Saturday, December 30, 2017

Make This Your “Best Human” Year Ever!

According to the Chinese Zodiac, 2018 is the Year of the Dog. People born during a “Dog” year are said to possess the best traits of human nature, as in honest, friendly, faithful, loyal, smart, straightforward, venerable and having a strong sense of responsibility.

Gee, I could have told you that! Well, maybe not about the year of, but anyone who has a dog knows that they are honest, friendly, faithful, loyal, smart (sometimes), straightforward (get that stick!), venerable (eh, not so sure about that one) and have a strong sense of responsibility (protecting you, for sure).

What if you took advantage of this “Dog” year to check in with your best “dog” – or shall we say, best human -  traits?

How honest are you? Oh, I know most of us are honest in the sense that we wouldn’t steal from anyone, or rob a bank, or anything like that. But what about with our feelings? Starting with yourself: how honest are you with yourself about how you feel about your work? Your relationship/s? Your body? Not what you grouse about with girl/boyfriends, but how, deep down, do you really feel? Because it’s only when you admit the truth of your feelings to yourself that you can do anything about a situation.

Same goes for being honest with others about your feelings. It’s not an excuse to get critical, mean and blameful, but rather an opportunity to explore – together – your feelings about any given situation so that change can occur.

How faithful are you? Not to your spouse/significant other, although that is important, but to the commitments you make, generally speaking. Starting, as always, with yourself.

How faithful are you to your commitment to get healthier, learn another skill, get a better job? Do you have a “tomorrow” attitude? Or an “it’ll never happen, why bother” attitude? Or do you regularly beat up on yourself for not living up to your commitments to self? None of these approaches serve you! Instead, learn how to better meet your commitments to self – through setting baby-step goals, or brainstorming strategies with friends/counselors, reading up on what’s worked for others. It feels great to live up to your commitments. It’s a sure path to success.

How about your sense of responsibility? Whenever something wonky happens, do you look first for someone to blame? Including yourself? Or do you, as quickly as possible, start looking for a possible solution to whatever happened? Because, in case you haven’t noticed, blame never gets anything done. Blaming yourself only makes you feel bad, and blaming others may make you feel good in the moment, but you’re still stuck with the problem/issue.

Blame is sometimes confused with taking responsibility, as if the idea of “my fault” or “your fault” makes someone responsible (you or them). The two couldn’t be more different. Taking responsibility is a first step in problem-solving, solution is the ultimate goal. Blame is just so much hot air, lots of drama with zero results.

Make this a true “Year of the Dog.” Commit to being your “Best Human” and have a stunning, successful, riotously great year!

Friday, December 1, 2017

The Greatest Gift of All: Hope

It’s been a rough year for many of us. Our country, as well as many others across the globe, has been ravaged by fierce political and social divides, unprecedented mass violence, and natural disasters from fires to hurricanes with the unfortunate promise of more to come.

As the Holidays roll around, it may be challenging – if not impossible -  to feel the Holiday Spirit of peace, good will toward all, and the joy of a year well lived. 

And yet . . . we have available to us, always, the greatest gift mankind has ever known - hope.

Hope is what keeps us keepin’ on. Hope is what motivates us to rebuild shattered lives, to reconnect with what’s most important to us, to dream, once again, of “peace on earth, good will toward all.”

Hope is not just an airy-fairy New Age platitude designed to mask whatever misery you’re in. Hope is real, and is supported by the many ways in which we humans stubbornly, persistently, work toward a better life for all, even if at time it seems that idea is ludicrous.

For example, did you know that Google's parent company, Alphabet, launched stratospheric “Project Loon” balloons over Puerto Rico to deliver Internet service where such service had been destroyed or severely impaired? The Internet is beamed from the balloons in a way that extends wireless networks without having to install fiber optic cable or cell towers. The project is still in its experimental phases, yet Alphabet was willing to make it available to a community sorely in need.
That’s hope made practical. Hope made real. And it’s just one example out of many ways in which various companies, organizations, and caring individuals brought hope to Puerto Rico, and other hurricane and fire devastated communities.
You can’t change the past. What happened, happened, whether in your personal life, or in our society’s life at large. What you can do, is offer hope – to yourself, to others, to your community, in whatever practical way you can think of.
Hope is real. Let it be that for you and yours this Holiday Season.

Monday, November 20, 2017

The Holidays: A Time to Remember That The World is Wide Enough

As we gather with family and friends on Thanksgiving, the divisive political situation in our country shows no sign of abating. It seems there’s no end to the conflicts and confrontations that divide rather than unite us.

Some Thanksgivings are harder than others. What I mean by that is that sometimes, our world may seem at such odds with itself that we’re hard-pressed to feel the gratitude we wish would come naturally, especially around this time of year and around the people we love who may not think the way we do.

There is a lesson found in the musical “Hamilton” that we should all take to heart. There’s a profound truth that runs throughout the play, which was brought out in one of its final scenes.

That scene brings to life the famous duel in which Aaron Burr, Vice-President under Thomas Jefferson, kills his political rival, Alexander Hamilton, one of our Founding Fathers and first Secretary of the Treasury. In the musical, at the end of the duel, Burr sings these lyrics:

            “I was too young and blind to see
            I should’ve known
            I should’ve known
            The world was wide enough for both Hamilton and me.”

I hear in these words a call for us, as best we can and with all of our hearts, to find ways to negotiate, resolve--whatever your word for it is--our differences. Choose a world that's wide enough for all of us to co-exist in peace, if not in agreement.

A great place to start is with family and friends. I certainly have my share of ornery family, folks I don’t understand, yet here we are, at Thanksgiving together. I remind myself that I don’t have to agree with their opinions on everything from our president to the cranberry dressing, but I can acknowledge their right to their opinion. I can make the effort to value them, to look for something to appreciate about them, because there is, in every one of us, something (usually many things) to appreciate, if we just look hard enough.

We should remember that “The world is wide enough” for all of us, even when it seems that could never be. During the holidays, it certainly is worth a try.