared away and the left-overs are put away. Let’s not forget that tomorrow is really about pausing to remember, reflect, and reach out.

It’s our opportunity to acknowledge the kindness and generosity, the courage and sacrifice of others. To sincerely appreciate our blessings.

But we need not wait for one day on the calendar to be grateful. We should strive to live a life marked by thanksgiving.

Make it a habit to tell people thank you.

To express your appreciation
sincerely and without the expectation of anything in return.

Truly appreciate those around you,
and you’ll soon find many others around you.

Truly appreciate life,
and you’ll find you have more of it.

~ Ralph Marston

Commit to living a life of gratitude every day. “Take nothing for granted. Train yourself never to put off the word or action for the expression of gratitude” [Albert Schweitzer].

Whatever you are, be a good one!

Deanna

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You can clutch the past so tightly to your chest, that it leaves your arms too full to embrace the present” [Jan Glidwell].

Tomorrow is garbage day.  The big yellow trucks will begin their rounds in our neighborhood while the skies are still dark. Picking up trash cans from front curbs and driveways, returning empty containers, ready to be filled again during the coming week.

Whether returning from the recycling center with empty containers, or rolling our trash can in from the curb, there is something awesome about getting rid of things that have outlived their usefulness.

Did you hear that after 36 years of publication, J.C. Penney is discontinuing its “big book” catalog? The days of pouring over a telephone sized book for hours are coming to an end. Just another example of “out with the old” [Stylelist].

How do we accumulate all this trash?

I know for certain that none of my friends or neighbors have ever stopped by with a bag of garbage for me. Nor has anyone in my family ever dropped off a gift box filled with trash. No, I wouldn’t put up with anyone purposely polluting my space.  Would you?

Trash sneaks into our homes with beneficial items like groceries and arrives in our mailboxes encasing that must-have item for Fall.  It’s used to transport our  new shoes and hides behind the toys we just purchased.

For some of us, trash is difficult to recognize.  Don’t believe me?  The A&E Network has a series called Hoarders that puts a spotlight on a disorder in which individuals compulsively obtain and keep belongings. Yikes!

My point is this: too often we allow trash to come into our lives and hang around.  It marches in with a colleague’s bad mood, sneaks around with a relative’s persistent “complaining,” or arrives with a well-meaning friend’s gossip session.

Sometimes, we’re our own worst enemy.  We’re so busy polluting our lives remembering past mistakes, indiscretions, and poor judgments, we can’t see any possibility of a bright future. We keep hoarding the junk, allowing it to overwhelm the promise of something better.

Here’s my advice: take a cue from J.C. Penney. It’s time to stop what isn’t working. Toss out what’s junking up your life and distracting you from your future.

Discard the clothes you haven’t worn in forever. Recycle the newspapers. Throw out your old past. Put down that stuff you’ve been carrying around.

It’s heavy and old and discouraging. It takes up valuable space, depletes your energy,  and hides your future.

Besides, it smells funny and makes you act weird.

Empty your arms of the past so you can embrace the future.  If you want to live a life of purpose,  “look at life through the windshield, not the rear-view mirror” [Byrd Baggett].

Whatever you are, be a good one!

Deanna

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We are prone to judge success by the index of our salaries or the size of our automobile rather than by the quality of our service and relationship to humanity” [Martin Luther King, Jr.].

Success is such a fleeting concept. What it means to me, sounds foreign to my neighbor. And what my friend considers success, I might classify as torture!

Houses, addresses, cars, vacations, salaries, collections, hobbies, activities, and name brands.  Why do we consider these to be benchmarks of success and self-importance?

Is it wise to base our value on these “things” that evaporate when Wall Street hiccups?

What about time with family and service to others and a sincere appreciation for the life you live and the gifts you have been given? Why do we tend to overlook their worth and importance?

“A wise person understands that his own happiness must include the happiness of others” [Dennis Weaver]. So, if you find yourself unhappy or unsettled or feeling hopeless and unwanted, my advice would not be to go check your bank account, or look at your car, or spend time with your trophy collection.

I would suggest you take stock of the last time you truly helped someone else. You made a personal connection, offered a kind word, extended a helping hand, freely gave of your time and expertise. Poured into the life of another.

These are the investments that are guaranteed to yield high dividends.

As Leo Buscaglia said,

Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around.

