Listening

On Thursday I had in interesting conversation with someone I know pretty well.  As we were talking, they shared with me how they were struggling mentally during a stressful time in their life.  I was grateful they felt comfortable enough to share their experience with me.

I’m always amazed how freely people share what’s going on in their lives when given a safe place to do so.  My encounter on Thursday also reminded me how important it is to actually listen.  We’ve all got so much going on that it can be easy to rush through our interactions without really listening to what others are telling us.  While this may be true, it’s no excuse for half-hearted listening when people are opening up and sharing their story with us.

Let’s make an effort to increase the legitimacy of our listening in the conversations we have with people.  Wouldn’t we appreciate it if others did the same for us? 

Make Time Your Ally

“Time magnifies the margin between success and failure. It will multiply whatever you feed it. Good habits make time your ally. Bad habits make time your enemy.”  ~James Clear

While I was listening James Clear’s book Atomic Habits last week, I heard him mention the quote above about time magnifying whatever you feed it.  We all know this is true, but this quote really resonated with me with the realization that those habit we continuously do over time, no matter how small, will have an impact. 

Think of things like saving a percentage of every paycheck for retirement, smoking a pack of cigarettes every day, or exercising 30 minutes a day.  While theses habits may seem small and inconsequential in the moment, the compounding effect they have over time can be significant.  And based on what the habit is, those effects can be positive or negative. 

I’ve been thinking about the habits I have lately, and those I’d like to start, and where they can take me.  Some of the habits I have are intentional, and I’m excited about the impact they’ve had on my life.  If I’m being honest, I have other habits that are unintentional, meaning I didn’t set out to put them in place, but rather I’ve just allowed them to develop.  Most of these habits are borne out of mental laziness and don’t really yield the type of results I’d like to get. 

Being aware of our habits (the good as well as the not so good) is a great way to make sure what we do over a large arch of time is actually leading us somewhere we want to go.  Whether we’re aware or not, as James Clear stated, time will multiply whatever we feed it.  Let’s make sure we’re making time our ally.

Just Pick A Day

My sister and I were texting earlier this week about the nice sunny weather we were having.  I suggested we get together for a nice walk one of these upcoming sunny mornings.  She agreed.  Not only that, her following text showed me her level of commitment, “Let’s just pick a day, or it won’t happen!!”

I couldn’t have agreed more.

When there is something we want to do, the best way to ensure that it actually happens is to just pick a day and get it on the calendar.  It’s not difficult.  Once you decided you’re committed to making it happen, open up the calendar and select a date and time that works.  It really is that simple.  A specific date and time equals commitment.  “Someday” does not.

I’m looking forward to our scheduled walk with my sister this Saturday morning!  We just picked a day.

When It’s Time To Act

Earlier this week we bought a new washer and drier.  The repair man told us that the bearings on our old washer had gone out, and we’d be better off getting a new washer versus replacing this one.  Initially, we were thinking we’d hold off getting a replacement until May, which would align well with a home improvement project we have scheduled.  However, after the machine continued to get worse, we decided the best option would be to replace it now, on our own timeline.

My wife and I both agreed that as long as we kept using the rapidly deteriorating machine, we ran an ever-increasing risk of it failing in the middle of a load of wash.  I don’t know what your experience has been, but appliance failures never seem to occur at a convenient time, and they usually generate unneeded stress and inconvenience.  Especially if we knew in advance that a failure was imminent.

We decided that, since we knew we needed to replace the washer, we should do it on a timeframe that is convenient for us versus letting the machine dictate a less convenient timeframe via a massive failure.

I think there are a lot of things in life that we can address on our own timeframe, versus waiting for a failure to determine our timeframe for taking corrective action.  These things can range from appliance replacements to adopting a healthier lifestyle to maintaining relationships and beyond. 

Let’s be aware of the areas in our lives where we can take action to mitigate unnecessary risks and damage, versus waiting for things to blow up before they get our attention.  And when we become aware of these areas, let’s actually take the necessary action when it’s time to act.

I Don’t Even Miss It

Our house has been feeling rather full, in a cluttered since lately, so a couple of weekends ago, my wife and I went through several closets and rooms and got rid of stuff we no longer use.  It was amazing how much stuff we had that fell into that category! What’s even more interesting is that I don’t even miss a single thing I got rid of.

What I do enjoy, much more than the exiled stuff, is the free space I have in rooms, closets, bookshelves, and cabinets.  There’s such a calming feeling when every inch of a bookshelf isn’t stuffed full of books I’ll likely never read again.  Likewise, a closet with much available space is much more fun to interact with than one that’s jammed full of unused clothing that obscures the clothes I actually do wear.

It’s hard to believe that a carload full of stuff taken to Goodwill can have such a positive impact on my surroundings.

Are there any items you know you’ll no longer use that you need to get rid of or give to someone else who can use them?  If so, I encourage you to do it as soon as possible.  Not only will you enjoy interacting with your newly uncluttered space, you will most likely not even miss the times you get rid of.

It’s Funny Out There

While I was eating breakfast on Thursday morning, I was also listening to an audio book titled, The Nature Fix: Why Nature Makes Us Happier, Healthier, And More Creative.  It’s very interesting and has me excited to get out side and go for a hike! 

