Monday, July 30, 2018

Lessons from Coffee: What Do I Want?

When you walk into your favorite coffee place in the morning, I doubt that the first thing on your mind is, “How are the coffee bean plantations doing today?” If you are a true coffee aficionado, you may know that your preferred beans come from Columbia or Nicaragua, but you probably don’t worry much about the well-being of the coffee growers.

But companies such as Starbucks, Keurig Green Mountain, Illycaffe and others who rely on coffee beans for their very existence and continued growth, do. Coffee plantations world-wide have been experiencing unusual fluctuations in heat, rain and other environmental factors, which impact the available supply of beans for – guess what – your cup of joe! And those companies are investing boots-on-the-ground, as well as substantial funds, to help local coffee-growers find solutions to their issues.

Why should you care? Beyond caring about the price of your coffee-addiction doubling or tripling in the very near future. . . because these companies are demonstrating an approach to their problems that we all should be mindful of when approaching our own.

Too often, we (I!) expend entirely too much energy on bemoaning a problem: you can’t find a job, your current job is lame, your boyfriend/girlfriend left you for another, the economy is trashed, politics are killing us all, what’s that rash on your elbow?, your cell died in the middle of an important call . . . need I go on?

Problems! We all have them, of all kinds, shapes and sizes. Just like the coffee companies. And we need to do more of what they do: invest boots-on-the-ground and funds in getting creative. Looking beyond the problem to creative ways of addressing whatever the situation. Boots-on-the-ground would mean doing your research, on the web or in brainstorming with friends. Reading books (there’s a thought!), meditating on the question, seeking advice from those who’ve had similar issues. Funds? Well, that’s obvious. Take classes, seminars, get training of one sort or another, invest in a path that will take you past the issue.

It all starts with how you think about your issue. With getting off the blame-game, the “woe-is-me” pity party, the “it’s impossible” litany, just dumping that entire way of looking at things, and adopting the “It is what it is. Fine. Here’s what I want, let’s get on with it.”

Key words? “Here’s what I want,” rather than “Here’s what I don’t want.” That simple change in semantics will change the direction of your thought, which in turn, will get you on the path to resolving your issue, whatever it is. Yay!

Saturday, June 30, 2018

Solution! Solution! Solution!

Life on planet Earth is riddled with problems. Little problems, big problems, we all have them, pretty much every day.

But what matters isn’t the problem, it’s the solution! And oh, how easy it is to lose sight of that. My phones went down a couple of months ago. Since we don't get cell reception where I live, I am completely dependent on my landlines. That's why I have two of them, in case one of them goes wacky. Except this time both lines went out, and given how important communication is in my line of work, I was in full-blown panic mode.

All I could think of was “What if one of my clients can’t reach me?” Sure, there’s email, but much of my work and other matters rely on the phone. What if there’s an emergency like a fire (common in our area) and I can't phone out? I couldn’t even call the phone company to get my phones fixed! How’s that for ironic? Problem, problem, problem. No thought at all for the solution. Way too much “poor me” going on . . .

And then I remembered Autumn Michels and Rachael Steffens. Autumn, at 14 years old, has been blind since a brain tumor was removed when she was 4, which saved her life but deprived her of sight. She adjusted beautifully, navigating her home, school and environment with her cane, but when it came to her desire to play her clarinet with her school’s marching band . . . well, you can imagine the “problem.” Only no one at her school focused on the problem, they went straight to the solution. Volunteers were found to stand behind Autumn during the marching portion of the band’s activities, guiding her on the field by her shoulders.
However, volunteers come and go, and learning to guide Autumn wasn’t all that easy. But Autumn struck up a friendship with Rachael, a percussionist in the band, and the fun they had together led to Rachael sitting out marching activities to be Autumn’s regular marching guide, restricting her own playing to when the band was in the stands. Solution, solution, solution.
Nowhere in any of this was anyone going “Poor Autumn” -- much less Autumn, who according to family and friends, just doesn’t go there. Nor was anyone, including Rachael, moaning “Poor Rachael,” she enjoys helping her friend.
Stories like this remind me to get off my pity-party whenever a problem hits, and turn as quickly as possible to the solution. Because there always is a solution. How soon we get there simply depends on our willingness to turn our attention squarely in that direction.
And oh yes, once I got myself into solution-mode I did resolve my phone issue: wi-fi calling! Who knew? So now I have a backup to the land-lines (which did get fixed, a month later), peace of mind, and a wonderful way of reminding myself of Solution! Solution! Solution!
Thank you Autumn and Rachael.

Thursday, June 21, 2018

New Study: Positive Attitude About Aging Linked to Reduced Dementia Risk

Could attitude about aging play a role in whether someone falls victim to dementia? A new 2018 Health & Retirement Study published in the journal PLOS One, draws a link between positive aging beliefs and better cognitive performance even by participants who carried the gene APOE 4, which increases the chances of developing dementia.

The study shows, that no matter what our physical body tells us as we age (aches and pains, saggy skin, wrinkles), it's our brain and attitude that still holds significant power. According to the research, hose with negative beliefs about aging were twice as likely to develop dementia than those with positive beliefs (2.60 percent versus 4.61 percent) regardless of whether they had the APOE 4 gene.

How we view aging—whether positive or negative—often starts well before reach our older years. The negative social stigmas about aging are still strong, but the walls are slowing coming down. We as a society need to do more, but individually, we can also take steps to improve our age outlook.

Push Negative Thoughts Away. The study confirms what other research has found: what you think and feel has an impact on physical wellbeing. Your brain is constantly sending signals to the rest of your body. When you are experiencing positive thoughts and feelings--in particular, appreciation—studies show that the blood flow in your brain increases so it functions better—resulting in better focus, better memory and more energy.

Find Your Next Passion. You may not be able to play a hard match of singles tennis, but there is still life to live. Dial it back a notch—if you enjoy tennis, play doubles instead—or try something completely new. There are countless invigorating physical and mental activities that you can tackle that will give you fulfillment and happiness.

Stay Connected. Humans are social creatures. Get out and find those who share your interests and who are fun to be around.

Appreciate Life. As we get older, we realize how quickly time passes. Don't waste a minute. Appreciate the little things. Be grateful for what you have. You may not have reached all your goals (or hardly any), but that's okay. Appreciate what you have accomplished and set new goals.

We all will face some sort of physical limitations, financial setbacks and emotional turmoil. That's part of life. It's really up to us to determine how we live our later years--with positive determination or with pessimism.

For a copy of the study, click here.