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.

Friday, June 1, 2018

Get Your “80/20” in Gear and Have a Blast!

There’s a fascinating concept in economics called “Pareto’s Law,” or the “80/20 Rule.” In a nutshell, a 19th century economist, Vilfredo Pareto, noticed that 20% of the people owned 80% of the land, and similarly that 20% of his peapods produced 80% of his peas. Much later, Joe Juran, looking to improve factory production during WWII, realized that 20% of the factories were responsible for 80% of all defective parts, and vice-versa: thus the beginning of the quality movement in US business.

What could the “80/20 Rule” possibly have to do with you? Simply put, most of us spend 80% of our time on things that really don’t matter all that much to us, and only 20% of our time on the things that really matter. Huh . . .

Ask yourself, who do you spend the most time with? The people who uplift you, support you, cherish you? Or those who bore you, annoy you, cause you endless irritation or grief? What do you spend most of your time doing? Complaining, blaming, feeling sorry for yourself? Or praising, appreciating, finding value in what you do? How about activities? Do you spend most of your free time in activities that engage you, inspire you, thrill you? Or do you just go with whatever flow happens to, well, flow at the moment? Facebook, TV, surfing the web . . .

It finally dawned on me, some years ago, that I’d rather work a little longer/harder to earn some extra bucks (given that I really enjoy my work), so I could pay a house-cleaner to clean my home, an activity I truly do not enjoy, much as I appreciate a clean house. And when given the option to get my butt up off the couch to take a dance class, rather than spend another hour watching a TV program I would forget about in the next 10 minutes, dance class won out. Even though there are days I most definitely do not want to get up off that couch. Dance class clearly is in my list of “top things I love.”

What’s your percent? When you sit down and honestly assess with whom and where you spend your time—which is the same thing as saying “with whom and where do you spend your life?”—what’s your 80/20? Deliberately cut out or reduce those things that do not give you joy, so that more and more of your time is spent in the 80% of stuff you really like to do. Take a look at your friends and social life, including your social media life. Deliberately cut out or reduce the time you spend with those who do not rank high in your “things I love” list.

It may sound odd to take such a calculated approach to your life, but time really is all we have. How and with whom we choose to spend it very much defines how happily we romp through this astonishing, challenging, absolutely wonderful journey called “life.” Get your “80/20” in gear, and have a blast!