At about 7:20 AM, I was listening to the author talk about the impacts of noise pollution and how our quite places in the world are rapidly diminishing when I heard a loud noise outside our house.  At first, I thought it was a life flight helicopter, so I peeked out the window to catch a glimpse.  It turned out not to be a helicopter, but rather a street sweeper making a rather early pass up and down our street.  While I do appreciate a clean street, 7:20 AM seems like a little early!

I laughed out loud at the irony going on right outside my house.  How funny that a loud street cleaner would be going by at the same time I was listening to a chapter about the negative impacts of noise pollution.  It was a fun note to start my morning on.

There are a lot of funny things going on in the world.  And by “funny” I mean the “HAHA” type of funny like a streetsweeper going by at the very moment I’m being warned of the dangers of noise pollution.  While it seems easy to notice things that frustrate or offend us, I would challenge us to instead keep an eye open for all the humor and funny things that are going on around us instead.  Noticing them is sure to bring a smile to your face, and that’s a great accessory to greet the day with.

The More We Love

The more you love in life, the more life has to offer.”  ~ Lee (my bass instructor)

During a bass lesson this week with my instructor Lee, he mentioned how limiting your exposure to only one specific type of music holds you back from new perspectives and ideas that can be applied to your own music style.  His example made a lot of sense.  If I only listen to say, country music (which I happen to like) then I will only experience music through that lens.  My playing will come to only sound like what I hear in country songs, and I won’t have the opportunity to learn and apply ideas from other music genres.  Lee’s comment resonated with me, not only in the musical context, but in the larger context of a life well lived.

Imagine for a minute that the only food you absolutely loved was pizza.  Now imagine that you ate pizza as often as you could because you loved it so much, but when you couldn’t have pizza, you were disappointed in the alternative.  Yes, I know there are a lot of different varieties of pizza toppings to keep interesting for a long time, but how limiting to think that of all the food choices available to you, that you would be disappointed with anything that wasn’t the single food you loved.   

I think we can also be narrow in our love for a number of things beyond food and music, such as

  • Places
  • Geographies
  • Areas of interest
  • Types of books
  • Topics of conversation
  • Cultures
  • People
  • How we use our gifts and talents
  • How we spend our time
  • Seasons of the calendar
  • Seasons of life

Consider your capacity to love broadly in the topics listed above or others you’re thinking of that weren’t on the list.  The more that we love, be it people places or things, the more opportunities we have for our lives to intersect with those things we love.  I for one, am eager to live a life full of intersections with the things I love.

On Your Timeline

Gyms in Oregon have been closed due to COVID-19 restrictions since sometime in November.  This has been disappointing because for years, I’ve been in the habit of going to the gym to exercise first thing every morning.  It’s a nice way to start my mornings and stets a positive tone for the rest of the day. 

Unfortunately, I hadn’t found a substitute for my morning gym routine, other than walking a few times a day.  However, with all the emotionally heavy events that occurred in the US in December and January, I knew that I had to come up with a solution.

Since I don’t have a bunch of weights and exercise equipment at home, I started looking for options that use your body weight as resistance.  Fortunately, there are plenty of possibilities, so I created an exercise plan and, starting this week, have been back in the habit of exercising first thing in the morning!  I’ve enjoyed being back in the habit, and know it will be a good alternative until the gyms finally reopen.

Although it took me long enough, I’m thankful I finally caused something to happen to get me back in an exercise routine, instead of sitting around waiting for someone ese to decide it’s time to reopen the gyms in Oregon.

If there’s something you want or need, don’t sit and wait for someone else to make it happen for you.  Decide what action YOU need to take to bring it about, and then take that action!

Why should we wait on someone else’s timeline when we can decide to create our own?

A Quick Thought On Your 2021 Calendar

2021 looks promising, although it did start off a little bumpy.  Since we’ll soon be getting back to life that includes more events and interactions with others, it’s important to remember that we are the ones who decide what events we allow on our calendars.

When you’re considering scheduling an event, make sure you’re not doing it out of a false sense of obligation, or because you feel you can’t say, “No” to something you really have no interest in doing. 

I would argue that our time is more valuable than money, because we can always get more money.  That’s is something we can’t do with time.  The limit on a day is 24 hours, we can’t get more.  The only choice we have is how we’ll spend the finite amount of time we’ve been given.  Therefore, we need to make sure that it is our priorities that fill our calendars in 2021, not someone elses.

Truth

The amount of information we’re confronted with every day is amazing.  So many sources, figures, and organizations are vying to influence our thinking and shape our beliefs.  Therefore, it is imperative, in the midst of all this information, that we continually scrutinize what we hear by asking ourselves, “Is this true?”.

Our brain is the greatest super computers ever designed, and each of us is blessed to be in possession of one, free and clear.  With it, we can receive input, think critically about that input, and discern whether or not it’s true.  With this brain we can question, investigate, explore, and again, discern truth.  In my opinion, since we are in possession of such a remarkable and powerful tool as our brains, it is incumbent on us to use them.

Why would we allow someone else to spoon feed us their own thoughts and ideas without engaging our brains in some critical thinking to determine whether or not what they’re saying is actually true?  Why should we be so quick to disengage our own super computer brains in favor allowing someone else to “program”, if not poison them, with untruths?  To me, that seems not only irresponsible, but potentially dangerous.  Taken to it’s extreme, as we’ve seen in the US this week, it can even be criminal.

Let’s make sure that we’re taking full advantage of the brains we’ve been blessed with.  Let’s use them to wisely discern the information we’re bombarded with, to ensure that our actions and beliefs are indeed based on truth.