Don’t overlook the small acts of kindness.  Especially this week, as we turn our thoughts toward home and family. Set aside unrealistic expectations. Celebrate the moment. Enjoy time with your loved ones. Strive for kindness in your actions, attitude, and conversation. How beautiful is service to humanity that begins at home — at our home — toward those we know the best.

Whatever you are, be a kind one!

Deanna

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The headline read, “Renowned climber dies in Himalayas.” I don’t know what drew my attention to a small article at the bottom of the page, tucked in the middle of a recent edition of the Columbus Dispatch.

Above all, he was a supreme climber who moved the boundaries of possible. He had an amazing gift and amazing strength. He was a mountaineering genius whose accomplishments have been admired by the whole world.”  [Comments made about veteran climber Tomaz Humar who was found dead in the Himalayas after he was injured and stranded.]

As I read the account, I wondered if — at the end of his life — this gifted climber felt the risks were worth the payoffs of reaching higher, being among the first to go solo, winning awards, and enjoying international fame.

This news story caused me to reflect. To question my own actions.

How does one know when to take the risk or take a pass?

To jump in the game or sit this one out?

When the next step is one step too far?

When innovation and courage becomes reckless?

I wondered if I may have been too quick to take risks in the past, cheered outlandish bravado instead of properly inspecting liability, treated the future carelessly.  The introspection and questions continued to linger.

Well, as luck would have it, I discovered answers a few days later — in the Sports Section of The Wall Street Journal of all places.

The article, “What’s so great about punting?” related how Coach Belichick was being ridiculed because he had recently made a risky decision which cost his New England Patriots the game to the Indianapolis Colts.

The call in question was to go for the yardage rather than play it safe and punt. The result caused Belichick to be called a fool and pundits declared it the worst coaching decision they had ever seen the coach make.

Hey, I thought, at least my foul-ups aren’t broadcast on television, discussed during post-game shows, and dissected in national newspapers.

But what I found to be most interesting was the research presented later in the article.  According to a recent study, people have an overwhelming tendency to make the supposedly safe choice — to err on the side of caution — even though doing so may lead to worse results.

Players who did something aggressive were more successful
than those who did something offensive.

Subjects made four times as many passive mistakes
as they did aggressive ones.

People embrace caution because of the regret they face
when it doesn’t turn out well for them.

It didn’t work out for Belichick this time.  But what if it had? Research shows that more often then not, the real gamble is playing it safe. Maybe the coach’s decision wasn’t that risky after all.

I realize every risk won’t result in success.  That my decision might be dangerous and uncomfortable, and I may suffer loss. But I also know that I will never reach distant shores if I choose to remain upon the dock, fearing that my little ship of dreams may be dashed upon the rock [F. Bolen].

If mistakes will be made whether I go for it or not, I figure I might as well embrace the risk. Climb to the top and enjoy the view. Push away from the dock and head toward the distant shore. Live the life I’ve imagined.

“To dare is to lose one’s footing momentarily. To not dare is to lose oneself” [Soren Kierkegaard].

Whatever you are, dare to be a good one!

Deanna

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It isn’t what you have in your pocket that makes you thankful,
but what you have in your heart” [unknown].

When I hear the phrase, “Making a List” I generally think of Christmas and Santa Claus and good boys and girls and presents and grocery shopping. Thanksgiving doesn’t necessarily spring to mind.

What if we changed things up this year? What if we made lists of those things for which we are thankful, instead of those things we must accomplish or purchase or plan for or fix?

My friend, Melanie, recently posted a challenge on Facebook, “Let’s see how many people can do this. Every day this month until Thanksgiving, think of one thing that you are thankful for, and post it as your status. “Today I am thankful for . . . “ I think Melanie has a great idea!

Right now. This very minute. Stop and think about something for which you are thankful.

You will find the power of gratitude is amazing.  It transforms attitudes and reduces negativity. “It is hard to be negative about your situation when you are thinking about things for which you are grateful.  One of the fastest ways to improve your mood or outlook is to count your blessings” [Kevin Eikenberry].

An attitude of gratitude has the power to transform your world.  “Gratitude is something of which none of us can give too much. For on the smiles, the thanks we give, our little gestures of appreciation, our neighbors build their philosophy of life” [A. J. Cronin].

Pause and remember.
Make a gratitude list.
Recall the kindness.
Write down the blessing.
Say, “Thank you.”
Be grateful.

Whatever you are, be a good one,

Deanna

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